Concern for raptors’ future in Bowland

Hen Harrier. (s)
Hen Harrier. (s)

Fears have been raised that two of England’s apex raptors, the extremely rare and threatened hen harrier and the peregrine falcon, are not breeding in the same year this season in the Forest of Bowland for the first time “in living memory”.

Terry Pickford, chairman of the North West Raptor Group, has said that a single pair of peregrines did return to breed on estates in Bowland owned by United Utilities, however, after the nest was disturbed in April the falcons are believed to have deserted their nest.

The birds of prey nest on grouse moors in the Forest of Bowland where the hen harrier logo is the symbol for this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Mr Pickford said for the first time since the Second World War, hen harriers together with peregrines have not bred successfully in the same season anywhere in the Forest of Bowland and this is extremely sad.

From the early 1980s to 2005 there were 239 hen harrier nests and 394 chicks produced. However, in the last few years, nests have only produced a handful of hen harriers chicks. Last year of the seven hen harrier breeding attempts recorded in Bowland, only one pair were successful producing a single chick. There was only a single nesting attempt made by peregrines in Bowland last year, the pair were successful rearing a single chick. These figures suggest persecution for both species in the region is becoming much worse.

A mating hen harrier typically lays four to six eggs, all of which should stand a good chance of hatching and fledging, when their feathers and wing muscles are sufficiently developed for flight.

“The numbers in Bowland were depleted in 2014 because the two fledged satellite tagged harriers Sky and Hope both went missing on grouse moors,” Terry explained adding that in 2015 four male hen harriers mysteriously disappeared after leaving their nests on the United Utilities estate to forage for food to feed their mates left behind.

He added that there is no point reintroducing hen harriers into any moorland area until the root cause of persecution is eradicated.

Mr Pickford explained that a licensing system for all grouse moor owners should be introduced whereby a licence is removed if any hen harriers or other protected birds of prey are shot or disappear.

To raise awareness of hen harrier persecution there will be a Hen Harrier Day on Sunday August 7th beginning on the green at Dunsop Bridge from 10-30 am. At around 12-30 pm everyone will join Mr Pickford and the rest of the North West Raptor Group for a family picnic a few miles from Dunsop Bridge situated on nearby moorland.

People are asked to bring a packed lunch and everyone including children are welcome. No dogs are allowed however because of moorland restrictions.

There will be an auction of bird of prey art work and books to raise funding for next year’s event. There will also be a display of live birds of prey, including an eagle owl and peregrine falcons.

To find out more about the Hen Harrier Day visit: http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2016/03/03/hen-harrier-day-peaceful-protest-2016-dunsop-bridge-in-the-forest-of-bowland/