So there are some of the ups and downs of harrier monitoring! Fortunately there are more ups than downs and it is a real pleasure to be employed to monitor these magnificent raptors in Bowland.
Plenty of hen harrier sightings but still no pair just about sums it up, I'm afraid. We are now in the last chance saloon for this season. Thanks to a remarkably dedicated cohort of volunteers, on-site monitoring has been both thorough and discreet. We have had at least one watcher covertly monitoring the site for at least a part of every day since mid-February so we haven't missed much, despite the ubiquitous and wearying wind that has accompanied us almost every day for over six weeks now. Despite the project area being elevated, exposed and lacking shelter at the lookout locations, the volunteers have stuck it out whatever the weather and could not have been more conscientious.
After the three March appearances (two adult females and an adult male mentioned in my previous blog) we have had five sightings in April. Four of these were female ringtails (one of which was immature), the fifth an adult (possibly sub-adult) male. On the basis of the most detailed observations and notes I could make at the time, I conservatively estimate that, so far this season, we have had at least four different individuals on, over or immediately around the site. However, as (bad) luck would have it, we have never had more than one bird at a time in the vicinity. If I was paranoid and subscribed to anthropomorphism I could almost suspect a hen harrier conspiracy against us.
Seriously though, as far as I am aware there isn't a single known breeding pair of hen harriers anywhere in Northumberland so far this year, and we must ask ourselves why not. Lack of suitable ground is emphatically not the problem - Northumberland alone could accommodate many tens of pairs. Likewise, lack of food sources or poor Spring weather cannot be blamed. The problem is simple, stark and obvious: lack of numbers. As to why - I'll come back to this vexed question at later date, so watch this space....
Hello from the Forest of Bowland for the first time this year!
Let me start off with a quick introduction. My name is Jude Lane and I am the new RSPB Bowland Project Officer. I started in post in January this year, taking over from Pete Wilson who has been blogging on this site about the harriers in Bowland since 2009 and who worked in the role for 11 years – quite some shoes to fill!
So, just in case you have forgotten or are new to reading this post, my role as Bowland Project Officer is based on the United Utilities (UU) estate within the Forest of Bowland. UU own 10,000 ha of upland in the Forest of Bowland which they manage primarily for water abstraction. However, the UU estate is also the most important site for breeding Hen harriers in England. Last year there were 12 Hen harrier nesting attempts in England, 10 of those were on UU’s Bowland estate.
So how are the harriers doing this year? I hear you ask. Well, after a bit of a slow start we now have six nests on the estate which are all doing well, no doubt helped by the dry weather we had throughout April.
The monitoring of the Hen harriers and also Peregrines and Merlins is being carried out, as in previous years, by a team of people. Peter Jones is working as the RSPB’s seasonal assistant warden (he also held the post last season) along side our team of fantastically knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers and myself.
Well I'll keep it short but sweet for my first update but make sure you keep watching this space to keep up to date with all the harrier news from Bowland!