Keep watch for Ribble Valley hen harriers

Hen harrier, adult male perched in flight with twig, Loch Gruinart RSPB reserve, Islay, Scotland. Photo: Andy Hay, RSPB
Hen harrier, adult male perched in flight with twig, Loch Gruinart RSPB reserve, Islay, Scotland. Photo: Andy Hay, RSPB

People who enjoy the outdoors in the Ribble Valley are being asked to keep their eyes peeled for hen harriers, England’s most threatened birds of prey.

The RSPB has relaunched its Hen Harrier Hotline with the aim of finding out where the birds might be breeding.

The Bowland Fells are recognised under European law as one of the best places for breeding hen harriers, and the bird is the symbol of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But some conservation-tagged birds have disappeared, and last year there were only four successful nests in the whole country.

Amanda Miller, conservation nanager for the RSPB in Northern England, said: “Sadly, hen harriers are a much rarer sight in the Lancashire uplands than they should be. But if you are lucky enough to see one, it’s an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. The male’s courting ritual is a particularly stunning spectacle; a series of breathtaking swoops and somersaults that earns it the name Skydancer.”

Male hen harriers are an ash-grey colour with black wing tips and a wingspan of just less than a metre. Females are slightly larger and have a mottled brown plumage.

The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 and reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk including the date and location with a grid reference where possible.