Sadly I am unable to attend any of the Hen Harrier Action Days due to commitments here on Islay. I'd E-mailed and spoken to one or another of the local organizers of the protests and had intended to send messages of support to each. I'm firmly convinced that all of the occasions will be successful and do much to promote the dreadful situation involved with the continuing persecution of our birds of prey. I then thought, why simply send on a message of support when putting something out on the Web has the potential to reach many more people and advertise the events further at the same time. And so, the following......
The event in the Peak Park is not very far from where I lived and worked for many years, until moving here in 1999, and where I had enjoyed birdwatching for many more. Conflicts with raptors were always a prominent issue over the whole of the area, to which was added the pressures arising from egg collecting too. Even in the latest edition of the RSPB's newsletter, LEGAL EAGLE, there is an article referring to raptors suffering more persecution in the Peak National Park Occasional nesting attempts over the years by Hen Harrier never really expanded such that they might be an expected presence annually and the breeding Goshawk population, against which so much protective effort was placed, is now a mere shadow of what it was in the 1980's. And why, certainly the latter species was targeted by egg collectors and falconers, but there was outright persecution too. The point being that this is not a new phenomenon , but one that has gone on for years and years. Sadly, for species like the Hen Harrier, those illegal efforts at containment have now seen the English breeding population at an all time low. It has to stop and that is the core message of the action days!!
If any inspiration is needed then take heart that other radical initiatives have seen their nascence in the area within which the protest is taking place. Over to the south west the mass trespass onto the Kinder Scout Plateau took place in April, 1932, to highlight that walkers were denied access to areas of open country. Yet another example of private landowners attempting to wield influence and power over the rights of the majority. Such has resulted, after many years of campaigning by the Ramblers Association, in the CROW Act 2000 which addresses the problem. Having gained access to such areas, we now see the very fabric of many areas being mis-managed and the natural heritage they support being eliminated, a situation I feel we have a right to contest.
And closer to the protest site it must be remembered that planes of the 617 Squadron RAF, the Dambusters, practised over the self same location below which people will congregate previous to their successful raid on the dams within the Ruhr valley that provided power for the German war effort. Actions that maybe are a little out of context with the intentions of the 10th August, but from which the determination to change what is very wrong can draw strength.
In the Forest of Bowland the protest will take place in the very heartland of what has been a stronghold for breeding Hen Harriers for many years, until recent times. There is a very strong message which must be taken away by everyone on the day. In the 1970's the number of breeding pairs of harriers approached forty, yes forty! Even when I was associated with the area for the RSPB in the 80'sand 90's the number of pairs present each year still remained high, but enjoyed limited success and most certainly were the targets for persecution. Birds shot, poisoned, nests trampled on, eggs removed....the all too familiar litany associated with the utterly selfish motives employed by those operating grouse shoots. And for the ones who did try to do the decent thing, the condemnation and ridicule that one might expect. For anyone wishing to learn of the sheer challenges associated with such work, please take time out to read the Blog entry entitled
" Hen Harriers in Bowland.....a lament" which I put out on the 1st May, 2012. It makes for sad reading and is a testament to how little things have changed, indeed since then we have undoubtedly seen the synchronized elimination of harriers over a couple of recent winters which has decimated the numbers and brought the breeding population in England to the point of extinction. Thankfully, two pairs have returned and bred successfully in Bowland this year, but such has demanded round the clock protection being provided by the RSPB. Is that the sort of approach we should need to apply in this day and age, the 21st Millenium for heaven's sake!! As with the examples above the circumstances demand our support and action and a major call for change to take place.
To ensure that people are up to date with details associated with the Hen Harrier Action Days please access the web site, www.birdersagainst.org, where any last minute instructions will be displayed.
MAY I WISH ALL OF THE HEN HARRIER ACTION DAYS SUCCESS