Watching Hen Harriers over Llanrhidian Marsh, Gower

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


12004 - Llanrhidian Marsh, GowerThis evening was a perfect example of why I love living where I do. After being in work all day I headed straight from the office down to Llanrhidian Marsh which borders the Burry Inlet on Gower. My aim was to try and see the Hen Harriers (one of my bogey species) that have been coming into roost at this location for the past couple of weeks. I wasn't to be disappointed. As soon as I got out of the car I was straight onto a female Hen Harrier hunting just above the tops of the reeds, eyes down in a constant search for her prey. The sun was very low in the sky but the lighting was absolutely perfect as it illuminated every inch of the birds expansive wingspan. The white area at the base of the tail was clearly visible as were the rings on the tail. I had always wondered if I would be able to tell a female Hen Harrier from a Buzzard but when the moment came there was no doubt. The behavior and demeanor of the Harrier is completely different, and the way in which they are able to float above the reeds is simply spectacular.

I was able to watch the female hunting for several minutes at a time before it would drop down into the reeds and disappear. During these gaps in activity there was certainly no shortage of other bird life over the marsh. A Kestrel could be seen hunting in the distance whilst a flock of Lapwings cartwheeled over the estuary and the odd Heron slowly flapped overhead as it came into roost. I was also very pleased to find a new Little Egret roost which finished up with ten individuals by the time the light had gone completely.

I would have been happy to end it there but there was one more event to finish off a perfect evening. Far out across the marsh I spotted another large bird rise up from the reeds and blow me if it wasn't a male Hen Harrier. There was just enough light left to pick out his grey plumage and the black ends to its wings as it hunted. It was slightly surreal seeing the male at last as it is something that I have been dreaming about for a while now and have hunted for on numerous occasions in the past. I will certainly be back out over the coming days to watch these birds again before they move out of this area and into their breeding grounds further north. I should also thank the fellow birder with who I spent the evening for being as friendly and chatty as everyone else who I have encountered on Gower and in the surrounding areas.

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