Hen Harrier Day – overview
Hen Harrier Day: Sunday August 10th 2014
Hen Harrier Day was initiated by Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC), and organised and coordinated by a coalition of BAWC, former RSPB Conservation Director and leading activist Mark Avery, broadcaster and conservationist Chris Packham, the country’s leading wildlife charity the RSPB, and the North West Raptor Protection Group.
Hen Harrier Day attracted support from a wide selection of organisations and activists, including the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Hawk and Owl Trust, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Peak District National Park, South West Peregrine Group, Birdwatch magazine, Rare Bird Alert, Bird Information, Birdguides, Welsh Ornithological Society and Quaker Concern for Animals.
And of course we can also add a huge following of supporters on Twitter and Facebook. Our thanks go to everyone who – like us – wants to see an end to the illegal persecution of this beautiful bird
Background:Just a few hundred years ago the Hen Harrier was a common and widespread bird of prey. Massive changes in land use meant they lost many lowland breeding sites, and they retreated to breed on upland moorland. Relentless persecution by gamekeepers employed on shooting estates followed. Numbers have declined markedly in recent years as intensification of grouse moors has stepped up, and Hen Harriers have been identified as a priority species by the UK Government in terms of combating wildlife crime.
Peer-reviewed research suggests that good habitat remains for Hen Harriers, but there are 962-1285 breeding pairs of Hen Harrier ‘missing’ from Scotland and 322-339 pairs ‘missing’ from England. A 2011 report clearly stated that in England illegal persecution is “such a constraint that the Hen Harrier is threatened with extinction as a breeding species”.
In 2013 – for the first time since records began – no Hen Harriers fledged young in England.
In 2014 just three pairs have bred – all have required 24 hour protection. No-one knows what might happen to their young when they leave the natal areas.
On the 10th of August – when the media’s attention was turning towards grouse moors and the start of the ‘Inglorious 12th’ – we highlighted the scandal of the widespread illegal persecution of Hen Harriers on upland grouse moors and celebrated one of our most iconic birds of prey.
For BAWC, Hen Harrier Day was primarily about raising awareness of wildlife crime – the persecution of a protected bird of prey. We felt then (and still do) that to move on from the current situation, there has to first be a full and clear acknowledgement from the shooting industry that illegal persecution has been widespread and is a limiting factor on Hen Harrier populations. Next there needs to be a commitment from the industry to ensure that all legislation protecting our wildlife is rigorously enforced, and that lawbreakers – current and historic – are reported to the proper authorities immediately.
A selection of external news/posts published in the run-up to Hen Harrier Day
- The Reservoir Cats are back! http://reservoircatz.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/open-season-for-harriers.html
- BOU blog post by Dr Arjun Amar: Hen Harriers: going, going…
- BirdGuides article :Hen Harriers: in the line of fire
- Mark Cocker calls Hen Harrier Day “a radical departure in the story of nature conservation” in The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/03/claxton-norfolk-raptors-survival-grouse-shoots
- Great post by Raptor Persecution Scotland on Hen Harrier Day: http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/standing-in-solidarity-for-hen-harrier-day-10th-august-2014/
- Jersey (Channel Islands) announces ‘Raptor Day’ in partnership with Hen Harrier Day: http://www.birdsontheedge.org/2014/07/30/raptor-day-sunday-10th-august/
- RSPB response to the proposed Defra Hen Harrier Action Plan
- Article in The Times after Marks and Spencer ‘takes grouse off shelves after boycott threat‘
- Post by Steve Mills on his ‘Natural Eyes’ blog: The ‘tipping point‘
- Our response (and the comments that followed) on Facebook to a Sunday Times article exposing the wishlist of the driven grouse industry contained in Defra’s ‘Hen Harrier Action Plan': https://www.facebook.com/BAWCUK/posts/268508356688785
- Mark Avery blog post Does driven grouse shooting rely on criminal activity?
- Alan Stewart, former Wildlife Crime Officer and member of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, blog post Crime against hen harriers – a discussion