Hen Harrier!

Flanders Moss NNR

Warning – very poor quality wildlife photos in the blog post!

hen harrier 2hen harrier

Some wildlife just gives you an extra lift and for me, hen harriers are one of them. I was just taking a well earned breather  from banging in piling dams on the moss on Wednesday when I looked up and saw a distinctive bird mooching across the moss. Even from a distance with bare eyes they have a wonderfully slow, buoyant, drifting way of flying that distinguishes them from other birds of prey that might be in the area such as buzzard and red kites. Plus the males, and this was a male, are striking birds, a soft grey and white body and wings with black tips.

What adds to the excitement was that this male was the first of the autumn season to be seen by me at Flanders. Hen harriers don’t breed on the Moss but we can see them out of the breeding season as the moss offers the sort of rough habitat packed with small birds and small mammals that they like.

And hen harriers are one of the most persecuted birds in the UK. In England there is potential habitat for up to 300 pairs but this year there were only 9 successful breeding pairs. In Scotland there are more but in a very patchy distribution across the country. Hen harriers are protected by law so should breed unhindered but are killed illegally especially when they try to breed on grouse moors. Because hen harriers can eat grouse chicks it means that they come into conflict with moors that are managed intensively for driven grouse shooting and so are killed illegally. So it gives even more pleasure to see such a threatened bird at Flanders Moss.

And it is almost as if the hen harrier knew as the timing couldn’t be better with this weekend events are being held all across the UK to highlight the illegal persecution of hen harriers. You can find out more about Hen Harrier Day 2018 here.

Unfortunately the 2 pictures don’t do them justice at all but were all I could managed when I grabbed my camera. maybe there will be a chance over the winter to get some more.

You can find out more about the Skydancer project for hen harriers here and up to date information on the Skydancer blog here.


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