Rare hen harriers nest discovered in Cumbria

A pair of rare hen harriers are breeding at a nature reserve in the North Pennines.

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Conservation charity, RSPB, said that wardens visited the nest last week to find that the female bird of prey is currently incubating five eggs.

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The hen harrier nest is believed to be one of only three in England this year for the endangered species, which was BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Wildlife Success Story of the Year 2015/16, after breeding pairs rose from three to six in England last year.

Hen Harriers nest in the uplands, but they are on the verge of extinction as a breeding bird in England owing to illegal persecution.

If the eggs hatch, it will be the first time there have been hen harrier chicks at RSPB Geltsdale for a decade. In 2006, a pair nested at the site, fledging two young.

Last year, a pair bred at Geltsdale but the nest failed during the incubation period after the male abandoned the nest. Faced with the prospect of starvation, the female was forced to abandon her eggs. 

Steve Westerberg, Site Manager at RSPB Geltsdale, said: “We’re delighted that we have hen harriers breeding on the reserve once again. It’s an incredibly nerve-wracking time but we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll see fledged young in a few months time.

“Staff and volunteers are watching the nest around the clock to prevent unnecessary disturbance, and we have spoken to our neighbouring estates about the birds so they can play their part in helping to ensure that the birds are safe when they leave our reserve to hunt.”   

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Through the DEFRA Hen Harrier Action Plan, published earlier this year, government and landowners are now committed to recovering the species.