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Horror as rare bird of prey shot next to nature reserve

PUBLISHED: 15:09 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:07 03 July 2019

The shot male marsh harrier found on the boundary of the Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, near Fakenham. Picture: Hawk and Owl Trust

The shot male marsh harrier found on the boundary of the Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, near Fakenham. Picture: Hawk and Owl Trust

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A rare bird of prey has been shot and critically injured near a Norfolk nature reserve.

A male marsh harrier in the mist at Sculthorpe Moor. Picture: Andrew ParkinsonA male marsh harrier in the mist at Sculthorpe Moor. Picture: Andrew Parkinson

A dog walker found a critically injured male marsh harrier on the boundary of Sculthorpe Moor, near Fakenham, on Friday, June 21.

Nigel Middleton, the manager of the reserve, which is owned by the Hawk and Owl Trust, called the shooting "horrifying" and "inexcusable".

Mr Middleton said: "We hear of birds of prey being killed illegally so often.

"Illegal persecution is such a problem and it's inexcusable.

Nigel Middleton at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian BurtNigel Middleton at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian Burt

"Having it happen on our door step has come as a real shock. Marsh harriers are the reason that Sculthorpe is a reserve."

Mr Middleton asked for anyone who may know who shot the bird to tell the authorities.

"This is just horrifying.

"If anyone knows anything please let the police know. Let's bring this criminal to justice."

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The dog walker was unable to get to the marsh harrier to rescue, but a photograph he took showed the bird had been shot.

It was reported to staff at the reserve, but a search failed to find the bird - the vegetation was all broken down with only a few feathers left.

The male marsh harrier breeding on the reserve has not been seen since and his absence puts this year's chicks at risk as both parents are needed to supply enough food for a growing brood.

Although native, marsh harriers had become extinct in England by the late 1800s.

Occasional wandering birds from the continent bred in Suffolk and Norfolk up to the 1950s but numbers crashed once again and, by 1961, no marsh harriers bred in the UK.

Once the use of pesticides was banned numbers once again began to climb and now the birds are becoming a familiar sight in the fens, marshes and reed beds of eastern England.

Marsh Harriers target rodents, birds, insects, reptiles, frogs and even, on occasion, fish.

The trust has recently announced that it has purchased over 150 acres of land on either side of its existing 45-acre reserve along the River Wensum valley, one mile west of Fakenham. The new land is in two parcels and it is on the boundary of the western portion, near Sculthorpe Mill, that the bird was found.

Anyone who knows anything about the shooting should contact PC James Pegden on 101.

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