If you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like you've been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

-          Pompeii, by Bastille


Cycling into work this morning, a car pulled up alongside me with the windows down and this song blaring. I’ve heard it plenty of times before of course but today of all days, two years exactly since the launch of Skydancer and the project’s official midway point, it struck a chord.

It’s scary how time flies. There we were, lamenting the state of things with only four hen harrier nests in England and all on one estate, yet fast forward a mere 730 days and four nests is suddenly looking pretty good. Actually scratch that – four nests is still terrible in the context of the whole of England, but you take my point.

 I’m an optimist by nature, but the complete absence of a single hen harrier chick in England this year has been testing in the extreme, even for me. Mind you, it’s not as though we’ve just been sitting on our hands. Over the past two years, Skydancer has been busy engaging 994 school children and their families...

“Oh, we know all about hen harriers. She hasn’t stopped talking about them since your visit. We even have to look out for them on the way to the supermarket!”

 ...delivering in-depth community talks to 1,069 people...

“Thank you for a really excellent talk, informative, inspiring... our members were clearly impressed.”

 ...running workshops with students at gamekeeping colleges across the North...

“I believe now that with the right attitudes and the right methods, hen harriers and gamekeeping can coexist.”

 ... sparking >750 direct conversations at events and shows in key hen harrier areas...

“I hadn’t heard of hen harriers before. I’ll look out for them when I get home to Scotland!”

 ...and of course, on the ground monitoring and nest protection (see here).

And our hen harrier work isn’t limited to Skydancer – our investigations, policy, advocacy, parliamentary and campaigns teams have all been hard at it on a national level too.

The upshot is that more people than ever before are now aware of the hen harrier issue. And more people than ever want to do something about it - just see my recent blog about the power of a tweet. This is a Good Thing and on the back of such an abysmal breeding season, we need good things.

Regular readers of this blog may recall my hope at the start of this year that 2013 would be The Year of the Hen Harrier, the year that things changed for good. With hindsight now, you might think that I was being naive but as far as I’m concerned, the title still stands – it’s simply up to us to decide what we will let it stand for.

We can let 2013 become the Year of the Hen Harrier for the wrong reasons – the year that hen harriers finally disappeared from England, never to return. Or we can fight back and remember 2013 as the year the tide changed.

In fact, now I think about it, perhaps I'm not an optimist after all. Optimists see the glass as half full, pessimists see it as half empty. But here at this particular halfway point, with two years down and two years left to go, all I see is what needs to be done to fill it all the way up. Call me a determined realist then. Or better yet, a VERY determined realist.

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