Country diary: a marsh harrier causes havoc among the wildfowl

Farlington Marshes, Hampshire: Thousands of waders and other birds exploded into flight, blossoming across the sky like fireworks

As I raised my binoculars to scan the reed bed for bearded tits, a stocky, chocolate-brown bird of prey lazily flapped across my field of vision. “Marsh harrier!” I exclaimed as it drifted a few metres above the fronded stems, its wings held in a characteristic shallow V. The harrier was silhouetted against the setting sun but, as it pirouetted around, its pale-coloured crown flared gold in the late afternoon light.

Marsh harriers were once widespread in Britain but, by the early 1970s, persecution and habitat loss saw the population dwindle to a single breeding pair. Thanks to a reduction in pesticide use and efforts to improve and expand their preferred wetland habitat, this number has risen to about 400 pairs.

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Source: The Guardian
Country diary: a marsh harrier causes havoc among the wildfowl