HOPES of a successful breeding season for the hen harrier have risen after moorland estates managed for red grouse across the North of England have reported an encouraging number of the raptors’ nests on their land.

These include six nests in Lancashire, four in Cumbria and two in Yorkshire.

The dozen nests reported so far this year already matches the total number of successful nests in 2019 from all types of land – which was in itself a record-breaking year with 47 chicks fledging from 12 nests, the majority on grouse moors.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “This is very encouraging news. 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. Whilst there is a long way to go, we believe we are on the right track as we try to rebuild the harrier population.”

The Association says hen harriers are notoriously poor survivors in the first year with natural mortality affecting at least half. Satellite tagging of birds helps understand their movements after they leave the moors. Of the birds tagged last year in the UK, 12 are alive or presumed alive, six are dead or presumed dead and the fate of five is unknown. Persecution of some of the birds whose fate is unknown has been alleged but not established.