Yet another good news story from one of the private shooting estates in the Forest of Bowland.
After the RSPBs claim of wholesale raptor persecution during lockdown the truth is now becoming very clear, infact Raptors are doing very well indeed on managed ground. So well, that a leading Harrier expert stated that this is the best year ever for Harriers.
Once again, there have been more Harriers fledged on private moors than on any of the conservation charities lands, who would of thought?
In late May a young male hen harrier arrived in Bowland after over-wintering in Spain, returning to his home ground. He soon found a mate and in early June they began nesting. To reduce any unwanted disturbance the nesting site was kept secret and the pair were left to their own devices and only monitored from afar.
A few days after the hatching date the nest was quickly inspected by the estate head gamekeeper and a Natural England hen harrier expert to see if they had been successful.
Only one chick was present, which looked quite small and bedraggled and it was thought that in all probability it wouldn’t survive. All the odds were stacked against this very late nest. The weather was taking a change for the worse, with days of constant rain and this young chick had no brood siblings to share body heat with. To make matters worse there was news of a nearby hen harrier brood of seven chicks which had all been predated by a fox prior to fledging.
At the end of July the time had come to inspect the nest again with a view to attaching a leg ring to the chick for identification. To everyones surprise the chick was in fantastic health! Measurements were taken and it was assessed that the chick was a male and was a good enough weight and condition to fit a satellite tag. This will allow Natural England and the estate gamekeeper to monitor his progress and learn more about the birds habits and movements. Maybe he will visit Spain like his father? He was named Solo (for obvious reasons!) and was quickly returned to his nest.
It’s looking like it will be a record year for successful hen harrier nests in England with the Bowland area in particular faring well. The managed moorlands and remote uplands are the last stronghold of the hen harrier in England.
For the past few years there has been a plan to re introduce Harriers to the Wiltshire Downs but despite gamekeepers and landowners in being completely on board with the programme, for the second year running the RSPB has blocked the importation of these beautiful birds from the continent. Why would that be? Surely the RSPB are not scared of more raptor successes on ground managed for shooting?