A record 1,500 people came from across the UK for the sixth Hen Harrier day at Carsington Water on Sunday 11th August. The annual event aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the hen harrier – one of Britain’s finest and now sadly rarest birds of prey. Their numbers have plummeted in recent years due to the ongoing illegal persecution that they and other birds of prey face, especially in upland areas where moorland habitat is intensively managed primarily for the benefit of red grouse.
Speakers included broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham and Natalie Bennett from the Green Party who joined Derbyshire Wildlife Trust spokesperson Tim Birch, the RSPB, Derbyshire police commissioner and other campaigners and leading commentators on wildlife persecution.
The day’s most poignant moment came when four young contributors took to the stage and read their hen harrier poems out live to the crowd. Their poems are part of a collection of stories and poems from 20 children highlighting the plight of hen harriers and wildlife in our countryside. Chris Packham in his Forward for the book has called the collection ‘remarkable,’ adding “These children deserve hen harriers, they need hen harriers to stir their hearts and bring them the pure joy that comes from connection with nature. And this collection must be seen as their plea for that. It must compel us to ensure that we work urgently to eradicate the ongoing curse of illegal persecution so that their generation can visit the moors and be thrilled by the beauty of the sky dancers.”
Tim Birch, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Head of Living Landscapes said,
“The passion and emotion really comes through from the kids and they got to grips with some challenging issues, expressing them so effectively.
“There should be at least 33 pairs of Hen Harriers breeding in the Peak District National Park. We currently have only one pair. And the future of the young birds from the only nest in the Peak District this year is very uncertain. We know that young birds regularly go missing over grouse moors across the UK. Illegal bird of prey persecution deprives us all from seeing these magnificent birds in some of our most spectacular landscapes.
“ Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is a strong supporter of Hen Harrier Day that took place this year at Carsington Water and it was such a great event for people to hear more about the issues, the call for action from our young people and understand why a change in our uplands is needed. The ongoing illegal bird of prey persecution can only be stopped through a fundamental rethink about the way we manage our Uplands and our National Parks. Hen Harriers are at such catastrophically low numbers in the Peak District National Park because of intensive grouse moor management. We believe there is a better way to manage our Uplands which will be beneficial for wildlife, the climate, flood alleviation, the local economy and for the millions of people visiting the National Park. Through allowing nature to recover in our Uplands through a wilder approach we will all benefit including our wildlife. We all need a wilder future.”
The event coincides each year with the start of the glorious twelfth, traditionally the start of the shooting season across northern England and Scotland.
The booklet can be ordered at: https://dwtshop.org.uk/product/sky-dancer/ All proceeds from sales will go directly to hen harrier conservation through Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Wild Justice project ‘Wild Peak.