It's that time of year again. The run up to what is more and more becoming known as the Inglorious 12th.
On 12th August, the uplands will echo with the sound of gunshots as the grouse shooting season starts. Thousands of Red Grouse will be shot for sport, but they are not the only wildlife that will suffer in the name of sport.
Grouse moors are intensively managed to ensure that unnaturally high numbers of Red Grouse breed and flourish in the uplands, but in order to encourage these unnaturally high numbers of Red Grouse, other native wildlife is "controlled". Foxes, mountain hares, birds of prey are just some on the species seen as a threat to the Red Grouse numbers. Whether you like it or not, some of this "control" is completely legal activity. But some is not!
The decline in Hen Harriers across the UK, but especially in England is directly linked to the grouse shooting industry in the uplands. There is of course some natural predation of ground nesting birds like Hen Harriers, but natural predation alone would not lead to a situation where we had only 3 successful breeding pairs of Hen Harrier in England last year. Furthermore, the uplands are managed to protect a ground nesting bird (the Red Grouse), so surely this would in theory benefit other ground nest birds like the Hen Harrier. So where are they?
Hen Harriers have been illegally persecuted in the uplands for years and years and this has had a devastating impact on this iconic bird known affectionately as the Skydancer.
Skydancers have the power to inspire deep emotions in people that have been lucky enough to see them. You read some amazing personal stories about Hen Harrier sightings by clicking here.
The RSPBs Hen Harrier Life+ Project has been tracking successfully fledged Hen Harrier chicks as part of a 5 year project. The chicks are satellite tagged and monitored to track their progress. I would recommend that you read the RSPB's Skydancer blog and see just how many of the birds that they have followed have disappeared.
It became even more personal this year, when the Hen Harrier I campaigned hard for to get sponsored by Ecotricity became the latest bird to go missing. She was less than 2 years old. She has not been found and neither has her tag. There was no reason for her tag to just stop working, even if she had died of natural causes. You can read more about her short, but meaningful journey by clicking here.
Hen Harrier Finn and her brothers
So it is that time of year again when I ask you all to do one small thing, that will take just seconds, and help raise awareness about the dark side of the Inglorious 12th. Please sign up to the Inglorious12th thunderclap and make sure people understand what is happening to native wildlife in the uplands. It is an intense cycle of death with Red Grouse numbers artificially inflated, natural predators controlled, and then the Red Grouse are shot. We all have a responsibility to safeguard the natural world for future generations and speak out against the greed, ignorance and denial that is pushing the natural world to it's limits.
For those of you who may question the point of doing another thunderclap, you can find some answers in the blog I posted last year called Thunderclap - What's The Point. You can also read why it is important to keep trying to drive a change by clicking here.
Last year's Inglorious 12th thunderclap was signed by 3565 people and had a social reach of over 11 million. It reached out to all the followers of the people that signed the thunderclap, many of who were unaware of the battle raging in our uplands.
Let's see how far we can reach out together this year. Please sign up to this year's thunderclap and get at least one other person to do the same, and let's make sure people understand that there is nothing glorious about 12th August.