Hen Harriers & campaigning?

My birding year has not really had many highlights in terms of sightings of note, but today’s garden tick was a very welcome one.  A stunning male Hen Harrier was observed quartering the northern fields on the periphery of Hatfield Moors SSSI, and all easily witnessed from my garden!  What ‘moor’ could you ask on a cold February day?  There is just something magical in their flight, in the majesty of their graceful movement.  BUT …. I wondered will the superb male I was priviledged to see in winter manage to survive and sucessfully breed in the coming season?   The Hen Harrier failed to breed sucessfully in England last year.  The BBC announced that the Hen Harrier is on the brink of extinction, Mark Avery’s blog frequently posts updates on the topic of Hen Harrier persecution, the most recent data available from JNCC is unfortunately out of date, but nevertheless catalogues a worrying trend.  Mark Avery’s blog is also a good source of background information about the now ‘infamous’  Walshaw Moor case which was initially taken up by Natural England.  Fast forward, it is now with the RSPB who took up the case after NE decided to drop the case.

Can I encourage readers of the blog who have not already done so to consider signing John Armitage’s epetition Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers at the time of writing it has reached 9,302 and needs to achieve 10,000 signatures for the issue to be debated in Parliament.  OK we know what happens to topics that those in power do not like, but if nothing else let’s add it to the catalogue of Government failures to protect our environment.

Of community campaigning, congratulations to the consortium of collaborators who mounted a campaign to persuade Derby Council to safeguard one of their Local Nature Reserves ‘The Sanctuary’.  Unfortunately the Councillors approved the application, however the campaigners believe that they have grounds to challenge the decision and are considering a Judicial Review.  For more background see Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s post here.  It is worth viewing the drone’s eye view of the site, I wonder what brownfield invertebrates lurk amidst the wonderfully neglected grassland and scrub?  As an LNR it even qualifies to feature on Natural England’s website, see here.  Unsurprisingly, given the dangerous precedent in terms of planning law Mark Avery has taken an interest and I suspect that in no small part that assisted in the number of objections submitted to Derby Council.  So, in addition to a potential legal challenge the consortium have also created an online petition which is aimed at the Lottery, see hereSimon Barne’s writes in today’s Times.

A plea also to anyone able to post on facebook or twitter, that the Forum’s petition about Open Access on NNRs could do with a push here.

We need to take back common ground and ensure those in power listen to the community, common sense should prevail but sadly that is swamped by developers greed and a planning system which appears no longer fit for purpose.  If you need a half reasonable justification for that accusation then look no further at a Government which encourages developers to build 20% of new houses in flood plains without ensuring that they are appropriately designed and built IF they are actually really needed in such low lying areas.

In the meanwhile I shall go and dream of another ‘skydancer’ on my horizon tomorrow …. magic moments like that remind me why we must keep on campaigning.

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