CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

Hen Harriers - concern for monarchs of the moors

PUBLISHED: 09:04 19 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:04 19 October 2015

Sky-dancing champion: a nesting male hen harrier

Sky-dancing champion: a nesting male hen harrier

as submitted

Out and about with Roly Smith

The sight of an elegant, silver-grey male hen harrier passing food to the larger, chocolate-brown female in mid-air over a misty Goyt Valley in the western Peak nearly 20 years ago is one I will never forget.

These powerful raptors, now officially Britain’s rarest bird of prey, were nesting in the Goyt for the first time in a century, and I felt privileged to see them. Named ‘sky dancers’ for their spectacular mating displays, food passes and hunting flights, hen harriers are masters of the air and truly the monarchs of the moors.

Hen harriers are long-tailed and long-winged birds of prey, smaller than a buzzard but larger than a crow. They are often seen gliding low over the ground, a manoeuvre known as ‘quartering’, with the wings raised in a shallow ‘V’.

But in recent years these beautiful birds have been unmercifully harried themselves almost to the point of extinction, to where it is thought there are only six breeding pairs in England. In 2013, for the first time since records began, no hen harriers fledged their young in England. And of the 350 to 400 pairs of hen harriers expected to be found nesting last year, only six pairs were found.

But there was heartening news last year when it was announced that five hen harrier chicks successfully fledged in the Upper Derwent Valley – the first time they have bred successfully in the Peak District for eight years.

The sad national plight of hen harriers was highlighted in a national Hen Harrier Day in August, with sell-out events being held in the Goyt Valley, at the Palace Hotel, Buxton, and at other venues throughout the country.

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, who was at the Derbyshire meetings, said cases like Cecil the Lion showed how strongly the public felt about preserving wildlife.

He said: ‘People are tired of animal life being wasted, particularly when that life is becoming increasingly rare. Killing hen harriers is illegal. We are not here to voice our opinion, we are here to ask for the law of the land to be upheld so that this persecution stops.’

Chris added: ‘There’s a real danger that some of the children who have come along today won’t get the chance to see a hen harrier in their lifetime.’

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, speaking for landowning organisations said: ‘All of us welcome the spotlight on hen harriers, and we condemn wildlife crime. But severely cold and wet weather has been awful for all wildlife trying to breed on the moors this year, leading to a lack of prey.’

Amanda added that landowners supported the Defra-led, draft six-point Joint Recovery Plan for hen harriers, which they wished to see implemented. It would offer a mechanism to guarantee chick safety and spread the nests to avoid a colony forming in one location.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has been closely involved in the issue. Working with partners, including the RSPB, the National Trust, Derbyshire Police Wildlife Crime Unit and Peak District raptor groups, and it has been involved in monitoring birds of prey, particularly hen harriers, during the breeding season. w

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

A ten-minute drive from the western edge of Sheffield brings thrill-seekers to a Derbyshire valley where outdoor activities are thriving.

Read more

Andrew Griffiths meets Jim Dixon, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Peak District National Park.

Read more

This walk offers a dance with the Dove and a meander by the Manifold, whilst along the way passing a church, castle remains, country houses and a hollow way

Read more

With winter on the horizon, trees glow with colour, migratory birds arrive and house spiders set off in search of a mate

Read more

Ann Hodgkin investigates a case of the sincerest form of flattery… or industrial espionage!

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is of landscapes rich in wildlife, valued by everyone. They will achieve this 
by pursuing their mission of creating Living Landscapes. Here Julia Gow, the White Peak Reserve Officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust tells us about the reserve above the River Wye

Read more

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest


Local Business Directory


Property Search