There were some, then there was none and then there were three!

We all like a good news story, but unfortunately they don’t always pan out the way we want them to. After making a successful breeding return to the harbour in 2013, Marsh Harriers have been going from strength to strength ever since. In 2013 one nest fledged 3 young, then in 2014 two nests fledged 7 young and in 2015 an incredible three nests had been set up. This consisted of original alpha female and her partner at Swineham, plus his ‘bit on the side’ who set up a nest on Gigger’s Island in the Wareham Channel. Then, a new pair turned up over on the Keysworth Estate and looked to be settled too. Unfortunately, as time progressed it became evident that the new pair in town over at Keysworth weren’t terribly efficient at nest building or courting and the pair soon dispersed after a couple of weeks of trying to hold the relationship together.

This still left our two females and the over ambitious male who seemed to bite off more than he could chew last year but managed to help raise 7 healthy young. However, this year it seemed to all get too much for him and he just left without a trace just as the females had hatched the young.

Morning vigils taken up to monitor the nests saw very little activity over the coming days/weeks until it was sadly realised that the nest at Swineham had unfortunately failed and the chicks had died. Activity on the Gigger’s Island nest had also continued to diminish and although the female had been seen around the harbour, there had been no obvious food deliveries to the nest sparking fears that this nest had also failed.

Then totally out of the blue during a morning monitoring session an orangey head was seen to lift above the reed bed of Gigger’s Island very briefly. A patient and exciting wait resulted in a juvenile bird eventually lifting above the reeds to reveal its self and prove that there had in fact been successful breeding in the harbour this summer.  The best was yet to come when the following morning during another dawn watch not one, not two but three juveniles were observed flying above the reedbed….What a result!

Although sad that two of the nests failed, this is in fact a decent survival rate, with a high percentage of Marsh Harrier failing each year across the country for numerous reasons. Lets hope more and more try again and we get up to the same levels we were at back in the 1950’s of 12 pairs.

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