Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Marsh Harrier.

Marsh Harrier. Gary Jones

Well we've had a post with this title before, and we've had this photograph before with which I 'played about with' at the time and asked Gary if it was OK to publish to which he agreed....Thanks for this again GJ hope you like seeing it once more on Birds2blog.

There are currently a couple of interesting things for me about the Marsh Harrier, firstly there are five - possibly six - at Leighton Moss, and secondly I was reminded about this interesting account just a few days ago, and which I thought would nicely fill a gap in my birding.

In 1942 it was discovered that a male Marsh Harrier (MH) was making food passes to two females in Norfolk which was subsequently claimed to be the first record of a polygamous male MH. On the subject of polygamy amongst 'harriers' evidence was gathered of the same trait in the Montague's Harrier which had nested in Norfolk for the first time since the floods of 1938, in this case the male was observed mating with two females both of which went on to build nests within 275m of each other.

The MH account goes on to find a disaster taking place when - during some hot summer weather - some children playing in a shallow dyke close to the nests were the innocent means of providing evidence of the MH's tendency to desert, one of the nests was in fact deserted and three chicks perished. The second nest wasn't entirely abandoned but from the day of the disturbance onwards neither of the parent birds fed or brooded the young. From here on an amazing story of human fostering unfolded when two members of a team already studying these birds took on the role of tearing the food to pieces to feed the chicks, though in the end only one bird from the initial five survived. It was truly amazing that throughout this human intervention both adult birds would drop an abundance of food down to the nest and occasionally actually land at the nest but never once made any attempt to feed the young.

This whole affair of the young MH being fed by human hands had a very rewarding conclusion when at 45 days old it took its first flight of a few metres, then three weeks later was observed flying strongly, at this point this bird was regarded to be - in all probability - the only MH chick in the British Isles to have attained adolescence in the breeding season of 1942.


An analysis of food mainly dropped - but sometimes brought - to the nest by these two adult MH's over a 28 day period in June/July amounted to 71 birds of 7 species, and 35 mammals which consisted of, 15 Rabbits, 7 Field Voles, 7 Leverets, 5 Water Voles, and a young Rat.

It's rewarding to see my Flag Counter registering my 500th US visitor, the only problem being there are two new ones since my visit to Birds2blog yesterday, so I have to welcome two at once being one from Illinios and one from Kentucky....Great stuff!

Birds....they fascinate me in a thousand ways.

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