Hen harriers are magnificent birds of prey that can be found in Wales. These stunning raptors are known for their striking plumage, which makes them stand out in the countryside. However, finding them can be challenging, as they are an endangered species and are currently under threat due to illegal persecution. In this article, we will explore where to see Hen Harriers in Wales, the best times to see them, and how to protect them.
Overview of Hen Harriers
Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus) are a medium-sized bird of prey that are native to the UK. They are known for their distinctive, owl-like faces and their striking white rump, which makes them easy to identify in the field. The male Hen Harrier has a blue-grey back, while the female has a brown back and wings with a cream-colored head. They are typically found in upland areas, moors, heathlands, and other open habitats.
Sadly, Hen Harriers have faced many challenges over the years, including illegal persecution, habitat loss, and low breeding success rates. According to the RSPB, there were only four successful Hen Harrier breeding attempts in the whole of the UK in 2020, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts to protect this magnificent species.
Where to See Hen Harriers in Wales
Wales is a great place to see Hen Harriers, as it is home to some of the best upland habitats for this species. Here are some of the top locations to see Hen Harriers in Wales:
- Berwyn Mountains
The Berwyn Mountains are a range of hills located in North Wales, close to the border with England. This area is known for its vast heathlands, which provide ideal habitats for Hen Harriers. There are several access points to the Berwyn Mountains, including the B4391 road and the A5, which runs through the area.
- Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons National Park is located in South Wales and is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. The upland heathlands and moors of the Brecon Beacons provide excellent habitats for Hen Harriers, which can be seen soaring over the landscape. The best place to see Hen Harriers in the Brecon Beacons is the Black Mountain range.
- Cambrian Mountains
The Cambrian Mountains are a range of mountains located in Mid Wales, known for their extensive upland habitats. These habitats provide ideal conditions for Hen Harriers, and the area is known to be home to several breeding pairs of these raptors. The best place to see Hen Harriers in the Cambrian Mountains is the Elan Valley.
- North Wales Coast
The North Wales Coast is home to several nature reserves and coastal habitats that are ideal for Hen Harriers. The RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve is one of the best places to see these raptors, with several observation hides providing excellent views of the birds. Other locations to see Hen Harriers along the North Wales Coast include the Lleyn Peninsula and the Dee Estuary.
Best Times to See Hen Harriers
The best time to see Hen Harriers in Wales is during the breeding season, which runs from March to August. During this time, the birds are busy defending their territories and raising their young, making them more visible in the countryside. The peak breeding season for Hen Harriers is in May and June, which is when the young birds start to fledge and become more independent.
Outside of the breeding season, Hen Harriers can still be seen in Wales, but they are more challenging to find. During the winter months, Hen Harriers will move to coastal areas and lowland habitats in search of food, such as small mammals and birds.
One of the most popular places to see hen harriers in Wales is the RSPB Lake Vyrnwy reserve in Powys. The reserve has a large population of these birds, and birdwatchers can often see them flying low over the moorland in search of prey. The reserve also offers guided walks and events throughout the year, giving visitors the chance to learn more about these fascinating birds and their conservation.
Another great place to see hen harriers in Wales is the Dyfi Osprey Project in Montgomeryshire. Although the project is primarily focused on ospreys, visitors can also spot hen harriers during the winter months. The project has several hides that overlook the estuary, where the birds can be seen flying over the water or hunting in nearby fields.
The Lleyn Peninsula in Gwynedd is also a great place to spot hen harriers. This area is a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) for these birds, with over 20 breeding pairs recorded in recent years. The best time to see them is during the breeding season, which runs from April to August. Visitors can take guided walks to spot these magnificent birds in their natural habitat.
Another popular spot is the Berwyn Mountains, which straddle the border between England and Wales. This area has several breeding pairs of hen harriers, and visitors can often see them soaring above the hills in search of prey. The area is also known for its stunning scenery, with rugged mountains and rolling hills providing a picturesque backdrop for birdwatchers.
Finally, the Welsh uplands are also a great place to see hen harriers. These birds can be found in moorland and heathland habitats throughout Wales, but are most common in the uplands. Visitors can take guided walks or hire a local birdwatching guide to help them spot these elusive birds in their natural habitat.
In conclusion, Wales offers many opportunities to see the majestic hen harrier in its natural habitat. From the RSPB Lake Vyrnwy reserve to the Welsh uplands, there are many places where visitors can spot these beautiful birds of prey. However, it is important to remember that hen harriers are a protected species, and their habitats should be respected and conserved for future generations to enjoy. By observing these birds responsibly and supporting their conservation efforts, birdwatchers can help ensure that the hen harrier remains a vital part of Wales’ natural heritage.