Tuesday, 7 July 2015

QUAILS near Pirton

James Walsh discovered 2 calling QUAILS near Pirton at the weekend - both birds being still present in the barley there yesterday afternoon at TL 156 313. Park in Pirton village and follow the Icknield Way footpath. Turn right at the first juncture to join the parallel track to hear the birds after 400 yards...


Ray Hooper, Aubrey Warboys and others had been seeing a ringtail harrier in the Deadman Hill/Wallington area of East Hertfordshire for over three weeks and it had been assumed to relate to a first-summer Hen Harrier seen in early June. Aubrey however managed to obtain a number of flight images of the bird, these being shown to Mike Ilett and Barry Reed at the latter end of last week. Barry felt that there was enough in the images to suggest 'Montagu's', and Mike agreed, and after some lengthy fieldwork, Ray eventually tracked the bird down to the Wallington area, where it has remained since Saturday. Mike obtained some excellent views over the weekend (along with a large number of other observers) and the general view was that it was indeed a MONTAGU'S HARRIER.
My first opportunity in visiting the area was today, Monday 6th July. As luck would have it, the bird was roosting in the same hedgerow as much of yesterday, that which runs from south to north from the Wallington road down towards the A505. It was very distant and there was serious heat-haze. It sat there from 0900-0950 but then flew north and flew strongly over the A505 out over cereal fields towards Ashwell. Just under two hours later it flew back and afforded the 15 or so gathered throng an excellent performance, flighting from one side of the road to the other - at times, less than 200 yards away. I eventually lost it from view at 1220 hours.

It was quite clear from its plumage condition that it was a first-summer, the amount of apparent grey in the feathering seemingly suggesting a male. Here is a set of images I took of the bird in flight in chronological order - remember it is hot and hazy and the bird is largely distant......

Montagu's Harriers have bred in this area in the past and have summered with some regularity as well. This particular individual seems rather site-faithful to this Wallington road area as I write, being best observed from the gated layby about 100 yards in from the A505. It is often sat in the hedgerow that runs south to north from the Wallington road towards the A505.