Standing Up For What You Believe In – Hen Harrier Day 2017

Hen Harriers to me (and quite a few other people) are beacons for how we are relating to and treating our wildlife – right here, right now. It’s not good, it really isn’t great because the Hen Harriers are declining at an alarming rate;  it seems too, that fewer children are having wild encounters and adults just don’t seem to care as much about the environment. Life is more fast paced now than ever before and it’s taking its toll on our surroundings, species and imaginations. However, and it’s a big however, there ARE people, there are lots of people making big noise about Hen Harriers – and it’s gaining momentum. It’s  a growing movement to shun the apathy, shout loud, reclaim scientific evidence and come together in a caring community. We don’t just care about Hen Harriers and Wildlife – I think we care about each other too. I almost feel like I have been taken under the wing of a village – one which cares about nature and wildlife as much as I do. It’s a wonderful thing.

Yesterday, I was part of one of ten Hen Harrier events across the UK. North, South, East and West all celebrated the magnificent Hen Harrier, the plight it faces and how we can all come together to make a difference. Northern Ireland Hen Harrier Day was held in Glenariff Forest Park.  Set in the Antrim Hills, it’s a stronghold for breeding Hen Harriers and it is a stunning location – despite the lumbering grey clouds when we arrived.

The hall (it was held inside because to keep the talks comfortable should a downpour descend) was packed to the gills and they had to get extra seating!!! Fantastic!!

There were seven speakers, including me! Eimear Rooney, Alan Ferguson and Marc Ruddock  from Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group all spoke really passionately about why we have Hen Harrier Day, the state of their population, why it is declining and what we can do to protect it – education and watching out for wildlife crime are two big things we can all do! Darren Houston (RSPBNI) spoke about how the RSPB will be working in partnership with Northern Ireland Water to restore the blanket bog in Co Antrim (Hen Harrier habitat) he was really enthusiastic and ready to work for Hen Harriers!! Richard Weyl (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) spoke about how government are protecting Hen Harriers. There is great work being done. Richard spoke about protection designation, planning and partnership with farmers and landowners. He talked about farmers needing more support in managing their land sympathetically. I’m proud to say that my dad is also involved in protecting Areas of Special Scientific Interest of which Hen Harriers are a feature – they have the top level of bird protection here in Northern Ireland. Liz Weir is an Irish storyteller and she really lightened the mood with her upbeat and charismatic yarn spinning. Then it was me!!!! My piece was very brief (suited me;) but filled with the emotion I feel about Hen Harriers.

​I’ve cobbled together a few videos of my speech and Eimear’s introduction. It’s not professional but it will have to do! NIRSG recorded the whole event though and took lots of photos of the crowd. I look forward to seeing those as we didn’t get to take any at all – nerves perhaps!

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The speakers – Left to right Eimear Rooney (and mini Eimear), Marc Ruddock, Richard Weyl, Alan Ferguson, Darren Houston, Liz Weir and me!

The Hen Harrier Day crowd! It’ll be even bigger next year! 

After the event I spoke to lots of people about my blog, it was really lovely to hear that people are enjoying it so much. We explored the area and went to a known Hen Harrier site – but we had no luck.

However, today in Fermanagh we were treated to an absolute spectacle of seven separate sightings over a few hours. Each was piercingly brief, except for the last one on our way home. We saw a cacophony of Mistle Thrush and then she came. Swooping, wheeling and hovering. I was suspended in a place reserved for monumental things, once again! They just filled every space within me with joy and an overwhelming sense of completeness. At that point everything was right in the world, that all our coming together was given the flight of thanks by those we are trying to protect. The Hen Harriers.

Huge thanks to Birders Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland Raptor Study group and all those who attended or supported a Hen Harrier Day. They were all a magnificent success. One more thing before I go, if you haven’t already, please sign up to my friend Findlay Wilde‘s Thunderclap if you do one thing after reading this, let it be that. Add your voice to the growing number of Hen Harrier advocates (almost 2,000 with a 7.8million social media outreach!) , please.

Thanks for reading


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4 Responses

  1. Full of admiration, Dara, for yourself and everyone involved in this campaign. Even more young people needed to demand from the ‘powers that be’ that their right to see our wildlife protected is given priority.

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