Satellite Tracking

The Tay estuary is the Scottish stronghold of this charismatic bird of prey, and the sight of a huge female with its characteristic V wing slow motion glide hanging over the reeds is a sure sign of the good health and sound management of this, the largest reedbed in Britain.

Steve Moyes explains the marsh harrier situation on the Tay Estuary as in 2004:

“Marsh harriers are known to have summered in the Tay reedbeds since the early 1980s, although the first known nesting attempt did not occur until 1988. The first successful nesting attempt was in 1990 when a single male paired with two females. Unfortunately the male disappeared, at around the same time as a pair of buzzards nesting nearby, and it is believed that the male was shot. The two females however, managed to fledge three young between them.

Since the first successful nests in 1990 marsh harriers have nested every year on the Tay. In some years there has only been a single nest, but in 2000 there were five nests, involving a total of ten birds.  In 1991 the first chicks were ringed and fitted with a single coloured wing tag, and well over 100 have now fledged wearing the tags.  Many birds wearing the wing tags have been sighted all over the British mainland from both north of the Tay as well as from the south. There was a single sighting of a tagged bird in the Gambia, but there has been no other sighting from outside the UK.  We are grateful to Roy for the opportunity to have a chick fitted with a satellite tag, as this will greatly increase our knowledge of the migration routes and also the speed with which birds move”.

In 2004, Steve Moyes and Harry Bell and colleagues in the Tay Ringing Group, who had been studying the Tay marsh harriers since the 1980s, joined with us to fit a satellite transmitter on one chick to find out more about the migration to Africa.  It was tracked to Senegal and The Gambia.  In 2006, we fitted two young with satellite transmitters to carry out further research but no further radios have been deployed.

We are very grateful to Steve and Joyce Moyes and Harry Bell for offering the opportunity to carry out this new project and to Scottish Natural Heritage and the British Trust for Ornithology for the appropriate scientific permissions.

Click on the links on the left to view migration details