What better way to inspire the next generation about hen harriers than to take them out and actually show them hen harriers!
Luckily for me, I was privileged to be able to do just that when Siobhan McGuigan, the RSPB’s Youth Development Officer brought children from our local school, Brennand’s Endowed Primary in Slaidburn, onto the United Utilities estate earlier this month. The children aged 5-10 were brimming with excitement as they travelled in a land rover across the moor, then negotiated a heard of fluffy black and white four legged teddy bears (or Belted Galloway cattle) before making the final short walk to the viewing point passing heather, meadow pipits and cotton grass blowing in the wind.
As soon as I met them they were all super keen to tell me what they’d learnt about these majestic raptors during previous visits made to the school as part of the RSPB’s Skydancer Project, explaining the food pass and where they like to nest.
The children were given the opportunity to come up to see the birds after they ‘adopted’ the chicks and ran a competition to name them all.
The four females have been named Sky, Highlander, Fern and Heather their only brother is now Flash. You’ll be able to follow the exploits of Sky and Highlander (pictured below) on this blog over the weeks, months and hopefully years to come.
(c) RSPB. Highlander (left) and Sky (right) as named by pupils at Brennand's Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn.
It has to be said, I was a little nervous about how I was going to show a 5 year old a hen harrier from a distance of about a kilometre, but the timing of the visit was just perfect. With the spotting scopes set up on the diversionary feeding post, just a few seconds of looking down them rewarded all the children with views of the young hen harriers flying about and landing on the post – magical.
“I felt really excited and happy because they are a really rare bird. There isn’t many of them in the UK. It is a privilege to go and see them.”
The ten year old who said that, sadly, hit the nail on the head with all three of those sentences. I almost couldn't have put it better myself.
So whilst it is a real privilage to be able to show adults and children their first hen harrier I would far rather there were enough birds out there that people could just go and discover them for themselves. These birds should be gracing our skies over all the upland areas in England and be there for everyone to enjoy.
Pupils from Brennand's Endowed Primary School see what it's like to be a member of the Hen harrier overnight protection staff.