Superb raptor watch at Wicken Fen

We were very lucky. Considering the wind was blowing and it was raining when we arrived, it was unexpected that the weather would improve so much in the next hour. About 10 of us had chanced the weather and went on a raptor walk at Wicken Fen yesterday afternoon, and our main hope was to see, to glimpse, Hen Harriers coming in to roost.

We were very lucky. Five steps out of the warmth and shelter of the National Trust visitor centre we had seen a very distant Barn Owl and two quite distant ringtail Hen Harriers as well as Marsh Harriers. Wow! It was worth coming after all.

We were very, very lucky because later we had superb views of male and ringtail Hen Harriers. Multiple views, long-lasting views and close views. Some of the best harrier-watching I’ve had and the best so far for many of the rest of the group.

Ringtail Hen Harrier. Photo: Gordon Yates
Male Hen Harrier. Photo: Gordon Yates.

The harriers, Marsh and Hen, were coming in to roost after a day of feeding out on the Fens and on the nature reserve at Wicken Fen itself. The Hen Harriers are winter visitors here, and nest, if these birds nest in the UK which is quite likely, mostly on moorland areas of Wales, Scotland and northern England. Their numbers are greatly reduced by illegal persecution on grouse moors because Hen Harriers eat Red Grouse that people want to shoot.

The Hen Harriers we saw weren’t eating Red Grouse, there aren’t any within 100 miles of Wicken Fen, instead they are eating small mammals such a voles and small passerine birds such as finches, buntings, sparrow, pipits and larks.

This was the third raptor watch that Wild Justice directors, Ruth Tingay and Mark Avery, have attended and we’ve seen Hen Harriers (and obviously lots of other birds) at every one ( Wicken Fen, RSPB Wallasea Island and RSPB Titchwell). We chickened out of travelling to The Wirral last weekend because of the foul weather and we have failed to set up an event in Kent this year, despite trying. But we’ll consider doing similar walks next year if people are interested.

Thank you to the RSPB and National Trust for hosting and facilitating these walks. Each was great fun. But yesterday at Wicken Fen was just superb. We were very lucky.