The 2016 Hen Harrier Weekend Event in the South was held at RSPB Arne on Sunday 7 August. Ashley Watts said :
"Anger about the precarious existence of Hen Harriers in England drove 255 people on to Coombe Heath at the amazing RSPB Arne reserve, which serves as a wintering ground for the dwindling population of Hen Harriers.
In perfect weather, the assembled crowd heard impassioned talks from Nick Bruce-White and Mark Thomas from the RSPB about how the Society is rethinking its approach to the issue, having given up on the Joint Action Plan, and how emotional the work to prosecute crime against raptors really is. Mark Constantine and Paul Morton of LUSH announced a competition to name a Hen Harrier chick and spoke of their anger at their persecution.
Iolo Williams needed no introduction to the assembled audience and he spoke of his early experience of finding a Hen Harrier in his native land and of a nest in which every major bone in every bird had been broken by trampling. Iolo spoke passionately of how the species must be allowed to survive in England to allow future generations the experience.
Back at the car park, the raffle was selling well and after a few latecomers had got their tickets, Iolo awarded the prizes. We are very grateful to Our donors and supporters for their generosity, which has raised nearly £600 for the cause.
One of our Wildlife Crime Officers was chatting at his table encouraging people to report crimes and suspicions, especially as Dorset Police have a full time Wildlife Crime Officer now as part of a new Rural Crime Unit.
All in all, the day was a huge success and, unless there are 300 Hen Harrier territories in England next year, it will be even bigger and more successful next year. I think we all went away thinking that there is a change in the air.
Big thanks also to Iolo Williams, Nick Bruce-White, Mark Thomas, Mark Constantine and Paul Morton for their marvellous, inspiring talks.
I want to thank Luke Phillips and Jon Thurnell-Read who developed and directed operations on the day and handled all the publicity, social media and raffle begging respectively. In Jon's case, despite the fact that he was actually in Botswana for the day itself.
Our thanks to our supporters : Alan Stewart, George Monbiot, Helen Macdonald, Chris Packham, David Lindo, Dorset Bird Club, Yolo Birder and the Probable Bird Society, Birdwatch Extra, RareBirdAlert and Caught by the River, as well as all the helpers on the day in the car park, putting up the marquees and many other tasks.
We are indebted to everyone who helped the social media message to spread and/or put up posters.
Finally, thanks to all the people who turned up to listen from as far as Sussex, London and Surrey to be there as well as digging deep to support the cause. We hope you enjoyed the day."
Luke Phillips, also on the organising team added :
“It’s incredible to see how big this event has got. Three years ago Ashley Watt’s and myself were unable to make the journey to the Peak District to get involved, therefore decided to put together a Dorset event at RSPB Radipole Lake. Just two years later we’re standing on a heath at the stunning RSPB Arne nature reserve along with nearly 300 other people all shouting that we want to see more Hen Harriers.
Our guest speakers really brought the event together superbly. All of them spoke passionately and the sheer determination to change the current situation came across very clearly. Even tears were shed amongst the crowd as Iolo Williams described discovering Hen Harrier chicks which had been stamped on in their nest.
I’m very proud to be involved with Hen Harrier Day but we really need to start seeing change. That’s why we do this every year. Hen Harrier numbers are still ridiculously low so the fight continues way beyond just the events held around the country.”