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Fenland Skydancers

April 2021 


I sat for much of two days at the edge of a public right of way running along the edge of a relic of fen landscape not far from Cambridge.  I knew there were marsh harriers breeding - maybe two pairs - in a relatively small area of phragmites reeds and blackthorn scrub.

No sooner had I set out my kit than I heard the distinctive mewing cry of a male harrier.  It was coming from very high up and scanning the sky I soon found a spec against the clouds slowly drifting and circling, and calling all the while.  The female was lower down - sometimes over where I guessed was the nest site - then she was circling higher and higher.  Soon the male bird began his dramatic rolling, fluttering, swerving descent - sweeping down past her in a breathtaking roller-coaster plunge suddenly ended by an upwards sweep and a short drop down into the reeds.

The pattern of the skydance varied each time but its elements were repeated three or four times through the day.



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