Breeding hen harriers in England increase again

Gareth Dockerty

Gareth Dockerty

Gareth is BASC’s upland officer. Having joined in 2016, his current role focuses on ensuring decision makers, stakeholders and the public understand the benefits of shooting for upland habitats and rural communities.

At midnight last night, Natural England released the breeding hen harrier figures for England.

Now, put aside the rumours, educated guesses and scaremongering, the results are in! 2020 saw 19 successful nests producing over 60 chicks. This is the fourth annual increase in a row and with 12 of the 19 successful nests on grouse moors, our community has played a significant part yet again.

The figures speak for themselves

While these figures are worth celebrating, we must also be honest. This figure means we are only 30 per cent of the way towards a sustainable English breeding hen harrier population. There is still so much work to be done!

While we should enjoy this day and thank all the organisations, individuals, volunteers, and communities who have contributed, the job is not finished, and we cannot be complacent.

The shooting community still faces challenges and we have some huge and complex decisions to make about conservation and how we manage our precious moors and peatlands.

Fortunately, plans are in place for further action, such as the Southern reintroduction programme.

Supporting breeding hen harrier initiatives

Shooting is constantly evolving and looking at itself in the mirror and no more so than in the uplands.

In my five years at BASC, I have seen a willingness for the shooting community to engage and build relationships. BASC is part of multi partnership projects such as the educational Lets Learn Moor and Operation Owl.

BASC is also fully supportive of Defra’s joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population. Its core objective is a sustainable English population and with year-on-year increases in breeding hen harriers, it appears to be working. However, after four record breaking seasons, it is sad to see an organisation like the RSPB continue to disregard the hen harrier action plan.

The message is spreading

More grouse moors have embraced the hen harrier brood management scheme this year as confidence in the project grows. Their hard work has been rewarded in record-breaking breeding hen harriers which is great news for everyone involved.

Short rhetorical soundbites might win over the media, but collaboration, facing up to challenges and focusing on what people have in common will always prove more successful in the long run.

More grouse moors have embraced the hen harrier brood management scheme this year as confidence in the project grows. Their hard work has been rewarded in record-breaking breeding hen harriers which is great news for everyone involved.

Short rhetorical soundbites might win over the media, but collaboration, facing up to challenges and focusing on what people have in common will always prove more successful in the long run.

Collaboration is key

From burning to flooding, hen harrier recovery to ensuring we have sustainable vibrant rural communities these issues simply can’t be addressed without working with the shooting community.

We will continue to engage and hold out an olive branch to those who genuinely want to put conservation not politics as their core values. We will also continue to work with local authorities, national parks, the emergency services, utility companies and conservation bodies to ensure success.  

I look forward to hearing more about this success and hope for an increase in next year’s breeding hen harriers too.

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