This time last year I raised the rather controversial issue of Marsh Harrier plumage which went all out of control and unnecessary (although now good mates with some involved). So why am I raising the subject again? Well, it’s interesting, it provokes healthy discussion about a brilliant species and best of all it gets people talking about that fact that you can see Marsh Harriers in the middle of bloody Weymouth!
Last year I said that I thought that the male at Radipole and Lodmoor was a ‘dark morph’ male Marsh Harrier. This isn’t technically true (dark morph isn’t the right term to use) but it does show tendencies suggested in a recently published paper which focussed on several birds in France. They claim that males have been retaining ‘female type’ plumage. The only other species noted to do this is the Ruff where female type males can sneak into the leek and mate with females completely unnoticed by the blinged up males. It’s not quite the same with Harriers but a female looking male wouldn’t get the aggressive response of a rival normal male if that male thought it might be a female (if that makes sense??!). This can allow it to go on with its life without attracting undue hassle from other ‘normal looking’ males. This link explains it in sciency type talk. http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/11/04/rsbl.2011.0914.abstract
It’s also very interesting to read that their behaviour is also rather female like as I have observed this at Radipole on several occasions. Last spring when a new female arrived on site, all hell broke loose and the male was bizarrely aggressive towards her. See the post on this blog on Friday 1st April 2011 where I say ‘It looked pretty aggressive at times.’ This was said whilst I was describing the antics of the harriers that day.
Harrier action has been hotting up recently at Radipole with the male back on site looking very similar to how he looked last year which has prompted me to blog about this topic.
He’s been about off and on throughout the winter and I followed him through his moult last autumn so I’m 100% sure this is same male. The same female is back (now a 3rd calendar year bird) and there’s also a 2nd calendar year bird around so will the old female be back this year? Time will tell. This is the returning female.
Might I be so bold to suggest that we’ve had the same male at Radipole since 2009? After staring at photos from 2009 I’m starting to wonder! Comments welcome…