Monday, 6 June 2016

Is This The Year We Say Goodbye?

"The Hen Harrier goes extinct as a breeding birding in England."

Imagine waking up to that headline. How would that make you feel? Would you feel angry? Would you feel a sense of loss? Would you feel guilty that you didn't try and do more to save them?  I would feel all those things, but I would also feel cheated; cheated that one more species from my natural inheritance has been allowed to disappear.

And do you know what, I think that this year will be the one where we wake up to that headline.  RSPB's Martin Harper today published a blog giving an update on this year's breeding season, and it does not make good reading.  According to Martin's blog there have been "only a tiny handful of nesting attempts to date" and no confirmation of any successful breeding pairs in England.  The weather and low vole numbers would not have had the serious impact they are having if we had a healthy number of hen harriers to start with.

I find the hen harrier situation one of the most frustrating conservation challenges. The breeding habitat is there, but the on-going persecution of raptors by a small minority has brought us to this point. There are some people that think they are above the law and the evidence is clear to see; shot, poisoned and trapped raptors across the uplands.

I have written before about the first time I ever saw a hen harrier. It was a stunning male in North Wales. It was a misty morning high up in the moors. My eyes were adjusting to the grey scale colours when this ghostly bird soared effortlessly out through mist and I swear our eyes met for a moment. As quickly as it appeared, it blended back into the moorland; and from that moment I was hooked.  

Why should moments like that be taken away from us? Why should someone else, with their finger on a trigger, decide whether or not we get to see sky dancers soaring over the moors.

So are you angry? Have you had enough? Well then you need to do something. You need to stand up and say that you are not prepared to let such an iconic bird go extinct in our lifetime.

It is now 2 years since I made Harry to raise awareness about the plight of the hen harrier, but sadly I am watching the situation go from bad to worse, despite all the efforts of so many dedicated people. But you can't give up, you have to talk more and more about what is happening. You have to all pull together and speak up together.  

So please, please tell everyone you know about the plight of the hen harrier and come together at one of the forthcoming Hen Harrier Days taking place across the country. Talk to the people you know there and more importantly talk to the people you don't know. Find out as much information as you can and decide how you want to help going forwards.  I have learnt so much more about hen harriers and raptor persecution over the last 2 years. 

I will be at RSPB Rainham on Saturday 6th August and I will be giving a talk at the Peak District event on 7th August.

Don't be one of the people that thinks "I wish I'd done more".

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday


  1. The sad truth is that Grouse more owners and the wealthy shooters who revel in killing grouse for fun, really only care about killing and the money associated with Driven Grouse Shooting. We all realize that appealing to these morons to stop persecuting raptors is pointless.
    I very much doubt that talking & blogging about low Hen Harrier numbers & DGS makes any difference.
    As it is a fact that unless & or until Government, MP's, all wildlife NGO's and more importantly, the public really care about the continued persecution of Hen Harriers. Nothing will ever change...

  2. Sadly I cannot put better then yourself and Idle birder. It's a truly depressing state of affairs with what seems like the persecutors sticking two fingers up to us

  3. Finlay I do hope we never see that terribble headline but sadly it is looking grim. I am sorry I cannot be with you because I do live in Northern ireland.

  4. I feel so very bad for all that you and others have been doing ever since I first came to know you Findlay and it seems that those who could do something have blindfolds, ear plugs and no sense, or they could surely help save these amazing Hen Harriers for future generations to enjoy. Stay focused, stay positive...just maybe it can work itself out. You are such a fine young man~

  5. Wonderful post - I was watching Marsh Harrier on Orkney this weekend - wonderful place, if you get the chance you should go.

    I keep wondering if you are going to show up on Spring Watch!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Glasgow (!)

  6. Well written Findlay. I fear we can talk till kingdom come BUT unless the factions that cause and assist the problem change their attitudes nothing will ultimately change.

  7. Sadly, I agree with Frank's comments. It's a desperate time.

  8. You state: "cheated that one more species from my natural inheritance has been allowed to disappear.". I agree. And I agree with all you posted. Sad tho it is, we humans just don't realize the dilemma and outcome before it's too late. They say 'one person can make a difference'...but in all honesty it takes a whole tribe [as in humankind] to make ammends.

  9. Eye catching blog post title, and well worded post. I understand your impassioned feelings. I added a link to the Hen Harrier Day main page to my blog (not that I have many followers/viewers). I will also try to spread the word as I enter challenges.

    Here in the US, C. Allen Foster bragged, and I quote: "I am pleased to report that I've killed lots of elephants, lions, buffalo, leopards, kudu, deer and the last legally shot black rhinoceros, together with more than 150,000 birds of various species. When the last duck comes flying over with a sign around his neck 'I am the last duck,' I will shoot it." (The impending extinction of rhinoceros is painful for me to watch unfolding on this planet.)

  10. Finn

    Well done, a poignant and well penned piece. It's truly a desperately sad situation. Change only ever comes about through challenging the status quo.

    Margret Mead put it best.

    "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have."

    See you at one of the Hen Harrier Days.

    All Best


  11. Great stuff Findlay. Disappointing to read some of these comments though. If we all just roll over we can definately say goodbye to the Hen Harrier. There's a lot of very determined people working tirelessly to save these magnificent birds and although it is indeed a huge challenge, progress is being made. The more of us that get behind these people and support them in any way we can, the more chance there is that future generations will have the chance to watch them skydancing in our uplands. I'll be at both the Rainham and Peak District events and I'll make sure I catch up for a chat Findley. And don't forget Mark Avery's e-petition folks. Over 41'000 signatures already and plenty of time left to run. "Evil triumphs when good people do nothing". And as Chris Packham says "WE WILL WIN "

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