Monday, 20 March 2017

Harrier Roost Counts

It was the last of this winter's six, monthly, WEBS counts last Monday and yesterday evening also saw the last of the six, monthly, Harrier Roost Counts around parts of Kent and Essex. There was a chilly and gusty wind blowing under grey skies as I made my way across to the reserve sea wall at 17.15 to await dusk and hopefully, some Hen Harriers. As I have said before, only Hen Harriers roost on the reserve, on the saltings towards Shellness Hamlet, the Marsh Harriers go elsewhere on Harty. Normally I would position myself by the Sea Wall Hide and watch the traditional roost site from there using my telescope. Last night, I chose to walk further round the sea wall and closer to the roost site and bunkered down at the base of the wall out of the wind. Being almost as low as the tops of the salting gave me a much better view, especially as the harriers tend to come in skimming the vegetation and can sometimes be missed if looking down on them.
It was quite pleasant tucked down there and while Ellie amused herself looking for mice or voles in the grass, I enjoyed watching the to and fro-ing of various birds. Small parties of chuckling Shelducks passed overhead, leaving the marsh and heading for the tidal Swale and a female Marsh Harrier tracked it's way slowly along the distant saltings edge, raising my hopes of a Hen Harrier. A little later the Marsh Harrier crossed over the sea wall and headed across the reserve to it's favoured roost site, the light was decreasing fast now. Finally, as the light decreased even further, two adult ringtail (female) Hen Harriers suddenly appeared to my right, I almost missed them. I no sooner saw them than they dropped like stones into the saltings vegetation, not alongside each other but several yards apart. The reason I almost missed them was due to the fact that they chose to roost this time opposite where I normally stand by the Sea Wall Hide, mocking my decision to go further round and watch their traditional roost.
So that was the last Harrier Roost Count of this season until we start again next October, and it's unlikely that the Hen Harriers will be seen much more as they begin their return to breed on the moors of Northern Britain.


  1. A more private encounter with nature would be hard to get Derek.

  2. I haven't seen a Hen Harrier in ages...must get down to Sheppey.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Derek. Your ornithological passion is inspirational.

  4. Very nice and interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jessi, glad you liked it.

  5. Nicely put Derek. I too was out on Sunday evening, with Chris Philpot, counting roosting harriers at our usual spot on Walland Marsh; we also had two ringtails, amongst 14 Marsh Harriers. There is something special about those winter roost counts on marshland, the solitude and big skies with the wind blowing and often a setting sun, its almost a privilege, and in some ways the harriers are just a bonus to the unique atmosphere of the flatlands. Good birding for spring and I hope to make it back up your way next month.

  6. Thanks Paul, yes, I noted on your blog that you'd had two ringtails. The other guys on Sheppey had lower Marsh Harrier counts this time but I guess they are dispersing for breeding now.

  7. Derek, just a reminder to any of your readers who may be interested that there might be some activity at Glaslyn Osprey website any day now. Their favourite osprey Mrs. G should arrive from Africa very soon. The webcam is live and the nest is nice and tidy and looks very welcoming.