THREE Moorland Association estates in North Yorkshire have won prestigious awards for their conservation work benefiting rare birds.

The ‘Life on Land’ awards from RedList Revival are presented to landholdings exceeding the top one per cent in the UK for abundance of a key species.

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In North Yorkshire, Coverhead Estate achieved this for black grouse, Egton for lapwings, and Swinton Estate for hen harriers.

Swinton Estate also ranks in the top ten per cent nationally for curlew abundance as does Egton Estate, while Coverhead is also in the top one per cent for both curlew and lapwing.

These are all red-listed species, meaning birds of conservation concern, either because their overall population, breeding pairs, or territorial range is significantly decreasing.

The Northern Echo: Black grouse Picture: Steve WilliamsBlack grouse Picture: Steve Williams

For non-priority species, Coverhead Estate also has top one per cent abundance of dipper, golden plover, red grouse and snipe.

Mark Cunliffe-Lister of Swinton Estate and Chair of the Moorland Association, said: “We are delighted to see recognition of the work undertaken by estates to help rare birds to survive and thrive.

"These success stories are underpinned by many years of work and investment by the estates themselves and fostering of collaborative partnerships with other conservation organisations.”

Coverhead Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has 3,000 acres of open moorland and 2,000 acres of diverse moorland edge habitat.

The black grouse population has been re-established through a pioneering relocation programme, taking male black grouse from their core range to re-establish in other areas with suitable habitat.

The Northern Echo: Lapwings are a rare bird that need protectingLapwings are a rare bird that need protecting

James Mawle of the estate said: “In 1900 there were black grouse in every county in England, bar Middlesex.

"Their decline has been caused primarily by habitat loss and predation of their eggs and chicks.

"The recovery programme has proved an incredibly useful initiative to help expand their territorial range and it has been a notable success."

Egton Estate on the North East fringe of the North York Moors National Park covers approximately 4,900 acres.

It is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the heather moorland is managed for the benefit of all species.

Red grouse are the mainstay, while other species that benefit from moorland management include golden plover, lapwing, curlew and merlin.

The Northern Echo: Black grouse Picture: Steve WilliamsBlack grouse Picture: Steve Williams

Oliver Foster of Egton Estate said the aerial displays of the male lapwing ‘are a joy to witness every spring’ and that seeing chicks emerging is ‘an absolute delight’.

He added: "Traditional moorland management techniques such as predator control, restoration burning and grazing management have enabled the population of lapwing here at Egton to remain stable over a number of years, in contrast to declines for this species in other parts of the UK.”

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Over 300 acres of peatland on the estate have been restored which benefits wading birds and can help a variety of plants such as sphagnum mosses to re-establish.

The third award-winning estate, Swinton Estate near Ripon, has been a key partner in the government’s hen harrier action plan since 2016, undertaking a range of conservation actions to help one of the UK’s most endangered birds to re-establish itself in the North.

The Northern Echo: A hen harrier at Swinton EstateA hen harrier at Swinton Estate

The estate identifies and monitors hen harrier winter roosts and nests to protect them from potential persecution, predation, and disturbance by the public.

Some of the birds are satellite-tagged in partnership with Natural England, to enable conservation monitoring of their behaviour and migration patterns.

Gamekeepers on the estate provide supplementary food to adult hen harriers to boost fledging success of their young, whilst helping protect chicks of other rare species from predation.


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