Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Development Group Supt Nick Lyall talks us through his #myfirsthenharrier moment.
In early October 2018, as many of you will know, I took on the role of chair of the England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Development Group. Our work looks at raptors in general, but hen harriers are a regular focus of our work.
Red kite and buzzards frequent the area I call home, and I have spent hours looking up to the numerous kites over our garden, counting them as they wheel over the house. I am also fortunate enough to often see kestrel and sparrow hawk hunting over the fields nearby.
My role as RPPDG chair has exposed me to a much wider range of species, and earlier last year I was fortunate enough to see my first hen harrier when out in the field earlier with Natural England staff, it was a fleeting glimpse from some distance away, but most definitely a harrier.
On a recent visit to Rutland Water I was lucky to be able to spend time with staff from the Osprey Project, seeing a male bring back a freshly caught fish to the female on the nest. This was a sight I know I’ll never forget and will spur me on in my work with the RPPDG.
Back to the harriers though, only last week I spent time out in the field again. This time on the England/ Scotland border and I had the remarkable privilege of seeing several harriers in one day. One particular male soared overhead for around half an hour before disappearing off to hunt for food. About an hour later another male completed the acrobatic food pass with a female that I had heard so much about. The pass lived up to everything I had read. The female didn’t hang about eating before setting straight back off to incubate her clutch of eggs.
This role affords me many opportunities, and just this week I was able to get a much closer look at a harrier nest as I spent time with the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group and the Northern England Raptor Forum staff. On the open expanse of moor, they ringed two chicks on a nest in the Peak District. The parents of the chicks were never far away and watched on whilst the experienced ringers got to work.
These are experiences that I know I won’t forget in a hurry. I hope through partnerships and the work of the RPPDG, we can create a brighter future for the hen harrier and other birds of prey. These are #OurBirds and I will keep fighting to ensure their protection.
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