Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Devastation at Disappearance of Hen Harrier

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Devastation at Disappearance of Hen Harrier

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor tony.henderson@ncjmedia.co.uk

HOPES of a first successful nesting in the region for seven years by England's most threatened bird of prey have been dashed.

Police and the RSPB have issued an appeal for information about the unexplained disappearance of a nesting male hen harrier in the North Pennines.

There were only four successful nests in England last year and the bird is on the brink of extinction in the country.

The North Pennines bird, which was nesting at the RSPB's Geltsdale reserve on the Cumbria-Northumberland border, was last seen at the upland site on Saturday, May 23.

He set off hunting at around 7.15am and was last observed by RSPB nest protection staff at around 1pm.

Without the male returning to provide her with food, the female was forced to abandon her clutch of five eggs, resulting in the failure of the nest.

The last successful nesting at Geltsdale was in 2006 and the last such occasion in Northumberland was in 2008.

"What has happened at Geltsdale is heartbreaking and staff are absolutely devastated," said Blanaid Denman, Newcastle-based RSPB officer who runs the Hen Harrier Life project.

This is a Euro-funded programme to carry out conservation work to help the hen harrier in the North of England and southern and eastern Scotland, and to raise awareness of the birds' plight.

"When the hen harriers nested at Geltsdale, there was a mixture of excitement and trepidation, and staff have been on tenterhooks and were working day and night to monitor the nest," said Blanaid.

Geltsdale is a European-designated Special Protection Area partly because hen harries have nested there.

Incubating the eggs from the Geltsdale nest was not an option. By the time RSPB staff were sure that the female had abandoned her nest, and that it was safe to approach it, her eggs had already gone cold and were no longer viable. …

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