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
Spring was turning into a hot summer and my routine was changing – I was putting more time into watching hen harrier nests. One nest was in a patch of deep heather on flat ground at the bottom of a gentle slope. I could approach unseen along a stream and settle down under a groundsheet draped over some heather.
The heat haze shimmered while the male harrier seemed to spend hours mobbing sheep that were wandering too close to the nest. His swoops and tumbles the only movement in the landscape.
Occasionally he would head off to hunt as often down hill to lower ground (and away from the grouse moor). His return would bring the female off the nest for a food pass. As often as not he would then return to his obsessive sheep buzzing.
My sitting and watching produced a new merlin nest as I noticed a male carrying food in.
All was right with the world – apart from the midges. On one occasion driving me to flee my make-shift hide, a major insect repellent fail.
My last round of transect walking at least ensured the midges couldn’t keep up – a very obvious change from earlier transects was the number of singing skylarks presumably the result of the number of second broods underway.
A sheep enjoying a few moments away from the attentions of a mobbing hen harrier
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