Bird lovers asked to help spot rare species

Hen Harrier. PA Wire
Hen Harrier. PA Wire

Bird lovers in Scarborough and across the region are being asked to report sightings of one of the country’s rarest birds of prey, the Hen Harrier.

Scarborough Field Naturalists want people to call the RSPB Harrier Hotline for recording the Harriers, a bird on the brink of extinction in England.

The birds, nicknamed Skydancers, once nested on the North York Moors and were widespread across Britain. They have endured decades of persecution and last year only two pairs attempted to nest in England, but both failed.

Scarborough Field Naturalist Mick Carroll, from Pickering, has spent years monitoring Harriers on the Moors and hoping for their return to breeding there.

He said: “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.

“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 - to regenerate young heather to feed grouse - for the decline of wildlife on the Moor.

He said: “It’s turning the Moor into a desert and its a fallacy that burning is needed to support the grouse.”

Mick is a member of the Northern England Raptor Forum, Hen Harrier consultant for the Hawk and Owl Trust in Northern England and has just been awarded the Silver Avocet award from the RSPB for 25 years’ service.

He has also mounted his own Harrier help campaign by securing a small grant from the Aspira Fund supported by Paramo Clothing and photographer Andy Rouse, which enables him to get a handful of other people up on the Moors looking out for Harriers. Mick also secured his helpers free binoculars from Minnox.

Ian Glaves, secretary of the Scarborough Field Naturalists, said: “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.”

On the August 12, the start of the grouse shooting season, Birders Against Wildlife Crime is organising a Hen Harrier day.

The RSPB Hen Harrier hotline is 0845 4600121.