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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Security team protect rare birds
Hen harrier
The hen harrier population is 'perilously low'
A round-the-clock security operation is being set up in Northumberland to protect some of England's rarest birds.

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

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.

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

The harrier "task force" is equipped with high-powered optics, cameras and specialist night vision equipment.

The team also includes Forestry Commission rangers and members of the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club.

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.

'Tremendous dedication'

Amanda Miller, the charity's North East conservation manager, said: "The English hen harrier population is perilously low, so every nest is precious and it's wonderful news that these magnificent birds are nesting in Northumberland.

"The dedication and commitment of local volunteers has been tremendous and we are very grateful to them for giving of their time to help guard these special birds.

"However, it's a sad state of affairs that in the 21st Century, the RSPB still has to spend so much time and money safeguarding hen harriers and other birds of prey even though they are fully protected under UK law."

The Northumberland nest is one of only three nests outside of the Forest of Bowland area of Lancashire.




SEE ALSO
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