Findlay Wilde is the young conservationist and blogger behind Wilde About Birds.
Finn is a young female hen harrier who, together with her three brothers, fledged from one of two nests on Forestry Commission land in Northumberland this month. Finn was satellite tagged as part of the Hen Harrier LIFE Project and is named after Findlay, who was one of the winners of Ecotricity’s Young Green Briton competition last year. Run by Britain’s leading green energy company, the competition looks to find the country’s greenest youngsters and gives them a chance to speak about a key environmental topic on stage at WOMAD Festival. Ecotricity was so impressed by Findlay’s passion and focus on the issue of hen harriers that the company funded the satellite tag.
Here, Findlay shares with us that passion for hen harriers and his hopes for our feathered Finn.
I can still vividly remember the very first time I saw a hen harrier. It was high up on the North Wales moors. The fine rain and mist covered my face in water and the low cloud limited my views over the vast landscape. Despite the rain and mist, I resolved to walk even further up the moors, but my plans to keep going suddenly came to an abrupt stop. A grey ghost, elegant and effortless, glided past within 10 metres of where I stood. He soared effortlessly on the wind, appearing and reappearing through the sloping hills.
I am sure many of you out there worry about the way the world is changing and what the future holds for the next generation and the challenges they will face. Well wildlife of course has to face up to all these changes and challenges too; changes that they have not caused, but will suffer from.
An important thing to remember throughout this blog post is that chilling statistic that we have lost almost 50% of our world wildlife over the last 40 years. This really shows how important it is to protect, nurture and speak out for the natural world. Many species are already struggling due to loss of habitat and climate change, but throw illegal persecution in to the mix and the situation just gets worse.
So what does the future hold for a young hen harrier named Finn? What are her chances?
Finn (right) and her three brothers in the nest. Photo: Martin Davison
It’s hard sometimes to explain the difficulties faced by these birds, but try thinking of hen harriers as a massive dot to dot picture puzzle. Think of each dot as one of our much needed hen harriers. We need hundreds of dots to realise the picture we want. But the dots keep disappearing. Sky, Hope, Chance, the 5 males that went missing last year, forcing the females to abandon their nest, and most recently the disappearance of newly fledged Elwood over a grouse moor. All those vital dots erased.
The end picture we all want for hen harriers doesn’t look good at the moment, so we have to ensure we get all the future dots in the right place. Each connection line between the dots is all the hard work going on to protect them and stop their persecution, but it’s frustrating that our connection lines seem to be getting longer and longer. Each plotted dot for the future represents hope and our efforts and successes, strengthening the picture we all want to see.
Although I want to be optimistic, Finn’s chances of survival are not good, and it feels terrible to have to say that. She has fledged in an area surrounded by grouse moors; but she has spirit. When she first fledged she did not hang about the nest site as you would have expected, she flew to the coast first and since then has explored the surrounding area. But each of these flights put her in harm’s way as of course she doesn’t understand where the safe areas are. Finn is going to have so many challenges to overcome, but my big wish for her is that illegal persecution is no longer one of them.
Finn about to receive her satellite tag. Photo: Martin Davison
I urge you all to follow Finn’s journey and watch her progress. I urge you to tell other people about her and how important she is as one of those vital dots that will create the future picture we all want to see. Awareness of raptor persecution is growing, and there is a lot of momentum, but we have to keep this going. The natural world across the globe cannot afford to keep losing.
I must say a massive thank you to the RSPB LIFE team and Ecotricity for enabling Finn to be monitored through the satellite tagging scheme. When I first approached Dale Vince and Helen Taylor of Ecotricity at the 2015 WOMAD festival, I could never have imagined the opportunity this would create. You can read more about that story here http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/wilde-about-finn.html
Thanks Findlay! And here's a final note from Helen Taylor at Ecotricity:
When we first met Finn just over a year ago we were blown away by his passion and dedication to protect hen harriers, and he inspired us to support his conservation work. It has been fantastic to work with him and the RSPB since then on the tagging project and we’re thrilled that the chick named in his honour has now fledged and is exploring its local area.
We all have a responsibility to protect the wonderful wildlife in this country and the hen harrier is one of our most vulnerable, so we must do all we can to make a difference – before it’s too late.
Both Northumberland hen harrier nests this year were protected by the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership, which includes the Forestry Commission, MOD, Natural England, Northumberland National Park Authority, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Northumbria Police and local raptor workers. This is the second year in a row that hen harriers have fledged successfully from this site.
From the end of the summer, you'll be able to follow Finn's progress online at www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife or @RSPB_Skydancer.