Appeal for hen harrier sightings
BIRDWATCHERS in Eskdale and Liddesdale are being encouraged to report sightings of hen harriers.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Heads Up for Harrier project are asking people to join in after last year's success.
Hen harriers remain one of Scotland’s rarest and most spectacular birds of prey. Heads Up for Harriers wants to hear from anyone who is lucky enough to see these birds.
The project is led by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) and asks people to report sightings as well as trial nest and roost cameras and encourage land managers to retain hen harrier-friendly habitat.
It will publish maps of sightings on the Heads Up for Harriers web page, although these won’t be in enough detail to compromise their specific locations. Cameras are being trialled at a winter roost to monitor the birds at a distance and in the nesting season.
Professor Des Thompson, Heads Up for Harriers chairman, said: ‘Last winter was the first time we asked for winter sightings of hen harriers and we’ve had an excellent response, with several potential new roosts identified.
“Numbers are low in much of mainland Scotland so the more people looking for these threatened birds the better. This will help us build a complete picture of how hen harriers are doing in the country.”
Tim Baynes, moorland group director for Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We’re urging all land managers to follow the Muirburn Code when undertaking muirburn this spring.
“The burning of old, rank heather is an essential part of upland management to encourage new growth but it's important to keep a mosaic of old and young heather to benefit the widest range of wildlife.
“Late season muirburn can take place up to April 15, or April 30 if authorised in writing by the landowner, which may have an impact on hen harrier nesting attempts. If you see birds attempting to nest, you should avoid the area to prevent interfering with breeding activity and potentially committing an offence."
The public is asked to email hen harrier sightings to HenHarrier@snh.gov.uk or call 07767 671 973. It’s best to include any details of places where birds are seen (a six-figure grid reference if possible), the time and date of the sighting, the sex of the bird and any notes on behaviour.
For more information, see http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Environment/Wildlife-Habitats/paw-scotland/what-you-can-do/hen-harriers