Joined hunting with Hen Harrier

KornweiheThe lowlands of the Havellaendische Luch at Buckow – 50 km west of Berlin – as an unique area of meadows and fields. Actually known as the top territory in Germany to observe Great Bustards (Otis tarda), it is a perfect winter habitats, especially for wintering raptors as well. Different species of flying predators such as Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus), Merlin (Falco columbarius) and sometimes a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) use the high diversity of the meadows , pastures and fields around to pick up their food. The White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is a feeding guest, too. Unlike the species mentioned above, he does not keep up with mice but tries to chase the many Geese grazing in the area. Unfortunately, he also attacks some of the precious Great Bustards (Otis tarda).

While visiting the Havelländische lynx very interesting observations of hunting Northern Harriers chasing songbirds could be made. Over quite a long period of time at least 7 Harriers (Circus cyaneus) could be seen searching for food at low flight over the fields and pastures. At around 9:30, some bushes of willows drew up the special attention of first 2, then 3 females of this Harrier. The bushes stayed along a rural road and the Willows seemed to host a rewarding prey. Anyway, the Harriers circled for a while incessantly over the willows. From time to time, they showed an acrobatic dive and flew on arm length to the branches of the trees. In wild turning maneuvers, the wings almost touched the branches of the willows. Slowly it became clear that a flock of Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) had sought refuge in the Willows. The Northern Harriers obviously tried to make the Yellowhammers depart, in order to beat them on the run. It was not apparent that hunting was successful eventually, although the Northern Harriers were quite persistent. Finally another Northern Harrier – a male – joined the hunting squad. Suddenly a flock of maybe 20 Buntings could be seen in hasty abandonment of the willows. Subsequently, the Harriers had lost interest in the willows. The behavior to chase birds out of trees, I had only heard from Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Obviously, hen harriers are using this method to succeed in hunting, too.

Of note was the fact that the Northern Harriers were acting in a downright socially coordinated behavior. This is particularly noteworthy because Urs N. Glutz Blotzheim reported in his “Handbook of the birds of Central Europe”, Volume 4 “Falconiformes” of hunting in persistent repetition against woodpigeon, partridges and ducks. Otherwise he mentioned the little sociable nature of the Hen Harrier which permits socialization with other Northern Harriers only on the resting grounds.

After the unsuccessful hunt for the buntings the harriers proved their flying skills in extended chases on the abundant Hooded Crows (Corvus cornix) in the area. The crows were startled with delight. In general, it seemed that the Hen Harriers were by far the most agile birds on this chilly, late autumn morning. Even the few remaining Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) of the area could not relax.

In order to meet the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western Palearctic. Trips to remote places but also excursions to the neighborhood like in this case to capture images of rare birds of western Palearctic were very successful. The nice images you find in the gallery are only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture-Shop” very soon. Just give me a message, if could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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