Late Harriers Return to Sculthorpe

Weather Delays Marsh Harrier Broods

Late Returning Marsh HarrierMarsh harriers can be seen for the eighth successive year at Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve, near Fakenham, North Norfolk, but the breeding season has been dramatically delayed by appalling weather. Hawk and Owl Trust Conservation Officer Nigel Middleton is confident that there are at least two active nests.

One of the breeding females has became known as Mrs H over the years, and this year’s will be her eighth clutch at the reserve. Comparing her behaviour with previous seasons Nigel estimates that she is several weeks behind.

“It is clear the weather has had a dramatic effect. In previous years we would be expecting the first chicks to hatch in te middle of May, but this year it looks as if she has only begun brooding in the past week or so.”

Mrs H has been a star of the small screen for the past four seasons and if all goes well with the brood the reserve plans to install another nest cam once the chicks have hatched safely. It will show live images at the reserve, in a nearby hide so observers can watch the birds fly in and then feed the chicks on the reed bed.

“It is far too early for that yet,” says Nigel, “but the reserve is open for visitors to come and see these magnificent birds for themselves.”

The reserve is open Tuesdays to Sundays.

So far none of last year’s marsh harrier chicks have been back to where they were raised. An innovative research project last summer saw all the chicks fitted with harmless visible wing tags to track their movements, and while sightings have been reported from around East Anglia and as far as Kent they haven’t been seen back at Sculthorpe since the winter dispersal.

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