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.


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