Marsh harriers. Picture by Alasdair Grubb.
A PAIR of marsh harriers has successfully hatched chicks for the first time at the RSPB’s Brading Marshes reserve.
The charity sees marsh harriers breeding, along with the nesting of little egret and great crested grebe pairs for the first time, as key examples of success of its Isle of Wight wetland management regime designed to keep the marshes wetter in spring and summer.
"Marsh harriers can typically lay four to five eggs, and at the moment we do not know how many chicks have hatched," said reserve manager Keith Ballard.
"Usually you would expect a minimum of three but there may be more. It usually depends on the amount of food available."
"The marsh harriers are nesting right in the middle of the reed bed. The male comes in regularly with food, and the female comes off the nest and takes the food from him," said Keith.
It will be three or four weeks before the chicks get any feathers, and the parent birds then encourage them to fly.
"They coax them out of the nest by flying over with food," Keith said.
"The fledged juveniles are chocolate brown with golden heads so they will be quite obvious when they do emerge," he said.
"They have a voracious appetite and the parents are kept busy feeding them. They eat small mammals, and unwary waterfowl that are small enough to carry."
"It is brilliant that the marsh harriers have managed to breed here particularly as it shows that the correct wetland management has created the right conditions. It’s the first year that there has been suitable habitat for them."
Visitors who would like to try to see the marsh harriers can pick up a northern trail booklet from Brading Marshes station and go to Laundry Lane, at the St Helens end of the reserve.