ONE of the UK’s rarest birds of prey, the marsh harrier, has bred for a second year near the Mersey estuary, says the Cheshire Wildlife Trust.
The conservation charity has reported the first successful breeding of marsh harriers in Cheshire last year, and says the harriers have fledged two healthy chicks in 2011, which have been seen flying beyond the nesting area.
The exact location of the nest has been kept under wraps throughout the breeding season to minimise disturbance.
Regular observations had been made by local bird experts, and a small team made a visit to the nest during July, confirming the presence of the harriers and giving them a general health check.
Professor David Norman, chairman of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, which monitored the harriers, said: “It’s heartening to see the return of these magnificent birds of prey to the Mersey basin.
“After many weeks and months of patient watching and waiting, to finally see two more young harriers in the air is spectacular news and a great relief to those who have been keeping a close eye on them.”
Cheshire Wildlife Trust hopes that, if suitable habitats can be created within their Living Landscape scheme along the Gowy and Mersey rivers, the offspring of this first historic pair of marsh harriers may return to the region.
“Our goal is to work with landowners to strike that balance between sustainable land management for individuals, communities and wildlife – and perhaps a place where the marsh harrier can be the centrepiece,” said Richard Gardner, the Trust’s Living Landscape manager.
It is thought the young harriers will remain in the area for a few more weeks before heading south across Europe for up to three years, with the adult marsh harriers hopefully returning again next spring.