Sunday, May 09, 2010

Marsh Harrier/Rørhøg

Lille Vildmose, North Jutland
The Story about the Long-billed Dowitcher ,
the Sparrow Hawk and the Fox

Marsh Harrier/ Rørhøg
(Circus aeruginosus)

Suddenly the marsh harrier showed beside our car and followed us on the long road that leads through a section of the nature reserve Lille Vildmose in the northeastern part of Jutland. We were out looking for the cranes. It was a cold, grey day -and in the night were frost degrees. We had reached the eight day of May. Only 6 degrees Celsius at noon. When will the sun and the warmth arrive?

The marsh harrier is a raptor with a wing span of 135 cm, a rare bird in Denmark with only 650-800 breeding couple. It builds its nest upon the ground in reed beds, in moors and along lake shores. Here is also the main part of its food, like water birds, water voles and mice. The marsh harrier is a migrating bird with winter quarters in the western Africa. A large number of marsh harriers from Sweden and Finland pass Denmark under both the spring- and autumn migration.

The marsh harrier is typically seen hovering on raised wings above reedbeds looking for prey. It is also a common thing to see it hunting in fields and meadows. Its large wings and small body weight makes this raptor eminent for this type of hunting. The male's plumage is striking with a brown back, blue grey tail and flight feathers and black wing tips. The underside of the wing is white with a black tip. The female is self-coloured dark brown with light crown, chin and wing fronts. The species belongs to the group of harriers, which in Denmark is also represented by Blå Kærhøg/Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and Hedehøg/Montagu's Harrier. (Circus pygargus).

The marsh harrier is native to the southern Scandinavia down through western Europe and east to Russia. Closely related species live in the southern Africa, in Sibiria, the Pacific region with Australia and New Zealand and finally at Madagaskar. In Denmark it is found in wet areas with wellgrown reed woods, mainly in the southern and eastern part of the country, but some of the largest populations are in Jutland in the bird-sanctuaries: in Tøndermarsken, in Vejlerne and upon the Tipperne, which together with the Maribosøerne (lakes) at Lolland are top localities for the marsh harrier.

photo Vejlerne June 2006: stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan Foto

Finally the marsh harrier left us and disappeared across the moor. We did not find the cranes that day. The birdwatchers only saw one, although there is a large flock now, but the moor is enormous with many hiding places for the birds. What do they care about those silly birdwatchers? We're watching out for flora and fauna in order to get some photos. A real birdwatcher is able to stay the whole day in rain and storm in order to watch a rare bird like a blue-winged duck, who suddenly came to visit Lille Vildmose a few days ago.

Last week there was a drama in Lille Vildmose. The birdwatchers were watching a long-billed Dowitcher, which is a foreign bird in Denmark. It had stayed in Lille Vildmose for some time- and the birdwatchers kept a close eye on it and made reports. Then suddenly, the other day, while the Dowitcher was peacefully tripping around in the water, came a sparrow hawk as quick as lightning. Pfuit! It all happened so fast and the birdwatchers were shocked. The sparrow hawk started eating the poor dowitcher, but then out of the blue came a fox - the sparrow hawk and the fox stared at each other, looking vigilant and hesitant, but the sparrow hawk made the choice to disappear, and the fox went off with the rare bird, probably unaware that this was a rather valuable steak.

photo: The fox with the dowitcher

Back to the grey day. The rain began and it was raining cats and dogs, we do not endure rain and storm like the birdwatchers, so we gave up and went home, but there'll be another day in Lille Vildmose in summer with lots of birds and butterflies and flowers.

photo Lille Vildmose 8. May 2010 : grethe bachmann

1 comment:

Kittie Howard said...

Incredible! That poor little Dowitcher. So rare! Those birdwatchers must have been really sad. But nature is nature. Nothing to be done. Great story!!