Schoolchildren in Lancashire are calling for urgent action to save England’s rarest breeding bird of prey, the hen harrier.
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Children supporting the Skydancer project.
This year has been the worst breeding season in almost half a century for the English hen harrier. There were no breeding pairs in their traditional stronghold in Bowland for the first time in several decades and only one nest in the entire country.
Evidence suggests that there is enough suitable land for at least 320 pairs of this upland bird of prey but that illegal killing and disturbance associated with grouse shooting is severely limiting its numbers.
Pupils from six Lancashire schools within the Forest of Bowland are so concerned about the plight of the hen harrier that they have collectively created 320 white hen harriers to symbolise each pair that should be breeding in the English uplands.
These birds were brought together on Saturday 17 November at Hornby St Margaret’s Primary School to create one giant white hen harrier - playing on the symbol of a white dove of peace. This display was a rallying call for people from all walks of Bowland life to come together to save this beautiful part of our natural heritage and ensure that hen harriers remain a living icon of Bowland for generations to come.
The hen harrier is so iconic locally that it features on the logo of the Bowland Area Of Outstanding Beauty.
Over the past year, the children have been visited by the RSPB to raise their awareness and understanding of this magnificent upland bird of prey in the context of the local landscape, as well as ensuring its conservation.
Blanaid Denman from the RSPB has been working with the children. She says: “It has been a terrible year for hen harriers in Lancashire and beyond. An already precarious situation has become critical, with the future of this species in England hanging by a thread.
“Hen harriers have always been an iconic feature of the Forest of Bowland and their absence this year is nothing short of a tragedy. However, it is really heartening to see that so many children are concerned about the plight of what they see as “their” birds and are making a stand to appeal for their protection. They want to be able to enjoy the spectacular display of a skydancing hen harrier when they grow up and have children of their own.
“We use the Forest of Bowland in so many different ways – farming, shooting, walking, birdwatching – and it’s vital that all these activities are carried out in a sustainable, complementary way, working together not just for their own benefit but also for the benefit of the wildlife that depend on this landscape.”