Rare marsh harrier chicks reared at Potteric Carr

Rare marsh harrier chicks at Potteric Carr.
Rare marsh harrier chicks at Potteric Carr.
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Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is delighted to announce a bumper year for baby birds at its flagship nature reserve Potteric Carr in Doncaster, with this summer’s highlight a pair of rare and previously threatened marsh harriers who have reared three healthy chicks.

Marsh harriers love wetland habitat and so Potteric Carr provides the perfect home.

Raising young marsh harrier chicks is no mean feat, with the female having to sit on the eggs for over a month, only briefly leaving the nest to catch food brought by the male, who drops it to her mid-flight.

Once the young fledge they sit on visible perches waiting for their parents to feed them, a behaviour Yorkshire Wildlife Trust believes will be evident on the nature reserve in the next couple of weeks.

After that they will start to hunt for themselves in the reeds and grasslands. Later in the year the young will move on to nearby sites, or in some cases travel even further afield.

For Potteric Carr, the breeding of marsh harriers on site is especially exciting as this is a bird that by the end of the 19th Century had gone extinct from England as a result of habitat loss and persecution.

The largest of the harriers, marsh harriers have had better success in recent years, returning from Europe to breed in eastern England. Whilst, recently, they are faring better, numbers are still incredibly low and their presence is extremely localised.

Jim Horsfall, Reserves Officer for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust commented on the breeding success of marsh harriers at Potteric Carr: “This fantastic result just goes to show that the expanding Potteric Carr Nature Reserve is proving very popular with wildlife. The Huxterwell Marsh area, an extension to the site bought in 2004, is now the favoured hunting ground for marsh harriers, as well as the nesting ground for other rare species like black-necked grebes and Mediterranean gulls.

“Since the initial purchase of Potteric Carr in 1968 by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the site has got progressively bigger and the list of breeding birds has correspondingly increased, with more and more nesting species recorded each year. The 73 hectare Huxterwell extension is still maturing, yet already it provides some excellent wetland habitat.

“The breeding success of rare and threatened marsh harriers on site for the first time demonstrates how making bigger and better places for wildlife really can make a huge difference to individual species, and how depressing declines in wildlife populations can be reversed. It isn’t all doom and gloom, we can make a difference!”

Marsh harriers are not the only bird to have successfully bred on site, the nature reserve is home to many birds which commonly nest there including kingfishers, reed warblers and woodpeckers, as well as two other rare breeding birds: black-necked grebes and Mediterranean gulls, all of which have bred this year.

Bitterns, another rare and threatened bird, have also spent the summer on site, and it is hoped that in the future that they too might breed.

The busy spring at Potteric Carr Nature Reserve, which is one of the flagship sites for the Humberhead Levels Nature Improvement Area (NIA), is a testament to the hard work and careful management of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers. Creation and restoration of the different habitats at this large wetland nature reserve takes a lot of planning and daily management to keep it in top condition for wildlife and visitors. The Humberhead Levels NIA is working to create better habitat within the levels and successes such as these demonstrate the importance of this work.

To find out more about Potteric Carr Nature Reserve visit www.ywt.org.uk/potteric-carr.