Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hen Harrier Day

The Safari was out later than usual last night doing a moth and bat night at the local country park on the estuary. A small crowd assembled led by two very enthusiastic children. Dusk started to fall and we turned the moth lamp on but the sky above us was still quite light through the trees and we soon saw a Pipistrelle Bat even before we picked it up on the bat detectors! The bats put on a fine display, so much so we tried the long piece of grass 'trick'. and immediately had a 'hit' then another and another and another. It's been a long time since we had a bat session as interactive and exciting as this one!!!
The moths started as the bat activity died down a bit. Large Yellow Underwings being 'numerous', Flame Shoulders almost as plentiful and a nice selection of other species. The star of the show was the huge Red Underwing which wowed the crowds. As we drew towards finishing time a Common Wasp appeared, that was enough for some. Soon we were packing up and as started to empty the moths from the depths of the box, that flipping wasp tagged us on the side of the finger - Ouch and other less savoury expletives were uttered.
This morning dawned wet after another slightly fraught and sleepless night with Frank downstairs but it was an early start to meet up 30 odd miles away in the hills were driven (Red) Grouse shooting will start on Tuesday.
A protest had been organised to object to the criminal activities of those involved in this 'sport' removing birds that have been legally protected for 60 years. There are fewer Peregrine nests in the huge expanse of the northern Pennines than there are in London! Hen Harriers are repeatedly disposed of and there is no chance of Golden Eagles being able to recolonise  our uplands. Unfortunately it is the Establishment who are the perpetrators of these crimes and have a very 'friendly' government at the mo and it's going to be very hard to change the entrenched attitudes. But enough is enough and despite the weather people fed up with the status quo of  illegalities met up at a variety of locations throughout the land to show their opposition to it and call for change.
TP gave some examples of the disgraceful behaviours he and his colleagues in the North West Raptor Protection Group have witnessed over the years - behaviours which should have died the death not long after the Victorian era!
If we're not careful and no-one stands up for what is right then the children at  last night's moth night will only see Hen Harriers as cardboard cut-outs like these.
About 60 people were present in atrocius conditions, we're sure the weather put many people off but it was a little disappointing not to see any youngsters there - it's their wildlife heritage that's being systematically wiped out. Even Frank was listening to the speeches!
The county's birding elite was present though.

We also won a book in the raffle -well chuffed!
Things have to change - hopefully sooner rather than later. Lets hope we see some of the Hen Harriers currently being watched 24/7 (if they hadn;t been they would have been 'disappeared' by now) later this year on the local marshes, but even then we do wonder how safe they are there, are any of the 'wildfowlers' not what they purport to be and doing in these fantastic birds on their wintering quarters or are we just being a tad cynical?
Don't forget if you're a UK resident you can still sign the e-petition to get driven grouse shooting and it's scorched earth land/wildlife management banned - don't sign the one for the Defra management plan to be released to the public it's basically asking for the status quo to continue. Several hundred new signings today but there must be plenty of birders out there who haven't, a 100,000 signatures should really be achievable to get the government to discuss the issue in Parliament, they already have to give a written response but don't hold your breath it'll be any good or proactive.
Hurricane Bertha has landed and that was the end of our tomatoes!
Where to next? A bad week coming up with little opportunity to get out on Patch 2 to see if Bertha has brought anything of interest with her.
In the meantime let us know whose cheering for what in your outback.

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