Dawn Marsh Harrier

Dawn Marsh Harrier

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hen Harrier Weekend

What a worthwhile and enjoyable weekend it was. I drove up to Buxton on Saturday with Dave Johnson and Stuart Harrington from the London Peregrine Partnership. It all kicked off with 300 of us gathering at the Palace Hotel in Buxton for an evening of Hen Harrier celebration. Guest speakers included Chief Exec of the RSPB Mike Clarke, Mark Cocker, Charlie Moores of BAWC, conservation's bright young hope for the future Findlay Wilde, and of course Mark Avery and Chris Packham who were inspirational as always. Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller talked to us about his iconic piece of work depicting a giant red Hen Harrier flying off with a Range Rover in it's talons. We were able to buy signed prints, all proceeds to the worthiest of causes 'Birders Against Wildlife Crime.'

During the interval I caught up with Mike Clarke. I congratulated him on the wonderful work of the RSPB and told him how much admiration I have for his devoted staff who work round the clock trying to protect our Hen Harrier nests. We spoke about the frustrations of how difficult if nigh on impossible it is to secure convictions against the criminals that attack them. When I asked him if he could see the day ever coming when the RSPB would support Mark Avery's campaign to ban Driven Grouse Shooting, he answered with an emphatic "no." I persisted with more probing questions but seemed to just get politician like non-answers. He made good his escape when his friend asked him to come to the bar for a pint. Frustrating. 1.1 million members! Myself included. We are of course all entitled to our opinions but I was disappointed that he didn't seem to have any game plan other than to work with the shooting community. An option that for me has long since passed it's sell by date.

Anyway I met a lot of other people that I enjoyed talking to more. A good drink was had and new friends were made. Not too good-a-drink mind as there was important business the next morning.

The weather took mercy on us this year as hundreds of good, decent people (oh and Andrew Gilruth and Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Mafia) gathered in the staggeringly beautiful setting of the Goyt Valley. The only scars on the landscape were the vast patches of burnt heather and a distinct lack of Hen Harriers in prime Hen Harrier habitat.

Proceedings were hosted by the infectiously driven Charlie Moores of BAWC. Now there's a man that cares.

Charlie Moores

A deep in thought Mark Avery looked on, surely feeling very proud of what was unfurling before him.

And needless to say, when he addressed his audience we were hanging off his every word.

Chris Packham is one of the most inspirational speakers I've ever heard. His combination of passion, eloquence and impeccable logic can't fail to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Once again he reinforced our belief that we WILL win. What a man to have on side.

It was a real privilege to spend some time in the company of young Findlay Wilde

Note the burnt heather in the background

Myself, Findlay and Dave.

If you're a wildlife criminal or conservation ignoramus, (or current Prime Minister) this kid's your worst nightmare. He's smart,confident, articulate, passionate and determined. Very, very determined, and he's coming for you. Dismiss him at your peril.

With Findlays rapid rise towards celebrity, in our circles at least, he could be forgiven for getting an ego but it was a pleasure to confirm that he is also a thoroughly nice likable bloke. A credit to Mr and Mrs Wilde.

As I wandered amongst the crowd, I noticed a man with a look of despair on his face. What could be the matter with this person on such a great day?

Ah...Its Mr Gilruth, being forced to admit that he can't defend the indefensible for much longer. Poor chap!!!

We mingled for a while and grabbed some photo opportunities with some fine people.

Mark, Findlay, Stuart

Me, Stuart, Chris, Dave.

Stuart, Chris, Dave
Below pics courtesy of Stuart Harrington.

We left the Goyt Valley feeling buoyed by what had been a great event and decided to cap it all off with a visit to Staffs on the way home to see the wonderfully confiding Red Footed Falcon that had been delighting photographers for several weeks. It had disappeared a couple of hours before we got there, never to return. It seemed ironic and somehow appropriate that on this of all days a raptor had gone missing. Hopefully this one's safe.

Before writing this today, the news broke that yet another Hen Harrier was murdered on a Grouse Moor earlier this year. That's six that we know of. If you care about Hen Harriers, if you care about nature, if you care about our environment, which if you're reading this you probably do, then please read this book.

You'll never read a more important one. No propaganda, just facts. And by the time you've finished it you will definitely want to sign this. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104441 Please do!!!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Halcyon Hampshire.

A thoroughly pleasant day on and around the Hants coast with Sharpy yesterday. Pennington Marsh is a great place just to be but when you add the wildlife it's real joy. We weren't targeting anything in particular, just an amble about to see what we could see. Even in mid-summer there are birds to enjoy.

Blacktailed Godwits were two for the price of one on the flat calm water.

Several Greenshank and the evermore plentiful Little Egrets were probing the lagoons for tasty morsels.

You've always got a chance of Med Gull at Pennington.

A family party of Ravens were very vocal

A Water Rail was shamelessly exposing itself, Grey Plovers included a stunning sum plum male and a young Buzzard was chilling in the sunshine. I even managed to sneak in a year tick with a rather drab looking female Eider out on the Solent.

Juv Buzzard

Next up was a short drive to Crockford Bridge in the New Forest to see what Dragon/Damselflies were about. We immediately jammed into one of my absolute favourites in the shape of a Beautiful Demoiselle.

A Small Red Damselfly is always a pleasure to behold.

Common Darters were everywhere.



As were Black Tailed Skimmer...

...and Keeled Skimmer

My day seemed complete when we stumbled across a species I've long wanted to see. A Golden Ringed Dragonfly. Two in fact, I think male and female.



A family of Spotted Flycatchers rounded things off nicely.

It was only when I got home and started going through my photos, that I noticed what I had presumed to be an Azure Damselfly, didn't quite look right. Just an atypical one I thought but best check the book just in case it's some sort of rarity, lol!!! _ Bloody hell! Judging by the book it appeared to be the rare and endangered Southern Damselfly. The features, habitat and location all seemed to confirm it.

Being of a sceptical nature, I still had some doubts so I'm grateful to Simon @ukwildlifepics for his help in confirming the id on twitter this morning.

How did students of nature cope before the advent of digital cameras? If I had a hat on I would take it off to them. Easy life nowadays.

Thanks to Simon for his help, Sharpy for the usual good company and Hampshire for being a great place to spend a day.