THERE was positive news for raptors in the North of England after moorland estates reported an ‘encouraging’ number of hen harrier nests on their land.

The reports included four nests in Cumbria, two in Yorkshire and six in Lancashire.

The news is all the more welcome given the worrying information provided by Cumbria Constabulary in May which said the number of reports of wild birds being ‘disturbed, injured or killed’ in the county had increased during the previous month.

But the outlook, at least for hen harriers, appears to be positive for the moment. Indeed, the 12 nests reported in the North of England already this year is not far short of the cross-England total of 15 nests, producing 47 chicks, reported by Natural England in 2019 - in itself a record-breaking year.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “This is very encouraging news and further evidence that birds of prey are welcome on land managed for grouse shooting by our members.

“We obviously have to wait to see how many of the chicks fledge successfully, but the signs are promising that 2020 will be another good year for hen harrier breeding.

“It is heartening to see the bird doing better in the North of England with the help of gamekeepers protecting it from predators and encouraging a healthy habitat teaming with prey species.

Ms Anderson said there was a 'long way to go' but she believed the Moorland Association was 'on the right track' to rebuilding the hen harrier population.

A spokesman for the Moorland Association said a government-led joint action plan to aid hen harrier recovery had led to 99 chicks since 2016, with 81 of those fledging in the two years since a ‘brood management trial’ was launched.

However, the brood management scheme has attracted a level of controversy. It involves the removal of hen harrier chicks and eggs to a dedicated hatching and rearing facility, and some critics believe it is skirting the issue of illegal raptor persecution rather than tackling it directly.