Hen Harriers

2019 was another successful year for rare and threatened hen harriers in Northumberland with birds successfully breeding here for the fifth year in row, making it the most consistent nesting place in England for this rare bird of prey. The Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership is pleased to announce that this year nine young have fledged from three nests on Forestry England and nearby private land.

Early on in the season, the partnership was braced for a record year, perhaps passing last year’s total of 11 fledged young from 3 nests, but unfortunately, it was not to be. Originally 6 nests were located but torrential rain, when the chicks were small, saw young in two nests perish. One clutch did not hatch and natural predation by a fox took a further three young from a nest, leaving nine survivors in total.

The Hen Harrier Protection Partnership, which is made up of Forestry England, RSPB, Northumberland National Park Authority, Natural England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Ministry of Defence, Northumberland Police and Local Raptor Experts, worked together to find and monitor all of the nests. Prior to fledging, a number of chicks were satellite tagged by the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project team and Natural England, to learn more about their movements.

Tags from previous fledglings have revealed that two birds have died due to natural causes, three others named Finn, Athena, and Vulcan, all disappeared in suspicious circumstances in March 2018, August 2018 and January 2019 respectively.

In January 2017, Northumberland-born Carroll was found dead with two shotgun pellets lodged in her body. Better news did, however, come this year as a tagged bird called Sophia raised a brood of her own in one of the Northumberland nests.

Tom Dearnley Forestry England Ecologist said: “We are delighted that yet again the public forest estate has provided a suitable habitat for these fantastic birds. We are glad our partnership work continues to contribute towards giving future generations the chance to see these birds in England. “

Dr Cathleen Thomas, Senior Project Manager at the RSPB said: “It’s fantastic to see that Northumberland is the English stronghold for one of our rarest birds – as a partnership we can be really proud of that. We’re doing everything we can to help protect hen harriers here, but past experience makes us anxious about their futures once they leave their nests.”

Rob Cooke from Natural England said: “We are very pleased that once again work in Northumberland has resulted in good numbers of nesting hen harriers. The monitoring, tagging and fledging of these birds has been a real partnership success, and is a model for what needs to be achieved elsewhere.”

Gill Thompson chair of the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership added “ It is great to see hen harriers nesting and fledging young successfully in Northumberland for the fifth year in a row. Thanks to the team from all the organisations that worked hard to locate and watch the nests. It was particularly satisfying to see a tagged bird breed in Northumberland after we had watched her during the winter elsewhere in the county. Let’s hope the class of 2019 fare just as well.”