Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hen Harrier (female)

This is a female hen harrier, Circus cyaneus, and I saw one this afternoon on a walk from Rodmell to Southease along the bank of the river Ouse. They are one of our rarest breeding raptors and in very real danger of extinction in the UK. This is in no small part due to the nefarious activities of the grouse-shooting owners of moorland where the birds breed.
The females have an obvious white band at the base of their tails and as a result are known in the birding world as 'ringtails'. This autumn/winter is the first year I've seen them in the lower Ouse valley. The first time I saw one was back in October when it was accompanied by a marsh harrier, another first here. They are sometimes mistaken for each other but a glimpse of the white tail base is a clincher. The male hen harrier is quite different looking: pale blue-grey with black wing tips. They have broad, owlish faces.
If you're interested in curtailing driven grouse-shooting in this country, something a handful of tax-avoiding mega-rich pay to do for a few weeks of the year at the detriment of these and other highland birds, follow this link to sign a petition before the end of March 2015.
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