Friday, 22 June 2007

Britain’s rarest raptor on view in Lincolnshire fens

A pair of Montagu’s Harriers which are nesting at Digby Fen between Lincoln and Boston will be on view to the public at a special RSPB viewpoint seven days a week from Saturday 23 June.

With fewer than 10 pairs nesting each year, Montagu’s Harriers are Britain’s rarest breeding bird of prey. They spend the winter in sub-Saharan Africa and migrate north to summer in Europe, with Lincolnshire right on the northern edge of their breeding range.

John Badley, Site Manager of nearby Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore RSPB Reserves, explained: “The Montagu’s Harrier hunts small birds, mammals and even amphibians or insects by quartering low across fields and using their keen eyesight and agility to pounce on or grab their prey. The viewpoint at Digby Fen is an exclusive chance to watch these birds in action.”

The ‘Digby’ male has been seen taking prey items to the nest, providing for the recently hatched chicks. This atypical behaviour caused some alarm to RSPB staff – the female would usually take prey from the male in a mid-air pass. The visits to the nest by the male, coupled with no sign of the female, prompted concerns about her well-being. Thankfully, however, she eventually made an appearance to reassure RSPB Harrier Protection Scheme staff that all was well.

The RSPB viewpoint will be open from 9 am until 7 pm on weekdays, 8 am until 8 pm on weekends and public holidays from Saturday 23 June until Monday 26 August. The viewpoint is free, but there is a suggested donation of £2 per vehicle to help cover the costs of running the projects.

Photo: male Montagu's Harrier by Roger Tidman (