Project to help boost numbers of "overlooked" Merlin falcon on Yorkshire's moorland gets funding boost

A project to help conserve a “distinctive” small falcon on Yorkshire’s moorland has received a Government funding boost.

The falcon who nests on moorland is on the RSPB red list for conservation

The Merlin Magic project run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) aims to help boost numbers of the red-listed bird which breeds on moorlands.

“Merlins are an often-overlooked part of the moorland bird community,” said David Baines, head of upland research at GWCT.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“This project will bring together different groups of people with a shared passion for the uplands, but with differing perspectives on how to drive their recovery. A better understanding of how merlin use upland habitats and what pressures are affecting their numbers will provide a common focus for future management.”

The project, which has been awarded a grant from the second round of the Government’s £80m Green Recovery Challenge Fund, will cover the Yorkshire Dales National Park, North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and North York Moors National Park.

It will also build on the work carried out by GWCT volunteers monitoring breeding merlin in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 2020.

The GWCT said there can be disagreement over the status of Merlin and perceived causes of decline. Through the project they will be working to “reconcile opinions through promoting cooperative working”.

This will include gamekeepers under licence, helping to find nests for raptor workers, who will then validate it and ring and tag chicks.

The charity said by measuring nesting vegetation, habitat quality and avian prey, providing an evidence-based approach which will “guide dialogue” amongst grouse practitioners and upland ecologists.

“It will provide a better understanding of landscape-scale improvements in priority bog and heath moorland management to benefit merlin, other ground-nesting birds, habitat condition and wildfire control,” a spokesman said.

Adding that the “vital” funding will also help promote public awareness of moorland conservation issues, inform conservation strategies and lay foundations for further grouse-raptor reconciliation projects.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a part of the Government’s Ten-Point Plan to “kick-start” nature recovery and tackle climate change.