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
In my last post I mentioned a common sandpiper in distress following a summer downpour. I worried that its nest had been washed away – a few days later I was delighted to see a young sandpiper in roughly the same area, so fingers crossed it was one of the survivors. The sudden downpour in my otherwise hot and sunny summer was it stark contrast to the storms of 2012.
Slightly embarrassingly, I find another hen harrier nest with four plump young sat in it. It’s the sixth nest I’ve now located (with my team of two volunteers). The numbers of red grouse seemed good to me – as their young grow larger and stronger, numbers on my transects have increased.
It was on one of my transects that I found the latest harrier nest – I must have walked within 100m of it half a dozen times.
The harrier nest I was watching most regularly was a hive of activity as the young exercised their wings – when their parents returned they rushed back in to the heart of the nest platform to grab their share ... they were strong and vigorous, fledging (the point at which they can leave the nest area and start their lives as independent harriers) couldn’t be far off.
One of the hen harrier chicks hiding in the heather. Photo Andre Farrar
The hills were suddenly a little quieter as the sheep were rounded up and taken off with their lambs, now only a little smaller than their mothers. With the departure of the sheep the male harrier who had spent the past few weeks endlessly buzzing them to keep them away from the nest, will have more time on his hands ... or wings.
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