Hen harriers in the media


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Hen harriers in the media

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Running with the theme of positivity for 2013, if one were to try and find some sliver of good in the tragedy of Bowland Betty, it's that the circumstances of her untimely demise have finally brought the hen harrier issue to national attention. In the last week alone, there has been a strong article in The Observer and a BBC Radio4 piece featuring Martin Harper and Adrian Blackmore from the Countryside Alliance on Monday's Today programme. There are also feature articles on hen harriers in the January editions of both Lancashire Life magazine (they even made the cover) and the Shooting Gazette. Regional and local news stories about hen harriers are one thing but to get national media coverage like this is rare enough.

We now have an opportunity here, you and I, to focus this attention and not let it slip away. We need to build on it and in doing so, connect the wider public with these beautiful birds and the moorland landscape in which they live. Tell the hen harrier story to your neighbour over the garden fence, or your friend next time you go for coffee. Point people to this blog, tell your friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter. Write to your local paper and let them know that this is important to you, to us all.

Remember buzzardgate? Public outrage can be a powerful thing, and we should be outraged. That people (however many or few) are intentionally and illegally killing hen harriers or discouraging them from nesting is outrageous. However in the midst of this I ask you to please remember that not all people who shoot hate hen harriers, and not all people who want to see hen harriers protected are against grouse shooting. The two interests are not mutually exclusive. We don't need scaremongering or demonizing - these things are not helpful and indeed, they only set people against eachother and deepen the problem. This is an opportunity to get away from all that and to help people to really understand the issues. We all want a world richer in wildlife.

We need to encourage everyone, whatever their background, to speak out in the name of hen harriers and send a clear message that these are our birds. They belong in our shared landscape. And illegal persecution will not be tolerated.

This is our chance, and your voice matters.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the blog and all things Skydancer. To leave a comment, simply register with RSPB Community by clicking on the link at the top righthand corner of the page. Registration is completely free and only takes a moment. Let us know what you think!

  • Thankyou for very helpful & kind reply Blanaid

    We have been in contact with the Antrim Falconry and will get back in touch with them if we manage to safely capture the bird in the Garden shed. We have cleared out the shed a good deal in the hope we can entice the bird in with as minimum stress as possible.

    Thankyou for the other links & numbers. I will have a good look around today to see if such a bird is missing.

    Kind Regards


  • DavidB - Amazing visitor to have in your garden but I agree, probably not the best environment for it! It definitely sounds like an escaped falconry bird, given the strap on its leg and the fact that it is happy to rest on your arm. I've contacted our NI Headquarters but unfortunately they haven't had any reports of birds missing. A few suggestions of what you could do:

    1) Contact your local police to check whether anyone has reported it to them.

    2) Try contacting NI School of Falconry (tel. 02835 898555) or Antrim Falconry (tel.  02890 99 7088) to see if they're missing a bird or could at least put the word out that one has been found.

    3) Check the Independent Bird Register at www.independentbirdregister.co.uk.

    4) Have a look on www.falconryforum.co.uk - they also have a thread on lost, found, sighted or stolen birds of prey.

    With any luck, at least one of those should be able to help. Failing all else, you could try contacting the RSPCA, though as the bird sounds like it's in good health, I'm not sure whether they would take it in.

    Best of luck and do drop me an email at blanaid.denman@rspb.org.uk to let me know how you get on!

  • After years of not researching this subject I am revisiting it with a vengeance and devouring as much information of the subject of Raptor persecution in general.

    Whilst I do read both sides of the argument (a must to fully understand the situation) no one appears to give scientific evidence on the number of grouse (or any other bird) Raptors kill to survive.

    Surly if an argument goes "Hen Harriers kill grouse and will or could destroy my grouse moor as a shooting moor" you have to add facts to the statement not just on numbers killed but on cost.

    The same goes for the other side something like this "Hen Harriers do take some grouse, and meadow pipits etc.  However a moor should be able to support 2 or 3 pairs"

    Same argument, we must show scientifically that Hen Harriers or any other raptor does not damage to the extent that Moor Managers/Keepers state.

    Without this type of 'proper' discussion the throwing of this and that from both sides does not wash.

    I seemed to remember that sheep farmers in the Lakes were compensated if sheep were taken buy the Golden Eagles when they lived there.  Whilst some people stated that they never took sheep!  They did, one year when I was on the watch with the RSPB I saw an Eagle take a lamb.

    Sorry for this bit of a ramble but we must remain scientific, run these campaigns on fact not maybe's.  Facts are much harder to argue against.

    Of course in the end it is illegal and the law should be used to its full potential; I am afraid to say this will it seems never happen whether through lack of effort or resources.

  • Hello all, just newly registered. I don't know where else to go and after seeing this blog post on the Hen Harrier i would like to share my story

    I have a Hen Harrier that has been visiting our backgarden in a highly built up urban area this last two weeks and has been spotted maybe one month before this also, but in the last few days this bird will always come and perch on the telephone pole out in our garden and sit for hours.

    I wanted a closer look to see if it was ok and have been feeding it on diced steak pieces to entice it down.

    I think someone must own this bird as it has  a leather strap of some sort attached to its leg but it refuses to leave our garden for the best part of the day only to leave at night to return to it's night perch.

    I don't have the proper protection to hold this bird in my hand but i have been using an old welding glove which seems to do the job. I have got it now to take the steak pieces from my hand and on a few occasions it has perched on the glove for a few seconds before flying upto the pole again.

    This is a real treat but i know and have read that this bird is protected and am worried for it's saftey.

    I live in Londonderry Northern Ireland and have never seen such a bird anywhere in the countryside and especially in my own garden.

    Any advice on what i can do or if i should do anything at all, should i continue to feed it or ignore it? I don't want it to stay around here, as much as i would love it to stay, i know it isn't a safe environment for such a bird of prey to be on a daily basis.

  • I'm afraid the time for talking with Grouse Moor owners about the coexistence of Hen Harriers on shooting sites has long passed. I agree with pretty much all the points Tony makes, so will avoid listing them all again, but the basic fact of the matter is that England has suitable habitat for up to 300 pairs of breeding Hen Harriers, last year there was 1. This to me speaks volumes for the level of interest in coexistence from the shooting community.  The only possible way forward is a total ban on driven grouse shooting.

  • Thank you - I will look forward to reading it Blanaid.

  • Thanks for your comment, Tony. It’s great to see people really engaging with this issue and your question goes right to the heart of the matter.

    Your doubts over whether or not hen harriers and driven grouse shooting can truly coexist are widely shared, not least amongst the shooting community, and it is an essential point to address if we are to move forward in securing a future for these birds. With this in mind and with your permission, I will post my response as a full blog post in the next day or so.

  • I want to see Hen Harriers protected and I think you need to be entirely honest about whether Hen Harriers can co-exist with Red Grouse on driven grouse moors. There are virtually no Hen Harriers breeding in England and it is generally accepted that there should be at least 200/300 pairs - we all know the reason which is illegal persecution.

    I have read extensively on this and am gradually coming to the conclusion that  there is no solution if the law is to be upheld.  It might be possible to keep a token presence of Hen Harriers on English moors by artificially feeding them but the vast majority would need to be illegally" discouraged" or the law would need to be changed to allow this, which I for one find unacceptable.  I would prefer to see driven grouse shooting banned.  I know Mark Avery says this is the "Nuclear Option" but if the letter of the law was followed and Hen Harriers were not persecuted it would appear that driven grouse shooting would not be viable anyway.

    I think you are doing an excellent job in many ways and I have sent a donation to the BoP Appeal but, you say that - "The two interests are not mutually exclusive" - Please explain this in detail, in relation to driven grouse moors and in the context of the present law.