Today we have a guest blog from Dara McAnulty, the young Fermanagh naturalist, who reminds us that there's always something we can do to help hen harriers.
I remember the first time I wittingly saw a raptor, I was five and I became entranced. The RSPB visited my school soon after to talk about red kites and the fascination grew into obsession. I constantly scanned the skies for a glimpse of majesty.
The hen harrier was the holy grail, but I didn’t catch my first encounter until I was 12. After that point, my life was irrevocably changed. It wasn’t just the beauty and sheer brilliance of flight engineering - it was the iconic nature of the species. It was a symbol of the desecration of our wildlife and our countryside. I followed these birds through the seasons and rejoiced in their offspring and their ever giving wonder and joy. Each visit made my life so much better. They never failed to amaze me. I kind of felt they were ‘my’ birds, I wanted to give them something back. Something for their persecuted comrades.
Relentlessly targeted and killed to fuel the grouse shooting industry, I followed in the footsteps of other campaigners to add my voice, my words, my determination. This determination was stifled though, I wanted to do more! I really wanted to help.
When I heard about how raptor satellite tagging could act as a deterrent at best, at worst give good data against wildlife crime, I hatched a plan with the help of Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group. There were no tagged birds here in Northern Ireland - I wanted to change that. I wanted to do something more!
In January I walked thirty miles in the depth of winter, over mountain, bog and uplands - a hen harrier saluted me on my way, always inspirational, always uplifting - the sight of it kept me going. Thanks to the generosity of many, I managed to raise £6,000 - which will be used to help fund the first raptor satellite tagging project ‘Hawk Eyes’, (including hen harriers) in Northern Ireland. A feat which quenched my appetite to help. Although I’m getting itchy again and feel the need to do more - there is always so much more we can do.
Dara raised just over £6000 through crowd funding towards hen harrier satellite tagging
There’s no Hen Harrier Day in Northern Ireland this year, but I, like always, will be supporting you all from afar and I will continue to campaign for hen harrier conservation and against persecution.
We Will Win.
Dara McAnulty Age 14