Tuesday 18 December 2018

See Harrier

In the two hours since my previous post, I've been frantically writing Christmas cards and have also risked a trip to the Post Office (not because it would be busy, but because the waves are close to crashing over the road). So now I'm treating myself to a reasonably well-earned break and blogging again.

Really, Tense? On a school day?!

Well, there's another gale going through and I don't fancy being up a ladder, or having a van door ripped out of my hand. All work for today is postponed until tomorrow, which will now be rather busy.

Yesterday was a pleasant day, mind, especially after the weekend's weather, and as I was prepping the van, after breakfast, I had a fortuitous moment.

Back in the Autumn, the remarkably-energetic Countryside Tales offered up a challenge. Luckily, this didn't involve me having to run an ultra marathon or wearing Little Miss Happy leggings, but did require me to up my game in the context of photographing Hen Harriers. See the comments to this I&T post.

So, the fortuitous moment...

There I was, delving about in the back of the van, making sure I had everything on board for a busy day of sorting out satellite and internet woes, when I heard the alarm call of a Snipe. Odd, I thought, because if our wadery neighbours are spooked by us, it's normally as we step out of the front door. Swinging around, and looking skywards, I did indeed spot a couple of Snipe, climbing and wheeling away, so the question was, from what?

Scanning about, I saw a shape at the far side of the field over the road. It was low and mainly grey, so could've just been yet another gull, but I wasn't completely sure. With a sudden flick, the bird flashed black wing tips and a white rump, identifying it as a male Hen Harrier. And as it quartered the field, it did seem to be coming closer.

Yay! and Dang! in equal measure! Harrier flybys are always special, always incredibly brief and never when I'm holding a camera. The low morning light from a Winter sun was perfectly placed, if said optics had been in my grasp. Conscious of CT's wager, I threw caution, and a box of connectors, to the wind, dashed inside for my camera and hurriedly returned, shedding lens cap, expletives and hope.

Rounding the van, the harrier was nowhere to be seen. Gah! But I continued looking and spotted it in the next field south, low over the furrows and heading away from me.

All that lovely light and this photo catches the bird in the shadow of the farm.

Umpteen out of focus shots later, the Hen Harrier soared up and turned around, making back for where I'd first seen it. So, sadly, not any closer.

I wasn't sure whether it had prey in its talons or not, but looking back at my images, now heavily-cropped, it would seem that the bird was flying with its legs down. At this point, I wondered whether it was injured. It wouldn't be unusual for a bird which skims field edges and vegetation boundaries to come to grief against a wire fence, especially with the wind speed we have been experiencing recently.

The harrier wheeled around once more, hunting along the fence line at the far side of the neighbouring field. The light was absolutely peachy, but the distance was too great for my 300mm lens (whose brilliant idea was it to remove the 1.4x converter recently?).

After a gale, the fence lines are often home to bits of silage wrap and feed bags, which have made a break for it. Perhaps after today's meteorology, I'll have a surreptitious womble across the field.

Eventually, the Hen Harrier settled on a fence post, and it seemed that it was perching quite happily on both legs. Phew.

I don't think the challenge has yet been met, CT, so you can keep your Dunnocks on standby, as it were. To be continued, at some point...


Anonymous said...

Fantastic! What a wonderful experience. I'd so love to see one. I am now wondering whether I should in fact challenge you to a marathon- perhaps when we come up to Orkney for the St Magnus in 2020? That'll give you plenty of time to train. I'll be kind and not insist on Little Miss Happy leg wear :o). CT. PS, love the description of your wadery neighbours. We get Snipe here over winter. I am looking forward to seeing them again.

Imperfect and Tense said...

CT, hmmm, cross dressing is so much easier than 26 miles... ;o)

Anonymous said...

I'll consider letting you off running the marathon if you wear Little Miss Happy Leggings while cheering from the roadside :o)

Imperfect and Tense said...

Just try and stop me!

Coastal Ripples said...

I might visit too to see the Miss Happy leggings. Lol. I’ve heard of lots of excuses not to go to the post office but waves on the road beats most. I totally empathise in trying to get a good shot. Story of my life ! Hope the wind has abated. B.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Hey, everyone's welcome! But for anyone who can't make it, I'm sure reports of the events will be available online, with photos! I try to use the little Post Office in the village as much as possible, rather than the larger one in town. I worry that the move away from sending Christmas cards and such (for entirely praiseworthy reasons) will affect rural offices and the posties. I also become very perturbed when businesses on the mainland tell me it's impossible to courier purchases to my address. The more so because the postie turns up just about every day at the same time. Yes, the weather's a bit more settled now, and I'm back to singing from the rooftops.

Spadger said...

looks like a slug to me!!😁👍

Imperfect and Tense said...

JD, I would love to take a non-slug photo of a harrier. So maybe meantime I just submit the sighting to the local gastropod recorder? :o)

Spadger said...

oh dear! giggle 😂 Its only my envy that I don't see hen harriers from the window. But I do see hobby, buzzard and kite regularly and if I'm lucky enough might one day see the peggers around the transmitter from my bedroom window.