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Stop the car - its a Marsh Harrier!

Yes this is how it happened. I had just driven over Waterhay Bridge towards Ashton Keynes where out of the corner of my eye I spotted a dark bird of prey gliding across from Cleveland Lakes reed bed towards our field. Looked out of the ordinary so I swung across the road into the gateway, jumped out of the car and luckily had the binoculars right with me. Its flight was Red Kite like in the way it effortless hung in the air and drifted across the sky, but it was definitely not a kite, wrong colour and no notched tail. Far too graceful for a Buzzard.

Luckily I had seen Marsh Harriers last autumn at RSPB Bowling Green Marsh at Topsham in Devon, so knew how they flew and what they looked like, this was unmistakably a Marsh Harrier, most exciting. I stood in the middle of the road for the best view and watched it glide over the road, and head across the fields towards the river and away towards Minety. The kids (still strapped in the car) were not as annoyed as I had thought they might be which was a bonus.

Anyway Marsh Harrier are visitors to the Cotswold Water Park most years. In Britain they were nearly extinct in the 1970's but now its estimated there are about 400 pairs, mostly on the East Coast. They are reed bed specialists. After checking the Birds of Wiltshire book August and September are by far the best months to spot them around here. Keep your eyes open!

And many thanks to local bird photographer Dave Soons for providing the 2 pictures below of this male at the waterpark last year. For more of Dave's amazing local photos please click here

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