Hen harrier chick is flying Solo in the Forest of Bowland
A young hen harrier born and raised on a private shooting estate in the Forest of Bowland has survived against all the odds.
This is the story of Solo, found all alone in a nest despite chicks in a nearby nest being preyed upon by foxes.
In late May of this year, a young male hen harrier arrived in Bowland after over-wintering in Spain, returning to his home ground.
He soon found a mate and in early June they began nesting. To reduce any unwanted disturbance, the nesting site was kept secret and the pair were left to their own devices and only monitored from afar.
A few days after the hatching date the nest was inspected by the estate head gamekeeper and a Natural England hen harrier expert to see if they had been successful.
Only one chick was present, which looked quite small and bedraggled; it was thought that in all probability it wouldn’t survive.
All the odds were stacked against this very late nest. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, with days of constant rain and this young chick had no brood siblings to share body heat with.
To make matters worse came news of a nearby hen harrier brood of seven chicks which had all been predated by a fox prior to fledging.
At the end of July the time had come to inspect the nest again with a view to attaching a leg ring to the chick for identification.
To everyone’s surprise the chick was in fantastic health! Measurements were taken and it was assessed that the chick was a male and was a good enough weight and condition to fit a satellite tag.
This will allow Natural England and the estate gamekeeper to monitor his progress and learn more about the bird’s habits and movements.
Maybe he will visit Spain like his father? He was named Solo (for obvious reasons!) and was quickly returned to his nest.
It looks like it will be a record year for successful hen harrier nests in England, with the Bowland area in particular faring well.
The managed moorlands and remote uplands are the last stronghold of the hen harrier in England.
If Natural England’s brood management scheme is a success, the lowlands of England could see a reintroduction of these birds to what was once their natural habitat, and the hen harrier could be once again become a widespread and common sight.