Natural England’s recent announcement that 2019 has been a record-breaking year for hen harrier breeding success in England, with 15 nests producing 47 chicks, is marvellous news for all those that are working so hard to see an improvement in the conservation status of the species. This follows a previous record in 2018, when 34 chicks were fledged, with the result that 81 chicks have fledged in the past two years. What is also encouraging is the news that this year’s successful nests have been in a wider variety of areas, with chicks being fledged in Northumberland, the Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale, Derbyshire and Lancashire. Eleven of those 15 nests were on land that is managed for grouse shooting, and of the three nests that failed, two were lost due to bad weather, with the third to predation.
Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan provides us with the best opportunity to understand the reverse and decline of the hen harrier in England, and all component parts of that plan have a vital role to play. One of those is the trial brood management scheme, which is a positive development in efforts to improve hen harrier numbers. The scheme was successfully used for one of this year’s nests, with the hen harrier chicks being released back into the area from where they were collected, once they were capable of fending for themselves.
Using figures provided by Natural England, the Countryside Alliance has produced the following table which shows the number of hen harrier breeding attempts, successful nests, and chicks fledged over the last 34 years, and the cyclical nature of these, the explanation for which is unclear:
1986 – 2018:
Total Breeding Attempts: 314
Total Successful Nests: 180
Total Chicks Fledged: 528