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Marsh Harrier

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Once an occassional winter visitor to Dorset but now a species nesting in the county



Photograph by: 
Frank Gardener

Marsh Harrier: hurray for the harrier

Post date: Wednesday, 4 November, 2015 - 00:00

OK! OK! I know this is not a good photograph, but the circumstance surrounding it are truly amazing in my view. This is a photograph of one of the United Kingdom's rarest birds of prey, certainly as a breeding species. But that is not all; this photograph was taken in the middle of one of Dorset's largest towns, Weymouth. And that is not all; a pair of marsh harriers (Circus aeruginosus) have now bred in the middle of this large town! 

Take a minute to think about that; this is actually one of the most surprising and encouraging successes for bird conservation in recent times. No breed and release scheme here. This is down to planning and careful habitat management to create the right conditions for this bird to thrive. I may be wrong, but the last time this was truly successful was probably in the 1980's at Minsmere and the recolonisation of our eastern marshland by the Avocet.
Both projects were the result of expert and excellent work by the RSPB and we may possibly soon have bitterns breeding in the middle of Weymouth too; how remarkable would that be?


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Marsh Harrier
Scientific Name Circus aeruginosus
Status Restricted
Interest Level
Species Family Harriers, hawks and buzzards
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Reed beds
Look for A large bird gliding over reed beds looking for prey
Additional Identification Notes
  • Now a breeding species in Dorset having succesfully raised young in a couple of locations
  • Numbers increase during the winter month with income migrant birds from further north
  • Associated with reed beds they can be seen flying low over the reeds looking for prey