Harrier Project · GURELUR

GURELUR - Fondo Navarro para la Protección del Medio Natural Manuel de Falla, 8
31005 Pamplona/Iruña
Tel.: 948 15 10 77 · 606 980 068
Non-profit-making association
Foundation year: 1991
Action area: Navarre

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Harrier Project

Harrier Project
Montagu's harrier nest
Montagu's harrier nest

Harrier’s nests placed in cereal fields remain safe as long as there is no harvest, because they are hidden from raptor birds among the cereal thickness. Moreover, the harriers find most of their prey inside the cultivation fields, that is why this species chooses this habitat for nesting. However, everything changes for the harriers when the harvest comes. During the months of June and July, months during which the cereal is harvested, the eggs or chicks, which are still in their nests, are at risk of being destroyed by the harvester’s knives.
In 1989 activities aiming at the protection of harriers were started in Navarra. Even if at the beginning the objective was to protect the Montagu’s harrier, already during the first campaign it was shown that the hen harrier was also in danger due to the harvesters.
The reason was that, contrary to our initial beliefs at the time, most hen harrier’s nests were also placed in cereal fields. The other species of harriers existent in Navarra, the marsh harrier, nests mainly in marshy vegetation but also, to a lesser extent, in cultivation fields.

Proyecto Aguilucho Tafalla Control

All the above has transformed the initial campaign for the protection of montagu’s harrier into the Harrier Project, which covers the protection of the three different species of harriers present in Navarra.
The campaign starts with the arrival of the harrier in Navarra, in mid-April, and it lasts until August, when all chicks leave their nests. At the moment, all nests found before or during harvest are protected by setting up an electric protecting fence, which is the most reliable of the devices we have tried out throughout the years. This device consists of an electric wire connected to a battery and which surrounds the nest preventing terrestrial raptors from getting in by electric shocks. The success of this methods is more than 90%. An alternative method consists of placing big straw bales surrounding the nest, only when their availability in the field makes it possible. The pieces of ground protected from harvesting are paid to the farmer according to a rate agreed by the Technical Institute of Cereal Management. In addition to the compensations for the piece of ground not harvested, extra compensations are paid to the farmer for the inconveniences caused during protection activities.
Harrier chicks whose survival in the field can not be guaranteed are taken for treatment in captivity. These specimens, once they are 22 days old, are taken to the hacking cages where they are trained to be progressively re-introduced in Nature. The process consists of leaving the top of the cage open, so that the harriers can fly away but also come back for food, which is always placed in the cages, until they can learn to hunt and feed themselves. The follow-up of several harriers has shown the effectiveness of this process.
An important aspect of this project is the consciousness and sensitivity campaigns, which have reached all citizens from Navarra, mainly farmers and school children, the latter have received information through school books and transparencies which have been delivered completely free to all schools in Navarra.
The success of the harrier project is also based on the work of GURELUR’s members an on the extraordinary cooperation of all farmers with our project. From the beginning most farmers which have found a harrier nest in their fields have helped to protect them, despite the inconveniencies. The project and its results have been released to the media in Spain and in Navarra, which means that the harriers are without any doubt the best known species in Navarra.

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