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Watching the Marsh Hawks Hover

February 21, 2013

I was thrilled when I got my first pair of binoculars (Tasco 7X35’s – built like a tank) and my first Peterson Field Guide to the Birds. I spent much of that winter watching the Starlings at our burn barrel and saw for the first time that those noisy marauders were in fact quite beautiful. That summer I watched the Harriers (called Marsh Hawks at the time) soar and hover over the empty field next door. I was sure they were nesting out there, on the ground just behind the creek.   I watched the pair as they “danced” and tumbled in the air in their courtship display. I was around twelve years old and in love with birds, bird behaviour and the wonder of all living things.

hunting

hunting

I was following the female with my binoculars one day as she traversed the field and wheeled in mid air and then hovered in one spot.  Suddenly the black tom-cat from the adjacent farm leaped into the air as the bird dove. The harrier emerged soon after – without the cat. I saw the tom later in the summer, none the worse for wear. But I never did see any young Harriers that summer – perhaps the cat had the last say in the matter.

Harrier scouring the marshes for prey

Harrier scouring the marshes for prey

Crow harassing Harrier Female

Crow harassing Harrier Female

banking

banking

on the lookout

on the lookout

I have watched other Harriers – mostly at the Creston Valley Wildife Management Area where there are often Harriers patrolling the Management Area marshes.  “My” Eastern Kingbirds (my study animals when I studied at the CVWMA) missed no opportunity to harrass the Harriers. (The pictures shown here are of crows mobbing a female Harrier at the Reifel Refuge near Vancouver). Harriers are amazingly agile fliers and are probably never in any real danger from the mobbing birds but the mobbing probably distracts the Harriers from finding any of the nestlings hidden in the marshes.

I will be visiting the marshes of the Creston Valley again this summer. I will probably be on my bike and will take the time to sit in the long grass with a thermos of Earl Grey tea – waiting for something to wander by. No doubt I will end up watching Harriers again as they hover and fly low over the marshes.

all photos and writing on this blog copyright Joanne Siderius 2013

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