A RARE bird of prey is finding a foothold again here in North Yorkshire.

Hen harriers are being recorded on at least half of grouse moors in England, a new survey has revealed including on the Swinton Estate near Ripon.

The harrier is one of the most at-risk birds of prey in the UK and a government-led action plan is in operation to help boost the population.

A survey conducted by the Moorland Association, which represents grouse moors across one million acres of moorland in England, has revealed a high level of endangered birds on land managed for grouse shooting. These include birds of prey such as hen harrier and merlin as well as waders such as curlew and lapwing. All four of these birds are on the ‘Red List’ of most conservation concern.

More than 100 grouse moor managers took part in the survey and half reported hen harriers on their land. Merlin were recorded on 70 per cent of moors.

Thanks to the Defra-led Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan, which was developed by a number of organisations including the Moorland Association, last year saw the most successful breeding season for hen harriers for 35 years.

About 60 chicks fledged from 19 nests across Northumberland, Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria and Lancashire in summer last year. Twelve of these nests were on land managed for grouse shooting fledging 40 chicks. Nearly 100 chicks have now fledged since the plan was launched in 2016. As recently as 2013 there were no successful nests at all.

Mark Cunliffe-Lister, chairman of the Moorland Association, said: “Our commitment to help recover the hen harrier population to ‘favourable conservation status’ is working -- as more and more of these charismatic birds are now being seen on the land we manage, coupled with the remarkable increase in breeding success. This survey shows that hen harriers, other birds of prey and waders are all flourishing on our carefully managed moors, bucking trends of plunging decline elsewhere.

“There can be conflict between birds of prey and game birds but leading the way with practical knowledge, expertise and innovation, we are demonstrating that we can attain a sustainable balance for our remote uplands and boost nature’s recovery.”