Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Harrying for #HenHarriers!

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I attended this years #HenHarrier evening and #HenHarrier day. If you also attended you will know what a fabulous weekend it was! Hen Harriers are under serious threat from persecution and habitat loss, and it's very easy to get depressed about the decline of these beautiful birds. But, having attended this event, I am now feeling much more positive that things are heading in the right direction. Hundreds of people attended the Goyt Valley event this weekend, including conservationist Chris Packham, Mark Avery and the chief executive of the RSPB, Mike Clarke. It was also nice to catch up with Georgia Locock and finally meet Findlay Wilde. The Goyt Valley event was one of seven different meet-ups all over the country and over 5.5 million people got involved in the "We're missing our Hen Harriers - and we want them back!" thunderclap, which was incredible! The main message that I took away from this weekend was that 'we will never give up' in the plight to save the Hen Harrier and all of our planet's wildlife. I believe that the Hen Harrier is a symbol of all our wildlife, and the efforts we (humanity) need to take to reverse our negative impacts.

Why are Hen Harriers in so much trouble?

Hen Harriers were once a common bird of prey across Britain, and after recovering from their mainland decline in the late 1800s they are now under threat again. Some blame the decline on habitat destruction, but one of the main driving forces is illegal trapping, poisoning and shooting. Because the population is now so small (just 4 breeding pairs last year) an individual person can have a huge affect of the entire species. In the Spring just gone five Hen Harriers "mysteriously' disappeared, resulting in the species rearing no chicks past fledging point. You may wonder why these illegal acts happen in the first place; This is because Hen Harriers occasionally predate on game-keepers Grouse. Since the 1800's Grouse shooting has become a popular pass time for many, with the season lasting 5 months. The game-keepers are hired to rear the birds and maintain the habitat in which they live in, with no thought of the consequences to the environment and other wildlife species. Not only do they view Hen Harriers as a "pest", but foxes, other birds of prey, stoats and even crows are viewed in the same way. The shooting, trapping and poisoning of Hen Harriers is illegal, but with little chance of evidence or even a strong suspect it can be very hard to prosecute. 

The evening event consisted of many talks, stalls and videos. Guests such as Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Mark Cocker were welcomed to the stage for discussions and speeches. Findlay Wilde also announced that Ecotricity would be contributing to more tracking equipment to keep a close eye on the last remaining birds to ensure the persecutors are found if any illegal acts happen again in the future. The turner prise winner Jeremy Deller gave a short talk about his piece 'a good day for cyclists', which features a huge harrier with a blood red range over crushed in it's talons…symbolic on many levels. In the interval Jeremy was selling prints of his for £5 each, which proved to attracts lots of buyer, raising over £500 for the 'Birders against wildlife crime' organisation. It was a very enjoyable evening and the cherry on the cake was arriving home to a huge amount of moths congregating around our outdoor light! I managed to get a few pictures before I went to bed so that I could ID them later on. The four species below: magpie (abraxas grossulariata), yellow-tail (euproctis similes), dingy footman (eilema griseola) and earlythorn (selenia dent aria).

If you know any of the species above please email me at stockwell.billy@gmail.com! Thanks :)

After a fairly brief nights sleep I was off again for the main event in Goyt Valley, Derbyshire. There were hundreds and hundreds of people attending, with placards and banners to show their support. The event took place in the peaks, surrounded by studding scenery, but also harsh reminders of why we were there in the first place. Big areas of moorland around the valley had been burnt to make the habitat more suitable for the grouse, which in turn would then be shot in the name of sport…funny how football doesn't cut it for some people! Even though the moorland represented part of the problem is also represented the reason we were there, and it was certainly a very peaceful setting! After the speeches there was plenty of time to chat and takes photos of the beautiful scenery. There was a second event in Buxton that afternoon but I had to leave as it was quite a long journey home! With so many people showing there support over the weekend all I can do is hope that plenty of vital money was raised to help protect these majestic birds of prey for years to come. Overall it was a really incredible event and I left with a positive outlook on the whole issue. So if you couldn't make the weekend this year, why not come along next time!

Videos from the day 
- Chris Packham's speech & summary video

Useful links