One outstanding and one strange event has happened over the past 2 weeks.
The outstanding event has been the fledging of two marsh harrier chicks on the National Nature Reserve below the Dodd Wood viewpoints. It is a unique event as marsh harriers have not bred in Cumbria for over a hundred years. In most summers we have seen single birds that have stayed just for a few days and assumed that there was not enough reed bed to attract them to become more resident However, this year has seen a pair hunting throughout the season over the marsh, hunting the swathes of reed canary grass and passing food in courtship air dances.Last Sunday week we were overjoyed to see not one but two dark brown fledglings, with their characteristic cinnamon heads fluttering out of the grass. As their favourite perches are the lines of fence posts they are easily visible through the telescopes and have provided us with hours of interest. It is likely that the recent rise in numbers of the marsh harrier have encouraged pairs to explore more marginal sites but it is not sure fire that they will return to Bassenthwaite next year as marsh harriers may change partner and nest site each season.
The strange incident concerned another pair of ospreys that visited our nest, also on Sunday, All 3 of our chicks landed on the nest in a great state of agitation, screaming, flattening their bodies and shaking their wings. Suddenly an adult bird flew in with a half eaten perch. One of the chicks leapt forward and grabbed at it, but in the general upset managed to catch hold of the bird’s talon and then grimly hung on to it. This gave us a chance to see that it was not Unring, our own adult, but a blue ringed male. After a short tussle our chick, realising his mistake, let go of the toe and grabbed the fish. At the same time, landing on the nest, was yet another stranger bird, this time a rather small looking female with no ring.
On replaying the film footage we found that the ring read 2H. This we discovered was a Kielder Forest bird, hatched in 2012.It had been seen at Kielder on return from its migration in 2014 and 2015. It is likely that he and his partner failed to breed successfully this year and were attracted to the very successful nest on Bassenthwaite. It appears trying to feed unrelated chicks is not an unusual occurance in these circumstances but undoubtedly a first for here.