Saturday, 14 November 2015

Day 365 - Massively Happy to introduce the Mightily Handsome Montagus Harrier

Today is the day. Day 365. Three-Hundred-and-Sixty-Five posts with hardly any days missed. 103,500 views so far. A dream come true. When I started this, even I didn't believe I would finish this blog. But here we are. It's weird because I can't actually write a simple diary everyday for even a week. It boggles my mind how I managed to do it. I think it was because I am very passionate about this subject. I love nature. Before I get on with today's subject, I want to stress that my blog is not finished. I probably won't post daily. What I think I'm going to try to do at least is cover each week an issue, such as getting kids connected to nature, and a species, such as what I'm doing now. My next post will be the making of the blog, so make sure to keep an eye out for that!

So, to mark this very special occasion I thought I would cover a very special bird. The one I chose was at Blacktoft Sands in East Yorkshire and was one of the most incredible moments in my life.

Pair of Montagu's Harriers ( Circus pygargus ) at Blacktoft Sands
Right from the start of my blog when I was reading up about the UK's rarest birds and I saw the Montagu's Harrier I said 'Wow, I really want to see one!' so I was thrilled when I heard there were some at Blacktoft. It is quite near to us but still around one and a half hours away. So when we got to Blacktoft we found a bench outside a hide to have our lunch. Just as we were finishing, someone came out of the hide and said 'oh, you've just missed the harrier!' So we had to sit in the hide for another 2 hours waiting for it. But it was worth it!

They were amazing to watch but they were a long way off so sadly my photos don't do this lovely bird justice but the Crossley ones show you just how magnificent this bird is.

So, here are the facts:
  • Habitats they like include marshes. moors and grasslands. Blacktoft is England's largest tidal reedbed so lots of lovely marshy habitat for them.
The male flying about
  • Their diet is animals that they take from hunting over areas with low vegetation.
  • They are the United Kingdom's rarest breeding bird of prey. This year there were only 6 breeding pairs and I was lucky enough to see one pair.
  • They don't live here all year, they only come to breed here, and the best chance you have of seeing them is in the South of England. They usually aren't found anywhere else in the UK, so this pair at Blacktoft seem to be unusual - but lucky for me.
  • Now, when I say they only breed here, it's true. But that does mean they need to undergo a migration. So, I looked into this a bit more..
  • Well, they seem to spend most of the rest of their time down in Africa. Specifically in Mali with what's been found by the RSPB.
  • What they've been doing is satellite tagging 5 different birds (Madge, Mark, Roger, Rose and Rowan) and tracking them around the world.
Swooping around for a while before going back to hunt
  • I will be following Mark, seeing as that's my Dad's name, and seeing where he's been going as they can have some pretty big adventures.
  • So, he started off in London on the 24th August 2015. He managed to get across the channel to near Etreux in just 1 day and spent another day resting up. After this he did a weird circle thing over 5 days near Reims and then managed to scale France by the 3rd of September.
  • He then covered all of Spain in the next day only to make it into Africa by the 6th! He carried on trekking along Western Africa slowing down eventually when he hit the border of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and on the 11th, he went slowly down to the Southern border in 10 days.
  • So, you can see, they undergo huge journeys in such little amounts of time. I'm personally not surprised at all that he slowed down in Africa. 
  • They live for an average of six years but the oldest one recorded was nearly eight years old, he must have flown thousands and thousands of miles!
  • They are a medium sized UK bird of prey with a length of only 40 cm - 50 cm and its wingspan is around 1.1 metres, Still seems impressive to me I'm only a bit taller than they are wide!

Montagu's Harrier from the Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland
Montagu's Harrier from the Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland

Here are a few links to some more information:

Thanks for a great year with all of the support, lots of people have been really helpful and supportive and it would need a really long blog one day to thank everybody!

I really hope you enjoyed it, but it's not over, it is never over,

Zach :-)


  1. Very very well done! I would dearly like to see a Monatagu's harrier as well!

  2. Beautiful birds! Fantastic find Zach! - Tasha