Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Predators Breed in the County Again; Marsh Harrier Chicks at Old Opencast Site

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Predators Breed in the County Again; Marsh Harrier Chicks at Old Opencast Site

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

ANOTHER historic bird of prey hatching has taken place in Northumberland. The first confirmed breeding of marsh harriers in the county since the early 1880s occurred at Druridge Bay.

The four chicks fledged at Northumberland Wildlife Trust's East Chevington reserve, a remarkable turnaround on what was once an opencast mining site.

The marsh harrier success comes not long after the success with ospreys, who have bred in Northumberland for the first time in more than 200 years.

The marsh harrier was once a widespread bird in the United Kingdom, but persecution severely reduced numbers in the late 19th century.

And the return of the birds to Northumberland is a boost for the restoration efforts at East Chevington.

Since the 1990s, the former opencast mining site has been transformed into a mosaic of wetland, woodland and rough grassland.

It also includes the biggest area of reed beds in the county, with 35 acres being planted on the 300-acre site, which is adjacent to Druridge Bay Country Park.

"The marsh harrier breeding is fantastic news and is a vindication of the vision for the East Chevington nature reserve," said the Wildlife Trust's head of land management Duncan Hutt. "The reed beds where the chicks were hatched are attracting a growing number of birds.

"In addition to marsh harriers, reed bunting and sedge warblers are breeding and the reed beds are attracting an increasing number of bitterns in winter.

"We are working closely with local bird recorders to ensure the safety of the chicks, but also to monitor the success of other birds." Longbenton-based ornithologist Ian Fisher, who helped plant the first reeds, said: "It is tremendous to have these birds breeding again in Northumberland after 130 years.

"The marsh harriers and the ospreys are a brilliant addition to the bird life of the county."

The hatching is also a boost to the vision for the land bordering the bay as a wildlife-rich attraction, with the former Hauxley opencast site now a reserve plus Druridge Bay Country Park, Druridge Pools reserve and Cresswell. …

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