Hen harriers breeding in Peak District after 8-year gap

One of the newly fledged hen harrier chicks in the Peak District.  Credit: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

One of the newly fledged hen harrier chicks in the Peak District. Credit: Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Five hen harrier chicks have successfully fledged on National Trust land in the Upper Derwent Valley – the first time hen harriers have bred successfully in the Peak District for eight years.

This a result of a wide partnership of people and organisations that have worked together to protect the birds and their nest as part of the National Trust’s High Peak Moors Vision for the area, which aims to restore birds of prey as part of a rich and healthy environment.

Hen harriers have been at serious threat in England for more than sixty years with numbers plummeting primarily due to illegal persecution. Last year, just two breeding pairs were reported in the country and no young fledged for the first time in over 50 years.

From late April two male hen harriers and a female were seen sky-dancing – the hen harrier’s incredible aerobatic mating routine. The birds then left the area but, in early August, a nest containing five healthy chicks was discovered by Geoff Eyre – a local National Trust shooting tenant – who alerted the Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative.

A nest watch team, providing daily monitoring, was then put in place by the Initiative – the partnership set up to help secure the future of some of the area’s most iconic birds.

Jon Stewart, the National Trust’s General Manager for the Peak District, said: “Having hen harriers breed successfully here in the Peak District is wonderful news and would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of all the people and organisations involved, which has been truly inspiring. Trust, collaboration and a protocol to limit unintentional disturbance have all played important parts.

“Our High Peak Moors Vision sets out a strong and clear commitment to increase the number of birds of prey on the land that we care for in the Peak District. This can only happen by working closely with tenants and partners, including the grouse-shooting community, which has been very supportive of this successful breeding attempt.

“The vision for the land that we manage is all about enhancing the quality of the habitat, enabling nature to flourish.

“This success is the first step towards a sustainable future for these magnificent birds; a future that can only be achieved by everyone continuing to work together, both here and across the English uplands.”

Jamie Horner, Project Officer with the Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative, said: “It’s been brilliant to see everyone working together to help this breeding pair of hen harriers succeed and I hope it bodes well for birds of prey and wildlife generally in the Peak District. Of course we also want people to be able to enjoy these spectacular birds so please let us know of sightings but please also respect the birds’ space and avoid disturbing them.”

Satellite-tagging will enable the birds’ progress to be tracked through the National Hen Harrier Recovery Project led by Natural England, helping us learn more about their movements and behaviour. Sightings of the birds can also be reported via a hen harrier hotline (0845 4600121 – calls charged at local rate) and email address (henharriers@rspb.org.uk). Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.

The news of the hen harrier chicks follows the successful breeding of peregrines earlier this year. In June, a pair of peregrines nested and two chicks hatched and fledged from Alport Castles, a traditional nesting site that has been unsuccessful for several years. Early indications show that merlin and goshawk have also bred successfully in the area.

Isle of Wight bee-eaters rewrite the record books

Bee-eaters nesting on the Isle of Wight have raised eight chicks – the most successful breeding attempt by these birds, normally found in the Mediterranean, on record in the UK.

Three chicks have now fledged from one nest, on National Trust land, and another five chicks have fledged from a second nest.

Bee eater

Bee-eaters on the Isle of Wight. Credit Danny Vokins.

An adult bee-eater was first spotted at Wydcombe on 15 July by National Trust dragonfly survey volunteer Dave Dana. And chicks were first sighted a month later on the 15 August. There were originally thought to be nine chicks but one has not survived.

Dave Dana, a National Trust Volunteer on the Isle of Wight, said: “I’d just come from counting golden-ringed dragonflies at a stream and I thought ‘that bird looks a bit different!’

“Its flight path seemed almost triangular. I didn’t really appreciate the bird until I got home and looked at the photos. I’d always wanted to see a bee-eater in this country but I never thought it would turn out to be a major wildlife event.”

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Study reveals threats to UK breeding seabirds

UK breeding seabirds are under threat from a triple whammy of extreme weather, predators and human disturbance, a new National Trust report has revealed.

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

Puffins on the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast

The study of seabird sites along the Trust’s 742 miles of coastline was carried out by the conservation organisation to evaluate the importance of National Trust locations for seabirds and to recognise the issues that impact breeding success.

Following the findings, the report calls for more regular monitoring to help detect any changes in seabird colonies, which can happen over a short period of time, and a greater awareness of human impact on breeding populations.

The most prevalent potential threat to seabirds was identified as the effect of extreme weather. This was evident in Blakeney in Norfolk this winter when the severe tidal surges changed the beach profile forcing more than half of the little terns to nest in low areas. The high tides that followed in mid-June caused the nests to flood, resulting in a very poor breeding season, with only 10 fledged young from 108 breeding pairs

Little terns at Long Nanny in Northumberland faced a similar threat. To help combat the problem, National Trust rangers spent three months between May and August providing a 24 hour watch on the nesting birds by camping next to their breeding site.

Predation from rats, foxes and mink was also identified as a problem at nearly all sites. The managed removal of predators is now a priority for the Trust and more regular monitoring will help to detect any issues early on.

In 2001 Manx shearwaters on Lundy Island, Devon were barely able to breed because of the threat from predators. A partnership project was established to remove them and by 2004, once the predators had been eradicated, the shearwaters have made a spectacular recovery.

Lundy has since been designated the first Marine Conservation Zone in England and hosts nationally significant numbers of Manx shearwater, with 1% of a total UK population of 295,045.

The third most common risk to breeding success was found to be human disturbance by walkers and their pets.

If nests are disturbed it can displace seabirds, leaving the young vulnerable to predators. However, even if they are not displaced, seabirds can become stressed when disturbed which can greatly impact their wellbeing.

The National Trust is encouraging walkers and visitors to the coast to be aware of the potential impact of disturbing nesting seabirds during the breeding season.

Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “Seabirds are part of what makes the British and Irish coastline so special.

“A seabird colony is an assault on your senses; it has a unique smell; distinctive calls, such as that of the Kittiwake, which sounds just like its name; and they are a fascinating sight as they lift off from the cliff.

“Our emotional connection with these birds along with what they tell us about the health of our seas means that it is vital for us to look after the places where they nest.”

Asian super ants

Below is a statement from the National Trust about the presence of Asian super ants at Hidcote, Gloucestershire.

David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation for the National Trust, said: “The ants themselves pose little direct threat to us as they don’t bite people or pets, but their habit of creating super-colonies means they pose a threat to native species by out-competing them for food and space, and their attraction to electrical circuitry means they could pose a fire risk.

“At Hidcote we are actively managing the ants in critical areas to make sure we don’t export them. We are encouraging research on their ecology and behaviour with a view to gaining a better understanding of how we can manage for the ants in the future.”

National Trust joins State of Nature family

Back in May 2013 a seminal report was published by twenty-five of the leading nature organisations in the UK charting the decline of species across the UK in recent decades.

The High Peak Moors project is all about creating a better long term future for the natural world

The High Peak Moors project is all about creating a better long term future for the natural world

The National Trust has now joined this family as it seeks to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and work with partner organisations to reverse and slow down the rates of species decline.

National Trust Head of Nature Conservation Dr David Bullock is on the State of Nature steering group and other Trust staff from the wildlife and countryside adviser’s community will be involved.

According to the report, the State of Nature, 60 per cent of species have declined in recent decades and one in ten species are at risk of disappearing all together from these islands.

Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “The State of Nature report was a wake-up call to us all – about the fragility of nature and about the role of people in protecting the special places that nature calls home.

“We will bring our rich experience as major landowners and as naturalists to the table; working in partnership with other leading wildlife organisations.

“This coalition is a really important movement for the future of nature in the UK – a chance to think big and bold about how we secure the future of our species and habitats for future generations to enjoy.”
Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Trust cares for 250,000 hectares of land (the same size as Derbyshire) and 742 miles (1300km) of coastline. Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, one of the first places acquired by the Trust in 1899, has an amazing 8,500 species and the Farne Islands off of the Northumberland coast is England’s largest seabird colony.

The Trust is working to look at how we manage land (uplands, lowland areas and the coast) as we grapple with the huge challenges of climate change. We’re thinking big about the challenges of managing large land holdings such as the High Peak Moors in Derbyshire, working with the Woodland Trust to restore ancient woodland at Fingle Woods in Devon and are planning species introductions and re-introductions in Surrey.

David Bullock, concludes: “At the heart of everything that the Trust does is connecting people and places. There is a real passion and interest in the natural world in the UK and the State of Nature coalition can play an important role in connecting and reconnecting people to the wildlife where-ever they live.”

You can follow the fortunes of wildlife at National Trust places by following the hashtag #NTnature on twitter or visiting: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nature

Weather and wildlife – a review of the year so far

 

Matthew Oates, Nature and Wildlife expert for the National Trust, reflects on the weather so far this year and looks at how it has affected our wildlife.

“This winter was one of the stormiest on record and the wettest since 1766. Despite this, it was also the mildest winter in more than 100 years

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Parks in peril?

Harry Bowell, Regional Director for the National Trust, writes about the National Trust’s new partnership with Sheffield City Council to explore new ways of financially supporting the city’s public parks and green spaces. Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Big Lottery Fund and Nesta through their Rethinking Parks programme, the project in Sheffield was unveiled this morning with the release of HLF’s comprehensive report into the threats faced by the UK’s parks over the coming years as funding cuts begin to bite.

“Today’s ground-breaking report from Heritage Lottery Fund is an important wake up call for all who care about people and nature.

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