Hen Harriers produce bumper number of 47 young at Langholm moor

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Simon Lester, head gamekeeper, admires the abundant cotton grass 

Figures revealed to the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser by project manager Graeme Dalby show there were 1.4 young fledged per hen from 2000 to 2007 without gamekeepers / predator control and 4.2 from 2008 to 2013 with gamekeepers / predator control.

Mr Dalby said there were 10 successful nests this year and most of the birds were not ringed so their origins were unknown.

They were probably Scottish birds but some could have come from the Isle of Man. All the chicks hatched at Langholm are ringed.

The objective of the 10-year publicly-funded project is to sustain the protected hen harrier population while running a commercial grouse shoot. The target is to shoot 1,000 brace of grouse. This year and last there were about 130 grouse per square kilometre.

Mr Dalby said they had made great strides in creating the right habitat since the project began.

Management included heather burning, cutting and restoration through reseeding which had worked really well. Heather beetle had been a concern and it was still present in certain areas.

This had also been a good year for cotton grass which was a rich food source for the grouse.

They controlled predators such as foxes and crows as well as providing diversionary feeding of chicks and white rats to the breeding harriers.

In previous years diversionary feeding was not a huge hurdle because there had been only one to three nests but with many more this year spread over a wider area, it had been a huge challenge.

There were other raptors such as short-eared owl, buzzard, merlin, peregrine falcon and goshawk which had an impact on grouse numbers.

Professor Steve Redpath of the University of Aberdeen and a member of the project’s scientific and technical advisory committee has been helping to develop a model to explore a compromise solution to the deadlock between grouse shooting and conservationists seeking to protect hen harriers.

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Adult Hen Harrier with her brood of small chicks photographed at Langholm

The model showed that at certain population densities harriers can co-exist with profitable grouse shooting. When harriers bred at levels which had a significant economic impact on grouse shoots, the excess chicks would be removed, reared in captivity and released elsewhere.

The next step is to agree on an acceptable number of harriers and test the idea in a field trial. Mr Dalby believes Langholm could possibly be a suitable site.

But what was done with predators was as much a political as a scientific decision.

Mr Dalby said: “We have made great strides in getting the habitat into as good a condition as it can be and in controlling predation.

“The suggestion that Steve Redpath has put forward is something we could explore in Langholm.”

The project is now in its seventh year but there are still insufficient grouse to shoot.

He said: “If, after 10 years, we can’t shoot grouse, the money will not come in to keep the keepers on the ground and they are a positive asset in controlling predators.

“Grouse shooting is one way to pay for them.

“There are other options like grants but they’re more difficult to engineer in the current economic climate.

“The new Scottish rural development programme will be announced soon and diversionary feeding could qualify for funding.”

Published by http://www.eladvertiser.co.uk

11 comments to Hen Harriers produce bumper number of 47 young at Langholm moor

  • John Miles

    Not only do they want to remove harriers they want to remove trees so where is the management for the Black Grouse! Langholm once held the highest density of Black grouse in the world! What a mess they are making. The estate would not even allow the Golden Eagles to be returned after the breeding pair went missing in the big 300 birds of prey in 1989!

  • Circus maxima

    All very interesting…but why on earth are they not comparing their results at Langholm against the many Harrier populations which are performing even better…without gamekeepers and grouse management.

    The perception that hen Harriers need intensive grouse moor management to do well is false. The truth is that Harriers perform better in the absence of gamekeepers… simply because gamekeepers illegally kill Hen Harriers. Spin merchant Mr Dalby should come clean and tell the truth.

    There is also a growing awareness that the main moorland management method, muirburn, is highly damaging to biodiversity, damages habitats such as blanket bog and is responsible for the release of huge volumes of greenhouse gasses. It wont be long before its banned.

    Steve Redpath’s research is not ecologically sound…it is aimed at keeping gamekeepers happy…his solution is unfunded, unsustainable and currently illegal. The thought that gamekeepers could be trusted to “manage” the nests of these special birds is farcical.

    The agenda has moved on and the public is now backing the bid to ban driven grouse shooting. Over 14000 people have signed the petition to Westminster so far…..

  • How many of the young harriers were satellite tagged? None? Why because its too embarrassing when they always “disappear” on grouse moors. The projects a scam & associated with criminality.

    Editor’s Comment. Sorry for the delay in our reply. 6 chicks were tagged in Lancashire at two nests on the United Utilities Estate, 2 in Cumbria on an unkeepered moor and 2 of the Langholm chicks were also satellite tagged this year we are told.

  • Thanks Ed, only 2 of the Langholm ones, just has I suspected! When they “disappear” will we be told where…I don’t think so. The RSPB, EN, SNH are being tainted by their involvement with that nest of vipers. They are already killing ravens openly, what next & what are they killing on the side?

    Editor’s Comment. Dave 2 of the Langholm chicks were tagged, we had the wrong data. 2 in Cumbria and 6 in Bowland

  • Okay, it will be extremely interesting how much or how little information is made public on the movements & “disappearances”. Do you know how many males & females were tagged Ed ?

    Editor’s Comment. Hang on for a year or two while we ring Steve Murphy to find out. If we do we will let you know. Have you checked the Langholm Hen Harrier Demonstration Project web site?

  • Falcoscot

    The main reason the Harriers at Langholm have had a successful season is simple…………….protection from human persecution ! This project is a demonstration of something but not what was intended.

    Editor’s Comment. Doesn’t the truth hurt, but just wait and see if the numbers at Langholm continue to expand next year??????????????????

  • Should this article not read 47 hen harriers fledged? this is the number quoted by the Langholm BlogSpot.

    An incredible season at Langholm

    A total of 47 young hen harriers have fledged Langholm Moor this year.. which is phenomenal .. now comes the time when they leave the safety of Langholm and venture off on their own. We can only watch and hope as many as possible can survive their first winter and breed next year.


    Editor’s Comment. Richard yes 47 tremendous, but only 2 were satellite tagged. There will be no way of establishing how many of the untagged 45 birds disappear down the rabbit hole????

    2 additional harriers were tagged in Cumbria and 6 in Bowland

  • According to Richards link above & also Langholm Hen Harrier Demonstration Project web site only 2 harriers have been satellite tagged this year, a male & a female.

    Editor’s Comment. Dave well spotted, we had so many hen harrier in our head we blundered, you are correct as was Richard. We will try our best not to make that mistake again.

    One issue which has now been raised, because of the high number of fledged harriers this season, should ALL the birds no matter what the cost, have been satellite tagged? In total there were 57 young counting Lancashire and Cumbria, if all had been tagged this year the number lost/disappeared would have provided a reasonably accurate indicator of % persecution taking place. It is unlikely we will ever establish what happened to most of the harrier which were not tagged this summer which is a pity.

  • It’s not a pity, its a reality of the situation regarding hen harriers & grouse moors.I’m surprised the issue was raised. Its so obvious that the Langholm H.H.D.P would never do that. Even if cost wasn’t an issue there is no way they would allow it because it would confirm what we already know & “they” already know, that 90% plus will “disappear” on grouse moors.

    • Total exaggeration Dave. Many young harriers would die during their first year of life due to numerous natural causes including starvation, disease, predation by other raptors, wind turbines, etc.
      Do you still firmly believe your figure quoted above?

      Editor’s Comment. Mike, we believe you are missing the point here, the point is we do not know that. If all the birds had been tagged at least there would have been a good chance of finding out, but making an assumption is not a scientific approach at all.

      • Falcoscot

        If it’s accepted that 90% perish, by whatever means, in the first year then surely the 4 or 5 birds that survive from this moors production deserve adequate protection ?