A fantastic show of raptors for the 'Glorious 12th' August on the Invergeldie Estate

Hen Harrier Action Walk & Talk on the Invergeldie Estate

We woke up to a not so Glorious 12th, with heavy rain and low cloud which was not forecast to clear up in time for our Hen Harrier Day Wildlife Walk and Talk.

 However, by the time we all met up at the car park in Comrie, the rain had eased, and the sun was trying to make an appearance. We hopped into our cars and drove up to Glen Lednock to start the ascent to an area of moorland on the Invergeldie Estate.

The Invergeldie Estate is under new ownership and has ceased driven grouse shooting, along with predator control, so we are hopeful that the new management regime will improve the fortunes of the local hen harrier population. Sadly, this year’s nesting pair failed due to the heavy rain over the weekend of 14th-15th July.

We set off on the main path, which if followed to its conclusion brings you to the top of Ben Chonzie, a popular munro to bag. Our first stop was opposite a sandy bank which is home to a long-established sand martin colony.

Andrea Hudspeth, a Hen Harrier Action Trustee, talked about the purpose of the charity and the history behind Hen Harrier Day. As a reminder, the first Hen Harrier Day events took place in 2014 after an appalling breeding season for hen harriers, resulting in no fledged birds in the whole of England, with most nest failures down to human interference.

Whilst chatting, red kites and sand martins flew above us. Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for the RSPB, talked to us about the journey so far toward the introduction of licensing for grouse shooting and the codes of practice that this will bring. This prompted much healthy discussion around alternative ways to manage the uplands.

Duncan Orr-Ewing talking about the proposed introduction of grouse moor licensing
RSPB's Ian Thomson talks about raptor persecution

Moving on, we continued up the path some way, by which time the rain had ceased. We made another stop whilst it was breezy to avoid being eaten by midges.

Ian Thomson, Head of RSPB Investigations in Scotland, talked about the difficulties in getting those responsible for raptor persecution prosecuted. This is mainly due to the rural locations where these crimes are committed and with the current system requiring criminal burden of proof.

Whilst chatting, Andrea shouted out “male hen harrier” and our attentions were drawn away to the beautiful adult male quartering the heather-clad hillside opposite us, and in the direction we were headed. After this, a family of kestrels were spotted, reflecting the great year they have enjoyed due to high vole numbers. We enjoyed watching the youngster’s aerial-play across the sky before us.

We continued on to our final destination on the opposite side of the burn, affording great views over a good portion of the estate. We stopped here for lunch, and before heading back down the hill, Andrea gave an overview of the plans for the estate going forward, which includes more intensive deer management and reducing sheep densities over time. More kites, buzzards, red deer and ravens were spotted during this stop.

We headed back down the hill having various conversations about upland land management including water, deer, heather, peat and comparing wildlife stories. Once back at the cars, we had a quick photo shoot with the Henry Harrier banner, before heading back to the car park in Comrie. Whilst here, we had a kettle of 16 red kites above the hill opposite us and a fly-past from an osprey followed by two buzzards. What a great way to end the walk!

Back in Comrie, we continued the conversations started on the hill at a local hotel with a hot drink and lovely slice of cake – a great way to round off our Hen Harrier Day Wildlife Walk.

A hardy band of walkers on a dreich day

Why it's important to add your voice and support for our birds of prey

Hen Harrier Day events have been taking place across UK since 2014 following the extremely low numbers of successful harrier nests during that year’s breeding season. In England, there were no successful nests that year. Many of the nest failures were attributed to human interference and occurred on moorland managed for driven grouse.

The purpose of these events is to raise public awareness of the prevalence of raptor persecution, and particularly the plight of the hen harrier which is the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey. The charity Hen Harrier Action was formed to support those wishing to hold events, but it has also funded the fitting of satellite tags on young harriers in England and Scotland and produces an online Skydancer Day in the spring. This year’s event was hosted by Megan McCubbin and Hen Harrier Action’s youngest Trustee, Indy Kiemel Greene.