Breeding success for rare Marsh Harrier

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Marsh harriers have bred successfully at RSPB Loch of Kinnordy, near Kirriemuir, for the second year in a row.

Their breeding success was confirmed by the recent sighting of two juvenile marsh harriers flying over the loch.

Last year, the rare birds were recorded breeding at the reserve for the first time since records began.

Kim Ross, Tayside Reserves Assistant Warden said: “It’s fantastic to see marsh harriers returning to breed at Loch of Kinnordy for a second year. It’s like getting our own gold medal following all of the work we have done on the reserve.

“After their success last year, I was hopeful that Kinnordy could become a regular nest site for marsh harriers. When the pair returned in late March, I was very optimistic and seeing the two juveniles for a second year in a row is wonderful!”

The male marsh harrier returned from its wintering grounds in west Africa during the last week of March and, only a week later, the female arrived. Straight away, both could be seen carrying nesting material to the nest and food passes were observed quite regularly – all signs that showed the harriers were quite comfortable nesting at the reserve.

RSPB Loch of Kinnordy staff and volunteers were initially worried that the wet weather may have an impact on the breeding success. The heavy rain had caused the loch water levels to rise and, because marsh harriers are ground nesting birds, there was a concern that the nest may be flooded. However, food passes continued and both adults made regular visits to the nest, indicating that things were fine. This was confirmed by the recent sightings of the juvenile birds.

Surprisingly, the juveniles have fledged almost a month earlier than they did last year. Kim added: “We are not quite sure what the reason for this is. The weather certainly didn’t help them!”

Although regular summer visitors to the Loch of Kinnordy, marsh harriers are rare with only 360 breeding females in the UK. The species continues to make a slow recovery after being wiped out in the UK in the late 19th century as a result of habitat loss, persecution and pesticide poisoning. Conservation measures at the nature reserve, such as reedbed management, have contributed to the increased presence of the species in the area.

All four harriers can be seen easily from the three hides at the nature reserve. Hides are open daily from dawn until dusk. For more information please see www.rspb.org.uk