August 10th 2014 was Hen Harrier Day. Events were held in four different locations – the Forest of Bowland (Lancashire), the South Tyne Trail at Lambley (Northumberland), Radipole RSPB reserve (Dorset) and Fairholmes Visitor’s Centre (Peak District).
The day of action was to raise awareness of the wildlife crime of the shooting of Hen Harriers. There was a huge turnout for all four events, with 570 people attending in the Peak District alone. Campaigners wish to see an acknowledgment of the situation from the shooting industry and commitments from it to help enforce legislation. The day of action was organised by Birders against Wildlife Crime, with the Northwest Raptor Protection group and Mark Avery. It was supported by the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Hawk and Owl Trust, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Peak District National Park, Birdwatch Magazine, Rare Bird Alert, the Welsh Ornithological Society and Quaker Concern for Animals.
The Hen Harrier was once a common species found all over Britain but now only survives in the wild in remoter areas in the north of England and in Scotland. The decline is due to illegal killing of this protected species, particularly by gamekeepers on grouse shooting estates, where they are perceived as threats to the grouse. In 2011 a report* by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee stated that “In England, illegal persecution is such a constraint that the hen harrier is threatened with extinction as a breeding species”. In 2014 only three pairs have bred successfully, with nest sites having twenty four hour protection to ensure their safety.
*More on the JNCC report here.
(Hen Harrier image from Wikimedia Commons.)