Thirty years ago I started working for the RSPB on a six month upland bird surveying contract – with the additional challenge of helping to protect England’s only regular nesting hen harriers. The Forest of Bowland was the only stronghold for hen harriers in England in 1982 – it still is. I’ll be contributing a series of guest blogs over the spring and summer and tweeting in real time on @andrefarrar
My reflections on my first job with the RSPB have taken a back seat over the last few days as buzzards have suddenly taken priority. Thirty years ago there weren’t any buzzards in Bowland – or at least I didn’t encounter a single one. Their recovery in recent years has been great and is, in no small part, down to a change of attitude and approach across the UK.
The public reaction to suggestions that buzzards could be taken into captivity or their nests destroyed was instrumental in forcing Defra to drop their proposals (you can read more here and here).
Back then I was still angry that the peregrine nest had been robbed.
I returned one last time to the peregrine’s cliff and scrambled up to retrieve the four hens’ eggs that had been swapped with the original clutch to fool both the parents and anyone keeping an eye on the nest.
So putting my rudimentary climbing skills to the test for one last time – I scrambled up to the nest ledge amongst the scatter of prey items brought to feed the young that never were.
As I slithered down with the eggs in my rucksack the parents had, by now, lost their connection with the nest, but the male bird was still in the area.
I was determined that this set back to my season wasn’t going to be the defining incident and with the egg box in my back pack I went off on my rounds checking the harrier territories.
A redstart singing from a stunted oak in small wind-sculpted wood lifted my spirits.
Redstart - illustration by Mike Langman
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