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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK
Chicks hatch at harrier nest site
Hen harrier chicks
Cameras have identified the hen harrier chicks
A 24-hour security operation to protect a pair of rare hen harriers has paid off, with news at least five chicks have hatched in their nest.

The pair settled in Northumberland at one of only 15 known active nests in the country.

About 25 volunteers are working 24 hours a day with the RSPB and police to guard the secret nest site.

Experts said they were overjoyed at surveillance camera images which showed at least five chicks have hatched.

Phil Curtis of the RSPB, who is organising the nest protection scheme, said: "We are delighted that the harriers have five chicks in the nest, this is better than we could ever have hoped for.

'Atrocious weather'

"Before we started the nest guard we know that one clutch of eggs had vanished from a first nest, and a female hen harrier disappeared from a second nest.

"We are delighted that our watch over this third nest has helped the harriers and that despite some atrocious weather recently the chicks have hatched out.

"It is more important than ever that we maintain the 24-hour guard on the nest over the coming weeks."

In May last year a female harrier, which nested in the county, is believed to have been shot and a nearby nest failed when the eggs vanished.

Incidents of hen harriers disappearing this year from nesting areas in North Yorkshire and Northumberland are already under investigation by the police, according to the RSPB.

Big effort to save rare birds
13 Jan 03 |  England

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