Marsh Hawk! – Scotlands first?

Common Gulls, Herring Gull, Ravens, Hooded Crow, the local pair of Buzzards and a ‘Hen Harrier’ all appeared this morning to take their turn at mobbing the roosting Snowy Owl.

Now Hen Harriers are uncommon on Lewis (no voles here, unlike Uist so they don’t breed) but I usually see 3-4 each winter. So noteworthy, but in the 30 odd second views it looked very dark mahogany on the uppers, rusty and plain on the unders and seemed to be hooded with a collar. It was gone all too quick though and it drifted off up the crofts towards Barvas. For an optimist these features point towards a ‘Nearctic origin’ and more specifically the form/sub-species/species known as Northern Harrier, as opposed to Eurasian Hen Harrier. But in 30 second views with no photos what to do? Hope it comes back – and it didn’t – and I had to get on and do some work.

Niggling it was but the main doubt was how dark the uppers were. I didn’t recall this as a feature of Northern, but again I didn’t recall seeing a Hen as deep mahogany as this.

Iain Macleod who had come to see the Snowy Owl at my house then later managed to get some photos of the Harrier over Barvas – the next village north. Now things were getting interesting and features could be examined. Yip – it looked like a Northern Harrier (“hudsonicus” or Marsh Hawk as it was once more quaintly known). A thumbs up from everyone, especially an enthusiastic Richard Millington, seemed to seal it. Hats off to Iain – the beers on me. No photos would mean a record like this would probably be lost; such is the emphasis on the image these days over the written word.

So a Scottish first (perhaps), and a fine addition to the patch/garden list. Two biggies in a day within a stones throw of the house can’t be bad.

Thanks to Angus, Hywell, Tristan, Richard and Pete for comments. Big thanks to Iain for getting the all important images

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One Response to Marsh Hawk! – Scotlands first?

  1. Lesley Dantinnes says:

    This is the same bird I saw this morning in the Laxay area!! My initial thoughts were Marsh Harrier – but it didn’t look big enough .

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