Just a few hundred years ago the Hen Harrier was a common and widespread bird of prey. Massive changes in land use meant they lost many lowland breeding sites, and they retreated to breed on upland moorland. Relentless persecution allegedly by gamekeepers employed on shooting estates followed. Numbers have declined markedly in recent years as intensification of grouse moors has stepped up, and Hen Harriers have been identified as a priority species by the UK Government in terms of combating wildlife crime.
Peer-reviewed research suggests that good habitat remains for Hen Harriers, but there are 962-1285 breeding pairs of Hen Harrier ‘missing’ from Scotland and 322-339 pairs ‘missing’ from England. A 2011 report clearly stated that in England illegal persecution is “such a constraint that the Hen Harrier is threatened with extinction as a breeding species”.
In order to raise awareness of the plight of the Hen Harrier a group of wildlife conservationists and birdwatchers will meet up at Glen Turret Reservoir, near Crieff , on Sunday 9th August 2015.
This year the Scottish Raptor Study Group and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club are supporting Hen Harrier Day through a range of events across Scotland.
Hen Harrier Day was initiated by Birders Against Wildlife Crime and is supported by a range of organisations and individuals, including broadcaster Chris Packham, to highlight the persecution of Hen Harriers and to raise awareness of this beautiful bird prior to the start of the grouse shooting season on August 12.
In Scotland, monitoring by the Scottish Raptor Study Group and others has shown that while there are healthy numbers of harriers on some of the islands and on some estates where the birds are allowed to thrive, there are many “black holes” for this bird across the country, particularly on intensively managed grouse moors in the east and south of Scotland.
Every year, a number of pairs that do try to breed in such areas simply “disappear” or nests fail mysteriously. Despite full legal protection, in recent years there have been a number of incidents where breeding birds have been shot or caught in illegal traps and nests destroyed.
Those wishing to show their support for the Hen Harrier at Glen Turret have been asked to attend between 10am and 2pm with a photo shoot planned for midday.
If you are lucky you may see a wide range of birds during your visit. You may see Whinchats and Stonechats, Buzzards and Ring Ouzels, Gulls, Willow Warblers Sandpipers and Kestrels and maybe even a Red Kite amongst others.