Marsh Harriers courting on the wing

Much to Mrs Sciencebase’s annoyance, I was awake at 6:40am today…her day off. I made a pot of tea, fed the dog, we drank the tea (Mrs Sciencebase and myself, not me and the dog), I then dressed and dashed off to RSPB Ouse Fen before the morning rush hour in the hoping of catching sight of a Bittern or two.

Well, I arrived to see lots of Linnets, Goldfinches, and Reed Buntings about. Skylarks cavorting with the Meadow Pipits, the sound of a couple of Chiffchaff and maybe four or five Cetti’s Warblers calling (I saw at least three of them), a possible Bearded Reedling “pew”, and the occasional boom of a male Bittern, from a couple of places, so perhaps two or more.

However, the big feature of the morning though was the five or six Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) that were doing their aerial courtship dance. The smaller, more patterned males with their darker heads chase the bigger females with their pale heads through the air and with each approach dive down to reed level. It’s a spectacular sight, be interesting to know how many were successful and whether numbers will rise again on this reserve.