North East HHDay
The 2016 Hen Harrier Weekend event in the North East was held at RSPB Saltholme on Sunday 7 August. Craig Lee, one of the organisers, said :
" This was the second year running that we had organised a Hen Harrier Day event at RSPB Saltholme. This year, with more time to prepare, we were aiming for "bigger and better" and I'm pleased to say we achieved this. The first part of the morning was focused on engaging with visitors and selling raffle tickets and BAWC merchandise, with some incredible prizes on offer including signed copies of books by Chris Packham, David Lindo, Helen J. Macdonald, Charlie Elder, and Alan Stewart. Also up for grabs was Bowland Brewery's Hen Harrier real ale, subscriptions from Rare Bird Alert and Birdwatch Magazine, as well as donated gifts from Yolobirder and Birdwing EU.
Durham Bird Club and Teesmouth Bird Club were also present to support the day alongside Hen Harrier face painting and craft activities.
The morning brought about some great discussions with both those specifically attending for Hen Harrier Day and other visitors to the reserve who took an interest in what was happening. It was clear that the plight of the Hen Harrier evokes a great deal of passion, with so many expressing both their horror at the relentless illegal persecution it continues to suffer at the hands of grouse shooting interests, and a desire to do something about it.
We were also privileged to have Nick Miles, Emmerdale's Jimmy King, along with his wife to support the day. Nick is known for being a welcome voice for Hen Harriers on Twitter, using his platform to raise awareness amongst his fans and calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. Nick's presence was a wonderful addition to the day, resulting in some fascinating conversations and Nick was kind enough to pose for photographs with anyone who wanted one.
Just before midday Nick very obligingly drew our raffle, with around twenty fantastic prizes being given to the lucky winners. There was a special prize in store for the best banner or placard of the day, in the form of a DVD entitle 'The Secret Life of the Tawny Owl' the cover of which had been signed by a range of wildlife superstars including Chris Packham, Sir David Attenborough, Iolo Williams, Nick Baker, and more!
The talks began at 12 noon with a brief introduction by ourselves (and a terrible joke that I'm somehow still very proud of) and reminding everyone that despite the differing opinions between the RSPB and BAWC on how to solve the issue of illegal persecution, we're all on the same side (the side of the Hen Harrier).
The first speaker was John Olley from Durham Bird Club and former Hen Harrier Fieldworker with Natural England. John gave a sobering account of his time in that role and the grim fate that awaited Hen Harriers nesting on grouse moors, whilst showcasing some beautiful footage of Hen Harriers nesting in Northumberland. This was followed by a wonderful presentation by Blanaid Denman on the RSPB's Hen Harrier Life+ Project; Blanaid's passion shone through as she detailed her excellent work and emphasised how terrible a situation it is where a native bird requires 24-hour nest protection. Last but not least was Martin Harper, Conservation Director for the RSPB, who talked about the ghosts of Hen Harriers, past, present and future. Martin's talk was followed by a great discussion with the audience around the RSPB's position
on calling for licensing of grouse moors and why they don't currently support a ban on driven grouse shooting. The event was streamed live on Twitter, with up to 39 people tuning in to hear these talks. A short, yet brilliant, film to summarise the day was produced by David Dinsley (Nature North East). CLICK HERE to watch it.
With a turnout of 85 people and £342 raised for BAWC (double what was raised last year) the message was clearer than ever: enough is enough, we want our Hen Harriers back and WE WILL WIN."