Hen Harriers are amazing birds. My first was in the late 1970’s, it flew across the Coast Road near Salthouse. That ringtail was, and remains a special bird.
2013 @Alantilmouth persuade people to tweet about Hen Harriers on the [In]Glorious 12th in response to their illegal and deliberate persecution on Grouse Moors. Over the morning I furiously tweeted for an hour or so. It did not trend. In 2013 there were no Hen Harrier nests in England.
2014. In the rain, with my better-half, I joined @Alantilmouth on the viaduct at Coanwood with other birders. While nationally, the First annual Hen Harrier Day was marked by more well-known personalities, also standing in the rain, in Derbyshire. There was some publicity. Local and special interest groups were engaged.
2015. Big names and bigger event in Derbyshire. Other events around Britain, this is now a thing. @birdersagainst have in the 12 months attracted wider interest in wildlife crime. Britain was no longer relying on one journalist to bang the Hen Harrier drum, which is lucky as he no longer works for The Times.
There is big money and influence in grouse shooting and a once heroic cricketer now fronted a campaign to attack the RSPBs track record of protection of birds and raptors in particular. And a move from previous responses the RSPB bit back. Game on.
9th August Hen Harrier Day arrives. Sun shining lots of enthusiasm and no bins persuaded my wife I was not going to slope off quickly and look at waders -the event was at RSPB Saltholme. Being met at the door by vacant stares of staff when we said we had come for the Hen Harrier Day event was a shock. No copies of @MarkAvery Inglorious in the shop. Come on RSPB you were the host.
The only way I was going to get ‘Inglorious’ on the day was buying a raffle ticket from a stall tucked out back; more chance of seeing a Hen Harrier. However you could not doubt the enthusiasm of @Craiglee and Aimee’s family, the volunteer organisers of the event and knowledgeable about the issues. They were supported by a stall from Lush selling Hen Harrier logo bath bombs. This is not a cynical move; Mark Constantine the CEO is a respected birder –The Sound Approach.
David Lindo –The Urban Birder, spoke to a room of 100+ people. He talked of his love of birds from an early age. His favourite birds were Ring Ouzel and Hen Harrier, not easy to find when you grow up in London. Without using the C-word (cat) he described how front gardens becoming car parks; back gardens being decked; hedges becoming fences; and ornamental plants being grown providing no food for insects, were the reason why it was not the Sparrowhawk to blame for the demise of song birds in towns. He talked of the National Bird competition -#1 Robin. He then talked of Hen Harriers, Grouse and engaging landowners. All the people in the room should be inspired to go and do something. This is everybody’s responsibility to play their part.
And finally the raffle. @LeeHarris would be amazed if I missed this out. First ticket out was my wife’s, so I got Inglorious after all. As we were standing next to David Lindo she explained the story and we did not mean to offend by not picking his book. Fourth ticket out –also my wife. So I now have Tales from Concrete Jungles to read too; with its references to the NE in it should be a canny read. When her name came out a third time we declined to go up again. Just as well as of the ten tickets we bought her name was called out 8 times. If only the Hen Harrier was as lucky. @Leeharris also won a book to go with his earlier Merlin find.
It turned into a good day. The cause is one which all birders should be able to get behind. Let’s hope that next year is bigger and better and that at some point in the future the need for this day will disappear. Hen Harriers returning to the uplands of England would be a great sight.
As part of the day people using Twitter were asked to sign up to a Hen Harrier Thunderclap with a more than 5M reach it was impressive.
But how did some local conservation twitter feeds meet the challenge?
Morethankittiwakes book reviews will follow, but based on the first 20 pages buy Inglorious, you will want to get involved. If you don’t think it’s for you, listen to Chris Packham’s review on Talking Naturally.