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Handsome marsh harrier sighting

Posted: Thursday 19th February 2015 by foulshaw-moss-osprey-viewpoint

Marsh harrier. Photo Ged GillMarsh harrier. Photo Ged Gill

How exciting! We’ve had a marsh harrier sighting, which was spotted at Foulshaw Moss nature reserve this week (15 February) by David, our Conservation Manager here at Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Marsh harriers have been breeding nearby at RSPB Leighton Moss for many years, migrating to Africa for the winter. Increasingly now though, they are overwintering in the UK too, and there have been occasional sightings at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve all year. In fact this great photo was taken by Ged Gill at Foulshaw Moss last year.

They are a reedbed specialist that uses its long legs to snatch their prey of waterbirds, amphibians and small mammals as they fly low over marshland. We hope that our ongoing reed planting around Foulshaw Moss may eventually tempt them to breed here too.

A conservation success story, marsh harriers are doing better than their 'hen' cousins as breeding numbers have recovered and therefore are now listed as Amber Status instead of Red.

Hen harriers also spend the winter months around Morecambe Bay in open low lying areas near the coast, rivers or around farmland and they then move to upland heather moors in the spring to breed.

This is an especially wonderful bird of prey to see as hen harriers are sadly struggling for survival. The hen harrier’s summer diet can include red grouse, which brings these birds into conflict with intensive grouse rearing for shooting practices.

If you’re heading to Foulshaw Moss don’t forget to take a pair of binoculars with you, you never know, you may have a lucky sighting of these handsome birds of prey too! Do let us know if you do :)

Charlotte Rowley
Senior Marketing Officer for Cumbria Wildlife Trust 

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