Scottish Land & Estates fully endorses the PAW Scotland initiative to stimulate public interest in the hen harrier and build better understanding of one of our most protected upland bird species.
While nearly all other species of bird of prey in Scotland are stable or steadily increasing, the Scottish hen harrier population has declined by 22.7% from 2004 to around 500 pairs now. This is a matter of concern to landowners and managers.
The relationship between hen harriers and red grouse has been closely studied for the last 20 years on Langholm Moor in South West Scotland, owned by Buccleuch Estates, a member of Scottish Land & Estates. This highly respected scientific study, strongly supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the RSPB and Natural England, has hugely advanced our understanding of the complex ecology surrounding the hen harrier, its impact on other bird species and the management techniques that can help it to thrive. The latest stage is the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project and the website www.langholmproject.com is an invaluable gateway to accurate scientific information on this species. It is essential background reading for any member of the public with an interest in the hen harrier.
Despite all the effort that has been devoted to bringing back the Langholm harrier population to its mid 1990s peak, numbers have not responded and it is a similar scenario on some other hen harrier special protection areas (SPAs) in Scotland. The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project gives a real insight into the reasons why harriers are declining and how land managers can play their part in boosting conservation.
Scottish Land & Estates Chief Executive Douglas McAdam said:
“Among the various causes of harrier decline, we recognise that persecution is an issue in some places and we are working together with our partners on the PAWS Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (including the Scottish Gamekeepers Association) to stamp it out.”
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Any venture which helps a wider understanding of the distribution of the hen harrier in Scotland has to be positive. The issues affecting its success are many and complex so this PAW Scotland initiative can only help increase the knowledge we have. The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project is a keystone scientific project and, if this observational science can help inform what is being learned there, then it could provide a solid basis from which we can move forward with the application of practical measures.”