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Sheppey's birds of prey come into view

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A new bird of prey viewing facility is available on the Isle of Sheppey in North Kent and is providing almost guaranteed views of marsh harrier along with several other bird of prey species.

The largest marsh harrier population in the UK now breeds on Sheppey and the RSPB’s Capel Fleet viewpoint allows year round views of these birds, and during the winter, an opportunity to scan for hen harrier, merlin, short-eared owl and a range of other raptors. During November, a rough-legged buzzard was seen and in the summer, the viewpoint is a good location to see hobby.

The RSPB is very grateful for the support of farmer Stephen Atwood who owns the land where the viewpoint has been built, and Medway and Swale Estuary Partnership were vital in securing European funding to enable the RSPB to carry out the work. The site has always been popular with local bird watchers and Kent Ornithological Society provided additional funding for the project.RSPB Capel Fleet bird of prey viewpoint is the elevated mound two miles down the minor road from the B2231 (east of Eastchurch) towards the Harty Ferry Inn. The car park is open at all times and the mound is wheelchair accessible. During winter, the viewpoint at dusk provides the spectacle of marsh and hen harriers as they gather for a large communal roost, just remember to wear your warmest clothing!

A visit to Capel Fleet can be easily combined with a visit to the RSPB reserve at Elmley Marshes on Sheppey, where there are toilet facilities, long walks and observation hides. The RSPB took over the management of Elmley Marshes in 1974 and is part of the 3,000-acre National Nature Reserve, managed by the Elmley Conservation Trust. A visit to Elmley involves a safari like car journey across this expansive landscape and during the winter, thousands of ducks, geese and swans can be seen. For more information on this and Capel Fleet viewpoint, contact the RSPB North Kent Marshes team on 01634 222480 or 01634 222489.Marsh Harrier conservation

Drainage of wetland and persecution reduced the number and range of the marsh harrier in the past and there was only one British nest in 1971. The RSPB has restored wetland habitat for marsh harriers, not only on the North Kent Marshes, but in East Anglia and parts of the North West and West Country.

This conservation effort has greatly contributed to the recovery of this species and up to 200 pairs now nest in Britain. The area surrounding Capel Fleet has benefited from the Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) Scheme, which offers incentives for farmers to improve their land wildlife. A new scheme has been launched in 2005 to build on the success of ESA and countryside stewardship, details can be found at http://www.defra.gov.ukBirds of prey and the law

All birds of prey have been protected since 1954 (except for the sparrowhawk which received protection in 1961). Despite this protection, birds of prey continue to be the target of systematic criminal activity. If you suspect any such activity, the RSPB’s investigations department can be contacted on 01767 680551.

RSPB North Kent Marshes

The coastal landscapes of the North Kent Marshes form one of the most important areas for birds in Europe. Special Protection Areas - places with the highest levels of international protection for birds - stretch along much of the 70 miles of coastline between Dartford and Whitstable.

Some 300,000 waterbirds use this area each year, an international airport for birds moving between places as far afield as South Africa and the Arctic. Reflecting this, the RSPB has, over recent years, assembled here one of their largest chains of reserves anywhere in the UK.

Spearheaded by the development of the flagship visitor site at Cliffe Pools, the RSPB intend to substantially contribute to the economic regeneration of the region through the promotion of green tourism and in enhancing the area as a desirable environment to live in.

4th July 2014