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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2007, 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK
Harriers hatch in protected nests
Nearly 30 chicks have hatched (Pic: Stephen Murphy)

Nearly 30 rare birds of prey are ready to take to the wing after their nests were given extra protection.

The hen harriers hatched in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire over the summer breeding season.

Police logged and monitored all nesting sites in the county, working closely with gamekeepers and RSPB officers.

Any disruptions reported near the nests were then dealt with together. English Nature said the scheme was a "bright spot in an otherwise gloomy picture".

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says hen harriers are at risk by people who shoot or poison them in shooting estates, because they prey on grouse chicks.

We created Operation Buffer to provide a multi-agency approach to management of breeding sites
Pc Duncan Thomas

But this police scheme, called Operation Buffer, meant police were alerted to any suspicious activity near the nests by gamekeepers or estate managers.

As each nest was given a police log number, they could be located quickly and could be more easily protected.

Lancashire police wildlife officer, Pc Duncan Thomas, said the scheme was "exceptional compared to other areas of the country".

He said: "Although we enjoy comparatively good returns of all species, we created Operation Buffer to provide a multi-agency approach to management of breeding sites in the major estates of Lancashire, which provide exceptional habitats for these breeding birds.

"Without the full support of these estates we may not see the progress and situation that we have enjoyed so far."

Pc Thomas said it was difficult to tell the exact number of hen harriers in Lancashire, as the birds were typically nomadic birds.

Rare bird on verge of extinction
05 Jan 05 |  Lancashire
Fears for future of hen harrier
03 Aug 04 |  Lancashire
Big effort to save rare birds
13 Jan 03 |  England


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