Saturday 23 January 2021

Birding Blast from the Past 5 - Montagu's Harrier, Midhope Moors, South Yorkshire, Sunday 25 June 1989

We were down at Broomhill Flash late afternoon on Saturday 24 June 1989, instead of being on site the following morning, family day trip to Bridlington on the Sunday. Timed it nicely as found out exciting news from Mick Turton of an immature male Montagu's Harrier present earlier that day up on the moors at Midhope.

Fast forward to early the next day, just after 6am, and we were overlooking Midhope Moors, viewing the area below Pike Lowe from the bend on the road where the track starts leading down to the back of Langsett Reservoir. You know the place, it's where there's space for about five cars but fast forward thirty years and you now expect a dozen plus present, with parked cars digging up the roadside verge up and down from this spot.

It was a fine sunny start to the day in late June, nobody about and the air filled with the calls of Lapwings. A few minutes later there it was hunting just over from the bottom of the first field just below Midhope Moors. A beautiful delicate Harrier patrolling the field edge much to the annoyance of Meadow Pipits, one of which buzzed it continuously. The raptor characterised by a distinctive upperwing pattern, three toned, predominantly dark grey with a distinct dark secondary bar and slightly paler dark primaries. It had a grey head, I noted not as clear cut as an adult male Hen Harrier, and having distinctive grey central tail feathers. It was on show for 10 minutes hunting the field and then continued on what was its final pass heading right (north-west) behind the wood towards North America farm. I managed to get the record shot below, not brilliant, a bit out of focus.

The only 'Monty's' I've seen on the moorland edge, and in the Barnsley birding area over the years. You could say that 'Monty's got a raw deal' as the chances of a future one on Spring passage are slim given the decline of this waif to these shores over the last decade or so. Will still keep looking though.

Before going to Brid. and being an age before social media we went down to the hide at Broomhill Flash to scribble in the notebook that it was still present early Sunday morning. Shame it didn't linger.

Always like to watch Harriers, the male Montagu's Harrier below was a Spring migrant over a hillside at Anarita Park, Cyprus in 2019.