Well done Scotland for giving Beavers protected status. How about a Bowland reintroduction scheme next. How about Dunsop or Roeburndale I can think of a few other places that could be suitable. They could be a great help with flood prevention if managed well.
Katy Saulite is the Hen Harrier LIFE Project's Community Engagement Officer for Scotland, working with local schools and community groups in areas where hen harriers should be, to raise awareness and promote the conservation of these spectacular skydancers. At the beginning of September I had my fingers and toes crossed for good weather in the weeks ahead. Two school groups were all set to venture out onto the moorland with the Hen Harrier LIFE project, and I feared the unhelpful presence of that all too familiar horizontal precipitation we’re often blessed with. Thankfully September has been lovely up here in Scotland, and the pupils who took part in our moorland field trips were more than happy to be out and about, exploring and engaging with the outdoor classroom. The primary 5-7 class of Kirkmichael Primary School spent an afternoon on Moulin Moor, in the heart of the Forest of Clunie SPA. A small road, shared with sheep, runs across the moor, and although having seen the moorland from the car, only two of the pupils had stepped onto the landscape which lies only two or three miles from their school. Binoculars at the ready, we saw only a handful of birds, but armed with a moorland bingo activity we looked up high, and down low amongst the heather for ‘sphagnum moss’, ‘a carnivorous plant’, or ‘something you’ve never seen before’. We explored the moorland as a habitat through activities centred around vegetation, insect life and, of course, hen harriers. Kirkmichael Primary School pupils creatively forming front page pictures for genuine newspaper headlines ‘Sharing the Planet: Hen harrier conservation and grouse shooting’ Within the same week, I journeyed to RSPB Airds Moss, within the Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands SPA to meet with biology students from Sanquhar Academy. In the first part of the session we got our hands dirty and socks wet as we sampled moorland vegetation. We then considered the place of the hen harrier within this landscape; geosquishing (think Taj Mahal tourist pictures!) features of the landscape that we thought benefitted or hindered the hen harrier’s survival. We debated what the future of the uplands and hen harrier should be, from the perspective of different upland stakeholders. A talk on the Hen Harrier LIFE project, and an introduction to some of the other great work of the RSPB concluded an extremely enjoyable afternoon. Biology students from Sanquhar Academy dramatically representing the newspaper headline ‘The mystery of the missing hen harriers’ Once again I have been so pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm with which children of all ages take to outdoor learning. Often a little shy at the beginning, it does not take long for laughter, learning and a little silliness to begin. Being in the midst of a beautiful moorland landscape truly brings learning to life. We did not see any hen harriers but I could certainly picture them soaring above, and found myself hoping that one day soon I’d be out on one of these moors with a group, in equally agreeable weather, admiring a hen harrier or two through the binoculars. To find out more about the Hen Harrier LIFE Project, visit www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife or folllow us @RSPB_Skydancer .
Went to the Forest of Bowland Sustainable Tourism Forum last night. This is an annual event for Tourism businesses who support the aims of the AONB and want to be more environmentally friendly. The night was also the venue for the annual meetings of two organisations. Bowland Experience a business support network of which I am a Director and Champion Bowland a charity which gives small grants for environmental projects. One of the speakers was Amanda Parker from Browsholme Hall who had just won the Lancs. Tourism Sustainable Tourism Award.
After listening to the full debate I was left very depressed and it did nothing to dissuade me that this is not the beginning of the end for shooting. All of the fine arguments of biodiversity, employment and rural economic sustainability will not sway or influence the majority of ban supporters or stop that support growing whilst illegal raptor persecution continues. I think we are years away from a ban but unless the shooting industry radically changes I believe a ban is inevitable.
The shooting industry has the power to stamp out illegal killing. If they don’t I think the support for a ban will just keep relentlessly growing especially as technical advances and increase in public awareness will lead to more reporting and discovery of persecution. Eventually like fox hunting the numbers will grow sufficiently to start possibly influencing a few marginals and when that happens it is curtains for shooting. I believe if the shooting industry wishes to survive it must stop killing raptors and mountain hares.
One of the arguments expressed is that the antis do not understand the countryside and this is probably true, but they do understand the concept of illegal persecution and many will just see this as another example of the law turning a blind eye to criminal behaviour by the rich or on behalf of the rich.
It was also touching to see all these Tory MPs suddenly become so concerned with the employment needs of the rural working class! In many rural areas there is no shortage of jobs especially low paid jobs, but a shortage of people to do those jobs because of a lack of affordable housing and public transport plus a higher cost of living, it would be nice if those MP also turned their attention to these problems.
Alex - thank you for the kind words. I've been working on hen harriers for over five years and every lost bird stays with me. It doesn't get easier but the way I see it, we have a choice - either to despair, our to let it harden our resolve to make a difference. I choose the latter. The LIFE project runs until 2019, so I promise there will be plenty more satellite tags to come. Alan - yes please! If you could include time date and location as accurate as possible, that would be much appreciated.