Thursday, 11 August 2016

Hen Harrier Day 2016 - A Murmuration of People

Just 3 pairs of hen harriers have bred in England this year when our uplands could support over 300 pairs.

When you have already been part of amazing hen harrier days in 2014 and 2015, you do wonder if they can get any better. Well 2016 proved just how much better things can get.  This year hen harrier day events had been organised across the UK as the awareness of raptor persecution on grouse moors continues to grow.

In the weeks running up to the events, we had been busy preparing some new props for the Edale event, and all this was fitted round a fantastic weekend campaigning at the WOMAD Festival.  Harry had to have a respray, the grouse butt came out of storage and the new 2.5m high letters we made meant another huge van needed hiring.

Saturday 6th August

On the Saturday we were down at RSPB Rainham Marshes for the first hen harrier event of the weekend.

There were 3 fantastic talks by Charlie Moors, Mike Clarke and Chris Packham with Mark Avery compering. All had their own take on hen harriers and what needs to be done, but the main objective of all of them was to see hen harriers protected, the wrong doers prosecuted and a future that includes hen harriers breeding in our uplands. And do you know what, this vision is totally natural and shouldn't be something we are having to fight for.

My mission was to record interviews with hen harrier day attendees on behalf of Rare Bird Alert and Charlie Moores for his Talking Naturally podcast.  It was so good talking to people and hearing their thoughts. My questions included why they were attending a hen harrier day event, if DEFRA was fit for purpose, their thoughts on the shooting community, their thoughts on NGOs and how Brexit may have an impact. I was lucky enough to question a great mix of people including MP Kerry McCarthy, RSPB Chief Executive Mike Clarke, Chris Packham and many others.

I must also add that RSPB Rainham did a fantastic job of organising the event.

Sunday 7th August

On Sunday we got up early, although not quite ringing early, and loaded up the van ready for the Edale event in the Peak District. On the way over I was thinking back to that first Peak District event and being one of the sodden 570. It is so frustrating though that the awareness is building and yet the hen harrier situation has got worse with just 3 pairs breeding in England this year.

We arrived at Edale early and met up with Stewart Abbot who had worked so hard to organise this event. Next job was to empty the van and get Harry, the grouse butt and the HH Peak letters in place.

 As we were doing this Mark and Rosemary Avery turned up along with other great friends (you know who you are) and we all had breakfast together in the Penny Pot cafe, talking about the day ahead.

And then it was a bit of a waiting game. A slow trickle of people started arriving in the car park, but the trickle soon turned into a steady stream. Henry Hen Harrier was there to great people from the train station, familiar faces showed up, there was lots of great catching up and all this within the beautiful green hills around Edale; hills that hid the over managed, burnt, drained grouse moors just a few miles away. Moors that are managed to rear unnaturally large numbers of Red Grouse and get rid of any other wildlife that may have a negative impact this.  

If the natural wildlife had been allowed remain in its natural habitat, we would never have had to reach this point.

There were 6 talks being given on the day; I was up first, then Hardyal Dhindsa (Police & Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire), Dr Mark Avery (writer, blogger and environmental campaigner and loser of bird quizzes!), Jon Stewart (National Trust General Manager In the Peak District), Natalie Bennett (Leader of the Green Party) and Tim Birch (Conservation Manager with The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust).  All the speakers were brilliantly introduced by Alan Davies from Biggest Twitch. 

This was the talk that I gave (on a wobbly step ladder with only one hand to hold on):

You can find all the other talks on Stewart Abbots You Tube channel and they really are all worth listening to.

After the talks I did some more vox-popping for Talking Naturally and had great interviews with Natalie Bennett, Hardyal Dhindsa, Tim Birch and several others.

It was an inspiring day, a hopeful day and it really did feel this time like a change was in the air.

So just 3 things to ask you to help with tonight:

Please sign up to this Thunderclap to help get #Inglorious12th trending on Twitter tomorrow


Please sign this e-petition to help get raptor persecution debated in parliament


Please ask one other person to do both these things.

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