‘Taking Wing’ – Participatory program to protect the habitat of the Montagu’s harrier
The Montagu’s harrier is one of the few species for which the threats – deriving from farming practices – have been clearly identified. Protected at the national and international level, this bird of prey is on the IUCN Red List and listed in CITES Appendix 1. According to the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), unless measures are taken to safeguard its reproduction, the Montagu’s harrier will die out within the next decade.
The Montagu’s harrier is found in lowland areas and broad valleys. It builds its nest in farmland with tall vegetation, particularly in hay fields (where 70% of the population nest). However, the modernization of agriculture and use of pesticides have seriously diminished population numbers, even though the bird is an ally to farmers since it feeds on rodent pests (around 2000 small rodents hunted per family).
Lozère is home to 31 pairs (2014 data) for three to four months of the year, but the population as a whole is steadily declining nationwide.
Since 2009, Montagu’s harrier breeding pairs in Lozère have been monitored by the association ALEPE, thanks to the work of numerous volunteers. As soon as a pair is sighted, ALEPE works with the farmer concerned to implement suitable protective measures (postponement of mowing on an 80–100m2 area and installation of an electric fence to limit predation). In 2015, 16 nests were located: out of 14 nests under threat, 7 produced 16 fledglings, thanks to the protective measures taken. Since the project was launched, 20 farmers have been involved in these initiatives, enabling the conservation operations to be conducted.
The aim now is to extend the current monitoring system to a participatory action plan for protection of the Montagu’s harrier. Among the problems identified, ALEPE has noted a clear lack of knowledge and information on the species and its habits. There is therefore a need to raise awareness and to educate and train as many people as possible to foster a common resolve to conserve the species.
The objectives of this project are accordingly:
- To ensure the conservation and stability of the Montagu’s harrier populations in the Lozère department
- To bring together the actors and users of the land around a common goal
First of all, initiatives aimed at children will be organized, including activities in schools and after-school centers. Local residents will also be kept informed through talks, exhibitions and field trips led by a naturalist. These initiatives will also enable resource persons to be identified, who will liaise between local authorities, residents, farmers and ALEPE when the bird is sighted. Finally, support and training for the farming community will also be provided, with three days devoted to dialogue with farmers and reflection on the most appropriate solutions for conservation of the species.
FINAL SUMMARY REPORT (July 2017):
During the period supported by Fondation Ensemble, ALEPE has :
- Managed a monitoring of the species in Lozère: This year has been harsh due to a decrease of the number of rodents, prey of the harriers, but 32 couples have been observed on the whole department and 25 youngster were born.
- Supported and managed farmers : 4 individuals collaborated to actions of protection.
- Informed the population : Discussions were held with the inhabitants of the region and the teams spoke about the project in various local medias and during a public animation. 6 half-days have been dedicated to interventions in public schools.
A call to recruit volunteers has been launched to organise a new monitoring in 2017 (3 persons already joined the team). A partnership with the ‘Parc National des Cévennes’ (Cévennes National Park) permitted the opening of two moors (low-canopy covers which were invaded by trees and bushes) known to be a Montagu’s harrier colony.