Rare birds of prey breed at Hampshire reserve for the first time in 45 years

Rare birds of prey have bred for the first time at Hampshire County Council’s Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve

Aug 18 2017

harriers

A pair of marsh harriers has raised two chicks in reed-beds at the reserve for the first time since the haven was established in 1972, and only the second time marsh harriers have bred in Hampshire since 1957.

The County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Andrew Gibson said: “This is wonderful news – the fruition of more than 40 years of hard work by staff and volunteers to provide the right habitat and food supply for wetland birds, including these majestic birds of prey.

“Marsh Harriers were once widespread in Britain, but by the end of the 19th Century, habitat loss and persecution had wiped them out. Numbers have slowly recovered since the 1970s to around 320 to 380 breeding pairs, but they are mostly found in east England. We’re very pleased to welcome them back to Hampshire after a long absence, and we hope this protected species will thrive, while delighting visitors to the reserve.”

The adult marsh harriers have gradually been spending more time at the reserve near Fareham and last year practised their nest building skills.  In early April, they were seen performing sky-dancing manoeuvres as they courted, before beginning to collect and carry sticks for their nest. Once the eggs were laid, the male bird was kept busy bringing food to the female.

Finally on an early, misty morning in late June, two newly fledged young were seen leaving the nest and taking to the skies over the haven’s reed-beds. The parents continued to bring food for several weeks before the young became fully independent.

It’s believed the parents have now left the reserve, but the young can still be seen and are likely to stay for a few more weeks before migrating to Europe or North Africa for the winter. It is hoped they will return to Titchfield Haven early next spring, and further successes will help boost the population in southern England.

Titchfield Haven is open every day (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day). For details of opening times visit www.hants.gov.uk/titchfield

Picture credit: Peter Gasser