Differing greatly from the high speed predation techniques of hobby’s, peregrines and sparrow hawks, marsh harriers are often seen gently soaring across the skyline and can appear to be flying in slow motion. We have had a marsh harrier hanging around Bowling Green, Exminster and Powederham Marsh for quite a few days now and I was lucky enough to get my first sighting early this week.
With a distinctive slim shape and long tail, these beautiful birds are slightly larger than a buzzard but easily distinguishable with the female having a cream almost yellow head, and the male paler wings and very dark wing tips. Thanks to careful management of marshland habitat across the country (including RSPB sites such as The Exe, Dungeness and Ham Wall), the future is now more secure than it has been for the last century. However, with historically unstable populations and only localised population growth, means marsh harriers are still amber listen and a Schedule 1 listed bird on The Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Female marsh harrier in flight, showing cream head and wing patches (rspb-images.com).

Male marsh harrier, showing off the distinctive dark wing tips (rspb-images.com).

We have been carrying out some maintenance on the discovery area on Exminster Mash. Although this area is a little out the way along the Turf Path, it is a really great area for kids to explore and learn about nature. When leaving the main Exminster Marsh car park, just follow the path until it veers to the left and you cant miss. There is a pond dipping platform with everything you need to get stuck in – nets, trays, and plenty of water and critters – so please feel free to use it. It can be found underneath the bench on the dipping platform. There are also picnic tables, willow structures and a giant rabbit burrow for kids to play in!

Pond dipping, how many different pond critters can you find? (rspb-images.com)