Blogger: Steve Rowland, Public Affairs Manager

I bumped into a Marsh Harrier the other day, a wonderfully pale almost sandy coloured male bird, quartering a field of wheat that gently sloped down towards the Wash. The presence of this bird here, feels right as a part of the landscape that went missing for many years that has now returned.

Watching Marsh Harriers in your lunch break is a pleasure that I don’t take for granted, even in their UK heartland of East Anglia.  Here Marsh Harriers nest as you might expect in reed beds but have also in recent years adapted to nesting in cereal crops. Yet just 40 years ago, in 1971, following decades of persecution and habitat loss there was just one pair of Marsh Harriers nesting in the UK, at the RSPB’s Minsmere nature reserve on the Suffolk coast. Since then, although there are still only a few hundred nests each year in the UK, they have thankfully steadily increasing in numbers and are spreading back into their former haunts.

This recovery wouldn’t have happened without two key tools in the RSPB’s conservation tool box. Firstly the protection and management by staff and volunteers of special places such as the reed beds at the RSPB’s Minsmere and Titchwell Marsh nature reserves. These sites act as arks, where beleaguered species can get some much needed TLC.

Secondly our work with others, in the case of Marsh Harriers farmers in and around the agricultural hinterland of The Wash in Norfolk and Lincolnshire.  RSPB staff and volunteers have worked with these farmers to protect crop nesting Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers. We have also worked here with the Police and others to ensure that the birds are protected from illegal persecution.

As my lunchtime Harrier drifts away and out of view I am reminded of all of the work done by so many people over the last four decades stepping up for nature, that has resulted in my brief encounter with one of our most beautiful and charismatic birds.

If you’d like to see what opportunities exist to step up for nature near you please take a look at our website    

Photo credit: Ben Hall (rspb images)