A female hen harrier chick has been satellite tagged at the National Trust for Scotland's Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, following the first successful breeding attempt on the estate by this iconic raptor species in several decades.
Four chicks were produced in total and one of these has been tagged as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project, which is part-funded by the European LIFE scheme and cosmetics company, LUSH.
The Hen Harrier's movements will be tracked via the Hen Harrier LIFE Project website at rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife from the end of the summer.
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David Frew, Property Manager at Mar Lodge Estate said, “It is fantastic news and really exciting to see these birds returning to the estate for the first time in living memory.
"We have worked hard to create an environment where raptors can thrive, and it is great to see that our approach to management is paying off. The estate is heavily used by visitors to the Cairngorms and we work hard to balance conservation, field sports and visitor access and enjoyment.
"The presence of raptors, and particularly the return of hen harriers demonstrates that these objectives can all be balanced given the right conditions. It is tremendously exciting to see these birds here once again.”
Will Boyd-Wallis, Head of Land Management and Conservation for the CNPA said, “It is fantastic news that the hen harrier has returned to breed on Mar Lodge Estate after many decades of absence.
"We very much hope that the careful management undertaken by the National Trust for Scotland alongside other estates in the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership and in the wider National Park will lead to many more pairs successfully returning to the area.
"It is also very good that through the LIFE fund, one of the chicks has been satellite tagged. We will watch its progress with great interest and hope to learn more about its movements and habits in the months ahead.”
The hen harrier is a red listed bird species of highest conservation concern in the UK, and was persecuted to the point of extinction in Upper Deeside during the Victorian era.
Though currently doing well in northwest parts of Scotland, hen harriers remain under threat from illegal killing and disturbance in areas of South and East Scotland where their tendency to eat red grouse is often perceived to put them in conflict with land management for driven grouse shooting.
Blánaid Denman, Project Manager for RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project said, “This is amazing news and even more so when you consider the parlous state of Scotland’s hen harrier population.
"National surveys show a 20% decline in just six years between 2004 and 2010 and East Scotland in particular has seen only a handful of successful breeding attempts in recent years. All this makes the return of hen harriers to Mar Lodge even more exciting and a wonderful cause for celebration.
"Full credit to all those involved in management of the estate and how fantastic it would be if this were the start of a wider return of hen harriers to this area. In the meantime, we’re very grateful to Mar Lodge estate for allowing us to fit a satellite tag to this chick and excited to watch him spread his wings.
"Hen harriers travel widely outside the breeding season and satellite tracking plays an important role in helping us to understand where they go and where they’re most at risk. Some hen harriers never go further than 10 miles from their nest site, while others have been tracked all the way to France and back!".
Mar Lodge Estate is also home to many other iconic and rare raptor species, including merlins, peregrines, and 4 pairs of golden eagles.
The news comes at the National Trust for Scotland also announced its most successful year yet for its Osprey nest at Threave Estate in Dumfries and Galloway which has produced four chicks this year.