Skydancer returns

The beautiful hen harrier chicks in their nest

This year, the ‘skydancer’ has returned to the Peak District, thanks to the hard work of our Rangers who have played an important part in maintaining a sustainable and healthy environment for the birds to breed in.

The welcome return of the ‘Skydancer,’ aka hen harriers, to the High Peak Moors in the Peak District National Park is a cause for celebration. It’s a testimony to the hard work of our Ranger teams who have maintained sustainable and healthy environments in which the hen harriers have been able to breed in for the second year running. The presence of birds of prey on our lands is a great indicator of healthy habitats for all wildlife, so we are incredibly proud of all the continued dedication and effort from our Ranger teams.

The hen harrier is well known for the adult’s mesmerising and dramatic ‘sky dance’, which the male performs as it seeks to attract a female which is a truly beautiful display that we hope to see more of in the skies above the Peak District.

 “We’re delighted to learn of this nest” said Jon Stewart, General Manager for the Peak District. “The hen harrier has been one of the most persecuted birds of prey in Britain for many years and we have set out on a mission to work with others to create the conditions for the harrier and other birds of prey to thrive once again in the uplands. We hope this will be a positive model for improving the fate of our birds of prey and providing the healthy natural environment that so many people care about and want to see”.

Male hen harrier 'skydancer' in flight
male silver and black hen harrier in flight grey sky
Male hen harrier 'skydancer' in flight

In 2013 the National Trust published its High Peak Moors Vision, which put at its heart restoring wildlife, including birds of prey, and involving people in the care of the moors. Since then harriers have bred in 2014, 2018 and now 2019.  More information on the High Peak Moors Vision can be found here: http://bit.ly/HighPeakmoorsvision

Much of the High Peak moorland is used for grouse shooting and all shooting tenants have signed up to actively support the High Peak Moors Vision.  Over the last few years as well as the hen harrier, there has been breeding success for other species in and around the National Trust’s moors such as the peregrine falcon, merlin, buzzard, goshawk and short eared owl. 

Words from Jon, “It is critical the birds are now given the space and security to rear their young without the threat of disturbance or worse. The Peak District team will be working with its partners such as the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, Natural England and tenants to give the birds the best chance of success. We also plan on working with the RSPB to fit satellite tags to the young so that we can monitor their movements and learn more to inform the conservation of this very special bird. There is a great sense from everyone closely involved that we want this to work not just for these birds now, but as a symbol for the whole future direction of our uplands.”

Female hen harrier in flight
female brown hen harrier in flight carrying grass in beak
Female hen harrier in flight

It isn’t an easy task to make sure birds of prey thrive in the UK, Jon continues…

“Sadly last year two satellite tagged young, named Arthur and Octavia, raised on the High Peak Moors stopped transmitting suddenly, not long after they had left National Trust land. This illustrates how fragile any recovery of hen harriers is. We want to see uplands richer in wildlife and beauty, widely enjoyed and providing huge public benefits.  For this to be a reality we need to see birds returning in following years to breed. For now we will concentrate on working with others to make this breeding attempt a success.” 

The incredible photo of the chicks was taken by the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group who are trained professionals and have taken this photo which allows us to feel closer to the hen harriers and see their progress.

You can look out for updates on their progress online, on our social media channels:.https://www.facebook.com/PeakDistrictNT/ or https://twitter.com/peakdistrictnt