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Most Successful Year for Hen Harrier Breeding in the Peak District for Over a Decade

Seven hen harriers successfully fledge thanks to conservation work with partners

Diverse range of plants important to help hen harriers breed

Seven hen harriers have successfully fledged from multiple nests on National Trust land in the High Peak, making 2022 the most successful year for hen harrier breeding on land cared for by the conservation charity in the Peak District for over a decade, despite two nest failures earlier this year.

The National Trust, RSPB and Peak District Raptor Group have been working closely together to encourage more birds of prey to live and thrive in the Peak District, by protecting birds currently living there, whilst also creating rich feeding and nesting grounds.

Work undertaken by the Trust includes cutting heather to allow a more diverse range of moorland plants such as sphagnum moss, bilberry and cottongrass to grow, which helps attract the different insects and small mammals which the birds rely upon for food. The charity is also working closely with tenants to ensure their land management practices support the vision for more birds of prey in the area.

Craig Best, General Manager of the National Trust in the Peak District said: “A great deal of work has gone into encouraging more breeding pairs of these majestic birds to the Peak District, so this is brilliant news.

“The presence of the birds indicates a plentiful and healthy food source, which shows the work we have done so far to improve the landscape is starting to provide ideal conditions for different species to thrive. However, we want to see more of these important birds of prey in the High Peak, as they play an important role in creating the right ecological balance in the landscape. That is why it is crucial that we continue to work together to achieve our aim of growing the population of birds of prey in the area and doing everything we can to prevent persecution.”

Mark Thomas, Head of investigations at the RSPB said:

“Despite the suspicious loss of two hen harrier nests in this area earlier in the season we are delighted that further pairs have bred successfully and raised youngsters. This is a validation of the National Trust’s Moorland Vision, and a testament to the partnership work being undertaken to ensure hen harriers and other species flourish in our uplands. Hen harriers are protected by law - yet a government study in 2019 identified criminal persecution by humans as the main factor suppressing the UK hen harrier population. The Dark Peak is sadly one of the worst areas in the UK for raptor persecution, for this reason we will be keeping a close eye on the continuing survival of the chicks that have been tagged this year.”

To help monitor the birds progress and to aid understanding of the species, the birds have also been fitted with tracking tags by the RSPB and Natural England. The National Trust also works with the local Raptor Monitoring Group.

Mike Price from the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group said: “A mild winter, good prey availability and the fine weather during the nesting period have no doubt all contributed to what appears to be a successful year for breeding hen harriers both locally and nationally. It is another step along the journey to get a self-sustaining breeding population of hen harriers established in the area. Now the birds have fledged, the birds will face further threats, so we need to continue to work together to remain vigilant and do all we can to protect them.”

Visitors and local residents can help with conservation efforts by staying on footpaths and keeping dogs on leads during ground nesting bird season, which lasts from the beginning of March to the end of July.


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