Harrier Experience

Heading out to Terrenceville this past weekend I was aiming to photograph two raptor species...Osprey and the Bald Eagle. In the back of my mind I knew there might be the possibility of seeing a Northern Harrier. From my knowledge their aren't great numbers of them here so finding one is difficult but last year I got luck when I came across a Harrier nest site.

Friday morning (our first morning of the trip) came and I was off down the main road out of Terrenceville to try and relocate the caribou herd I had seen the night before. The herd was my main goal for the trip but as I reached the nesting site of last years Harrier pair I could hear an odd sound. I looked to my left and sure enough there he was.... a male Northern Harrier...up until that moment I had never gotten a shot of the male. He quickly ascended and then descended in an aerial display like no other I have ever seen. I realized he was trying to court a near by female.

Each morning I was able to relocate them as the male continued to display and court the female. The below shot was taken early on the second morning. I had spotted the female on this ridge and just as I got out of my vehicle for a closer look I noticed the male approaching so I grabbed this distant shot.

After this mating attempt by the male, I guess he decided it was time for a rest and perched on another ridge not far from the above location. The male allowed me to belly crawl close enough to capture this image but then the female decided she wanted to move on so they both left.

I had hoped for an opportunity to capture some inflight shots of the male but for the most part he was to far away. On the last morning I noticed both male and female appeared to be looking for a nesting site in the alders along the road side. It didn't appear to me they where hunting. As the male popped up and out of one section of alders I grabbed this shot. It was the only shot where his head was turned enough to say its a keeper.

Seeing them again was amazing. I had only dreamed that they would return to the same barrens to nest. Giving me the possibility of capturing more images of them and learning more about their behaviors. I knew very little about the species until last year.

I was unaware that the female did most of the hunting and gathering of materials. The below pictures were taken last year show the female bring in food for her young and nesting material. 

From what I learned the male can have up to 6 females at once. The male will bring food for the young but will not bring it to the nest. He will call for the female upon his arrival to the nesting site and do an aerial exchange with her so she can bring it to them. If the female is not near by the male will sometimes glide over the nest and drop the prey for the female to feed to them later.

I look forward to my next trip out which might be in a few weeks. Maybe I will be lucky enough to locate their nest which they should have by then...