Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Water Harrier

With a few hours to spare Monday afternoon I nipped up to the Ouse Washes RSPB reserve as there were a few good birds around including the long staying Purple Heron and a White rumped Sandpiper.
 I didn't expect to see the Heron and indeed I didn't, nor the Glossy Ibis that has been loitering for a couple of weeks now or indeed the White rumped Sandpiper.
 Despite this there were other good birds to be seen; a juvenile Spoonbill amongst the numerous Little Egrets, at least two Curlew Sandpipers, ten Spotted Redshanks, ten to fifteen Greenshanks, many Ruff, Dunlin and Snipe and also a very entertaining Kingfisher in a bush in front of the hide.
 The White rumped Sandpiper was on site as it was seen shortly after I left. The reason I didn't see it I suspect was the flock of small waders it was amongst was constantly beeing spooked by a couple of Marsh Harriers that kept flying over the washes.
 On one such fly through we were suddenly aware that the Harrier was hovering low over the shallow  water.
The reason for this was suddenly clear as a bird kept surfacing directly underneath and hastily diving.
The Harrier obviously knew what it was doing as suddenly it just dropped down and locked on to the helpless victim - a juvenile Coot.

 It was strange to see a Harrier seemingly sitting on the water. In reality it was standing on top of the Coot. (click on the picture for a better look)
Initially all the Ducks flew off but gradually they moved in closer as their curiosity got the better of them.
For around ten minutes the Harrier sat on top of the Coot until it was satisfied it's victim had been drowned. Occaisionally it would raise it's wings and the wind would catch it and float it across the water. I feared it would end up in deeper water and then be in trouble itself

Eventually though it summoned up it's strength and hauled it's meal up out of the water and out onto a drier area.

Suddenly all the ducks scattered as they realised who the strange waterbird was.

On my way out of the reserve I bumped into Alan Davies and Ruth Miller who had just come from Titchwell, where Alan had discovered a Baird's Sandpiper. I have no doubt he would have been the one to have refound the White rumped.



  1. Wow, that must've been an amazing (though gruesome) behaviour to witness!

    1. It was absolutely fascinating from start to finish Graeme.
      I have since heard that this bird has used this method before.