Our April 2021 newsletter announces a new adventure for us: Skydancer Day, building on the success of Hen Harrier Day Online in August last year. It will be hosted by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin on 9 May, at 10.15 am and last about 90 minutes. It will mainly celebrate spring in the uplands (with some great video footage) but will not shirk the problems of raptor persecution, the other ills of the uplands and the need for urgent reform. The newsletter also introduces the new Hen Harrier Species Champion in Westminster, Olivia Blake MP. There's a well-informed article from her and another from one of our supporters, Nick Wilson-Smith, about grip-blocking and peatland restoration. A brief news update inclues the sad loss of Tarras (pictured) tagged on Langholm Moor last year and 'missing' near grouse moors since February.
Our February 2021 newsletter has three great articles: The first, by one of our volunteers, is about birdwatching at Parkgate on the Dee, a great place to see hen harriers in winter. Then we have a short account of a long saga about how the travails of kind offer of a sound recording of a hen harrier from Russia. Then there's a great account of the return of hen harriers to the Mar Lodge estate in the Cairngorms (also below). You can also find brief details of our plans for 2021 which include a sping event, as well as (we hope) both online and on-the-ground events in August. Plus the usual wider news round-up.
Here's a heartening story from Mar Lodge, a large upland estate in the Cairngorm mountains owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The estate is being managed primarily for conservation and to encourage natural regeneration and expansion of the Caledonian pinewood. It already supports many raptor species, including breeding golden eagle, peregrine falcon, merlin, buzzard, long-eared owl, tawny owl and barn owl, but 2016 brought the return of breeding hen harriers for the first time in living memory. They have since returned to breed each year, and a number of chicks were satellite tagged as part of the RSPB Hen Harrier LIFE project. Sheila Rao, ecologist at Mar Lodge, wrote this evocative story welcoming the hen harriers back.
Our December 2020 newsletter is mainly about how to join with Hen Harrier Action in supporting Hen Harrier Days. There are so many ways to do so. You could run an event or contribute to one. Importantly, we do also need people to help with our co-ordinating role at the charity. If you want to help, just say and you will find us genuinely welcoming and keen to find the best way for you to fit in and contribute. At the moment we are in particular looking for new trustees of the charity: board members who can be both hands-on and help us make our best contribution to nature in the uplands. There's also a fascinating article about monitoring winter roosts, and a wider news round-up.
The October 2020 newsletter reflects on our brilliant Hen Harrier Day Online in August, to which hundreds of people contributed, many of them new to the issues which concern us. There's an article by trustee Gill Lewis about the Young Wild Writer Competition, which attracted over 500 entries and which, headlined by Michael Morpurgo reading out the winning entry, was a lovely part of the event on the day. There's also an article by Josh Hutt about volunteering for Hen Harrier Action and what he gains from that. We certainly value his contribution, which included several video sequences for and in support of our online event.
The August 2020 newsletter mainly set out the programme for Hen Harrier Day Online in August 2020. You can now see most of the brilliant events for that day at https://henharrierday.uk/online. On that page, you can see the videos made in response to our challenge to young film-makers, poems about hen harriers and other raptors from internationally renowned poets, contributions from some of the UK's great young advocates for nature – and much more. Not all of the individual components of the day have yet been disentangled from the whole, but you can see and select from that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwNB8MCN_qA
The July 2020 newsletter sketched the programme for Hen Harrier Day Online in August 2020, reported on the first Welsh Hen Harrier Day and had a feature on wildlife crime in lockdown, inviting readers to write to Scottish government leaders about the killing of a white-tailed eagle. There has so far never been a prosecution of the killing of an eagle in Scotland. In happier news we reported briefly on the visit of a bearded vulture to Derbyshire. Nicknamed 'Vigo', she was in fact a young female from the Alps, to which she returned in October.
The May 2020 newsletter gave the fist more detailed news of our plans for an online Hen Harrier Day and invited suggestions and contributions. At that time we were still hoping that some on-the-ground events would still be possible, but sadly that was not to be. We reported on the upsurge of wildlife crime during lockdown but noticed that detection seemed to have gone up too.
The March 2020 newsletter, our first, introduced the Hen Harrier Day website and the charity Hen Harrier Action. It gave news of many local Hen Harrier Days being planned but, though acknowledging the impact of the forthcoming pandemic, proved far too optimistic about that, reckoning that August events would still be OK. Even so, it gave the first news of our planning for an online event. We were so fortunate that this was proposed so early and that we quickly got on with the planning and organising. The newsletter also had items on 'controlled' heather burning going out of control, the judicial review of Natural England's morally and scientifically dubious 'Hen Harrier Action Plan' and about some arrests related to wildlife crime.
In February 2020, the RSPB published new data on raptor persecution. 2018 was the worst year in over a decade in England, and whilst recorded incidents had fallen in Scotland there is concern that this is only because the criminals have got better at concealing their crime. The RSPB’s Raptor Persecution Map Hub, an interactive map of known confirmed raptor persecution incidents in the UK, has been expanded and updated to show all confirmed raptor persecution from 2007 to 2018. In total there were 1,242 confirmed incidents over the period, with most in England (686) and Scotland (394). By far the worst area, and a notorious hotspot for wildlife crime, was North Yorkshire, with 132.
In November 2019, the RSPB published the report on its Hen Harrier LIFE Project. Extending over more than five years, the project protected over 100 nests and 150 winter roosts, tagged over 100 birds, and helped raised awareness of this beautiful bird. Sadly, the report also provided compelling confirmation that the hen harrier’s main problem in the UK is illegal persecution. The project, adding to overwhelming existing evidence, concluded that “...the main factor limiting the recovery of the hen harrier population continues to be illegal killing associated with management of moorlands for driven grouse shooting.”