So, a long trip up to Leeds to present a customer segmentation gave me the chance of bagging a lifer. There is a pair of Montagu's harriers at Blacktoft Sands near Hull. They are presumed to be nesting. They are also the biggest "tarts tick" on my UK list. Basically, they are the bird I haven't seen that most other people have.
I left early in the morning and blasted up the M1. On the way up I stopped at Welbeck near Nottingham. This is a good place for seeing honey buzzards, especially if they are nesting. This year however they are not nesting, and talking to a local birder there in only one female around and she seems to be a once every 3 or 4 days bird. Two hours of watching got me lots of common buzzards, yellow wagtails, a cuckoo, lesser whitethroat and a kestrel but no sign of honeys.
So, I gave up and moved up north to Blacktoft. In what is becoming a pattern I just plugged in the postcode and drove on in reverie. I got to the village of Blacktoft. Strangely for an RSPB reserve there were no signs and no evidence of a reserve of hides. I began to suspect my error and looked at a map. I was indeed near the reserve, it was on the other side of the river!! Not far away as the crow flies but 30 minutes drive to go back around.
So, 30 minutes later I to to a well signed and popular RSPB reserve. The guy in the centre pointed me to the best hide for Monty watching but said he'd been here regularly and only seen them twice.
The hide was pretty full and on asking the person I sat down next to if they were showing the news was good - the female had been seen about 20 minutes before.
The hide looked out on an open pool and beyond that marsh and reeds. It was close to feeling like Summer as well and there was a strong heat haze over the reeds. It was clear it was good for harriers. There was a constant presence of marsh harriers, drifting over the reeds, hovering over worried ducks and carrying off coots!
After only I suppose 20 minutes or so a much smaller harrier popped up. Still basically brown but on long slender wings and with a characteristic "ring tail" or white mark on her rump it was the female Monty's. Lifer!!! She was a long way off though, probably half a mile or more back and with the heat haze it meant photography came under the "record shot" category.
Finally he popped up out of the reeds and for about 3 or 4 minutes the two chased each other over the reeds.
To be honest there wasn't a lot else on the reserve. They did have nesting avocets but apparently they lost all their chicks to foxes and the marsh harriers, leaving just a few adults mooching around. They also had bird feeders with tree sparrows which are pretty rare down south nowadays, but commoner further north.