Rare marsh harriers breed in Hampshire for only the second time in 60 years

One of the marsh harriers in flight Picture: Peter Gasser
One of the marsh harriers in flight Picture: Peter Gasser

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Rare marsh harriers have bred for the first time at Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve.

A pair have raised two chicks in reed beds at the reserve Fareham for the first time since the haven was established in 1972.

It is 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 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.

‘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 harriers have gradually been spending more time at the reserve 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 a morning in late June, two newly-fledged young were seen leaving the nest and taking to the skies.