MARSH HARRIER Circus aerginosus
Scarce, but regular, passage visitor.
Seen in most years 1988 to 2010. Recent sightings:
Eleven records represents a return to form, and the best year since 2003. Spring passage produced single birds at St. Ives on 10th April, Ilkley Moor on the 14th, and at Sconce on the 21st, and there were two May records: at Barden Scale on the 9th, and from Oxenhope watchpoint on the 22nd. This last location produced most of the autumn sightings, and individuals were seen on 15th September, in October on the 13th, and 26th, and on 7th November. A bird at Denholme Clough on 13th October was considered different from the one at Oxenhope that day, and the year’s only Washburn report came from Thruscross Reservoir on 4th September.
2012 Last year’s Report referred to a return to form, after a number of poor years from 2003. In 2012 the form book has been torn up, as 37 reports and an astonishing total of around 30 different birds are comfortably Group records.
Unsurprisingly, about two-thirds of the reports came from the well-watched Barden Scale, starting with an early bird on 7th April. Singles were then seen on 14th and 18th June, and the day after produced the first sighting of a 1st-summer male, which spent the summer in the area, and was last seen on 23rd August. Different birds were then observed on four July dates : the 15th, 17th, 24th and 27th, and there was an additional individual in August on the 9th, with up to three between the 11th and 23rd. September sightings rounded off the area’s impressive year, with one from the watchpoint on the 2nd, and two on the 15th and an individual on Barden Fell on the 8th.
The results of intensive watching were also evident at the Oxenhope watchpoint, which had its most impressive autumn, comprising three birds on 5th August and one on the 19th, and other singles on 8th, 19th, 22nd and 26th September, plus another on 26th October.
The remaining six reports came from across the recording area. Following another early record, a bird at High Eldwick on 10th April, singles were seen at Lower Laithe Reservoir on 28th July, and in August at Haverah Park on the 2nd, Thruscross on the 12th, and on Hawksworth Moor on the 21st, with two together on Haworth Moor the previous day.
2013 Following last year’s record haul of 37 reports featuring 30 birds, we returned to more prosaic times with just 14 records of single birds, of which four were in the spring. One of these birds, a female, flew south-east from Leeshaw on 27th March. On the final day of March, a similar bird flew down the valley over Snaygill Ings. The final two spring reports were of two more females seen from Barden Scale on 20th April and 1st May. Watchers at Barden had two female birds, one on the 22nd August and another four days later.
On the first of these dates, a well-watched juvenile was first seen quartering the moor to the west of Whetstone Gate before following the edge of Rivock Plantation and down to Bradup Allotment. Later, it was picked up by observers at Glovershaw who could see the bird hunting beyond Weecher Reservoir. A female bird was seen at Leeshaw and then over the adjacent Haworth Moor on the 30th July, and a juvenile, seen at close quarters, flew from a fence post and headed north across Kex Gill Moor on 19th August. The results of intensive watching were also evident at the Oxenhope watchpoint, where birds were sighted on the 7th, 14th September and 5th October. The remaining report was a bird in the south of the area, passing over Leeshaw Reservoir on the 9th September.
2014 There were 12 records concerning eight birds, fewer than last year and well down on the 30 birds that featured in 2012, but still, it was much better than the poor years between 2004 and 2011. Watchers at Barden Scale reported a cream-crowned bird in heavy flight feather moult, which was often seen flying over the adjacent moorland between 20th June and 8th July. Two other individuals were seen from this vantage point, the first on 24th August and the other on 2nd September. Each of them was watched until disappearing up the valley and over the skyline. A bird flew south over Hazlewood Moor on 8th May and in early autumn a juvenile male was seen on Burley Moor. The other three sightings involved birds in the south of the area. On 22 August, at Redcar Tarn, a juvenile bird came from the north and was watched as it flew towards the south-west. In the following month (11th) an adult female crossed over Warley Moor Reservoir in mid-afternoon, and the final report was of a bird seen flying north-west at Leaventhorpe, Bradford on 22nd November.
2015 As in 2014, there were reports of eight birds, with the main attention focussed on the west of the area where half of the recorded birds were seen. Careful and persistent watching at a moorland site paid dividends when a male bird was seen on 23 April, later joined by a female. After several hours of watching, during which time both birds were seen to mob passing Buzzards, display flights and talon-grasping occurred. Nest-building was noticed from 16th May and daily checks over the next week gave every indication that incubation may have commenced. Alas that was the end of any further activity as the male, last seen on the 26th, had departed, followed shortly after by the female. A rudimentary nest was found and no disturbance was detected. It was assumed that at least one of the birds was an immature and this accounted for the failed breeding attempt. The weather throughout had been exceptionally cold, wet and very windy and this too could have contributed to the failure. In the same area a juvenile was seen regularly from 12th August, and according to the keeper, interfered with the grouse shoot. An adult female, first seen on 29th August, stayed on the moor until 20th September. Earlier in the year, a female was seen over Middleton Moor on 22nd March and on 26th May a male was sighted on Denton Moor. A juvenile was hunting at Bradup on 4th August and the final record was a female at Apperley Bridge on 4th October.
HEN HARRIER Circus cyaneus
Regular passage/winter visitor
Recorded in most years, recent sightings since 2010 are as follows:
This harrier also got back to the sort of numbers seen in previous years, as there were 20 records involving probably 22 birds. The north of the area produced most of the sightings, but there were three from the south: a male at Leeshaw on 17th March, and a passage bird at Oxenhope on 27th September and two on 7th October. Formerly the prime site, the Barden area also delivered, with singles on 11th January, 14th March, 25th May, 30th October and 1st November, and two were seen on the 19th, and on 27th December. Individuals, possibly the same, were also seen on three other dates during the month, and another was seen fairly close by at Kex Gill on 13th September. In January, a bird was near Hoodstorth on the 21st, and other sightings during the month, and in late June, came from a moorland where displaying birds have been seen in the recent past. Up to two birds were involved, and a male on one occasion.
This harrier’s fortunes nationally are in marked contrast to the preceding species, but reasonable numbers of birds were seen for the second successive year, with a minimum total of about 18 from 22 records. Barden Scale was again predominant, and up to two birds were seen between 22nd and 25th January, and singles on 3rd March, 30th April, 18th to 20th June, and 17th and 30th October. Other Wharfedale reports of individuals came from Burley Moor on 31st March, Whetstone Gate on 14th October, and Denton Moor on 10th November. The one Washburn record came from Sandwith Moor on 17th May. It was good to have a significant seven reports from south of the Aire, all in autumn. Singles passed Oxenhope watchpoint on 22nd September, and 6th and 7th October, with perhaps the same bird near Warley Moor Reservoir on that date, and another on Keighley Moor five days later. The year’s only wing-tagged bird was noted near Ogden on 19th September, and the only adult male at Ponden Reservoir on 11th December.
2013 This harrier’s fortunes nationally continue to be a cause for grave concern, but, once more, reasonable numbers of birds were seen for the third successive year, with a minimum total of 19 records. Barden Scale was again predominant, with a single female and a juvenile male in the middle of March. Two birds were again seen here between 20th and 22nd April, with the male engaged in a display. During the first week of May a pair was once more reported and a single female was seen at Timble Ings on the 20th and 21st of the that month.
An individual female was seen hunting near the Cow and Calf Hotel in the early evening of 6th June. The rump was clearly seen as it chased prey before dipping below the height of a wall. Observers at Barden were rewarded with views of single birds on 21st September, 12th November and on 19th October, when a male spent a few minutes hunting over Barden Fell before it continued its journey. The final report was of a bird which was seen around Little Almscliffe and remained for at least seven days from the 26th November.
This was an average year for a bird that has nationally suffered a serious decline, with breeding activities in particular under constant threat. There were 11 records, all but one from Wharfedale, covering 12 birds. On 19th February a superb male was seen from Barden Scale and watched as it headed towards Lower Barden Reservoir. On the final day of that month and again on 12th May, a similar situation was witnessed, but this time it was female birds that crossed the moorland. The other sightings occurred in the second part of the year. The first was reported from Oxenhope watchpoint on 11th October; on the same day two birds were seen from Barden Scale. There were then three more single birds, the first was a juvenile, and each of them was reported at Barden Scale in November.
2015 Of the 14 records, all but one were of birds passing through the area in the latter part of the year. The only spring record was a female seen in the north of the area on 31st May. In September a bird flew over Thornton Moor on the 10th and another was seen from the Oxenhope watchpoint moving quickly south on the 13th. A ringtail was mobbed by corvids on Keighley Moor on the 18th and a week later another one flew west over Barden Fell. On the final day of the month a bird was seen hunting over the same moorland.
On 8th October an adult female, carrying a transmitter, was located on Keighley Moor. The bird was seen again next day and remained in the area until at least the 19th. This was a bird tagged in Bowland in 2014 and known as “Highlander”. She had attempted breeding on two separate occasions with different males, both of which disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Also during October, a ringtail was seen over Thornton Moor on the 10th and four days later, on Hawksworth Moor, another was disturbed whilst it was on the ground. In the final two months a bird was seen jousting with two Short-eared Owls on Whetstone Allotment on 15th November, a juvenile was on Barden Fell on the 25th, and the year ended with reports of a female at Whetstone Gate in late December.