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The Hen Harrier’s Year

By Ian Carter and Dan Powell

Pelagic Publishing, 2022

Pbk, 172pp; many colour paintings

ISBN 978-1-78427-385-9; £26


Most of us delight in catching a sight of this beautiful and enigmatic raptor, and we are very familiar with the reasons for its general scarcity. Of all the raptors in Britain, the Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus remains the one that is most heavily persecuted, and the species whose distribution and numbers are held furthest below what they could otherwise achieve. Because of the problems on grouse moors, the Hen Harrier has been the subject of several detailed studies in recent years, mostly aimed at assessing its impact on Red GrouseLagopus lagopus scotica. The conflicts are real, with financial repercussions to moor owners. This book provides us with a readable account of the biology of the species and its interactions with humanity, summarising in attractive prose most of what we have learnt about this bird over recent decades. The story is told in 12 main sections, centred on the months of the year, plus four others dealing with the species’ history and status in Britain, conflict that occurs on grouse moors, threats and survival, and the wider, worldwide status and future prospects.

As in their previous collaboration, The Red Kite’s Year (Brit. Birds 112: 542–543), Ian Carter provides the bulk of the text and Dan Powell the evocative paintings, which are scattered liberally throughout. These delightful paintings depict the bird in every conceivable position and activity, and show the various habitats occupied and some of the species that share those habitats. This is the book to get if you want an easy-to-read and informative account of the Hen Harrier, its history in Britain and its interaction with the grouse-shooting industry. I found it a pleasure to read. 

Ian Newton

Issue 5
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