ONE of Britain's rarest birds of prey, the hen harrier, is alive and well and breeding in Northern England, reports English Nature with considerable delight.
Some 35 hen harriers, which indulge in exotic airborne dances during the mating season, have been spotted in North Yorkshire, Cumbria and other northern counties with upland heather moors, the birds' favourite nesting habitat.
This elegant bird was virtually shot or poisoned out of existence by gamekeepers and poultry farmers but is gradually re-colonising old sites after being re-introduced in various parts of the country - including Upper Wharfedale - by English Nature.
The project has not been entirely without setbacks - there have been incidents of harriers being found poisoned - but, said English Nature chairman Sir Martin Doughty, the sightings of 35 birds are "very encouraging."
"We hope that these birds will be able to successfully breed and produce chicks in safety," he added.
Scientists are very keen to hear of any hen harrier sightings. Anyone who has seen a bird is invited to telephone Richard Saunders, of the Hen Harrier Project, on 01539-792800.
For more information, visit www.english-nature.org.uk