Skydancer Day - 9 May 2021

Skydancer Day

In 2021 for the first time we organised an event to celebrate spring in the uplands. Leading with some glorious footage of skydancing hen harriers, there was much else besides. We were delighted that, following the huge success of Hen Harrier Day Online last August, Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin again hosted the event, which was streamed live on 9 May. You can view Skydancer Day in full here.

The programme for Skydancer Day was brilliantly varied, with great video of birds, animations, interviews and more. You can also go straight to each item individually from this page. There is a short description of each and you can click on the thumbnail image to go to the video on YouTube. Most of the videos are under five minutes in length.

A printable version of the programme for the event is here.

Many thanks to Keith Offord for permission to use the photographs here (except that of the fledgeling hen harrier, which is copyright RSPB). All are copyright, whether marked or otherwise and permission must be sought for their further use. Find out  more about Keith's work here: http://www.wildinsights.co.uk/

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Breaking News

Thanks to Sunnyside Primary School in Glasgow – and the inventiveness of our producer Paul Samuels – Skydancer Day got off to a brilliant surprise start with this heart-warming news story about hen harriers.

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Skydance to Skydance: Lauren Cook's animation

Lauren Cook was the winner of our Young Filmmaker Challenge in 2020 and so we invited her to make a new animation for Skydancer Day 2021. Here she puts together her artistic skills and ecological knowledge to create a captivating account of the hen harrier's cycle of life. Lauren is already working with us on future projects, so make sure you stay tuned!

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Spring in the uplands

Skydancer Day aimed both to celebrate spring in the uplands and to show how much better for nature and for people our hills and moors could be. The illegally persecuted hen harrier is our symbol, but there are many birds and other animals that could also flourish if given the right conditions. Here is Jenny Shelton's guide to what you see might more of if out in a more nature-friendly uplands.

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Our hen harrier nest camera

In 2021, Hen Harrier Action has an ambitious new project: a live camera on a hen harrier nest. Here Andrea Goddard explains the project and its challenges. A late spring meant late nesting and presently the camera is near but not at the nest. Mum is happy with that and (2 June) there is one chick and four eggs. We'll be going live very soon.

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Rewilding Langholm Moor

We were proud to have raised some £10,000 for this community land purchase to turn grouse moor into nature reserve and so were keen to get an update this spring. Earlier this year, the project completed the purchase of half of the moor with discussions continuing over the rest. Here is Stuart Spray's excellent short film with some of those involved telling their story.

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A rewilding vision

We live in one of the world's most nature-depleted countries and many of us have forgotten or never knew that it could be different. Some call that 'shifting baseline syndrome'. So we need help with a vision of how the land could be better for nature and for people – and sadly that is not always available by looking around us. This short animation by the Scottish Rewilding Alliance offers one possible vision for what a revitalised landscape could bring.

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Sunnyside Primary School, Glasgow

In 2019, Sunnyside Primary School, with a brilliant history of engagement with environmental issues, named a newly satellite-tagged hen harrier 'Thistle'. Sadly, Thistle disappeared in suspicious circumstances before the end of the year. The children are realistic about what is likely to have happened but here they draw attention to the matter with an imaginative enactment of their search for her.

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And still it goes on...

... the criminal persecution of hen harriers and other raptors, that is. Here Mark Thomas, talking to Indy Kiemel Greene, sets out the stark facts about its extent and where it happens, and reveals the shocking truth that lockdown brought yet higher levels of wildlife crime. Mark is head of investigations at the RSPB and says something about their work, how changes in the law could help and what we as members of the public can ourselves do to make a difference.

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"A crime is a crime"

Nicky and Simon Johnson live in the tiny village of Hartoft in North Yorkshire. There are grouse moors within sight and there is wildlife crime in the area. How should two concerned individuals respond in such a community? This short film shows their brilliant and imaginative response and their compelling no-nonsense views on the matter.

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Championing the hen harrier

Olivia Blake MP, the new UK hen harrier species champion, kindly recorded this piece for Skydancer Day, and then gave an excellent interview live, which you can see at about 1hr 25 mins here. They show her knowledge and passion about both the bird and the wider problems caused by driven grouse shooting – her constituents in Sheffield Hallam are indeed fortunate to have her as their MP.

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The hen harrier observed

A sharply and beautifully observed account of hen harriers on Orkney, read by Tom Kane from James Macdonald Lockhart's prize-winning book 'Raptor'. The music is also by Tom and the piece is set with some brilliant video put together by Jenny Shelton.

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HHA's summer programme

Gill Lewis, in conversation with Megan McCubbin, introduces Hen Harrier Action's summer programme. Key elements include a new writing competition for children, a new challenge for young filmmakers (under the age of 30) and 'Draw their attention', an invitation to join a campaign sending pictures of hen harriers to elected representatives. There's more about all of these here.