Hen Harriers, enigmatic skydancers who, should, rule the skies of British moorland. A raptor that I have often admired on their wintering grounds at raptor roosts (usually the more muted ringtails, sadly, rather than the striking grey male); but one I have never seen on a summer moor, or performing their legendary skydance display.
Sadly, very sadly in my opinion, it is also a bird that is under serious threat in the UK; especially in England.
What is happening to them?
Well where there should be around 300 pairs (estimates put it around 330 pairs with suitable habitat) on English moors. Currently there are 3 known pairs!
Because these moors are often used as grouse moors for shooting. And gamekeepers/land owners don’t want them competing for the quarry, so out come traps, guns and poison to “get rid” of this wonderful bird, all illegal of course.
Here is the petition (currently standing at some 74500 signatures) to ban driven grouse shooting, and, hopefully, give some protection to the wonderful Hen Harrier: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003
Hen Harrier Day 2016
So what is Hen Harrier Day? Well to put in basic terms it is a day when conservationists, wildlife lovers, environmentalists, and generally people who care about our wildlife, get together to listen to talks, support organisations that are fighting to put a stop to these crimes:
There are events all over the country running on both Saturday and Sunday (we were at Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve). You can find out much more about the day and what the goals are here: http://henharrierday.org/ or watch Chris Packham’s video here: The Real Price of Grouse.
Hen Harrier Day 2016
Yesterday (Saturday 6th August 2016) was Hen Harrier Day (actually there are events all weekend) and we were up at the crack of dawn ready to make the journey from our Milton Keynes home to deepest, darkest Essex! we were headed to Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve to meet up with hundreds of other like minded people.
Our journey didn’t quite run as smoothly as possible, missing our first bus by a minute was clearly an omen, our starter train had no working power sockets (hey the kids wanted to play Pokemon go along the way, and that eats battery life), arriving in Euston we headed into the tubes only to find the Northern line closed, meaning our well planned route needed to be altered. Eventually we arrived at Fenchurch again, a few moments behind the leaving train and so another 20 minute wait for the next train ensued and we eventually arrived in Purfleet after 11, the scheduled start time of the day’s events!
When we did manage to catch up with the rally we had missed a huge chunk, including our friend Charlie Moores speech, but we did managed to get there for Chris Packhams talk, and rousing words.
Zoe and Bubs meeting Chris Packham (it is the little lady’s first time – Chris will be signing books on our Birding For all stand at the bird fair this year)
With the whole crowd (I estimated a few hundred, but official figures were higher – a lesson to never trust my wildlife counts if they involve large numbers), revved up by the talks, and while a trio of singers “Peregrina Enchantica” serenaded us all, we had a few chats with friends (old and new) also attending, purchased some badges and took a few photos, before heading off around the reserve for a very HOT walk.
After the talks, rather than heading back to the visitor centre, as much of the crowd did, we continued our walk around the reserve (our second visit of the year), it was wonderful to walk amongst the reeds, witness the whizzing wings of the dragonflies and the soft fluttering of all the butterflies; the singing rhythm of the crickets and grasshoppers and the melodic croaking of the Marsh Frogs.
But there was one star of the show for me, a species I have always wanted to see (and photograph) since I first became aware of their existence. The striking, colourful (well the females), and just brilliant WASP SPIDER!
Wasp Spider (female) isn’t she stunning?
Wasp Spider (Thank you to the two gentlemen who pointed her out to me, made my day).
I have to admit, we kind of rushed much of our walk as we had finished our drinks early and the sun was beating down getting us overly hot and in need of a cold drink and some rest, back at the visitors centre.
I did manage a few more photos though:
Zoe, Bubs and Tubs on the paths of Rainham.
A Big Thank You
Big thanks to all the staff at Rainham Marshes and the great Friends of Rainham Marshes team for organising such an amazing, and important event. Hen Harrier Day 2016 was a super event for all.
Don’t forget to sign the petition, please:
One last thing
It’s strange what you “bump” into as you travel, on our journey home, as we left Fenchurch st station and walked around to Tower hill tube we had an amazing view of the Tower of London!
Tower of London
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