November, 2011


Get the latest news on our hen harrier conservation work, including the five-year Hen Harrier Life+ project.

Skydancer - the UK's hen harriers

Follow the efforts of RSPB staff during the breeding season, as they attempt to monitor and protect one of England's rarest breeding birds of prey - the hen harrier.
  • Update on Martin

    Just to keep you informed of the latest info on Martin, a little worryingly, as of Monday, no transmission has been received from him for 7 days. Whilst this length of gap between transmission isn’t unheard of, it is a little unusual.

    Weather could be a factor in this, and I for one am very much hoping that this is the reason. His last fixes were still in Normandy around the town of Pontivy where he has been spending the last few weeks. Fieldworkers are out on the ground looking for him at the moment and I’ll let you know as soon as I get another update. In the meantime lets keep everthing crossed for him that it is down to a blip in the weather.

  • Speaking out for Skydancers

    So what bird is your job about again? Is it the hen hawk?

    The majority of people, whether they have an active interest in birds or not, have heard of buzzards and kestrels. They might get them confused when asked to identify them, but they are aware that they exist. Many also know about peregrines, thanks in a lot of cases to the presence of RSPB Date with Nature schemes that run in many city centres these days. Hardly anyone has heard of the hen harrier.

    My friends are a case in point, they are people who enjoy being out in the countryside,  spend their weekends walking and cycling in the uplands, but have never heard of, let alone seen, a hen harrier. Some of them can’t even remember its correct name – although points for trying, they weren’t far off!

    So, for this reason, I am very excited about Skydancer, an ambitious new RSPB project which aims to protect and promote the conservation of hen harriers across their remaining breeding areas in Northern England. Blánaid Denman has been appointed as the RSPB’s Skydancer Engagement Officer to inspire local people about England’s most threatened bird of prey.

    Over the next four years, Skydancer will focus on nest protection and community engagement activities in and around the Forest of Bowland, the RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve and North Tynedale in Northumberland. Blánaid will be working with other RSPB colleagues and partners to develop and deliver a comprehensive and inspiring programme of events and activities in each of the three project areas, aimed at educating and enthusing school children and local people about harriers. We can’t ask people to ‘Step up’ for harriers if they don’t know they exist or how valuable they are to our natural heritage.

    Female hen harrier © RSPB-images.

    Skydancer will also include sharing experiences and demonstrating the latest management techniques for hen harriers with land managers and sports shooting interests. The project will also involve listening to the concerns of upland driven grouse moor managers to gain a greater understanding of the issue and identify potential opportunities.

    The project hopes that by carrying out these activities, harriers numbers will be able to increase from their current, perilously low level, to more sustainable numbers, and co-exist in the uplands with other rural businesses. So look out for Skydancer over the coming months and for opportunities to get involved, hopefully helping to secure a more sustainable future for hen harriers in our English uplands.

    Skydancer is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, United Utilities, SITA Trust and the Forestry Commission.

  • Introducing Martin ...

    Thanks for all your name suggestions, we've decided to go with the inspired suggestion of Martin - Hen harrier en français is Busard Saint-Martin!

    Martin © Stephen Murphy, Natural England.

    According to the most recent update, Martin is still enjoying northern France, with fixes coming from an area around Pontivy in Brittany.

    Our female is also still alive and well, she is still around the Yorkshire Dales occupying an area between Malham and Masham.