This weekend, I’ll be surrounded by violet heathland and gnarled oak trees at the RSPB Arne nature reserve in Dorset with my pal Olly. I’m attending one of several events across the country to raise awareness for our critically endangered hen harrier population, an initiative organised by Birders Against Wildlife Crime, the RSPB, Mark Avery and Chris Packham. Hen Harrier Day was created to stop the incessant persecution these fabulous birds of prey endure every year. Despite Natural England’s bizarre insistence that 2015’s breeding season has been the ‘most successful in five years’, a number of gamekeepers involved in the shooting industry have continued to illegally shoot and poison harriers to protect red grouse populations. In 2013, for the first time since records began, no hen harriers fledged young in England.
There are events happening across the country this weekend, and it’s a great opportunity to join other wildlife-lovers to voice our outrage at the disgusting crimes that are still committed against our native birds. Please take a look at the website here to find out more about how you can help. Unless we continue to fight for our harriers, they will almost certainly become extinct – all in the name of profit and bloodsports.
If you can’t make one of the events, you could pop into your local Lush and buy their new Skydancer bathbomb! You can also give directly to the RSPB Hen Harrier Appeal or buy Mark Avery’s new book Inglorious about problems between wildlife and the grouse industry. Please also sign this petition to ban driven grouse shooting forever – bloodsports have no place in modern society, especially when they drive our native species to extinction.
The whole thing has really enraged me, so I channelled it into a poem:
Sun creeps over thistled moor
and stains the dawn cold,
A gangling hare begins
her voyage atop the heather sea,
through bilberry waves and
sphagnum froth she totters and hops,
There lies a shadow on the earth.
Look up! Our hare a harrier spies,
bisecting the skies
with aureate eyes
and feathers of darkening cobalt.
Hare retreats; grouse awakens.
Auburn plume and crimson brow,
grouse is wanted by the world.
Hen harrier craves soft flesh
to nourish fragile young,
nestled low in wildling sprigs
exposed to wind and badger bite.
Portly man wants portly fowl
to shoot with steel gun;
a fattened carcass stuffed
betwixt the lips of Dionysus.
Ten thousand moons have
grouse and harrier flown
the heath together.
But man can find profit in Elysium;
he drains life with poison
turns wilderness to revenue.
He has thrown our hawks into darkness.
Bright bird of Arcadia
lost upon the moor;