Friday, 14 August 2009

Raptors galore; MARSH HARRIERS break new record

I made my first evening visit to Deadman's Hill this evening and it was just superb. I was there from 7-8.30pm and saw the following:

10 MARSH HARRIERS mostly juveniles, the largest single count ever known in the county
the first-summer HEN HARRIER
3 Red Kites
4 Common Buzzards
3 Kestrels
1 Hobby
1 Sparrowhawk
1 COMMON QUAIL (heard)

All were seen from the green metal gate at the bottom of Deadman's Hill. When I arrived the ringtail Hen Harrier showed well, but fairly briefly in the direction of Bury Barns. The Red Kites spent the entire time quarrelling with the Buzzards over the most distant of the hills to the right, and the Hobby made a dash from left to right in front of me.

The Marsh Harriers were captivating. Started off with 3 or 4 fairly distantly,and I was constantly struggling to improve the count. It did get better, with 7 and then 8, before finally there were 10 all in the air at once fairly close along the far edge of the field parallel to the road. Wonderful stuff. I know that they can be seen in good numbers in Norfolk /Suffolk / Kent, but this is Hertfordshire birding and it doesn't get much better than this. If anyone hasn't been, I would thoroughly recommend it. I was joined by another birder and we heard Quail fairly close in one of the fields on the West side of the road - interestingly these have been cut, and we thought might give a good chance of seeing it. Of course it wasn't to be, but worth bearing in mind for anyone there. (Graham Knight)

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