Raptor Politics: Hen Harrier sighting hot line – report your sighting to us.


It appears there will be far fewer breeding Hen Harriers on England’s moorlands this year if the situation does not change for the better According to an RSPB official,; not the result of illegal persecution this time, but because of a shortage of food. Yes thats what the RSPB are now claiming. We recall a similar claim they made after dozens of peregrine territories in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland were found abandoned beginning in 2010, but then the RSPB claimed the poor weather was also a contributing factor, and a bit of persecution thrown into the pot for good measure.  This time it appears a lack of voles has resulted in Hen Harriers not returning to breed inside the Forest of Bowland so far this year. No mention of course of the 5 missing male Hen Harriers that vanished into thin air last year after leaving their territories to hunt for food to feed their respective incubating females. What is so curious, after the disappearance of the five male Hen Harriers in 2015 no blame was placed on the inclement weather or a shortage of food for these losses then, the implied emphasis was the disappearances had been caused by persecution .

Back to the matter in hand, we are asking bird watchers who venture onto our northern moorlands during this years breeding season to report any observations of Hen Harriers via our Contact Us link on the front page of Raptor Politics. Or simply send a comment in reply to this article stating where any Hen Harrier had been observed, along with the time and date of any sightings; these observations may well turn out to be more important than you think. As of this weekend 16/17 April, we are advised by the North West Raptor Group that 4 prospective Hen Harrier territories in the Croasdale area, which were each occupied last year, remain vacant so far this year. Only a single skydancing male was observed on the 2nd April, however two days later when the same moorland was rechecked from the track the skydancing male Hen Harrier had vanished.

Of course things could still change in the next few weeks, the weather at Geltsdale in the northern Pennines for example on the morning (16-04-2016) was as if winter had returned with a carpet of snow covering this moorland landscape.  Any Hen Harriers that do turn up are likely to begin breeding on moorland in northern England much later this year because of the cold and wet conditions. By the time we reach May the weather will hopefully be much warmer resulting in an abundance of prey items which the male Harriers can predate to bring to their incubating mates. There is no doubt by the time Hen Harrier eggs begin to hatch there will be no shortage of food to feed any chicks that have the good fortune to hatch. The possibility still exists that just like last year, adult males Hen Harriers foraging for prey away from their nests could for a second season be taken out by individuals who wish to ensure the failure of nests when containing eggs or unfledged young; we would hope the RSPB have put in place suitable contingency plans to prevent this tragedy being repeated this year.

11 comments to Raptor Politics: Hen Harrier sighting hot line – report your sighting to us.

  • Julie Wright

    No food, I’m surprised, I’ve got voles in the garden. So if Hen Harriers only eat Voles, they should be completely safe on the Grouse moors then. If no Harriers nest in Bowland this year we will all know why, bloody persecution. If this is the case then it would seem possible that the HH could be extinct in Bowland & certain people will have got their wish.

  • I didn’t know until recently that the breeding success of the Hen Harrier depended almost entirely on the breeding success and high population numbers of Voles. Might be worth suggesting to Natural England and RSPB to consider introducing a breeding vole management scheme in Trough Of Bowland.

    • Bubo bubo

      Mark there is no chance of natural england doing that because the last thing they want is more hen harriers on grouse moors,which would put them in conflict with their landowner friends .

  • Jessica Barton-Taylor

    Hello there, I have been reading Raptor Politics for a while though not really had much information to add until now. I am unsure of the usefulness of the information but thought it best to report my sightings on Friday 13th May. My husband and I had decided to have a ramble and bird watch combined and as I like the Dunsop Bridge area of Bowland we walked at least 2 miles up the Dunsop valley up the road there. Well, our first bird of note heard was a Cuckoo, which I always find nice, but as luck would have it and flying just above the skyline opposite us was a female hen harrier gliding from our right to left. We sat and observed for a while and she didn’t show again. Aside from the usual pipits and game birds sighted we just enjoyed our walk over the tops and returned to Dunsop where we had our usual stop in Puddleducks cafe. The rest re-energised us and we decided on a short and flatter walk down the Langdon valley. Once again, Friday 13th proved more lucky than not. We were alerted to a comotion in the skies, which turned out to be several gulls, but from their midst a second female hen harrier emerged again, flying right to left. It appeared that she had had some sort of unfortunate incident as she was missing several primary feathers from one wing. So, at least these can now be noted. It would have been nice to see a male too, but as Friday 13th goes, I think we were quite lucky. I do hope this is of some use and please keep up the good work you do. Kind regards Jessica Barton-Taylor

  • David Owen

    While up the Croasdale valley last week with a party of birders, we were told by a guy in a landrover, who seemed to know what he was talking about, that this season no occupied hen harrier nests have been located in the Forest of Bowland. Sightings we were also told were limited to a few birds passing through. If true what have the RSPB to say? If this information is correct coming on the back of the peregrine losses from Bowland, what are the RSPB going to do in the future to rectify this appalling situation? I can’t really see the situation this year having anything to do with prey shortages or the weather.

  • An interesting record from Mull of a female Hen Harrier flying through the middle of the sea loch, Loch na Keal yesterday 13th. It seemed to have come off the sea so may have come from Tiree. Lack of food or nest failure may have caused the bird to move so early.

  • Simon

    Well early morning male Hen Harrier sighting today – South Pennines – same area as I sighted a pair a few weeks ago (I spend countless hours on these moors every week) encouraged also to see Peregrine and Merlin. Suitably enthused drove up to Blacktoft Sands to view the Marsh Harriers (what a success story when everyone pulls together!) and blow me there was female Montague there! – thanks to the rather knowledgeable RSPB person who pointed this out to me! – never seen one before – the Holy Trinity in one day!! – rether not say where the HH was.


    Looking for Hen Harriers tonight in Langden Valley. Nothing to declare, but I did see on the left over Sykes fell, a red kite flying on the ridge heading up the pass. This was approx 5pm. not much more to report. A buzzard flying over and the sound of a Cuckoo in the woods.

  • I hope my sightings of both Hen Harrier and Peregrine help your cause. One aspect I like about this post everyone has the opportunity of seeing what other people see, thanks for that and keep up the good work

    Saturday 14th May 2016 time 15.50 – 16.40 approx. Viewed from SD 535/491 Grizedale Bridge car park Forest of Bowland. Female Hen Harrier, white rump clearly visible,flew in South West direction.Last seen disappearing behind Grizedale Fell and Grizedale Head. Peregrine seen being mobbed by Raven, Peregrine circled round then went in a dive behind Harris end Fell in a Southerly direction.

  • Tony Corner

    Cycling home from work down Belney Lane in Denmead, Hampshire yesterday afternoon at approx. 2.15pm, Saw a large Male Hen Harrier perched in the remains of the Belney Coppice on an old dead still standing tree (approx. 50°53’01.4″N 1°04’37.9″W). The coppice has now been levelled for the adjacent solar farm, to prevent light blockage and consists mainly of very low level tree stumps, foliage and scrubland with a few trees still standing. ON one dead tree, perched approx. 20 feet up on a branch was a male Hen Harrier, mainly grey all over, black wing tips and a bright white front body. Stopped my bike and watched him resting for approx. 5 mins, when I moved to get my phone out of my bag to take some photos he flew off.

    Editor’s Comment. Tony thank you so much for this valuable information. We will add the detail into our Hen Harrier sightings.

  • Andrew C.

    Observed a Male Hen Harrier fly over Jack Scout cliffs At Silverdale Lancashire 8th June approx time 4.45pm. Flying northwards. Not far from RSPB Leighton Moss.