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2014 the year of the Hen Harrier

Over the 12 days of Christmas we have been taking a look back at some the rarest birds to turn up in Britain in 2014 and we are currently running a Rarity of 2014 Poll. However, as exciting as these rarities have been, 2014 will surely be remembered by many as the year of the Hen Harrier.

Findlay Wildle's huge model Hen Harrier, signed by those attending the protest (© Nick Broan)

The persecution of Britain’s raptors has been happening for decades but in 2014, mainly through the use of social media, birders, naturalists and wildlife lovers of all sorts began to speak with one voice, all galvanised around the plight of the Hen Harrier.

On Sunday 10th of August 2014 I gathered, along with 570 others, in the shadow of the Derwent Dam and in one almighty downpour, to protest against the continued and widespread persecution of British raptors.

The scene on Hen Harrier day in Derbyshire (© Brian Egan)

From meeting young Findlay Wilde and signing his giant Hen Harrier, to the Father Ted inspired placards and listening to the emotional Chris Packham speak so passionately, it was a truly memorable day.

Sure, it was a relatively small protest but for those of us present it felt like we were dropping the first stone in a large pond, the ripples from which will travel far and long.

Below Mark Avery shares his reflections on the on the day and here at RBA we would like to congratulate him, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, North West Raptor Protection Group, Chris Packham and everyone else involved in Hen Harrier day

2014 – the year of the Hen Harrier

Brian Egan, Rare Bird Alert.

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My best birding moment of 2014 was completely birdless - it was the time spent standing in the pouring rain as part of the 'Sodden 570' gathered in the Peak District on Hen Harrier Day, Sunday 10 August 2014.

The months before had involved a certain amount of negotiation with Severn Trent Water about whether or not we were welcome and then in promoting the event. We gathered on a patch of grass in the valley by the Derwent Dam (of Dambuster fame), and as I checked out the venue for one last time on the day before, the weather was fine and I kept glancing up to the grouse moors on the hill above where I knew that a pair of Hen Harriers was still nesting - only the fourth pair in England last year. How ironic that hundreds of people would gather here tomorrow to protest against Hen Harrier persecution very close to one of the few pairs in the country - but its existence was a secret known only to a few.

What's a bit of rain when our harriers are being wiped out? (© Guy Shorrock)

On the day itself, the heavens opened and Hurricane Bertha dumped what seemed like most of the Atlantic Ocean on our heads. But in a very British way the assembled multitude, some of whom had travelled from the south coast of England to attend, were very cheery and clearly enjoyed the speech by Chris Packham and the feeling that they were doing something and that they were with fellow naturalists who objected to wildlife crime.

Mark Avery, Chris Packam and Barry Gardiner MP who attended Hen Harrier Day (© Guy Shorrock)

'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win. We will win!' Chris Packham, speaking at Hen Harrier Day 2014, quoting Gandhi!

No Hen Harriers were seen, nor were any saved on that day, but the word went out to far more than the hundreds of people standing in solidarity that wet morning. Over two million people received news of the Hen Harrier's plight on social media, the media covered the opening of the grouse shooting season two days later in a completely different way, and the criminals who commit wildlife crimes were put on notice that wildlife crime must come to an end.

I feel that, and certainly hope that, Hen Harrier Day 2014 will mark a turning point in the prospects for the Hen Harrier and other protected wildlife in England and across the UK. Killing raptors by the game industry is unacceptable in the 21st century. There will be a Hen Harrier Day on 9 August 2015 - watch out for news on how you can take part.

Thank you to Rare Bird Alert for highlighting Hen Harrier Day and the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting (sign here if you want to support this e-petition epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65627) and for asking me to write this short piece. Thanks also to Birders Against Wildlife Crime and the Northwest Raptor Protection Group for being joint organisers of Hen Harrier Day events in Northumberland and Lancashire.

Dr.Mark Avery
07 January 2015

 

Hen Harrier Day 2015

Hen Harrier day 2015 is already being planned and you can read more about some of the initial plans on the BAWC website and on Mark's blog here

Whatever is planned RBA will be there to show our support for Hen Harriers and all of Britain's raptors, we hope to see you there too

 

 

 

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