Saturday, 7 May 2016

Hen Harriers In Worcestershire?

Hen Harriers In Worcestershire?


Last year when travelling back from a shopping trip in Droitwich on 24/02/2015 with my wife we saw a splendid male hen harrier in the field off Dark Lane between Bradley Green and Inkberrow, very close to what was the Bird In Hand pub.

I spotted the bird just as we turned the corner and immediately pulled onto the verge and stopped. The raptor was very different to any I have seen before. I had seen female hen harriers in Orkney but this was a male, appeared white below, blue grey above, very black wing tips and a white rump. It was smaller than a buzzard, larger than a sparrow hawk. Wings long with finger primaries narrower than marsh harrierwhich I have seen many times in Norfolk.

Now my wife and I had both recently read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and we thought we were looking at our first goshawk. On reaching home 20 minutes later and going straight to the reference books it was obviously a male hen harrier probably passing through northwards.


Fast forward to 5th May 2016 and I am in the same area of Worcestershire only this time my vehicle is my bicycle returning home from a glorious ride along the narrow lane that passes through Saleway. A large raptor flew low and fast across the lane about 10 meters in front of me turned right and flew along the hedge. A light coloured buzzard was my first thought as I accelerated to get closer, birds are not so bothered by cyclists I reckon the profile does not match a human.

Small for a buzzard, wings not so broad and a quicker wing beat, behaving a bit like a sparrow hawk but bigger with straighter wings blunted at end with finger like primaries. Pale beneath and darker above. I have the common male colour blindness so greens, browns and reds are often hard to identify.

I managed to get to about 2 meters behind it when finally spooked it twisted and flew away across the field climbing to tree height but when only 2 meters away I clearly saw the white rump behind the wings and above the tail. It looked like a female hen harrier to me but early May is late for it to be passing through.

I do know what it was not. It was not a sparrow hawk, hobby, kestrel, buzzard, marsh harrier. Could it have been a goshawkor was it a hen harrier? Are there any other sightings in Worcestershire recorded around that time.