Blog Post: Hen Harrier Hotline relaunched

  As spring has now almost sprung, we’ve relaunched our Hen Harrier Hotline with the hope of finding out where these seriously threatened birds of prey might be breeding in England’s moorland.   If you are out hiking or cycling in the hills, please keep an eye out for one. If you are lucky enough to see a hen harrier, please get in touch.    The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate) .  Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk.  Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible. A description of the bird’s behaviour would also be useful.   Many of you will be able to spot a hen harrier half a mile away in poor weather conditions. But for those of you who are less familiar with the bird of prey, here is a reminder o...

Blog Post: Making bath bombs with Chris Packham

Hen Harrier Life Project Community Engagement Officer Aimée Nicholson reports on recent the LUSH summit   Since joining the Hen Harrier Life Project back in October of last year, I have spent many a happy day telling people about the wonderful birds we are working so hard to protect. Last Thursday was no different but there was a slight twist to this event; this time it was live streamed across the internet for the world to see. The event I attended was the LUSH Summit, a two-day event organised by the ethical cosmetics company, which showcased the causes that they support through the campaigns in their shops. The Hen Harrier Life Project is very lucky to be one of those causes and since 2015 the sales from the Skydancer bath bomb has raised over £100,000 to fund the purchase of satellite tags. Thanks to this support from Lush we are ab...

Blog Post: Introducing Aimée

New(ish) RSPB recruit Aimée Nicholson talks about her work as Community Engagement Officer in England for the Hen Harrier Life Project. I have been working for the Hen Harrier Life Project for a little while now so I thought it was about time I introduced myself to you all. My role involves working with communities in and around the Special Protection Areas in England that are designated to have breeding hen harriers living in them. These are the North Pennine Moors and the Forest of Bowland. This work involves school outreach sessions in primary and secondary schools, as well as working with game keeping students, giving community talks and attending country shows in the summer. The role has me travelling around a lot and last week took me across to the University of Cumbria in Ambleside where I was giving a seminar on hen harriers and t...

Blog Post: Chilling out on winter roost watch duty in Bowland

The RSPB’s Bowland Project Officer James Bray reports on the highs and lows of monitoring hen harrier winter roosts  I’m back home now with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire and I can reflect on a lovely evening sitting on top of a cold hill somewhere in the Forest of Bowland. In the background Ingleborough (a hill on the west side of the Yorkshire Dales National Park) was snow-capped and glowed beautiful shades of apricot and pink as the sun set, and to top it all off I picked up a lone hen harrier coming in to roost. The Forest of Bowland is probably best known for the healthy population of breeding hen harriers that used to breed here. This importance is recognised by national and international legal protection with the Bowland Fells, designated as a Special Protection Area for 13 pairs of hen harriers. The breeding popul...

Blog Post: Carroll – a Northumberland bird to the very end

RSPB Investigations Officer David Hunt reports on the death of Carroll, another satellite-tagged hen harrier Being tasked with monitoring the whereabouts of the RSPB’s English satellite-tagged hen harriers, you never know what drama might be lurking around the corner. Only in December, I had remarked to a colleague about how settled the English class of 2016 seemed to be in their respective wintering grounds. I clearly spoke too soon. Shortly after came the cessation of data in the North Pennines from Bonny, the RSPB Geltsdale bird now presumed to have died . And now unfortunately, Carroll, one of our young Northumberland females from 2016 has also died. The world of hen harrier conservation does certainly involve some low moments. Carroll was a Northumberland hen harrier through and through. One of two to fledge the nest on land managed...

Blog Post: The decline of the hen harrier in NE Scotland

By Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland There is no denying that the hen harrier is one of our most spectacular and enigmatic birds of prey. It breeds in remote, out-of-the-way locations, often in the uplands, miles away from the biggest centres of human population. For me, it’s a bird that never fails to lift my spirits, one that always brightens a day out birding or hill-walking. I’ve been lucky. I was brought up in Aberdeen, and as a teenager going through my birding formative years in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, was fortunate to be there at a time when the North-east Scotland Raptor Study Group (NERSG) was in the process of being created. The hills and glens of Deeside became a second home to me for several springs, with the chance of seeing golden eagles, merlins and peregrines. But, the monitoring of breedin...

Blog Post: First hen harriers tagged as part of the LIFE+ project

  Bea Ayling (Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project Manager) In June and July, a number of hen harrier chicks across England and Scotland were satellite tagged as part of the RSPB’s new Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project. The project seeks to better understand the movements of these magnificent birds to help identify areas where they are most at risk.. This need became particularly pertinent in the 2015 breeding season when 5 nests failed in northern England due to the well-publicised, unexplained disappearances of the healthy male adult birds. As the new Project Manager (covering for Blánaid while she is off enjoying her own brood), I am on tenterhooks to see how the 2015 breeding season pans out having started the role smack bang in the middle. I am particularly excited about being able to track our birds online!  A couple of the project’s satellite t...

Blog Post: Jenn’s Big Bird Bungee Jump

On Saturday 8 August, RSPB staff member Jenn Lane is doing a bungee jump to raise money for hen harriers in Bowland. Here she explains why. Ever since I heard about the plight of the hen harrier, I’ve been keen to do my bit. My day job for the RSPB is working as an administrator in our Lancaster office, however, every year we get the chance to volunteer for a day elsewhere in the organisation. In June I used this opportunity to take part in a hen harrier nest watch in Bowland. Following the disappearances of four males from active nests, I was protecting the last remaining one in the area.  Seeing the pair hunt against the hillside was a moving experience and I realised the full extent of what these birds are up against.  I decided I really wanted to raise the profile of this wonderful bird and what better way to do it than jumping 300...

Blog Post: Wanted: Your thoughts on our new Skydancer film

If you haven’t already seen our new Skydancer film, please a spare 10 minutes and watch it here . Made by Northumberland-based Haltwhistle Film Project , we hope it offers an engaging and inspiring introduction to hen harriers and the challenges they face. Filmed in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and Derbyshire, the work features interviews from all sides of the hen harrier debate, as well as animations and scenes from last year’s Hen Harrier Day. We would really like to know what you think of the film. Love it or hate it, please email your thoughts to julie.chrisp@rspb.org.uk .  We are going to evaluate the whole Skydancer project later this year and your views will feed into our final report.   ...

Blog Post: Introducing James Bray

This week we hear from the newest member of the Skydancer team who tells us a bit about himself and his new role, as well as giving us an update on our sat-tagged birds, Burt and Highlander. Hello. My name is James Bray and I have just started as the RSPB’s Bowland Project Officer, and my role will be to help monitor and protect Bowland’s birds of prey. As Bowland has been so important for hen harriers in England over the years, this will be very exciting and challenging work. However, I am very fortunate to be joining an incredibly dedicated and skilled team of volunteers and staff from a range of different organisations. I have been made to feel very welcome and have been really impressed with the expertise and enthusiasm that I have encountered. I previously worked for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in Scotland taking part ...

Blog Post: The fantastic fundraising efforts of the Liverpool Liverbirds

Recently, I’ve been hearing about the fantastic fundraising efforts of the Liverpool Liverbirds RSPB Wildlife Explorers.  Leader Elaine Caldwell explains:  “Back in September we held a meeting all about hen harriers to raise awareness about these beautiful birds and the problems they are facing, what the RSPB are doing, and what we as a group could do, to help”.  And help they have.  To raise awareness, Tessa made leaflets about hen harriers and sold them to raise £23.44.  Louis, aged 10, and Carys, aged 8, (both pictured below) held a homemade cake sale in their front garden and raised £64.52. Louis said “I really enjoyed selling cakes to give money to a good cause” .  Carys agreed: “It was great fun doing our cake sale for the hen harriers and we sold all our cakes.”  To collect the money from their fundraising ex...

Blog Post: Introducing Julie Chrisp

Hi everyone. This is my first outing on the Skydancer blog so allow me to introduce myself. My name is Julie Chrisp and I have recently started in post as Engagement Officer with Skydancer.  I am absolutely delighted to be joining the team - I’m not completely new to Skydancer, I was involved during the development phase of the project - so it’s great to be back to take Skydancer full circle.      I started just before Christmas, taking over from Blánaid Denman who had worked in the role since the beginning of Skydancer in 2011 - her time with the project culminating in Skydancer winning Best Education Project in the National Lottery Awards 2014. This was a fantastic achievement by Blánaid and the team and quite some shoes for me to fill.   Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be posting regular blogs to keep you up to date w...

Blog Post: Ghosts of the Moors

This week we welcome guest blogger Findlay Wilde. A passionate young conservationist, Findlay has spent the past year campaigning for hen harriers. Here, he explains how he first got interested in the bird of prey and what he has been doing to help the species.  Hen harriers.  Aren’t they just magnificent?  Whenever I see one, I feel totally “raptorvated”.  I can still remember the first time I ever saw a hen harrier. I was out on the North Wales moors. The rain splattered my face and the low cloud limited my views over the vast landscape.  Despite the rain, I resolved to walk even further until a grey ghost, elegant and effortless, glided past me within 10 metres of where I stood. I gazed at it for as long as I could, before it was a distant speck, gliding easily on the wind, appearing and reappearing through the sloping hills....

Blog Post: Hen harrier-inspired music

This week we’ve got a guest blog from Laurence Rose, former RSPB Northern England Director and a composer, who talks about his hen harrier-inspired composition, Skydancer.   I first saw hen harriers skydancing in the late seventies.  It was in the Forest of Bowland and the memory of the birds, and the place – which I came to know intimately in later years – is still vivid.  I remember watching the effortless and buoyant flight of a male harrier and noting how it seemed to trace a gently undulating line that matched the shape of Tarnbrook Fell.  Then a sudden burst of energy and a rocketing flight as a female appeared from nowhere.  Both birds rose to describe a sharper curve, she twisted, he swerved and a speck of prey flew between them.  Then, a serene separation as sudden as the dance itself. On another occasion, I ...

Blog Post: Sky and Hope: A plea for information

 Regular readers of this blog will be aware that we have been trying to find out what happened to Sky and Hope, two young hen harriers that fledged from nests in Bowland this year. We were tracking the movements of these birds by satellite but their tags suddenly stopped transmitting last month, within days of each other. No bodies have been recovered. Satellite technology is normally extremely reliable so it is most likely that Sky and Hope were either victims of natural predation or illegal persecution. Lancashire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit were notified about the disappearance of these birds. However, without any sufficient evidence to work with, they are currently unable to progress any investigation.   If you spend time in the Bowland area you might be able to help. Has anyone been talking about the fat...

Blog Post: Silver lining

As we are currently recruiting a new Skydancer Engagement Officer , I am acting as temporary caretaker for this blog. My name is Chris Collett and I’m the RSPB’s communications manager for Northern England. It’s is my job to get our conservation projects in the pages of our regional newspapers and magazines, and on TV and radio. Last week, I was kept very busy with the story about the missing Bowland hen harriers, Sky and Hope. As you are probably aware, these young satellite-tagged birds, stopped transmitting last month and have vanished without a trace. There has been a huge amount of interest in Sky and Hope from the national and regional media. Our Head of Investigations Bob Elliot was interviewed on the Today programme on Radio 4 and the story was covered on the BBC News website and in the Daily Telegraph.    Regio...