Unlikely Activist – Hen Harrier Day 2016

I awoke this morning with many thoughts swimming around my head, today was more than Hen Harrier Day for me; I had the realisation that I, at 12 years old, am a vocal activist. Before I started my blog, I was vocal in class, especially religion and science (the annoying kid who always raises his hand, unfortunately), but never once did I think I would become so involved in wildlife  activism in such a public way and I have to say, it has been empowering in a humble way (if that’s possible).

Just over a week ago, I wrote a very impassioned blog on the persecution and decline of the Hen Harrier and I felt a burning fire raging inside me. I could write my thoughts down in a way that I could never express them in conversation or in a speech!! I resolved that I would do whatever I could and posted again and again about my discontentment with the  grouse shooting industry and government negligence to protect our species and their landscape. The Hen Harrier is just an icon of this destruction and its decline has a broader message to teach us and I read and read all I could, including academic papers that I could just about comprehend. So, I suppose, I have become an activist. Not an anecdotal, jump on the bandwagon one – but one as educated as I could possibly be – for a passionate 12 year old! This was a campaign that was as natural to me as my own heartbeat, perhaps there is a link!

Today I rose and I was nervous, because lots of people who had read my blog, would have expectations I would not live up to. I find social interactions extremely difficult but know too that once I feel ‘safe’, those interactions are much easier, and it was. Once I met everyone from Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group I realised I felt very comfortable. Hen Harrier Day Fermanagh was going to be OK!

There was a fantastic stand with lots of merchandise and I could stock  up on more RSPB pins, always good! We ate some beautiful Hen Harrier cake (no Hen Harriers involved 😉 and I chatted as much as I could with everyone. It was fantastic to meet people who loved wildlife as much as I do, a rarity for me, outside my own family. As we all gathered to listen to the introduction by Alan Ferguson, I felt like this was a gathering I belonged to and I felt included, also a rarity! Alan gave a fantastic speech about his volunteer work, the plight of the Hen Harrier and more about what the day was all about – raising awareness of and rallying support for the illegally persecuted Hen Harrier. The next speech was by Marc Roddock, I was very moved and inspired by his words, he spoke so knowledgeably and eloquently – but it wasn’t until Eimear Rooney spoke, that I felt my heart flutter and my lip quiver. She spoke of her academic work but also of her work in wildlife crime. When she spoke of all the 44 raptor deaths – beautiful, soaring birds shot and poisoned , I felt each one like a pierce in the heart. I thought I was going to cry, I tried really hard to hold it in. The work which Alan, Mark and Eimear do, I am so grateful for. They are heroes. My heroes and should be yours too.
After the speeches there was a raffle and I was shocked to win 1st prize!!! I also got presented with a DVD signed by every other hero of mine. I couldn’t believe it!! I felt so confused by the attention but so  privileged and honoured to now be a part of them and I will continue to support them and evolve as a passionate, aspiring conservationist. Chris Packham is right about too many things to mention here but one thing he was spot on about this morning in his Hen Harrier Day speech was that people with Autism do not give up, he is right about that, we don’t bore easily and we never give up. I absolutely will not give up.

We all had our photos taken and chatted some more and that was it, our Hen Harrier Day was over. However, now bigger work must be done – Mark Avery’s petition must reach 100,000 signatures in 6 weeks and we must also address the issue of the granting of buzzard culling licenses granted by Natural England – this has caused me great distress and anger. There is so much to do and however small, I will play my part.
Huge thanks to Birders Against Wildlife Crime, Charlie Moores, Mark Avery and Chris Packham for the amazing work they all do, the flack and abuse they endure and their compassion and kindness and encouragement. Huge appreciation to everyone involved in making a Hen Harrier Day happen, to RSPB Skydancer and Life Projects and every single person who has been moved enough to act.

Thank you so much to Alan and NIRSG for organising such a brilliant day, it was lovely to meet you all.

Here’s to next year!!
Thank you for reading

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13 Responses

  1. Lovely read, Dara! I’d ave loved to have made it to NI HH day, but I’m in Scotland at the moment. But I’m sure I’ll meet you at some point!

    James O’Neill (another – fairly – young naturalist)

  2. Well done Dara. Keep up the good work. I live in Fermanagh too. My wife and I have a swift colony on our house, and you are most welcome to visit. Most of the chicks have fledged and the adults will soon be heading south. They’ll be back next May to produce more chicks!

    1. Thank you very much! I would love that! Swallows nest at my dad’s work and I love watching them. It’s lovely when people want birds to nest – some knock them down, which is awful. I love swifts, their call is the first sound of summer 🙂

  3. Inspiring words Dara…..I’m hugely impressed and humbled by your youthful passion for wildlife.
    You are the future of conservation and you have a vital role to play….the very best of luck!
    Veteran of the three Derbyshire HHDs.

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