Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Pallid Harrier, Garnock Floods, Ayrshire

Click images for larger versions. Better quality images can be found on my photography site:

Ayrshire's first recorded Pallid Harrier was found in the Garnock Floods/Bogside area by Gordon McAdam on 27 October 2011. On site the following day was Chas Moonie, photographing birds, concealed and out of view of Gordon. Chas luckily obtained some close-range images of what he assumed was just one of the local Hen Harriers but Gordon's suspicions were confirmed when the images on Chas's camera revealed a juvenile Pallid Harrier! I made an overnight trip up from London at 2325h to Glasgow on the coach to see this cracker and add it to my Ayrshire list on Sunday night, before heading back down on Monday night. Catching a train from Glasgow to Irvine at 0800h, it’s route actually passed right through the marshes where the bird was present, minutes before the line enters Irvine. I met Lisa here before we headed up to join some local birders including Gordon, Angus, Mike and Rab. It was a grey day with some showers and the harrier only approached to about 130 metres on it closest circuit and I knew that I was only going to obtain 'record-quality' images.

These images however show the following features:

(1) A striking head/neck pattern dominated by a broad, unstreaked head-collar, ranging in colour from white on the top of the head to buff/cinnamon below on the neck/throat; contrasting with mid-brown neck bands forming a semi-collar extending from the nape down to just below eye level (in horizontal flight position); plain dark brown cheeks/ear coverts and 'eye-patch' contrasting with delicate white stripes above and below the eye and pale brown forehead.

(2) Plain, unstreaked buff/rufous underparts complete from the lower neck to the vent, continuing over all of the underwing coverts.

(3) A contrasting underwing pattern comprised of rufous coverts, dark brown secondaries with a visible pale outer band and hint of an even paler inner band; pale grey primaries with prominent dark brown barring on the lower half though with a contrasting, unbarred patch towards the primary base, separated from the under primary coverts by a denser strip of barring; in addition a distinctive pale trailing edge to all the upper and lower flight feathers apparent.

(4) Underside of the outer tail feathers relatively plain with barring barely visible.

(5) The upperwing and uppertail show less distinction from the other Circus species with the exception of the pale trailing edge on the primaries and secondaries. The white upper-tail (rump) coverts are perhaps more extensive than is typical.

The bird is still present, to 04.11.11 at least.


Colin said...

Hi Fraser. I don't believe this. I was on the train from Largs to Glasgow Central on Thursday morning, and the route passed over a wetland area just outside Kilwinning. From the train window I notice a ringtail harrier which looked a bit different flying across the marsh, I was pleased to see the bird, but didn't think much more about it and didn't even know that there was a Pallid Harrier present, until I just read your blog. Does the Largs to Glasgow train pass through the birds favoured area? Are there many Hen Harriers in the area? Don't think I can really count it, because I didn't really id it, but it was different.....

Fraser Simpson said...

Hi Colin, quite possibly was. The line does curve north about one mile from where it was regularly seen at NS302413. It did range quite far at times.