Birds caught on cam­era

Na­ture: Hen har­rier’ s ‘un­usual’ be­hav­iour

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY KIERAN BEAT­TIE

A con­ser­va­tion char­ity has used hid­den nest cam­eras to cap­ture un­prece­dented images of one of Scot­land’s rarest birds of prey en­gag­ing in ex­tremely un­usual be­hav­iour.

Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage (SNH), work­ing with Part­ner­ship for Ac­tion Against Wildlife Crime Scot­land (PAW), took the first film of a male hen har­rier on a Scot­tish moor play­ing the role of an at­ten­tive fa­ther.

On two oc­ca­sions the Heads Up For Har­ri­ers scheme has doc­u­mented a male bird guard­ing chicks for up to 35 min­utes, while their mother was away from the nest.

Re­searchers say the be­hav­iour has never been recorded on film be­fore be­cause typ­i­cally the only time a new hen har­rier mother leaves a nest within the first six weeks of lay­ing her eggs is to briefly catch a food drop from her mate.The project to­day cel­e­brated 30 young hen har­ri­ers suc­cess­fully fledg­ing for the sea­son, on es­tates across Scot­land.

In ad­di­tion, it has also cap­tured some very un­usual pre­da­tion by two types of owl.

Night vi­sion photography shows an

“We’ve seen a hen har­rier nest un­der at­tack by two othe rap­tors”

at­ten­tive hen har­rier mother scared off from her brood by a fox.

A short-eared owl then in­spects the unat­tended chicks and leaves, shortly be­fore an at­tack on the nest by a long-eared owl, which eats three of the five new­ly­hatched baby birds.

Pro­fes­sor Des Thompson, prin­ci­pal sci­en­tific ad­viser for SNH said: “This is ex­cep­tional.

“It’s the first time we’ve ob­served such be­hav­iour by a male hen har­rier and the first time we’ve seen a hen har­rier nest un­der at­tack by two other rap­tors, one af­ter the other.

“As ground-nest­ing birds, hen har­ri­ers al­ready face ex­tra ob­sta­cles in or­der to pro­tect their chicks. That’s why it’s so im­por­tant that we crack down on per­se­cu­tion against these vul­ner­a­ble birds, which al­ready face so many chal­lenges to sur­vive.”

Heads Up For Har­ri­ers field worker, Scott Smith, said: “These pic­tures tell an amaz­ing story that helps us un­der­stand the kind of hur­dles hen har­rier chicks en­counter to sur­vive.

“Nests can fail for many rea­sons. The Heads Up For Har­ri­ers project is keen to learn ev­ery­thing we can to help hen har­ri­ers flour­ish in the fu­ture.

“The more in­for­ma­tion gath­ered about why some hen har­rier chicks don’t sur­vive, the more we can find ways to safe­guard them.”

WATCH THE BIRDIE: A male hen har­rier is seen guard­ing his chicks while the fe­male is away from the nest

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