BEHAVIOUR never seen before in a rare bird of prey has been recorded by cameras in a Scottish conservation project.
The “exceptional” footage shows male hen harriers standing guard over nests and a hen harrier brood being hunted by two species of owl.
Conservationists say the pictures tell an amazing story that shows the kind of hurdles hen harrier chicks – the species nests on the ground – have to overcome to survive.
The discoveries were made as part of Heads Up for Harriers, a Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) project, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Figures released today also show 30 young birds have successfully fledged on participating estates.
On two occasions, a male harrier was recorded spending up to 35 minutes standing over or beside a nest, guarding the chicks when the female harrier was away.
This is believed to be highly unusual harrier behaviour as the only time a mother usually leaves a nest for the first six weeks is to briefly catch a food drop from the father to feed the chicks.
The footage has also captured a hectic night of activity involving a fox and a short-eared owl which ended with five chicks being killed by another owl.
According to the pictures from the nest camera, the mother spent eight days taking care of her five newly-hatched chicks, until she was scared off the nest by a fox. The unattended chicks were then surveyed first by a short-eared owl before being killed by a long-eared owl.