Friday, 1 November 2013

Rob Simmons meets Prince Harry

The story of our unusual nesting record attracted the attention of one of the world's leading experts in harriers, and the recognised authority on Black Harrier's: Rob Simmons (a researcher associated with the FitzPatrick Institute). Appearing in the up-coming HomeBrew Films documentary “The Circler”, he has ringed around 300 harrier chicks during his long career.

Rob was between jobs monitoring birds to guide developers on the placement of wind turbine farms (there are many proposed wind farms for this part of the world and harriers are vulnerable to strikes), and popped in to see us with partner Marlei.

We headed into the nature reserve, collected pellets (the regurgitated remains of the bird's prey), looked for feathers, and finally headed towards the nest. The female sat very tight and protectively on her nest, but eventually gave way to allow Rob access to the still fluffy chick. The chick was very obliging as wing and tarsus were measured, and weight was taken. Rob suspects the chick is male based on the small size coupled with small tarsus (male raptors tend to be smaller than the females). This led to the naming of Prince Harry. A couple of eggs were also measured, although it was unsure whether or not they were still viable. Interesting, on the last nest check there were only 2 eggs, so a third egg had been laid somewhere along the line.

Finally the chick was placed back on the nest, allowing the family to reunite. This is the first chick with a red leg-band, so one day if you are lucky enough to spot a harrier soaring overhead, and you see the red on the leg, perhaps that is our little pride and joy from this remote part of the world.

Rob points out the unusual remains of a prey item from a favourite perch site on a termite hill - a frog
Mommy sits tight as we approach
Prince Harry - ready to fight

Prince Harry attempts to rip out Rob's heart with his tiny talons

Feeling sheepish - he finally realises we come in peace.

The ring is attached
Sporting the latest in Black Harrier bling, Prince Harry is placed gently back in the nest

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