The story of a Wing Tagged Marsh Harrier

Winged Tagged Marsh Harrier “AP” – What a Journey     from Alwyn Jackson

Members might be interested in the following article about marsh harriers tagged by Phil Littler. It appears in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of “Peregrine” published by the Hawk and Owl Trust.

Marsh harriers are being ringed and tagged in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire under a project headed up by the North West Norfolk Ringing Group and sponsored in part by the Wild About the Wensum and the Hawk and Owl Trust.

Marsh harrier AP was ringed and tagged at the Hawk and Owl Trust reserve at Sculthorpe near Fakenham on 10 July 2011.  She was one of two, with her sibling being a male.  The mother was probably the beta female to the polygamous male that was paired with Mrs H, the resident alpha female, so hence a small brood.

AP was seen soon after fledging at Pensthorpe, on 7 Sept 2011.  She then disappeared until Christmas Day 2012, when she was seen hunting near a private aerodrome near Lisbon, Portugal.  This sighting represented the first UK ringed live marsh harrier to Portugal (the first being a dead bird).  AP was then seen on 13 April 2013, flying up the River Humber past Spurn Point; this in itself is an amazing recovery as to get a bird on its’ wintering ground then returning back to the UK is almost unheard of.

Things then went quiet.  Although over 220 marsh harriers have been ringed and tagged in Norfolk, they are a secretive bird and for a large raptor they keep a very low profile.  Harrier roosts are now beginning to build up through this winter period, with good numbers being recorded at the well watched roosts sites at Stubbs Mill, Strumpshaw Fen and Cley Marshes.

Tagged marsh harriers have been recorded at all these, and other roosts, and amongst these tagged birds are some European tagged birds, mainly from the Low countries.

AP was seen and photographed in Ploegsteert, Belgium by Michel Vanwarregham on 14 November this year (2015), who kindly passed the information onto Phil Littler from the North West Norfolk Ringing Group.

“After my family and friends, this is one of the most exciting events in my ringing career” said Phil.  “This bird was one of the first I did after being trained to fit tags, it has moved thousands of kilometres and is still going strong after 4 years”

With the European longevity record being just over 20 myears, and that of a dead bird, AP could go on providing useful information on marsh harrier movements for many years”

If you see a wing tagged marsh harrier, please report on line via the Hawk and Owl website at

hawkandowl.org/wigtag/

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