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Hen harriers holding on in the English uplands

The hen harrier population is still perilously low and they continue to be persecuted…

English Nature today announced this year`s breeding figures for the hen harrier in England. This season, there were 11 nesting attempts in England, 7 of which proved successful. These figures shows that the endangered hen harriers` fortunes have improved very slightly from 2000 when there were 5 successful nests out of 13 nesting attempts.English Nature`s Hen Harrier Recovery Project co-ordinator, Richard Saunders said, This is the first year of the English Nature Hen Harrier Recovery Project in which we have been able to consistently monitor these rare birds of prey across a wide range of sites in England. By being out on the ground throughout the season, we have got a much fuller picture of all the issues affecting the survival of the hen harrier.On a positive note, the birds appear to have increased their recorded range of breeding sites with successful pairs breeding in the Yorkshire Dales and more unusually Cornwall, as well as in their more traditional areas such as the Geltsdale and Bowland areas in the north west. Chicks that have fledged successfully have been tagged and several of the birds will be radio-tracked over the winter to find out about where they go and also whether they will return the following spring. However, there is definitely room for improvement and given that there were at least 50 birds recorded during the spring it was hoped that a few more pairs would breed. This has not happened.The hen harrier population is still perilously low and they continue to be persecuted. Our observations confirm that one nest failed due to human persecution. For two other nesting attempts predation seems the most likely cause of failure.This is only the first year of the project so we are not discouraged, continued Richard. We are finding out more about the habits of these birds and what issues continue to threaten their future survival, as well as raising the profile of this magnificent bird of prey with the public. We have been really pleased with the high level of co-operation that we have had from landowners and gamekeepers. We would particularly like to thank the Abbeystead Estate for their co-operation and help, the Moorland Association for their support and the RSPB who also monitor harriers each year. We have also received information on sightings of hen harriers from members of the public which has been really helpful and we would like to encourage people to continue sending us information.

4th July 2014