Saturday, 26 December 2015

Pallid Harrier, Flitcham, Norfolk

Fortunately I had to drop my son off in Lincoln today, so had the perfect excuse to abandon the North West! It was torrential rain in Lowton when we left and then all the way along the M62 to the A1 and probably well beyond. Driving conditions were dire on the motorway, with spray white outs at times, but eventually we came to the A1 and headed south, and after about 10 miles the rain stopped and by the time we reached Lincoln the sky was bright enough to even suggest some watery sunshine. After a short stop in Lincoln I pressed on alone, south east into Norfolk, and arrived at Flitcham near King's Lynn at about 12 noon. It was cloudy and quite mild, a little breezy, but bright with no hint of rain.

I was hoping to see the juvenile pallid harrier which has overwintered this year on the east coast, and has been seen in a number of places so far, including Donna Nook and Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire, and Wareham Greens, Snettisham and now Flitcham in Norfolk. 

It had been seen about five minutes before I arrived but had disappeared again, making me curse the road block and diversion that had delayed me near Sleaford. Daylight hours are precious at this time of year and a bird like a harrier can sit on the ground for hours on end if it's recently fed or if the weather takes a turn for the worse, and it was already midday. However I needn't have worried, after a wait of 45 minutes, I picked up the bird flying towards me. My first impression was of a long tailed falcon, but I was expecting this, since Montagu's harriers can look very falcon like, and pallid is similar size and jizz, though perhaps a little broader winged.  Upperparts were chocolate brown with a long tail and white crescent shaped rump. I could clearly see it's distinctive facial pattern with a pale collar on a dark neck and I had a decent view of the birds underwing pattern. 

Unfortunately I spent so long watching it through the scope that by the time I decided to try some photos it had moved a lot further away. This was my second pallid harrier, but it was as good as a lifer since the first was from a moving train!

I hung around for another hour or two and managed to get a second look at the bird, and then decided it was time to make tracks. From the radio reports I was getting, it sounded like I would be entering a disaster area back in the North West, with 220 flood warnings and the centres of Leeds and Manchester flooded, and even a sink hole in the M62 westbound causing long traffic delays and the East Lancs flooded and closed near Leigh! I avoided the M62 and took the Woodhead Pass over the Pennines, a slower route but not too bad on a Boxing Day evening, and at least it avoided the chaos on the motorway.

Also at Flitcham today, peregrine, red kite, buzzard, sparrowhawk, grey partridge and two Egyptian geese.

Year: 269 (Pallid Harrier)

At least you can make out that it's a slim ringtail harrier!


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