RSPB Hen harrier research receives special recognition in raptor science competition
19 September 2012
Media and Communications Officer
RSPB Scotland has received a special commendation at this year’s Watson Raptor Science Prize for its work on Orkney’s hen harrier population.
The study, which looked at the impacts of sheep grazing on the birds and their prey, showed that hill farming can play a fundamental role in assisting the fortunes of one of Britain’s most threatened birds.
Named in memory of two of Scotland’s most renowned ornithologists, Donald Watson and his son Jeff, the annual award recognised excellence in raptor science.
This year’s prize was awarded to a team of scientists in Spain who studied the use of nest adornments by black kites.
Speaking on behalf of the RSPB Scotland-led team, Professor Jerry Wilson, Head of Conservation Science, said: “RSPB Scotland is honoured to receive this commendation for our long-term research on hen harriers; it is a fitting recognition of the tireless commitment of co-author Eric Meek and his colleagues to nature conservation on Orkney. The study shows how important grazing management is to ensuring food supplies for hen harriers and its findings will also help to improve conditions for other moorland birds of prey of high conservation concern, including short-eared owl and merlin.”
Professor Des Thompson, chair of the judging panel, commented: "Arjun Amar and colleagues have produced an excellent paper on the impacts of sheep grazing on harriers and their prey on Orkney. An exhaustively detailed analysis reveals why hen harriers have recovered on Orkney. This has implications for upland management and conservation across the British Isles at a time when there are significant concerns about the conservation status of hen harriers."
Members of the research team at RSPB Scotland will also conducting a series of talks at the three day Watson Birds festival in St John Town of Dalry, Dumfries and Galloway. This year’s annual event will focus on the plight of the hen harrier, as well as expert-led talks, there will also be an exhibition by 15 different contemporary bird artists, bird watching walks, ringing demonstrations, children’s activity and much more.
Professor Roger Crofts, Director of Watson Birds said “I am delighted that the standard of scientific work on raptors is so high and particularly delighted that the longstanding work in Orkney has been recognised by our scientific panel. Achieving a positive interaction between Hen harrier protection and moorland management is the essence of good stewardship of our natural assets. I look forward to many bird and habitat management specialists and also members of the public attending our session on Saturday 22nd September at the Lochinvar Hotel in St John’s Town of Dalry, Galloway to listen to the talks and participate in the debate.”
For more information visit www.watsonbirds.org or contact email@example.com
1. The study by Amar, A, Davies. J, Meek, E, Williams.J, Knight. A, and Redpath. S is entitled Long-term impact of changes in sheep Ovis aries densities on the breeding output of hen harrier Circus cyaneus, and is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. It can be read on line here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01896.x/abstract