On July 19th 2016, I wrote my first blog on Hen Harriers/Hen Harrier Day. I can’t believe how much has happened since then. Personally, in my own life, I feel my voice is getting stronger through my presence on my blog and on social media. Due to Mark Avery’s essential awareness work and grouse shooting debate (due to his successful petition); my voice is joined with countless others.
I have been lucky enough to see a Hen Harrier and truly it was one of the finest ‘young naturalist’ moments in my life. Knowing so well how very lucky I was, made it all the more poignant and heart searingly beautiful. I was actually given the opportunity to say a few words about it on BBC Radio 4’s Tweet of the Day. My voice was nervous, hesitant and cracked because honestly, it weighed heavily on my heart; due to the fate many Hen Harriers face – the fate of being blasted from the sky, the fate of deliberately lit fires (which destroyed the nests of Northern Ireland Hen Harriers), the fate that we don’t care enough about creating and maintaining habitats for them to thrive (although much good work is being done by scientists on the ground) and the fate of persecution to protect big businesses. With every precious Hen Harrier flying in our skies, weighs the thought that it might not make it. That it might not survive. It’s certainly a heart wrenching way of being – to care so much.
Just last week, a report by the RSPB was released on the Hen Harrier populations. It wasn’t good news, it was disheartening and frustrating. Government really need to do more. Much more. Altogether, Hen Harrier populations are declining everywhere. In 2004 there was an estimate of 749 pairs of majestic Hen Harriers gracing the skies of the UK. As of last year the amount has dropped by 204 pairs. Just 545 pairs. With the majority of birds recorded in Scotland (460) this is a stark and worrying time for those of us who are very rightly concerned by this damning trend. The harsh reality? The Hen Harrier is on the brink of extinction and really, we must look at the illegal persecution and killing of Hen Harriers and the blatant acts of wildlife crime, if we are to overturn this rapid decline. Evidence is mounting that the grouse shooting industry cannot go ignored in the correlation between raptor killings and profit making. Let’s be clear here, grouse shooting is big business and Hen Harriers are a threat because they may like to eat grouse chicks. You can see where this going. In May, crucial hard evidence was released which showed the blatant flushing of a Hen Harrier from her nest, followed by gunshot, bird retrieval and a clean up of tattered feathers by a gamekeeper, complete with shotgun. It was grim viewing. Even more so was the fact that the evidence was dismissed from court – the gamekeeper walked free. Despite the fact that the Hen Harrier is a protected bird of prey, despite the fact that it is endangered, near extinct; the message was clear, people in places of power to invoke change, seemingly do not care. I wrote another blog about my quite strong feelings on this, so I don’t want to cover old ground. Honestly though, it’s hard not to feel like you are banging your head (and heart) against a brick wall.
We’re not giving up though and there are lots of things you can do and I would urge you to help if you can. One big thing is awareness, the more we are mentioning the plight of the Hen Harrier the more attention it will get. My friend Findlay Wilde is doing great work to raise the profile of Hen Harrier persecution by highlighting the issue on social media via a Thunderclap . This is really important because it starts conversations, creates a platform for understanding the plight of the Hen Harrier and sends a message that people want change. Please sign up and show your support.
Please check out the work of the RSPB Skydancer Project – doing great work to raise awareness and educate kids and adults alike. They are the main body who actively monitor nests, satellite tag Hen Harriers and of course deal with the emotional fallout when Hen Harriers go missing or are persecuted/killed. A really tough job and they are Skydancer Superheroes!
A really important thing you can do, is to support the amazing work of Birders Against Wildlife Crime – from Raptor tagging, to awareness, campaigning and events – they are the leading NGO on targeting wildlife crime. They really do brilliant work. Please also read the work of Raptor Persecution Scotland – they write very astute blogs on the many problems Raptors face and are scientific and evidence based.
Last but not least, please, please, please attend a Hen Harrier Day and show that you care not just about Hen Harriers, but all our threatened and endangered species. Hen Harrier Day is now a symbol of people caring about all wildlife. It’s a brilliant day of coming together to support nature. I’ll be at the Glenariff Forest Park Antrim on the 5th August to support the brilliant work of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group.
Please come and show your support and please click on all the highlighted text to bring you to the relevant website, information is power and we need all the info out there to as many people as possible!
Thank you so much for reading, please share and spread the word. This is very close to my heart.