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.

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