Record hen harrier breeding season in Yorkshire Dales welcomed

Hen harrier.

A new report shows record year for hen harrier breeding in the Yorkshire Dales.

However, the document also highlights ten incidents of bird of prey persecution in the area.

The report looks at bird of prey populations and confirmed persecution incidents in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It’s the first report of its kind to be published by the Yorkshire Dales Bird of Prey Partnership, a group with a shared commitment to bird of prey conservation.

It reveals that 2020 was one of the most successful hen harrier breeding seasons in the Yorkshire Dales since they first returned to breed in the 1960s.

Seven nesting attempts fledged 26 hen harrier young, representing 43 per cent of the recorded fledged hen harrier chicks across the north of England.

The group, comprising the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Moorland Association, Natural England, National Gamekeepers Organisation, Northern England Raptor Forum, and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), aims to produce this record of bird of prey species active in the Dales annually.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 lockdown meant some monitoring programmes weren’t possible in 2020, but many of the regularly occurring species – such as buzzard – were seen, with some encouraging sightings of goshawk and osprey observed during the year.

However, ten confirmed persecution incidents were recorded in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Publication of the report was delayed to ensure the accuracy and completeness of bird of prey persecution data collated by the RSPB and audited by the Police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU).

A spokesperson for the partnership said: “This 2020 report will provide a baseline against which progress will be monitored over coming years, and it is hoped a 2021 report will be published later in the year.

“In the meantime, the group recognises more work needs to be done to address the challenges faced by bird of prey populations in the Yorkshire Dales and in the continued efforts to stamp out raptor persecution.”