The nests were once again on land managed by the Forestry Commission, following the successful fledging of 8 young in 2015 from two nests on the public forest estate in Northumberland, the first hen harrier nests in that area for more than 10 years.
There was co-ordinated nest monitoring following the discovery of the nests. Cameras on the nests were installed by the RSPB and a dedicated team of raptor conservation volunteers, specialists from the partnership and Forestry Commission wildlife experts worked together to watch the birds.
A total of four chicks fledged from the first nest while on the second, two chicks fledged from a hatch of four. The young birds have all now been checked and ringed by a Forestry Commission ornithologist. Two chicks, one male and one female, at each nest were fitted with satellite tags supplied and fitted by the RSPB Hen Harrier LIFE Project and Natural England.
One of the tagged chicks was named Finn, after young conservationist Findlay Wilde, who was one of the winners of Ecotricity’s Young Green Briton competition last year. Run by Britain’s leading green energy company, the competition looks to find the country’s greenest youngsters and gives them a chance to speak about a key environmental topic on stage at WOMAD Festival. Ecotricity was so impressed by Findlay’s passion and focus on the issue of hen harriers that the company funded the satellite tag. The satellite tags will assist in monitoring the progress of the chicks and the public will be able to follow their movements online at www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife
A third pair which nested close by unfortunately failed due to natural predation of the young birds in the nest by a fox. The partners are pleased that the habitat has been able to support three hen harrier nests. As land managers, the Forestry Commission is delighted that the public forest estate can again add to the conservation of hen harriers, an endangered bird species, in addition to a wide range of other priority species and habitats in England.
Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said:
“The team of wildlife experts have once again ensured that young harriers have taken to the wing. We hope that this will mean many more successful years for breeding hen harriers on land managed by the Forestry Commission”
The success of the hen harriers fledging in Northumberland has been supported by a partnership between Forestry Commission, RSPB, Natural England, Northumberland National Park Authority, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, The Ministry of Defence, Northumbria Police, and a dedicated group of raptor experts. Six healthy chicks on the wing is the best possible reward for the partners’ hard work.
Rob Cooke, Natural England Director, said:
“Staff and volunteers from Natural England were pleased to be part of this successful partnership. The successful nests in Northumberland showed that in the right circumstances and with a collective will from all partners then hen harriers can prosper. We will now closely monitor the six young birds as they face their first and most demanding winter and hope to see them back in 2017.”
Andrew Miller, Head of Programmes and Conservation at Northumberland National Park, and Chair of the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership said,
“Hen harriers are one of our most threatened species and will only be helped back from the brink of extinction in England with the assistance of all of our upland land managers and partners. It is great to have another two successful nests in Northumberland following last year’s success, however, it is still only a fraction of the number we’d expect to see in the County and the Partnership will continue to work together to protect these beautiful birds in the hope that the numbers can grow over the coming years”.