Skydancers busy


This time of year sees me spending endless hours following up the fortunes, and misfortunes of Hen Harriers, arguably one of the most elegant of all our raptor species. My first sighting of a male, way back in spring 1972 was a special moment and since then I have had the great privilige of being able to work closely with this species and get to know it. As a Schedule 1 licence holder I spend each season monitoring part of the small Welsh breeding population and this involves controlled visits to the nests themselves to check on numbers of eggs and young. This season, whilst all other aspects of my work fell of the cliff edge in March, this is something I am still able to do and I have had more time than usual. So far this year has been an average for numbers but Hen Harriers are themselves vulnerable with two nests having already been plundered by fox. As I write, I am watching continuous heavy rain and knowing that young are sitting in or near ground nests with little protection. As long as there is a break soon the adults can then resume hunting. I am increasingly of the view that the birds can detect oncoming bad weather as I find this seems to be preceded by non-stop hunting. This would suggest that perhaps there is a mechanism where they can detect dropping barometric pressure. Here is a picture I managed this season of a hunting male.