February, 2014


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.
  • Have a heroic half-term with the Hen Harrier Hero Awards!

    It's the last day of half-term week, the weather's been awful and the kids are bouncing off the walls. You're running out of ideas to keep them occupied and counting down the days 'til school starts again, but fear ye not - I have just the thing!

    RSPB's Hen Harrier Hero Awards are completely free and packed full of 15 fun activities encouraging children learn about hen harriers and their moorland habitats. From making a moorland collage, or practising their birdwatching skills, to camouflage games, and hosting a harrier fun day, there's plenty to keep the whole family busy!

    Participants only need to complete six activities to earn a Hero Award, or 10 activities to receive a Superhero Award. Each award comes with a personalised certificate and Hen Harrier Hero or Superhero sticker and those who earn a Superhero Award will also receive a special edition hen harrier pin badge.

    The awards are aimed at children aged 8-12 but can easily be adapted for those older or younger, and are suitable for individuals, families, schools or youth groups. Best of all, you don't have to live anywhere near hen harriers or moorland to take part.

    Download your free activity book from our website here: rspb.org.uk/henharrierhero

    So what are you waiting for? Go on, have a heroic half term!

  • Wildlife crime & hen harriers hitting the headlines

    With the gathering of the first United for Wildlife conference in London this week, the subject of international wildlife crime has been very much in the media spotlight. This has stimulated a huge amount of online commentary and debate about our tendency to view wildlife crime as a foreign issue, and whether or not we adhere to our responsibility to practice what we preach.

    Do we hold the importance of protecting our own iconic wildlife, such as hen harriers and golden eagles, as equal to the protection of international poster-species like rhinos and tigers?

    And if not, why not?

    You can watch Channel 4's short documentary news piece on this topic here, which aired last night and features interviews with, amongst others, our own Scottish Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson, and the Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Alex Hogg.

    In addition, Martin Harper wrote an excellent blog on this yesterday, "Tackling wildlife crime abroad... and at home", which if you haven't already read, I would strongly recommend. In it, he particularly focuses on hen harriers and explains why the pressure is now seriously on for Defra fulfil their commitment to produce an effective emergency recovery plan for hen harriers in England. 

    Time is ticking, and our wildlife is counting on us.

  • Bird on the Brink - an evening of discussion & debate

    A key part of my role in Skydancer, is the delivery of talks on hen harriers and the project to local interest groups, such as bird clubs, natural history societies, WI groups, rotary clubs – basically anyone who’ll listen! These talks normally take the form of a traditional lecture style presentation (though I hate the word “lecture”, it makes everything sound so dull) with questions and answers at the end, so when I was invited to speak as part of Cafe Culture North East's programme of events, I jumped at the chance to try something different.

    Here’s what they say on their website:

    Café Culture is a series of free events for thinkers which aim to generate discussion, debate and a convivial atmosphere. Held in central Newcastle upon Tyne, they seek to provide a space for people to think, share ideas and to have a lively and inclusive discussion.

    Each talk involves an interesting speaker, sometimes but not always high profile, who introduce their talk in an accessible and challenging way. We then open to the floor for comment, debate and discussion. We aim to go beyond a rigid question and answer format, to allow broad participation. We want to create an atmosphere where people can talk about the issues they feel passionately about and to open our minds to new ideas.

    You can follow them on Facebook here and listen to the podcasts of their talks online here.

    It’s not called Café Culture for nothing as the venue for the evening was indeed a café in the corner of Dance City, a local performing arts school. Of course, it was only after agreeing that I realised there would be no stage, no PowerPoint, no props, or notes – just me, in the corner, with a microphone, talking for 30 minutes... no pressure!

    I guess I must have managed alright, because the 90 minutes of discussion and debate that followed were extremely well thought-out, reasoned and considered. So much so in fact, that I'd be really keen to use the format again. Unfortunately, this latter part of the evening wasn't recorded, a real pity as there was so much said and some incredibly insightful comments from the audience that simply couldn’t be squeezed into the comparatively short introduction. However, if you can spare 29 minutes and fancy giving it a listen, click here to go to the podcast.

    Keen listeners amongst you may pick up on a point when I say 100 grouse, when I actually mean 1000 (this was later clarified in the discussion), but in the grand scheme of things, talking for half an hour with no notes or slides, I’ll forgive myself one relatively minor slip. What I’m finding harder to forgive is the turn my accent has taken...!