Category Archives: 06) Birds of Prey

Pallid X Montagu’s Harrier

Apparent mixed pairing in Spain

Juan Sagardia

News in from Juan of this apparent pairing between a male Pallid harrier and female Montagu’s Harrier in Zamora, Spain. All the glorious photos taken by him.

I suppose if you were a off-the-beaten track male Pallid harrier with no females (or other males) around you go for the next best thing… Pallid Harrier is classified as near threatened globally and recent expansion in toward western Europe perhaps the species response/ reaction to factors affecting the population elsewhere.

First you arrive in the area looking your awesome self!


The local ladies find you quiet attractive if a little different so try to get away from you…



One of the local lads takes exception to you- so you have to fight him off


Finally you settle down with the Mrs for the summer…


Ever hear of this pairing before? If it all works out for the couple, Offspring could make an interesting ID challenge somewhere this autumn…


Dark Morph Montagu’s Harrier

Utter surprise

Hi Martin

dark morph Montagu's Harrier by Geoff Morgan

The rare dark morph Montagu’s Harrier by Geoff Morgan. It looks as if the underside of the primaries may be paler and the secondaries darker suggesting a  juvenile rather than adult male or female dark morph- but who would swear by it ? The dark morph is found most often in the western part of the species’ range, especially Iberia.

I have been making an effort this spring to spend a little more time birding the inland and hill areas of Lothian. It has really paid off this weekend. Not only did I find this amazing dark morph Montagu’s Harrier yesterday (3rd May 2014), but while hoping for a re-sighting today managed to find a Rough-legged Buzzard moving through!
Rough-legged Buzzard by Geoff Morgan

Rough-legged Buzzard by Geoff Morgan

Given the warm sunny conditions late yesterday morning I thought that I’d head into the Lammermuirs and have a look for raptors moving through. I had Honey Buzzard in mind, but realistically expected only to add Common Sandpiper to the year list. The Faseny area of the Lammermuirs seemed a good place to start and after only a short while I struck lucky with a distant raptor moving toward me. I struggled to identify it initially - I hadn’t seen a dark morph Monty’s before - after the first brief view I wavered between Marsh/Hen/Northern Harrier or even an unbelievably bad view of a Buzzard. After a couple of minutes wait it popped into view again and I slowly pieced together its most likely identity. In retrospect, from jizz alone it was clearly a Montagu’s (or Pallid), but this seemed a very unlikely species and an even more unlikely colour morph to be seeing in Scotland. After viewing it for about 40 minutes in flight and on the heather it moved out of view over a ridge. I then spent several hours trying to relocate it and in doing so also eventually found some mobile phone signal to put the news out.
I was unable to find it again after several hours of intensive search and that it had already moved through. Thankfully others managed to see it the next day.
Here are a couple more pics – quality is poor unfortunately…
All the best
Geoff’s blog is HERE
dark morph Montagu's Harrier by Geoff Morgan

dark morph Montagu’s Harrier by Geoff Morgan

dark morph Montagu's Harrier by Geoff Morgan

dark morph Montagu’s Harrier by Geoff Morgan

Northern Harrier flies past Portland Bill!

Another cheeky male.

Read the finders Peter Moore’s account. Witty, unusually candid and very well written.


This morning for the benefit of a solo observer Peter Moore, this apparent male Northern Harrier/ Marsh Hawk flew by at Barleycrates, Portland. Thanks (again) to the modern camera and quick reflexes, photos seem to show the relevant features. Well sussed Martin Cade. Though distant and a small images it’s still possible to make out the pro Marsh Hawk characters such as heavy brown marking over head and upper wing coverts, rufous spotting on underparts and critically less black in the outer primaries than even a 2 year old European Hen Harrier. This is especially exemplified by the ‘silver bullet’ of P6 (5th primary counting from outside) which only has a small amount of black at the feather tip (all black in male Hen Harrier). A better view of the tail would be be nice- but you can’t always have everything!

See photo directly below and don’t forget to visit the Portland Bird Observatory Website- a very cool place.Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier 2

Hen Harrier 3.

Gyr Falcon in Lincolnshire?

Graham Catley

Grey morph Gyr Falcons can be very tricky bird to identify away from their core range. The spectre of a challenging ID and the possibility of falconer’s hybrids is ever present. This juvenile bird seen the last 2 days in N. Lincolnshire looks spectacular! Is it even the same seen at Patrington Haven in Nov, 2013? Graham Catley is keen to hear from those with a working knowledge of the subject. To be cont’d..!


See full set of Grahams photo of the bird:    >>>>Pewit Blogspot<<<<

“Morning Martin

A few quick words!
As I was passing Read’s Island on Sunday evening (9th March) I stopped off to do a quick Avo count but all the birds in the area were airborne; a quick scan revealed the two Marsh Harriers high up amongst the mass of gulls but none seemingly affected by each others presence; after a while I dropped my gaze and on the front edge of the island was what appeared to be a buteo sized pale falcon sitting head on to me! a panic for the scope revealed two distinctly blue – grey looking legs that showed no obvious signs of entrapment, some heavy underpart streaking and a notably pale head; fell for the modern disease and reached for the camera in which time it flew off closely chased by Lesser Black backs but it returned and landed on the back of the island again head on. It looked interesting but my one fuzzy flight shot suggested its upperparts were brown toned with a contrast between forewings and flight feathers and the paler head and nape. it remained distant to 17:45 when the light was going and it flew over the back of the island and out of sight.
Monday morning (10th March) I was back and initially passed over its upperparts protruding above a bank as a juv gull! Views were much better than the previous day and a series of pictures take albeit still at long range with a 500 lens and 2x converter; the upperpart colour seemed to vary but was typically a grey -brown; the legs were seen again with a scope and in photos nothing appears on them; it was mobbed by Marsh Harriers and LBB and GBB Gulls and always seemed to spook the Shelduck which it seemed to have a close eye on — I left at 11:15 but apparently it flew south early afternoon and was not seen between 15:15 and 17:15 — still not sure of the ID myself; I sent a link to Dick F. and wonder if he may actually be in Israel as its March

Graham Catley BSc Env

Ornithological Consultant and Professional Photographer

Director, Nyctea Ltd



Cryptic Forest Falcon

Once thought extirpated.

Extirpation refers to local (rather than global) extinction. A 40 year gap existed since the Cryptic Forest Falcon had last been seen along the Atlantic forest of Brazil. Then some good news. Ornithomedia regularly posts on the Birding Frontiers Facebook page. Here’s their report:


The Mata Atlântica or Atlantic Forest stretches along Brazil’s coast to Uruguay, reaching inland northeastern Argentina and eastern Paraguay. Formerly covering nearly 1.5 million km ², its area is more than 100,000 km ² today, only 2% remained intact!

Although still very rich, the biodiversity has suffered from such destruction, and many plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction. The good news is so rare and welcome. In the December issue 2013 Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, we learn that José Eduardo Simon and Gustavo Rodrigues Magnago observed and recorded July 29, 2012  a Carnifex Minton ( Micrastur mintoni ) in the Reserva Natural Vale, in the Brazilian state Espírito Santo. The last observation that some raptor in the Atlantic Forest dated 1972, and some ornithologists even thought he had disappeared from this ecosystem.

Read the full story >>> HERE <<<

Steppe Merlin

Overlooked in Europe? No way, so distinctive!

Yoav Perlman

Merlin has a huge breeding range accross Europe and Asia. It has several subspecies – as in many other species the W European populations being darker, and the E populations being paler and larger. pallidus (‘Steppe Merlin’) is the largest and palest of those occuring in the WP. It breeds in the steppes of N Kazakhstan and SW Siberia, and winters mainly in the Indian Subcontinent. It is a rare winter visitor to the Middle East, and therefore it should be looked for in Europe as well. In Israel it is rare indeed, with one or two wintering in some winters.

Last week I was doing a wintering raptor census in the NW Negev, in the open fields of Urim. This area is very rich in winter, with a strong C Asian steppes influence – Saker, callidus Peregrine, Sociable Lapwing, Eastern Imperial Eagle and Pallid Harrier are regular winter visitors, and this area hosts important populations of these species. As I was working a small patch of Tamarix trees that often are used as day roosts for Merlins, I noticed a brilliant male pallidus Merlin shooting out of a tree. I had quick flight views at first, but this form is so distinctive – especially in direct sunlight the upperparts are as pale as a Pallid Harrier so ID wasn’t challenging… It landed in a farther tree, and I managed to drive up to it and get a couple of crap shots in the shade before it flew out again.

pallidus Merlin, NW Negev, israel, january 2014

pallidus Merlin, NW Negev, Israel, January 2014

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to focus on the bird in flight and got nothing of it in proper light conditions. So I checked google and found these fantastic shots by Indian friends Rajesh Shah and Nirav Bhatt – I use their images here with their kind permission:

pallidus Merlin, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, November 2010

pallidus Merlin, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, November 2010


The size and structure differences from European aesalon might be difficult to judge in the field, especially in males that are anyway smaller than females. However, the pallid grey upperparts, pale head, faintly marked moustache and eyestripe, and faintly streaked upperparts make identification rather easy if seen in good light conditions. I guess that females and juveniles are much more challenging to identify – should be duller, paler and less streaked, but very hard to find convincing images.

Some more friends from the NW Negev:

Eastern Imperial Eagle, 3cy, NW Negev, January 2014

Eastern Imperial Eagle, 3cy, NW Negev, January 2014



Saker, 1cy, NW Negev, Israel, December 2013

Saker, 1y, NW Negev, Israel, December 2013