Background Switcher (Hidden)

A Barnstorming Harrier

Monday, July 7, 2008

On an afternoon that we got a chance to bird together, Bill and I were driving toward Tuttle, North Dakota, through some terrific grassland habitat. We saw a speck on the horizon (middle left) that resolved into a male northern harrier. (I include this picture to show you how far away he was). He was performing his courtship flight, something we'd seen once before near Burns, Oregon. The more I watched him, the more amazed I was. He'd rocket straight up, stall out, flip over, and dive earthward, describing a deep parabolic curve. At the bottom, he'd pull up, and use his momentum to shoot upward again.

He's near the apex here, preparing to flip over, hundreds of feet up.Here, he's in mid-flip at the apex of his climb.It wasn't until I got my photos on the computer and closely cropped (the bird was quite a distance away) that I realized that I'd photographed a bird flying upside down. He's completely inverted here, flapping away. It also became clear to me, watching this magnificent display, why male harriers are snow-white below. They are visible for miles when performing this rollercoaster display. A blinding white rump patch doesn't hurt, either. It all adds up to a neon sign, advertising his availability and his choice territory.

On his way back down--plummeting like an arrow. It worked for this gent. A big brown female harrier appeared out of nowhere and engaged him in some close passes, which may or may not have involved a vole engagement present. We were too far away to be sure. These pictures aren't publishable, but I'm happy to have them as a record of that beautiful flight against a stormy sky.


A vole engagement present--my, my--how things have changed.
I am still chuckling.
Great story and perfectly serviceable pics to help us envision what you saw.

How soaringly romantic, Julie. And after a quick trip to Google, I discovered what a vole is. Clearly, I am not a country living lady.

That is simply breathtaking. I am so very glad I got to see these.

And there a few voles in my yard they are very welcome to.

What an experience that must have been. Leaves me breathless just looking at the photographs. Thanks for sharing this spectacular flight.

They're beautiful photos. A moment in time, romancing a female harrier. I love it! Like Carolyn, I'm breathless, too. Wow.

Are you kidding? Those are more than passable images. What a cool capture!

Susan *the RAPTOR-phile who is mildly disgruntled that we don't' see more birds of prey on this here blog*

Dang, those photos were so cool! How fortunate for all of us that you guys were there to witness and photograph this event.

Wow! I had no idea they did that. Thanks!

Since I, like Trixie, seem to have a surfeit of voles, I'd be happy to ship them west for the harrier engagement dinners.

[Back to Top]