One laid back Harrier

Mid-morning, Katrina suggested that, to break-up our lockdown fever, we go and visit one of our favourite garden centres which is nestled at the bottom of the north downs at Buckland. I'm not adverse to mooching around such establishments, so armed with face masks and hand-gel we undertook the short journey and were soon looking at our prospective plant purchases out in the open air.

Now, this garden centre is placed in quite a good position to observe birds that might be making their way along the scarp slope. I have seen Hawfinch from here, plus observed decent Common Buzzard and hirundine passage in the past (whilst, of course, nodding sagely as my wife points out the plants to me).

This morning was no different, and I had one eye on the sky as we were examining a quite delightful flowering witch-hazel. I couldn't help but notice a low raptor just in front of us. I had no optics, but this bird was so low and the light so good that I didn't need them - a dark, immature female Marsh Harrier was idly making its way east, but then turned north and flew directly towards the scarp at Pebble Hill. I lost it behind trees and awaited it to reappear, but that was the last I saw of it. It was mid-day precisely.

I tweeted out the news in the hope that somebody might be able to pick it up elsewhere. Almost immediately I received a voice-mail from Ed Stubbs, who had picked up a Marsh Harrier 50 minutes previously, south of Thorncombe Street, making its way east along the High Weald Ridge (HWR). Our birds were both dark females and were, without doubt, the same bird. It too was making its way with a 'lazy flight'.

The tracking of this bird did not stop there. Alerted by my tweet, Wes Attridge made a concerted effort to see if the bird had stayed in the area, and at 12.35hrs saw the same bird as it tracked below the eastern ridge of Leith Hill - not particularly high and in a leisurely manner. This was one laid back Marsh Harrier in no hurry!

This gives you some idea of where the bird travelled. Thorncombe Street to Buckland is 14.6 miles as the Harrier flies and, if the bird made the journey directly, would have been following the High Weald Ridge. From Buckland to Capel is 6.8 miles. Whether or not our bird, on reaching the end of the HWR, and taking one look at the North Downs decided to re-orientate, we don't know, but the part that the hills seemed to have played in its journey across Surrey is interesting. There was something about this bird, and the mild weather, that made it feel as if we can almost claim to have left Winter behind.


Alan M said…
Hi Steve, met you a few days ago at Langley Vale with Keith. We think we saw the same harrier moving back from the direction of Leith Hill to Pebble Hill. At around 1530 we spotted it driving East along the A25 from Dorking. Lost it but we stopped and got out at Betchworth station and can say fairly precisely between 1530 and 1540 ( waiting for a train) we saw it again just above us close to the old quarry off Pebble Hill. We were so confused as to what it was but looking at photos now can see we had a fortunate sighting!
Steve Gale said…
Hi Alan, that is brilliant. Can you send me one of your pictures please? It would be great to relay your sighting. Thanks for getting in contact about it.
Alan M said…
Sorry jumped out of car with 18 month old to see the train and did not have anything!

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