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High rainfall impacts nesting moorland birds

Exceptionally wet weather in the spring may have reduced hen harrier nesting sites by as much as two thirds, the Moorland Association reports. 

The higher and wetter North Pennines have been the area worst affected, with short-eared owls, lapwings, curlews, oystercatchers and red grouse nesting also hit hard by the poor weather. Hen harrier numbers in England recently reached their highest point for 200 years, from a low of zero chicks born in 2013 to a record high of 141 last year. 

This success was in part due to collaborations over the past seven years between the Moorland Association, Natural England, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, which all signed up to support Defra’s hen harrier action plan in 2016. 

Andrew Gilruth, chief executive of the Moorland Association, said: “Despite all the hard work of our members, reports of nests are much lower this season and some hen harriers are not engaging in typical nesting behaviour. The exceptionally wet winter appears to have put added pressure on harriers, requiring them to hunt further away from their nests looking for prey when they need to be sitting on their eggs.”