With the fledging of five hen harrier chicks, it seems that hen harriers are once again breeding successfully in the Peak District for the first time in eight years.
This is great news for the hen harrier, as the bird has been at serious threat in England for over sixty years, with their numbers declining primarily due to illegal persecution. In 2013 just two breeding pairs were reported in England, and no young fledged in over fifty years.
The hen harriers were nesting on land cared for by the National Trust in the Upper Derwent Valley. In late April 2014, two male hen harriers and a female were seen sky-dancing, which is the spectacular aerobatic mating routine of the birds. Then in early August, a nest containing five chicks was discovered by Geoff Eyre, a local National Trust shooting tenant. He alerted the Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative, who put a nest watch team in place to monitor the nest daily.
The Trust puts the success down to collaboration with a wide partnership of people and organisations, who all share the goal of protecting the birds and their nest as part of the National Trust’s High Peak Moors Vision, aiming to restore birds of prey in the area. “Having hen harriers breed successfully here in the Peak District is wonderful news,” comments Jon Stewart, the National Trust’s General Manager for the Peak District, “and would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of all the people and organisations involved, which has been truly inspiring.”