Peak District initiative on birds of prey

Five leading land management and conservation organisations in the Peak District National Park have got together to boost birds of prey in the Dark Peak.

The organisations – the Moorland Association (which represents grouse-moor owners), the National Trust, Natural England, Peak District National Park Authority and RSPB – have set targets for healthy populations of merlin, peregrine and short-eared owl.

Together the five organisations have funded independent field workers to help achieve their aims, by working locally with land managers and birdwatching groups.

The group is chaired by one of the directors of the Peak District National Park Authority, John Lomas. He said: “We have been working together since 2008 to look for a common approach to the future of birds of prey in the Peak District.

“We know that issues surrounding birds of prey can be a source of disagreement and conflict, but our aim is to have a shared approach that will gradually ensure a more harmonious future.

“Together with the help of the field workers, we are working with landowners, keepers, raptor groups and partner organisations to gather information which will be used to check progress, including monitoring breeding success.”

The moors concerned are largely a Special Protection Area (SPA), which means they are internationally important for vulnerable bird species, including short-eared owl, merlin and peregrine falcon.  The partnership has used past population levels and habitat availability to produce targets of:

  • Merlin – increasing from current 22 breeding pairs to 27 by 2013 and 32 by 2015
  • Peregrine falcon – increasing from current 13 breeding pairs to 15 by 2015, filling gaps in distribution
  • Short-eared owl – maintaining current population averaging 25 breeding pairs to 2015.

“We recognise there may well be some issues of challenge that remain, but this initiative is making progress,” said John Lomas. “With continuing co-operation I believe we can achieve a good outcome for these special birds and their habitats in a way that considers all our interests.”

It is hoped to develop targets for species in the South West Peak at a later date.  Hen harriers will also be considered.  They have attempted to breed on several occasions in the Peak District in recent years, including a nesting attempt in the South West Peak this year.

About Mike Price

A member of Sorby Breck Ringing Group and Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group
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