In 2020, Hen Harrier Day went online. Brilliantly hosted by naturalists and presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, supported by a great production team led by Ruth Peacey and Fabian Harrison, the event was an outstanding success, reaching well over 100,000 people.
Prompted by the Covid-19 crisis and the possibility (which became actual) that we would lose our local events in 2020, a great team worked wonders to commission and assemble an outstandingly varied programme. Contributions ranged from top experts to poets and street artists, from children to emerging presenters and advocates for nature.
The result is a great resource to visit. You can see a recording of the whole event here, but to make it more accessible we’ve separated out some of the individual contributions below. Click on any of the pictures or the link in the text
Early Career Naturalist Challenge
We invited young naturalists and nature communicators to make a short video about nature in the UK, with a focus on the uplands. The main aim was to give them an opportunity to showcase their work to a wider public.
We had some brilliant entries and were able to show all of them on the day; you can enjoy them all here.
Langholm Moor Community Buyout
This project has a brilliant vision for land previously managed as grouse moor. It is ambitious, exciting and important, and we decided to make it our key target for fundraising in 2020. We’re proud to have raised about £10,000 on Hen Harrier Day and during the following week. The project has since seen some major contributions and achieved its first target, enabling the purchase of half of the moor with discussions continuing over the rest.
Almost everyone loves making things, whether it’s models, mobiles or mascots, hand puppets or paper folding, biscuits or blacksmithing. We asked you to join in and send us photos of what you’d made, and we were delighted with the results.
We shared many of your photos on the day.
Megan meets hen harrier chicks
Chris and Megan were brilliant hosts on Hen Harrier Day. But there was one initial problem – Megan had never seen a hen harrier. She’s not alone in that, of course; there are far fewer than there should be in the UK, because of raptor persecution – wildlife crime. So before the event she made special plans, not only to see a hen harrier but to visit a nest and see the chicks.
OneKind are a brilliant charity concerned with the welfare of all animals, be they pets, on a farm, in the sea or in the wild. The last of these is especially important to us and we were very grateful to OneKind for a powerful contribution to Hen Harrier Day, revealing the cruelties of traps and snares on grouse-shooting estates. Up to a quarter of a million animals may be killed in this cruel way each year on Scotland’s moors. In our short film, OneKind Director Bob Elliot shows us the reality.
Poems for Hen Harrier Day
To communicate the plight of the hen harrier and the wider problems of our uplands, we must go beyond science and the law to reach hearts as well as minds, and the arts are a sure way to do that. David Harsent (pictured) is passionate about the wrongs of driven grouse shooting, so much so that, as well as offering his own poem ‘Bowland Beth’ from his award-winning Fire Song’, he persuaded other fine poets and readers to contribute their work.
The Revive Coalition
We are great fans of Revive because they address the issues to do with driven grouse shooting from all angles: raptor persecution, animal welfare, the environment and the well-being of local communities. They also, importantly, have a vision for the future, how it could be so much better. So we were delighted when they agreed to make a contribution to our online event. By some mishap, we left out one of their two main contributions.
Scotland: The Big Picture
We commissioned this piece specially for Hen Harrier Day. Scotland: The Big Picture strongly believe that reform comes only through dialogue. Many conservationists would agree with that principle but find it difficult to see how a ‘sport’ can change when it is probably only economically viable if underpinned by wildlife crime. To which Scotland: The Big Picture respond by envisioning a better future, and they do that exceptionally well.
You can see the video making the rewilding case here.
Secret postcard art auction
Although our major fundraising effort on Hen Harrier Day was in support of the Langholm Moor community buyout, we were very fortunate in joining in a secret postcard art auction organised by the wonderful Diane Gould at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Thanks to all the excellent artists who contributed, the auction raised well over £5,000.
A song for Hen Harrier Day
The wonderful Cheryl Camm wrote and composed a lovely new song for Hen Harrier Day in 2020. ‘Skydancer, Ghost Of The Moors‘ both celebrates the hen harrier and mourns the many that have gone ‘missing’. Written during lockdown, it also reflects on the solace that may be found in nature. Cheryl organised a first recording with The Bridge Singers, a community choir based in Northumberland.
Inspired by a proposal from Shirelle Young, a Hen Harrier Day organiser in Aberdeen, we decided that there could be few better ways of getting our message across to lots of people than some well placed street art. Nothing adds to awareness more than a powerful image, and our artists did us proud.
Sunnyside School of Conservation
We were proud to work this year with Sunnyside Primary School, Glasgow. We hear something about their deserved national reputation in their film, which then moves on to tell the story of Fred, a tagged golden eagle which ‘disappeared’ almost within sight of the Scottish Parliament. Their contribution ends with the sad tale of Thistle an RSPB-tagged hen harrier which the children named in 2018 and which survived only until October 2019 before going ‘missing’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland.
Thank you so much to Lisa Perrie and all the children who put this together during lockdown.
T-shirt design competition
For this competition, we were looking for designs that captured our message of celebration and concern, under the theme of ‘Save Our Skydancers’, and we had some great entries from both adults and children. Our presenters, Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, modelled all the designs on the day.
Young advocates for nature
Young people are increasingly leading the way and inspiring others about the climate and nature emergency we face. So we were proud that some of the leaders in campaigning for change – and in drawing others in, helping to make the movement broader and more inclusive – made brilliant contributions to Hen Harrier Day Online. Our contributors included Mya-Rose Craig (Birdgirl), Holly Gillibrand (pictured), Kabir Kaul, Indy Kiemel Greene and Dara McAnulty. We’ll have each of their contributions here shortly.
Young Wild Writer Competition
We invited children to submit short original, creative pieces, about any kind of wildlife in Britain including plants and habitats. We were overwhelmed by the number and quality of the entries – over 500 by the closing date! Our judges, Gill Lewis, the children’s author, assisted by Liz Cross, Publishing Director at David Fickling Books, and Hen Harrier Action trustee Jo Hodges, had the challenging task of choosing a winner from each of the three age categories. Each winning entry was read out on Hen Harrier Day Online, with the overall winner being read by well-known writer Michael Morpurgo.
Hen Harrier Days are all about building public awareness and engagement, and we had great fun over the last six months setting up our community activities and seeing the results. Thank you to everyone who contributed, entered competitions or participated in other ways. Many of you have told us how much you enjoyed it – and sometimes how much you learned. We hope everyone got as much out of it as we did.