The Hawk and Owl Trust have just launched a new dedicated website to provide details of its Hen Harriers Satellite Tagging Project – an initiative to help save English hen harriers from extinction.
The website – hawkandowl.org/HHST/ – will track the actual flight paths of two hen harriers fitted with satellite tagging ‘backpacks’. In turn the Trust will publish – with a suitable time delay and disguised location data – the information up/down loaded to the satellite so that they can monitor their progress and ascertain an understanding of harrier movement from their birth areas, their dispersal across heather uplands and their communal roost sites in winter where they are most vulnerable to persecution.
The project contributes towards a six-point plan, initiated by the government, to restore the population of English Hen Harriers which are close to extinction.
Under the umbrella of its Upland Stakeholder Forum (USF) the UK Govt. Dept. Defra established a hen harrier sub-group with the remit of looking “specifically at the issues surrounding hen harrier populations in England”.
As part of this recovery plan Natural England, on behalf of the Hawk and Owl Trust, have recently satellite tagged two juvenile female hen harriers from the Scottish borders. Jemima Parry-Jones, Hawk and Owl trustee and Trust Volunteer and Project Coordinator Hamish Smith, travelled north to witness and assist Stephen Murphy from Natural England fit the satellite tags to our two target birds.
The satellite tag is on a 10:48 pattern. It will transmit for 10 hours and then recharge in daylight over the next 48 hours.
The satellite data received, when the tagged harriers have left their natal area, will be displayed on our new website where you will be able to follow the fortunes of the Hen Harriers, which have been named Sorrel and Rowan.
More about the Hen Harrier
The Hen Harrier is an elegant bird of prey that frequents the heather uplands of northern England.
The male is spectacularly beautiful with its silver-grey plumage and black primaries. The female, is larger and her plumage is an overall chocolate-brown. She has a white patch on her rump and her tail is barred with darker bands.
The Hen Harrier is a controversial bird, because over a short period in the summer, amongst other prey items, it kills Red grouse chicks to feed its young and this has brought it into conflict with those who intensively manage the moors for driven grouse shooting.
The population of breeding Hen Harriers in England has fluctuated wildly over the last twenty years. In 2013 it was extinct as a breeding bird. This year there were only three breeding pairs. Experts tell us that the heather moorlands of northern England could support 250 – 300 pairs.