Eurasian Marsh-Harrier, Melanie Lane Wetlands, Morris Co., NJ, Nov. 8, 2022, photo by Chuck Hantis
- A sight record and description from Chincoteague NWR, Virginia, December 4, 1994.
- Multiple observers and photographs from Maine, August 25-27, 2022
- Six records since 2002 from the Caribbean and other islands in the Atlantic.
The above list is of the only known and accepted records of the Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) to occur on this side of the Atlantic Ocean…until November 8, 2022 when Chuck Hantis photographed one of the most amazing, if not the most amazing, bird species find ever in Morris County, New Jersey. This assumes the record is accepted by the New Jersey Bird Record Committee.
Here is the range map of the Eurasian Marsh-Harrier courtesy of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Birds of the World. Note that the Americas are not on this map at all. The Morris County Marsh-Harrier is w-w-w-a-a-a-y-y-y out of range:
Late in the afternoon of November 8 Chuck was photographing ducks at Melanie Lane Wetlands when a raptor flew within Chuck’s view that looked different than our Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius). Chuck fired off a series of photos.
By the next morning, November 9, the bird’s identity as a Eurasian Marsh-Harrier was established, the word spread rapidly through the birding hotlines, and people came from many locales to view this Mega-rarity sighting near the Powerhouse Gym on Route 10 West, just past the Ridgedale Avenue intersection.
A word of thanks to the managers of Powerhouse Gym for their gracious acceptance of a horde of people invading their property with binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras. The business proprietors could have easily asked everyone to leave, but simply asked that birders move their cars so that their patrons could have spaces near the workout facility. Thank you, Powerhouse Gym!
Bear in mind, not everyone who came to the gym location saw the Marsh-Harrier (including this writer). It was last seen sometime in the early afternoon of November 9 and not since. People were at the gym site until after sunset but the raptor never reappeared. Birders looked this morning and afternoon, November 10, at various locations in the area but no sightings are reported as of this posting.
Cornell’s eBird contains the records of the sightings along with photographs within the individual checklists. For those not familiar with the eBird interface: from the home page, go to Explore and then Species Maps. Type in the species with New Jersey as the location and all of the submitted and confirmed checklists can be viewed from the pinpoint on the map.
Whether this individual is the same as the one that visited Maine in August is a matter of conjecture and better left for discussion at a later time.
What this episode teaches us is that not all that we see is obvious. Everything has a uniqueness worth observing. A Blue Jay is a Blue Jay but not the same one you saw a minute ago. And that Harrier that just flew by, it looked a little different? Nah, it’s just the sunlight. Or it could be a Eurasian Marsh-Harrier.
You can see more of Chuck Hantis’s extraordinary photographs at his Flickr site.