Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Technology War

Firstly I must apologise for the infrequency of the blog this year. We have been plagued with technological glitches to the point that we thought the filming of this years project was doomed!!!

Sadly we due to a failure in the camera / transmitter, we missed the hatching of the chicks and due a technoligical failure with our IT system I was unable to update the blog.

We are back on-line and the two chicks who were born to Olivia are thriving.

One of the chicks who is male and due to his BTO number EX11007 has been named James Bond. Bond has been tagged and you will see by the photo is a very handsome chap.

Our man in the field believe any day now his may fledge. I hope to keep you posted!!!

Friday, 28 May 2010


Well it was touch and go it must be said, but the 2010 project as of tomorrow is up and running and raring to go.

The technology gods were having their usual fun at our expense and I think our man in the field Pete gained a few extra grey hairs in the process, but thankfully all our technical woes are behind us (fingers crossed) and we once again can bring you the Bowland Hen Harrier Project from the Bowland Visitor Centre at Beacon Fell, Goosnargh, Preston.

The star of this years show is an old friend we are very pleased to annouce. Olivia (or bird 206 to the scientist type folks :) ) is our mum. I will bring you more information on Olivia as the weeks unfold.

So do come up to the Visitor Centre at Beacon Fell to see the latest footage of this fascinating, rare preditor and her young. It is a sight you will not see anywhere else!!!!!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Farewell our Fledglings

The final chick has flown the nest and we say a final and fond farewell to the 2009 Bowland Hen Harrier Project.`

I am sharing this blog entry with Stephen Murphy from Natural England our Hen Harrier Expert Stephen advises that "in all of England only 4 other chicks have fledged this year. We dont like to count our chickens etc but it looks like this year will be the poorest since 2003 for numbers of birds and their productivity.

This isn’t just in England, elsewhere in the UK the species is also having a tough time this year.

We can only guess why; coldest winter for 18 yrs? Lack of voles? Normal cyclic process? A small population such as ours is especially vulnerable so all reasons are plausible and probably all right to varying degrees. One thing is puzzling, in Bowland we usually have very high densities of breeding pairs (3-4 in say 5 sq km), which can lead to intra-specific competition (eg competition for food and space between same species, as opposed to inter-specific competition if another species is competing eg hen harrier and peregrine). This year the birds are nesting at lower densities but these generally haven’t prospered as you would expect, as they have the place to themselves so to speak e.g.little if any competition for prey and space. It looks like a case of the females not gaining good pre-breeding condition as the densities of pipits and grouse later in the year are in my opinion quite high, voles have (There is an exception, the nest on the Abbeystead has fledged 5 young, making it the most productive nest in England in 2009)."

Stephen has fitted a satellite tag to one of the males, so hopefully Stephen can track his whereabouts over the years to come.

We are having a best of edited highlights DVD made so I will let you know when this is available to watch the the Bowland Visitor Centre.

So finally it comes to say thank you's and goodbyes - huge thank you from all of us to our fabulous team of volunteers who provided such enthusiasm and knowledge in sharing the world of the Hen Harrier and what was happening on screen to our many visitors, without them there would be no Bowland Hen Harrier Project. Thank you so much.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The three chicks are growing bigger each day, its only when they have a little flurry and you see the impressive wing span which they already have at such a young age, that you realise it wont be long before they are ready to go.

Within a week they seem to have doubled in size and their snowy white down is now peppered with dark feathers. Mum is leaving the nest much more frequently as she tries to satisfy the seemingly never ending hunger of her fast growing brood.

If you have been putting off coming up to the Centre to see the birds up close, I would urge you to attend soon. Pete Wilson advises that the older chicks may start to fledge in the next 10 days or so - doesnt time fly while you're having fun (no pun intended :) )

Our Volunteer presenters are doing stirling work, their knowledge and enthusiasm for this bird of prey really brings the whole experience to life and is really worth the trip, so we would love to see you at Beacon Fell.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Now even the greatest Hen Harrier fan would be hard pushed to describe this bird of prey as beautiful, or cute - amazing, enigmatic, breath taking definitely, but cute ....... umm perhaps not - However cute is exactly the word I used this morning when I had the pleasure of seeing all the chicks for the first time on screen.

We are now blessed with 3 bundles of joy, all white, fluffy and typical of any new born their heads seemingly too big for their bodies; as they stumble around all bleary eyed with nothing more than sleep and food on their mind.

We do still have another egg in the nest, Pete Wilson (our RSPB expert and man in the field) tells me that this egg will now not hatch and mum will probably remove it from the nest soon.

Approximately 50% of all Bowland Hen Harriers are tagged, enabling the experts to track and learn more about them, as well as help in the protection of the birds. Interestingly this year neither of the stars of our show - male or female (mum and dad to me) are winged tagged, the odds of both birds being a Bowland bird and not being tagged would be slim to say the least (although of course not impossible) and may suggest that one or both of the birds do not originate from Bowland. Whilst it is a lovely thought that Hen Harriers who were not born in Bowland are choosing to come and nest here, as they recognise it as a viable and safe nesting area, it is pure speculation and it could quite well be that both do originate from Bowland. I will leave that one for the Hen Harrier aficionados Pete and Stephen to discuss and make educated determinations - good luck lads :)

Whilst coming up to the visitor centre to see the footage of these magnificent birds of prey on the big screen is a fabulous experience; it really is a privilege to be able to see these birds of prey up close. I would also recommend attending one of the Hen Harrier Safaris that our RSPB colleague Pete has been running. These have proved really popular and regrettably there are just 2 more in the series this year. So why not join Pete and take the chance of seeing a Hen Harrier and other birds (merlins and ouzels) in the wild, as well (of course) enjoy the expert commentary and knowledge of Pete (he didn't even have to pay me for that one :) ). There are only a couple of places left so if you want to book a place please click on the following link Hen Harrier Safari

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

3 chicks and a new camera. Welcome to the latest installment. 3 of the eggs have hatched with one solitary egg remaining, I am assured that there is still time for the last egg to hatch.

Those of you who have been up to the Bowland Visitor Centre may have witnessed the rather hazy images. At first we thought it was the glare of the sun on the camera, but as the grotty weather resurfaced it was evident that something was amiss. We have replaced the camera on the nest and the images that are coming through now are truly fabulous.

Yesterday we were privvy to a very rare sight with dad swooping into the nest dropping off dinner. It is rare that you see dad in or near the nest, more often the female will go and meet him and if you are really lucky you can see a stunning ariel food pass as the male gracefully passes the morning spoils to the female.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

As the sun has been well and truly cracking the pavements in Bowland over the last few days, we have experienced some cracking times in the Hen Harrier Nest as well (do you like the smooth link lol), as two of our chicks have hatched. Both chicks are very sleepy and hungry (as is the life of all new borns) and mum is at her nurturing best.

With the start of the feeding frenzy, mum and dad will work tirelessly to ensure their brood have enough to eat. It is this hive of activity that with a wry smile I am reminded of David Crystal's poem The Merlot Mix in which he proffers
"A Hen Harrier swoops catching nothing but wind". I think our Hen Harrier dad will have to be more successful to ensure that his catch is a tasty morseful for his new family.