Friday 11 June 2010

Rare harriers alter works on Weymouth Relief Road

11:00am Friday 11th June 2010

A PAIR of rare birds have put a spanner in the works of the Weymouth Relief Road.

Two marsh harriers are nesting at Lodmoor a few yards from the route of the multi-million pound carriageway.

Experts believe the birds have young and it could be up to a month before they fly the nest.

Conservationists have held discussions with Dorset County Council and relief road builder Skanska to ensure the breeding site, which is protected by law, is not disturbed.

An exclusion zone has been set up and works that generate loud noise or vibrations have been halted for the next few weeks.

The location of the nest is not being disclosed for now but the RSPB hopes to run events at a later date to allow people to view the young birds when they are flying.

There are fewer marsh harriers breeding in the UK than golden eagles and to have a breeding site so close to a town is unusual.

A pair bred at the RSPB’s Radipole reserve last year – the first to do so in Dorset for almost 50 years.

RSPB Weymouth Wetlands reserves manager Nick Tomlinson reckons the male from last year has set up the new nest.

He said: “The last thing we wanted is for the birds to abandon the nest because of the works.”

Dorset County Council’s natural environment manager Dr Phil Sterling said a revised programme of work on the relief road had been introduced to ensure the birds remain undisturbed.

He said: “There are a number of staff monitoring the nest and should the birds display any signs of distress we will immediately cease work.

“Any particularly noisy work, or work which causes vibrations, will be delayed until the chicks have fledged.

“We would welcome observations from any local bird recorders who report any abnormal activity.”

Dr Sterling added: “Our observations indicate the birds have become accustomed to their environment.

“However, until breeding has finished, or the chicks leave the nest, particularly disruptive work will not restart.

“However, as Dorset County Council and Skanska have modified their construction programme, work on the relief road has not been delayed.”

Natural England spokesman Gwilym Wren said: “This wasn’t in the plan at all.

“Last year a pair of marsh harriers bred in Dorset for the first time in many years which was great and now to everyone’s consternation they have set up a nest close to where the work is going on.

“The contractors have been extremely flexible and have altered what they’re doing to allow the birds some breathing space.”
(Submitted by Mark North)

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