14th June 2014
We left the North Norfolk coast today and headed inland towards Fakenham to visit Sculthorpe Moor for the first time. The reserve, managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust, is a mixture of woodland, willow carr and reed bed and is the home to a breeding pair of Marsh Harriers which are under CCTV camera surveillance with monitors in the visitor centre and the hide overlooking the nest.
We made our way down to the Whitley Hide which is a raised hide overlooking the nest site. The chicks are now fairly well-grown apart from one small one and sit around the nest waiting for the adults to bring food. This only happens a few times a day so there is plenty of time to watch what is going on around the hide. The first bird to appear was a bit of a surprise, a Stock Dove. Not really ideal habitat for this species but probably lured by the food on the nearby bird table.
The second visitor to the table was this cracking Bullfinch. They did seem to be making a come-back in Hertfordshire but during the last couple of years have declined once again so seeing this lovely male right out in the open and at relatively close quarters was an absolute bonus.
Then the action began. The female Marsh Harrier appeared over the nest, not with any food however, and proceeded to give an air display over the nest site. It then disappeared as fast as it had appeared, so what was that all about?
But then came the moment we had been waiting for, the male flying in carrying food, and time for a food pass. I have witnessed this several times for both Marsh and Montagu's Harriers, but I still find it a most exciting experience to watch.
After that it all quietened down again with the female doing a few more circuits this time carrying prey before descending to the nest to feed the chicks, which of course could be watched on the monitor in the hide. How good is that?