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Eyes Peeled for Marsh Harriers in Dispersal Study

Look Out for Bright Green Wing Tags

Green Tagged Marsh Harrier
Photo © Phil Haynes

May 2012 | Three young Norfolk marsh harriers are helping settle the mystery of what happens to the species after they disperse for winter.

Two males and a female specially tagged at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve last summer have been sighted in the East of England, mainly in East Anglia, but only one has been reported since the New Year.

Male AA (from the harmless bright green wing tag fitted at the nest) has popped up regularly within 20km of Sculthorpe Moor, near Fakenham in the Wensum Valley. Last reported in April, he proves that at least some English-bred marsh harrier juveniles spend their first winter in Britain.

But 11 of 14 marsh harrier chicks tagged at four nests on three sites in the Wensum Valley remain unaccounted for, and the research team is keen for sightings. The bright green tags carry two visible white letters. Please report all sightings here.

The study was devised to see whether young marsh harriers migrate to warmer Mediterranean or African habitat, simply disperse to nearby habitat on the continent or spend their winter in the same region they were raised.

AA has been seen almost 50km away at the RSPB Lakenheath Reserve, at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Reserve at Welney and at Boughton Fen Reserve.

His male sibling AD was sighted at Holme, on the North Norfolk coast, and 160km away on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. A female tagged at Sculthorpe, AP, from a second nest, was seen not far away, at Pensthorpe.

Marsh harriers with white wing tags and two black digits are from Sheppey or nearby in Kent, and sightings reports can be made here.

To identify and report sightings of any other colour-tagged marsh harriers, visit the European Colour-Ring Birding website’s excellent search tool for field observers: click here.

Read about how the Wensum Valley marsh harrier wing tagging project got off the ground here.

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