Posted 7th Jun 2018 by Peter Byrne
Hen harrier chicks have successfully hatched in Bowland for the first time since 2015
Two hen harrier nests were spotted on the United Utilities Bowland Estate in Lancashire in early spring, and RSPB wardens have been keeping a close eye on them ever since. These nests were recently visited by wardens under licence, who were overjoyed to report four healthy chicks in each nest.
A single male hen harrier is responsible for both nests and has been regularly providing them with food.
Hen harriers are a much-loved bird of prey that will nest on hills and moors. They're well-known for the male's spectacular aerobatic courtship ritual known as skydancing. However, they're on the verge of extinction as a breeding bird in England, due to the ongoing illegal persecution which is associated with driven grouse shooting.
Experts estimate there is sufficient habitat in Northern England for there to be at least 300 pairs, but last year, there were only three successful nests across the entire country.
Bowland was previously known as England's last remaining stronghold for breeding hen harriers, but up until this year, the birds had not successfully bred there since 2015, when a single chick fledged.
Nature conservationists are now hoping that the arrival of the eight chicks could mark a reversal in the fortunes of the birds in Bowland. Working in partnership with United Utilities and their tenants, the RSPB are aiming to give the birds the best chance to successfully breed.
James Bray, the RSPB's Bowland Project Officer, said: "It is fantastic news that hen harriers are breeding once again on the United Utilities Bowland Estate after two barren years. It’s an incredibly nerve-wracking time for all involved in protecting these birds, especially for the team that have been constantly monitoring the birds since they arrived on the estate in April. The male hen harrier is doing a fantastic job of keeping the chicks in both nests well fed and we’re doing all that we can to ensure that they fledge safely."
Image courtesy of M Demian / RSPB Images