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Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Heads Up for Harrier project are asking people to report sightings of hen harriers, which are among Scotland’s rarest and most spectacular birds of prey.
The project, led by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland), encourages the public to report sightings, as well as trialling nest and roost cameras, and encouraging land managers to retain hen harrier friendly habitat.
Professor Des Thompson, chairman of Heads up for Harriers, said: ‘Last winter was the first time we asked for winter sightings of hen harriers from the public and we’ve had an excellent response, with several potential new roosts identified.
‘Numbers are low across much of mainland Scotland so the more people looking out for these threatened birds, the better. This will help us build up a complete picture of how hen harriers are doing across the country.’
The project plans to publish maps of the sightings but not in enough detail to reveal specific locations and risk disturbance.
Tim Baynes, moorland group director for Scottish Land and Estates, said: ‘As well as raising awareness of these birds and our members enabling cameras to monitor nests, we’re urging all land managers to follow the muirburn code when undertaking muirburn this spring.
‘The burning of old, rank heather is an essential part of upland management to encourage new growth. However, it is important to keep a mosaic of old and young heather to benefit the widest range of wildlife, including nesting harriers, merlin, short-eared owls and other bird species. This will have most impact in areas which formerly and traditionally supported these birds as we want to see them return.
‘Late season muirburn can take place up to April 15, or April 30 if authorised in writing by the land owner, which may impact on hen harrier nesting attempts.
‘If you see birds attempting to nest, you should avoid the area to prevent interfering with breeding activity and potentially committing an offence.’
The public is asked to email sightings to HenHarrier@snh.gov.uk or to call 07767 671973. It’s best to include details of places where birds are seen, the time and date of the sighting, the sex of the bird and any notes on behaviour.
For more information, see http://www.gov.scot/Topics/