Author: Jenny Shelton

Blog Post: Hen Harrier Day murals

A flock of painted hen harriers has appeared across the UK in the form of three striking murals. These incredible creations have sprung up as part of Hen Harrier Day 2020: one at former home of Hen Harrier Day Rainham Marshes in Essex, one in Hartoft, in the heart of the North Yorks Moors and the other just outside Inverness. They’re a tribute to people’s passion for these inspirational birds, and aim to serve as a visual reminder of the beauty and the plight of hen harriers in the UK. Rainham Mural Many of you will be familiar with the site at Rainham, which has played host to Hen Harrier Day on three occasions between 2016 and 2018. This striking female hen harrier has been painted by street Artist ATM on the entrance wall of the reserve. ATM told us: “It took two days to paint and a lot of consideration and sketches beforehand to work out the best way to use the space of that particular wall to capture a sense of movement in the bird. I’m very happy with it. I feel I caught something of the spirit of a male hen harrier, ‘the ghost of the moors’. “This is the fourth piece of hen harrier street art I’ve painted for Hen Harrier Day. The first was for Charlie Moores and BAWC in 2014, a male on a pillbox on the Isle of Sheppey, a spot over which they migrate. In July 2014 I also painted a female for the Whitecross Street Festival in East London, using the hashtag #HenHarrierDay, and handed out leaflets about hen harrier persecution (which no-one knew about; they didn’t even know about hen harriers). That’s why I do street art at festivals and other places, to try to reach new audiences. “I painted a female at the 2015 Upfest Street Art Festival in Bristol, again with the hashtag #HenHarrierDay. There are lots of photographers and bloggers at that event, so I’m sure it got widely disseminated. “It feels dreadful to me that these birds are persecuted. They’re such beautiful birds, and top predators are an essential part of all healthy ecosystems. “I hope the mural will help to inspire people with a love for hen harriers and a desire to protect them. I hope people will think about the disasters that are happening unseen on driven grouse moors and write to their MPs to change the law or strengthen it, to allow prosecution of landowners for crimes enacted on their estates, and convictions with proper deterrent sentences, as happens for example in Spain for raptor persecution. Putting pressure on legislators and law enforcement bodies is probably the best that can be done.” The Hartoft Mural This epic scene was painted by Nicky and Simon Johnson, on the side of their house. Here’s what they told us: “The idea to paint a mural was sparked after looking at social media coverage of Hen Harrier Day 2019. We have an old barn with a rendered gable end wall, which faces the local grouse moor and has a public footpath and bridleway running past it. It was crying out for a mural… though neither of us had ever painted one before! “We had a shed full of half used paint pots, in many shades and colours, which were all suitable pigments for mixing with an acrylic exterior wall paint base… so we decided to go ahead and recycle them in a positive way! “We gathered some ideas and asked an artist friend for his ‘take’. Between us we came up with a plan. Then, just as we were about to begin the painting project, news came out about the illegal trapping and shooting of a buzzard at Appleton le Moors. This was swiftly followed by news that a goshawk had been illegally killed near Goathland. We were so incensed about these crimes happening, virtually on our doorstep. “As we lacked confidence in our ability to paint the planned hen harriers on the vertical wall, we decided to draw them onto the marine ply, cut them out, paint them and then fix them onto the landscape we had painted on the wall. It was scary, but we’ve done it!” Inverness Mural: Flower of Scotland If you’re driving along the A9 by the Daviot Woods, near Inverness, look out for this striking, Banksy-esque mural created by FRESHPAINT. Thistle was a young hen harrier tagged in 2019, but by Christmas that year her tag stopped transmitting without warning or explanation. Her tag’s last fix came from an area of driven grouse moor. Andrea Goddard, who arranged the mural, said: “With no physical Hen Harrier Day (Highlands) event to organise this year due to Covid-19 I wanted to develop something for the online event instead. As this year there was a strong emphasis on the creative arts I decided that creating a mural of the disappeared female hen harrier Thistle in the area where she lived was an ideal local project. “I am over the moon with everything. The mural looks amazing. Large, striking and thought-provoking, it is everything I had hoped it would be. It will, for years to come catch people’s eye as they drive past and hopefully encourage discussion about hen harriers to all who stop to visit, particularly with those who weren’t previously aware of the species or their perilous situation. Additionally I hope Highland people will feel a connection with Thistle and her plight and develop a sense of ownership of the mural over time. Situated at North Gateway café development on the A9, four miles south of Inverness, it is easily accessible to all.”

Blog Post: Hen Harrier Day goes online!

This Saturday the RSPB is supporting Online Hen Harrier Day , a packed programme of talks, mini films, competitions and artistic creations all celebrating the iconic, moorland-dwelling, sky-dancing hen harrier. The event will take place on 8 August and, like so many others, will be a fully online experience for 2020! It will be hosted by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, and you can find it and subscribe at: www.youtube.com/HenHarrierDayUK Credit Pete Morris The interest this year’s Hen Harrier Day has attracted from those eager to contribute has been utterly heartwarming. From household names to young, passionate conservationists in the making, from street artists to choirs, so many have given their time to helping put this day together. As well as being a celebration of hen harriers, the day also aims to highlight the continuing illegal persecution of these birds. Since 2004 numbers have tumbled by 24% and we all know the reason why this downward dive is so steep. There should be 300 pairs in England alone, yet each year only a handful of nests are recorded. Scientific research published in 2019 showed that 72% of the satellite-tagged hen harriers in their study were killed or very likely to have been killed on British grouse moors, and that hen harriers were 10 times more likely to die or disappear over areas of grouse moor relative to other land uses. Mark Thomas, Guy Shorrock and Ian Thomson will be speaking about their experience working in RSPB Investigations, helping to protect hen harriers and other birds of prey by gathering evidence of raptor persecution and pushing for urgent changes to secure their future. So, tune in on Saturday and help us raise our voices for hen harriers. Twitter users, keep an eye on @RSPBbirders and @HHDayUK for more. “I am delighted to be hosting Hen Harrier Day Online and look forward to enthusing audiences new and old about these iconic birds,” says Chris Packham. “I have been involved in Hen Harrier Days since the first one in the Derwent Valley in 2014, and I am delighted to see the event flourishing despite the tragedy of Covid-19. I am looking forward to a great day helping raise awareness of this wonderful bird and its terrible persecution on driven grouse moors. I will be talking to inspiring young people, great experts and many others who want to see urgent change in our uplands so that hen harriers can continue to be part of these landscapes.” Martin Harper, Conservation Director at the RSPB, said: “Nature is in crisis and the time is now to build a sustainable and nature-rich future for the benefit of us all. The problems in our uplands – from peatbog burning and flooding to raptor persecution – must be addressed urgently. Hen Harrier Day is crucial in helping bring these issues to the fore.” Dr Ruth Tingay, co-director of Wild Justice said: “Having an online event for Hen Harrier Day 2020 is testament to the determination of conservationists to see an end to the illegal killing of hen harriers and other raptors on the UK’s grouse moors. Not even a global pandemic will put us off. Wild Justice is thrilled to be supporting this event.” Alan Cranston, Chair of Hen Harrier Action, said: “The hen harrier is a symbol for our wider concerns about nature in the uplands and that is a theme that has resonated with many poets, writers and artists who will be taking part. “The moorlands of Britain are places we all should be able to enjoy, whether as visitors or locals. By hosting the event online, we hope that even more people will be able to join us this year in celebrating the UK’s hen harriers and the landscapes they bring to life.” Watch live at: www.youtube.com/HenHarrierDayUK And get involved on social media at: @HHDayUK

Blog Post: Happy birthday to our oldest harrier!

We’re delighted to say that one of our tagged hen harriers has turned the distinguished age of five – making her the Hen Harrier LIFE project’s oldest bird. She was fitted with a satellite transmitter as a chick in June 2015, in Perthshire, Scotland, a…

Blog Post: Rare hen harrier illegally poisoned in Ireland

The RSPB issued the following press release on 30 January 2020: The female bird, named Mary, had been fitted with a satellite tracking device. The bird’s body was found dead beside a pigeon and meat baits laced with poison. Conservationists unite in co…

Blog Post: Hen harrier Ada disappears

Today, Northumbria Police and the RSPB have issued an appeal for information following the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier, a female bird known as Ada. Ada being tagged as a chick this summer Ada hatched on a nest on th…

Blog Post: Marathon for the missing harriers

How far would you go to raise awareness of an issue close to your heart? In Henry Morris’ case, the answer is at least 130 miles, up hill and down dale, whatever the weather. This July, the personal trainer from London will be running the equivalent of…

Blog Post: Vulcan’s fire goes out

Another hen harrier, Vulcan, has now sadly joined the ‘missing in action’ list. Vulcan was tagged in Northumberland in the summer of 2018, along with over 30 more hen harriers in England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. Almost half of these birds …

Blog Post: Hen harrier ‘River’ disappears in suspicious circumstances

Yet another of 2018’s hen harrier chicks has disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Today the RSPB issued the following press release: River, who hatched from a nest in Bowland in 2018 The police and the RSPB are investigating the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier in North Yorkshire, the county with the worst reputation for bird of prey persecution. The bird, named River, was one of several hen harrier chicks in England fitted with a satellite tag as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project last summer (2018). These lightweight tags allow the RSPB to monitor the birds after they fledge. Her tag’s last known transmission came from a driven grouse moor between Colsterdale and Nidderdale – an area with a history of bird of prey persecution – on 14 November. She was known to have been hunting and roosting in the area for several weeks. RSPB Investigations staff and North Yorkshire Police searched the area, but there was no sign of the bird or the tag. She has not been heard from since. All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. North Yorkshire Police investigated the disappearance, but no information has been forthcoming. Hen harriers are rare birds which nest in moorland, especially in the uplands of Northern England and Scotland. However just nine nests were recorded in England last year, despite enough prey and habitat to support over 300 pairs. They have not successfully bred in North Yorkshire since 2007. Over 30 hen harriers were tagged last summer in the UK. Between August and November 2018, nine of these, including a 10 th bird tagged in 2017, disappeared at different locations in the UK. Police and RSPB officers search for River Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations UK, said: “Again we have news of a disappeared harrier, again in North Yorkshire, and again last known to be on a grouse moor. Hen harriers are barely clinging on as a breeding species in England. They should be a common and joyful sight over the moorlands of North Yorkshire, however the reality is most people only know them as being rare and persecuted. “The idea that this bird may have been deliberately targeted is incredibly worrying, especially in the context of eight others which have vanished in similar circumstances. When a tagged hen harrier dies naturally, we expect the tag to continue transmitting, enabling us to find the body. This was not the case here. Instead, there was no trace of the tag or the bird, which is highly suspicious. When hen harriers disappear like this over an area with a history of raptor persecution, it’s hard not to draw conclusions.” The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report showed that North Yorkshire is consistently the worst county in the UK for recorded bird of prey persecution, accumulating significantly more confirmed incidents in the last five years than anywhere else. In 2012, hen harrier ‘Bowland Betty’ was found shot at nearby Colsterdale. A reward was offered but no culprit was identified. If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101. If you know about raptor persecution occurring in your area and wish to speak out in confidence, call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101. If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

Blog Post: Another hen harrier disappears in suspicious circumstances

Arthur became the ninth tagged hen harrier in three months to vanish in similar circumstances in the UK In November we reported that a rare hen harrier had disappeared in North Yorkshire, triggering an investigation by the police and the RSPB. This was…

Blog Post: Hen harrier class of 2018

During the summer of 2018, the Hen Harrier EU LIFE Project tagged an unprecedented amount of hen harrier chicks across the UK. The team hiked over bogs, moorland and mountains, often during heatwave conditions, to locate the nests, and used their expe…

Blog Post: Meet the new hen harrier heroes

Following on from a successful breeding season, we speak to Jack and Tom, our newest  Assistant Investigations Officers, investigating hen harrier persecution in England and Wales. Here we get to know them and their work a bit better… You’re both keen…

Blog Post: Six ways you can help hen harriers

Hen harriers are in trouble – that’s not news to anyone. The RSPB continues to urge the government to crack down on illegal persecution in the uplands in a bid to give these birds a chance to re-establish a stable population in England. But is there a…