Langholm Moor 2016: Hen Harrier successes 25 young reared this season.

With 25 young Hen Harriers reared this year at Langholm but no Short-eared owls, it seems that Hen Harriers are more adapted than the owls at surviving on a moor with no voles. This begs the question ‘What did the Harriers bring into their nests to feed their chicks to keep them going, especially as there was no rats or day old chicks fed to them this year?’
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Langholm Hen Harrier nest site containing 3 well developed chicks.

The answer can only be other birds, with Meadow Pipit high on the menu, but what about Red Grouse? This years spring started well for them with high numbers of Hen Harrier chicks hatched but then the weather went downhill. As Red Grouse pairs rear their young together not like other game birds, for example the Black Grouse and Pheasant, Harriers can defend their young from predators by rising vertically into the air and hitting a suspecting predator as it flies low over their chicks. Just how effective this strategy is has never been tested, as most Red Grouse moorland gamekeepers don’t allow predators to actually hunt on the moors they manage!
One of the Langholm Hen Harrier chicks this year was taken by a fox suggesting that 2017, the last year in the 10 year programme, will be very interesting to see how many Hen Harriers come to nest with increase in ground predators. With no keepers to control ground predators predation may well increase in 2017 which is a natural feature in Britain away from Red Grouse moors. Examples of ground predation was well recorded in new forest plantations.
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Like most years at Langholm a small % of Hen Harrier young have been satellite tagged each season. This year 3 out of the 25 chicks reared have been tagged. Sadly we now know where these 3 will end up if they go by  the loss of the 30 out of the 32 English Harriers fitted with tags between 2007 – 2015, and remember the only 2 Scottish tagged Hen Harrier still alive are actually holding out at Langholm! One of them is so tame she will actually come towards you if called! Keepers would be queuing up to have a pot at that one!

 

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