London & SE HHDay

The 2016 Hen Harrier Weekend event for London and the South East was held at RSPB Rainham Marshes on Saturday 6 August.  Lisa Mobley, one of the organisers, said :

 

"BAWC’s Charlie Moores said when penning his speech in the run-up to 6 August that he was angry. Well, he wasn’t alone.

 

Around 600 other people who gathered at the RSPB’s Rainham Marshes reserve were angry too about the plight facing the Hen Harrier. And sad. And hot – wow, we were all certainly hot. I’m glad I wasn’t in that fluffy six-foot Hen Harrier suit (sorry to dispel the magic).

 

But more than anything, we were motivated. Inspired. Hopeful. It felt fantastic to be part of a like-minded crowd, buoyed by the great speeches.

 

Vocal group Peregrina EnChantica set the scene en route to the venue by serenading everyone with Forgotten Names - their beautiful tear-jerker of a song about the hen harrier.

 

Then to the stage, where Mark Avery announced: “This is Hen Harrier Day. Is there anyone here who is at the wrong event?” No one left, so we were off to a good start!

And it was Charlie’s turn to take centre stage.

 

“A whole slew of protected raptors are missing from areas where shooting rules the roost. It doesn’t matter where you live, how young or old you are, whether you can even identify a Hen Harrier. Our views count.”

 

Mark seamlessly compered proceedings and introduced our next speaker, RSPB Chief Executive Mike Clarke. Mike talked about the RSPB’s call for licensing. He then said that what we were all doing today for the Hen Harrier people had done 100 years earlier for the Goldfinch when it was seriously threatened, and now the Goldfinches are back. Right on cue, a charm promptly did a flypast, twilloping as they went. Cheque in the post to their agent!

 

Chris Packham spoke next, and thanked everyone there “for being you” – people from different walks of life, different political persuasions, ages, locations – but all conservationists. “That’s what we are – we’re conservationists.

“It’s not about politics at all. It’s about birds, plain and simple. We’re using science and evidence to politely and reasonably request a positive change through democratic and peaceful means.”

 

Chris was accompanied everywhere he went by a placard showing the rolling total of signatures on Mark’s e-petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

 

So to the raffle draw. Some very happy people went home with fabulous prizes, including a guided day of Welsh birding with The Biggest Twitch, exclusive access to London’s top migration viewpoint with The Urban Birder, a holiday in Cornwall, a year’s Rare Bird Alert subscription and a unique chance to go behind the scenes with the RSPB’s Investigations team.

 

Thank you so much to everyone who donated prizes and bought tickets. That’s £901 raised to help the ongoing fight against wildlife crime.

And just as you’d expect, there was plenty of good wildlife to be seen too, even during the rally. Bearded Tits merrily pinged away next to the Hen Harrier Day souvenir table. Mark talked about the reserve’s reputation for close-up Water Vole encounters, so the voles made sure they lived up to it, with one posing for pictures right next to the boardwalk. As Chris spoke, some of the crowd spotted a Marsh Harrier overhead. Not so long ago that was a harrier on the brink, but now you’d be unlucky not to see one at Rainham. And we’re definitely putting in a claim for ‘Best Rarities Spotted at a Hen Harrier Day Event’, with a Glossy Ibis and even a Sunbird! It certainly brought the weather with it.

 

Everyone loves a good pin badge or a Hen Harrier Weekend wristband - another £562.71 raised from souvenirs snaffled up by the generous gathering.

 

And as the petition total continued to rise, and the sunburn continued to get redder, our speakers (and a somewhat warm Henry Hen Harrier) were happy to star in selfies, chat, sign books, sign placards, sign T-shirts and do podcast interviews.

 

It had taken a huge amount of work and an army of amazing people to put it all together, and it seemed to be over in a flash, but would we do it all again? Yes.

 

It’s just a crying shame we have to."