It has been a successful year for marsh harriers at Ouse Fen. Six nests were recorded and, so far, eight fledglings have been spotted!
There are now nearly 400 breeding pairs in the UK, mainly in eastern and south-east England but the story hasn’t always been so positive.
Marsh harriers suffered massive declines during the 18th and 19th century, largely due to drainage of wetlands and persecution.
The marsh harriers suffered a second blow during the 1950s and 60s as they were one of several species which were unintended victims of new organochlorine pesticides introduced to farms as a method of pest control. These chemicals built up in the food chain and proved lethal to marsh harriers. Some of these chemicals were also linked to thinning egg shells, resulting in unsuccessful nests.
The banning of these chemicals and better legal protection and habitat management for marsh harriers has allowed population numbers to recover and the species was downgraded to Amber listed.
As the reedbed grows over the coming years, we hope even more marsh harriers will breed at the reserve.
The fledglings are easily distinguished from their parents with their dark brown plumage and bronzed head. They should be visible throughout the day and – if you are lucky – you may even see aerial food passes as the parents bring food to the youngsters!
Please send us your photos – we love to see them!
Other recent sightings - Great White Egret (Barleycroft), Cattle Egret (Barleycroft)
One of last year's fledglings (Hannah Bernie)