Sunday, 28 June 2015

Venetian blinder

It seems as if the trees have been shivering in the cool breeze since the Spring, and the wind has been blowing summer through the fens too quickly for my liking. Yesterday, however was one of those rare still days of blue sky and warm air. The raptors were up over the garden- a Marsh harrier glided past and a Hobby stooped and was lost beyond the tall hedge, only to swing back up and away down the village. 
We decided to wander down to the pits so to better take in the skyscape, and it wasn't long before more harriers flew into view. It looks like one of the nests is about to erupt, as a female brought in a vole and circled above, tempting the young birds into the air. The nestlings refused to show themselves, but, as another female arrived, two fresh harriers took to the air to claim the food. One of them was a normal juvenile, with rich sepia wings and sienna cap, but the other looked like nothing I have seen before. 
Over the years I have seen hundreds of Marsh Harriers, and it is their variation that attracts me to them, making individuals often very distinctive. Following a basic design, it can seem that the infinite variety of plumage combinations can give each bird a unique look, with wing patches large or small, underwing colours pale or dark, streaking and speckling- even eye colour differs between them. I did think that I had come across all the likely types to be seen, from dark males to pale females- but the second juvenile seen yesterday sported a uniform that dazzled. Although not up in the air for long, and quite distant, we could make out striking white tips to the wing feathers and mantle that completely transformed the bird into something special. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand, so I've done a quick sketch back at home to try and capture the image. If this bird turns up anywhere in the country this autumn it will be easily recognisable, and it may well give us an opportunity to study the dispersion habits of these wandering hunters.