Rare bird sightings needed

Hen Harrier. PA Wire

Hen Harrier. PA Wire

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Bird lovers in Ryedale are being asked to report sightings of one of the country’s rarest birds of prey – the Hen Harrier.

Members of Scarborough Field Naturalists want people to contact the RSPB Hen Harrier Hotline if they spot the bird which is on the brink of extinction in England.

The birds, nicknamed Skydancer, once nested on the North York Moors and were widespread across Britain but have endured decades of persecution.

Last year, only two pairs attempted to nest in England – both failed

Mick Carroll, a Pickering-based member of the group, has spent years monitoring harriers on the moors and “praying” for their return to breeding there.

“In the winter I see Harriers passing over the Moors coming from Scotland or Scandinavia but despite us having the ‘accommodation’ they don’t stay,” he said.

“Gamekeepers don’t like them because they eat the odd grouse but their main diet is voles and Meadow Pipits.”

Mick blames the practice of burning pockets of heather, burnt to regenerate young heather to feed grouse, for the decline of wildlife on the Moor.

“Its turning the Moor into a desert and its a fallacy that burning is needed to support the grouse.”

Mick, who is a member of the Northern England Raptor Forum and a consultant for the Hawk and Owl Trust in Northern England, has mounted his own Hen Harrier help campaign by securing a small grant which enables him to organise a handful of people on the Moors to look out for the bird.

Ian Glaves, secretary of the Scarborough Field Naturalists, added: “There is enough moorland habitat in England to support 300 pairs of Harriers but there are now none breeding. It is a national scandal. As members of the Government are often those who do the shooting or own the land, nothing is done about it.”

To help Harriers, the RSPB need to know the distribution of these birds, where they attempt to nest and any illegal activity such as killings or disturbance .

l The RSPB Hen Harrier hotline is 0845 4600121.

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