Hen Harrier Day comes to Devonshire Green

Monday 24th July 2017

Hen Harrier, by Amy LewisHen Harrier, by Amy Lewis

Next weekend (5 August) Sheffield Environmental, with support from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and Birders Against Wildlife Crime, are bringing the annual Hen Harrier Day event to Devonshire Green in Sheffield City Centre.

Over the past three years Hen Harrier Day has been held in the Peak District to peacefully protest against the illegal persecution of these magnificent birds of prey around grouse moors in the UK’s uplands.

The event will be held in a rally-type format, with Liz Ballard, CEO at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, opening proceedings at 11am and introducing a top line-up of speakers including BBC Springwatch’s Iolo Williams and Peak Hen Harrier Day regular Dr Mark Avery.

The full list of speakers is as follows:

  • Liz Ballard, CEO at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust
  • Dr Ross Cameron, the University of Sheffield
  • Dr Mark Avery, writer and campaigner
  • Blánaid Denman, RSPB Hen Harrier Life+ project manager
  • Natalie Bennett, former Green Party leader
  • Iolo Williams, writer, tour guide and broadcaster (BBC Springwatch).

As has been reported in the press, scientists agree that Hen Harrier populations in England should be close to 300 breeding pairs, according to the National Hen Harrier Census that took place in 2016. However, illegal persecution close to grouse moors in our uplands has resulted in the population being limited to just four breeding pairs.

In Scotland, the UK’s traditional stronghold, their population has declined by nine per cent since 2010 and the overall UK breeding population has fallen by 39% since 2004.

Hen Harriers are sometimes known as the Skydancer because of the males’ iconic courtship display and, although voles form the main part of their diet, they are known to feed on small birds, including the red grouse, which has brought the bird into conflict with shooting estates in some cases. As a result, it is thought that persecution of hen harriers and other birds of prey may be still occurring, despite it being a criminal offence that carries a prison sentence.

Dave Dickenson from Sheffield Environmental said:

“I believe that people committing these crimes must be given stronger sentences and the shooting estates that employ game keepers who carry out such activities should be held to account, bringing English legislation into line with Scottish law.”

One of the speakers on the day, Dr Mark Avery, will call for driven grouse shooting to be banned, in order to end the reason for persecution once and for all. Other speakers will suggest licencing.

But Sheffield Hen Harrier Day isn’t just about protesting against illegal activities: we are gathering on Saturday 5 August, the weekend before the glorious or inglorious 12 August, to celebrate the iconic Skydancer and other birds of prey.

The event is open to all and free of charge. For more information follow Sheffield Environmental on Facebook at facebook.com/sheffieldenvironmental and Twitter @ShefEnvironment.