October, 2013

Skydancer

Skydancer
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.
  • Why not connect with Ghost Bird this Halloween?

    Some of you may remember hearing about, or indeed took part in, the evocative performance art piece Ghost Bird that took place in the Trough of Bowland last autumn – Blanaid blogged about it here.

    If you didn’t get the chance to see the performance at the time or if you'd like to see it again then try and get yourself to Lancaster University or the RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve over the winter months for a chance to experience this thought provoking piece of work in the form of a gallery exhibition.

    The Louise Ann Wilson Company launched the Ghost Bird exhibition at the Peter Scott Gallery in Lancaster University last week. It will be there until 7th December before moving up to Geltsdale from 18th Jan – 4th April 2014.

    If you can get to either of those venues I would well recommend taking a look. The exhibition features stunning photographs from the original production plus some of the installation elements that took place up on the moor.

    Further details about the exhibition can be found at www.liveatlica.org/whats-on/transformed-double-bill

               

    Photographs by Manuel Vason, 2012.

  • Hen harriers, social media & me (guest post)

    When it comes to the big conservation issues like hen harriers, it's all too easy to feel powerless. News stories seem unrelentingly negative and it can be hard to see how any one of us can make a difference. But here's the thing, you are not alone. Through Skydancer I've met all kinds of people who feel passionately about hen harriers and who are all doing something, however big or small, in their own capacity to raise awareness and make a difference. As part of an ongoing series of blogs, I'll be sharing some of these stories with you. United we stand - let's get that positivity going!

    Today’s guest post is brought to you by Linda Moore, who tells us what first inspired her about hen harriers and what she’s been doing to raise awareness. Linda is an enthusiastic bird watcher and an avid adventurer. When she isn’t working away in the office at Living With Birds, Linda can usually be found roaming the wilderness in search of new sights and experiences.

    Around a year ago my husband and I decided that we’d like to celebrate our second wedding anniversary by taking a trip together to the Isle of Man. It was growing late one evening and being the romantics that we are, we decided to go for a walk as the sun set in the distance.

    It was whilst we were out walking that we caught an extremely rare glimpse of a pair of hen harriers performing their beautiful aerial display. Since that trip I have fallen in love with this beautiful species and the idea of protecting hen harriers and other endangered birds.

    I’ve written blogs about hen harriers on other websites to help raise awareness, and I was reading over Blánaid’s earlier post on the power of twitter when I thought, wouldn't it be a great idea to use the power of twitter and other social media sites to report sightings of endangered birds such as the Hen Harrier?

    Technology has become a large part of everyday life; the average 18-25 year old will send and receive approximately 50 text messages each day. This rise in technology also means that the amount of people using the internet to advertise, particularly through social media, is on the increase.

    This new technology means that it’s easier than ever now to report sightings of rare and threatened wildlife. Posting sightings online could draw unwanted attention to the birds but tools like the BTO’s BirdTrack app allow me to contribute to the protection of hen harriers and other species quickly and confidentially. Through BirdTrack, I’m able to alert the BTO to the whereabouts of birds that I have seen using GPS in order to find exact locations of sightings and hotspots within 50 miles of my area. And BirdTrack records feed into the RSPB's hen harrier hotline too.

    Reporting your sightings and encouraging others to do likewise is an incredibly important and easy way to contribute to hen harrier conservation. Are you already a member of a bird watching group / hiking group or any groups that spend long amounts of time outdoors?  Why not promote the Birdtrack app to your fellow members. For me I introduced a couple of my hiking friends to Birdtrack when we were walking through the Lake District. As any modern hiker is aware, haveing a GPS on your phone is a massive help when hiking. My husband and I use Birdtrack when we’re hiking to help record out sighting and it makes us realise just how important nature reserves are.

    By using social media to encourage your friends, family and others to report their sightings via tools like the BirdTrack app, you’ll be doing your bit to protect these beautiful birds and the environment that they live in.

    Do you have an inspiring story or experience of hen harriers that you’d like to share? Perhaps you remember the first time you saw one, or learned about them? Maybe you’re still searching? Have you been doing anything interesting to raise awareness about them? Tell us how these birds have inspired you and you could have it published here – memories, poetry, creative writing are all welcome. Simply email blanaid.denman@rspb.org.uk. 

    Please note, all editorial rights are reserved and submissions must abide by RSPB Community standards.

  • My life with hen harriers at Langholm (guest post)

    When it comes to the big conservation issues like hen harriers, it's all too easy to feel powerless. News stories seem unrelentingly negative and it can be hard to see how any one of us can make a difference. But here's the thing, you are not alone. Through Skydancer I've met all kinds of people who feel passionately about hen harriers and who are all doing something, however big or small, in their own capacity to raise awareness and make a difference. As part of an ongoing series of blogs, I want to share some of these stories with you.

    Skydancer may be two years old but today's guest blogger, Cat Barlow, has been working with communities in the Scottish Borders to raise awareness about hen harriers for more than twice as long. It's a difficult job made harder when the young hen harriers she's monitoring fail to survive, but here, Cat shares some of the highlights that see her through and keep her determined to make a difference for these amazing birds.

    My name is Cat Barlow, I manage a community and education project in Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland called the Making the Most of Moorlands project which aims to raise awareness about moorlands and associated wildlife, including of course the incredible Hen Harrier. We are part of a small community group and Scottish charity called the Langholm Initiative.

    The project began life in 2009 as the Moorland Education Project and became Making the Most of Moorlands in 2011. When most people hear the word Langholm - they think of the Joint Raptor Study or the current Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (LMDP). I work alongside the great team on the LMDP to keep the local community informed and engaged with the science currently taking place on Langholm moor. Through open days, guided walk, presentations and more I help spread the word about the LMDP and engage the community with the incredible moorland landscape around them.

    Langholm lies just over the border into Scotland so the harriers here are quite closely related to the English population and often move into northern England in the winter.

    In a year when no Hen Harriers bred successfully in England we were lucky enough to have two breeding pairs at Langholm – which fledged 10 young. The success we’ve enjoyed at Langholm is tinged with sadness that Hen Harriers as a whole in the UK are facing such an uncertain future.

    The Hen Harrier is such a beautiful and elegant bird of prey and I feel privileged to work alongside them. It can be real rollercoaster of emotions at times, the high of watching a male display overhead to the low of watching our sat tagged birds disappear one by one whether the cause be natural or not. I am a big advocate for education and community engagement - unless people are aware of Hen Harriers and appreciate them, they will slip away into extinction without a fight.

    We are very lucky to be working with Steve Murphy at Natural England and post the progress of the sat tagged Langholm Harriers on our project blog http://langholmmoorland.blogspot.co.uk/. It is a nerve wracking time of year as the young birds disperse and explore new areas. One of the four birds, ‘Miranda’ named by our local Scout group, is on an exciting journey via the Isle of Man to Ireland. She is the first of our Langholm birds to take this journey and only the second tagged Scottish harrier to go to Ireland.

    There have been so many incredible moments from the 2013 season it is hard to choose one. I never tire of watching the elegant sky-dancing in early spring, nervously waiting for eggs to hatch or the adult harriers taking diversionary food from posts to feed their young. Helping someone see their first harrier is always a great feeling, each person who discovers that excitement and joy is another person to fight for the future of the harrier.

    One moment that initially had me fearing for the safety of one of the harrier nests but left me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. I was sat watching the hillside where one of the harrier nests was, waiting hungrily to see the coveted HH behaviour.. a food pass.

    Langholm moor is home to a small population of feral goats, they usually inhabit the higher ground in the spring, but this season were regularly seen as far down as the road. As I sat and watched, a group of 50+ goats appeared over the brow of the hill gradually making their way towards the area of hill I was watching. As they grew closer my companion and I began to wonder aloud.. what would happen if the goats came across the harrier nest, could they trample or eat the eggs? Surely the deep heather would prove too challenging and they would take the easier route along the cut and burnt sections of heather? No, on they came, straight through the deep heather, only the heads and shoulders of the larger goats visible. Suddenly a flash of brown, the female harrier shot off her nest and flew at the ‘lead’ goat which turned and bolted back across the moor followed by the rest of the herd. We watched as 50 + goats bolted in panic from this unseen ‘monster’ I have never seen goats move so fast!

    Do you have an inspiring story or experience of hen harriers that you’d like to share? Perhaps you remember the first time you saw one, or learned about them? Maybe you’re still searching? Have you been doing anything interesting to raise awareness about them? Tell us how these birds have inspired you and your story could be published here – memories, anecdotes, poetry, creative writing are all welcome.

    Please note, all editorial rights are reserved and submissions must abide by RSPB community standards.