With the breeding season upon us you have to wonder if 2012 will be the end for the Hen Harrier on the upland moors of Bowland, but on the positive side the species had an amazing success in Orkney with the population reaching a 20 year high of 100 breeding females producing the same figure of 100 chicks representing a remarkable recovery for the raptor which is facing just the opposite of this on the grouse moors of the North of England even though areas like this could accommodate 'huge' numbers of breeding pairs of this enigmatic bird with extinction a distinct possibility.
The Hen Harrier in Orkney had a period of decline on the islands, in particular during 1980/90 when populations reached their lowest level since detailed records began in 1953, the direct link being the number of sheep grazing on land favoured by the harrier - the result being land/habitat degradation in turn resulting in shortage of prey - and its lack of breeding success.
There is a clear illustration here that, given the chance the Hen Harrier will thrive if the habitat is in good condition, the weather is favourable, and illegal persecution can be eradicated which is an issue which appears to never going to be resolved in the North of England in particular the Forest of Bowland, sheep have never been the problem here....but if you know different and think they have I'm all ears.
On the raptor theme there is an interesting record of a pair of Peregrine Falcons breeding on a salt marsh in the south of the country. These birds were found in May last year at a nest in a simple scrape among Sea-purslane at the seaward edge of the saltmarsh just few metres from the high water mark. This nest was within a few metres of at least three other breeding species including Black-headed Gull, Mallard and Oystercatcher. The main concern was that the nest would be washed out with the spring tides, but this was an unfounded concern as the nest survived the tides and at least one young was observed to fledging and followed through to hunting as a young bird in late August.
History records a Peregrine Falcon nest on heathland in the then Hampshire of 1928 and nests have been found in the past in mature moorland heather....fascinating stuff!
As you may have guessed - if you're interested that is - I'm still not birding, and I'm still on the computer in the Lancaster Library as mine remains 'down'....life's a bitch at times, and this is too long a time for my liking. Add to this the computer I'm using in the library doesn't seem to want me to put any images in this post....just about sums it all up for me these days!