A huge fire in the Slieve Beagh SPA has destroyed at least two active Hen Harrier nests. This is an absolutely devastating blow for the species in Northern Ireland. One of the NIRSG volunteers watched the adults fly around one of the sites in confusion and shock as the flames came closer, with the female only abandoning the nest completely in the final minutes.
There have also been many other fires, some ongoing, and there have been potentially other Hen Harrier pairs lost too. This is the single worst time of the year for this to happen. Also imagine all the other 100s or 1000s of nests in which small birds were about to fledge, or second clutches of eggs had been laid as well as the other fauna. These have all been destroyed.
In the National Hen Harrier Survey 2016 there were only a maximum of ~50 pairs in Northern Ireland, of which only 8 pairs were successful in fledging young. The nesting and hunting habitat for hen harriers in Northern Ireland is disappearing and the situation is more dire than any of us had imagined. This latest blow is heartbreaking.
It is thought that the fires are being started deliberately. If you have any information on who may have done this then please contact the PSNI. See also:
You can also hear Marc Ruddock talk about the Hen Harriers on Good Morning Ulster this morning at 2:14:48 on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08pgcqf#play