Written by Blánaid Denman, Project Manager, RSPB Hen Harrier LIFE Project
As Project Manager for RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project, I just want to say an enormous thankyou to Lush and all their customers for raising such a huge amount of awareness and vital funds for the conservation of Hen Harriers with the fabulous Skydancer bathbomb.
Launched in 2014, the part-EU funded Hen Harrier LIFE Project is an exciting cross-border programme of conservation, working to secure a future for Hen Harriers across England and Scotland.
Unlike other birds of prey, Hen Harriers can (sometimes literally) travel the length and breadth of the country in search of food, or a mate, or a safe place to nest or roost, which makes protecting them a huge challenge. That’s why the LIFE project is satellite tagging as many Hen Harrier chicks as possible, so we can better understand where they go and identify where they’re most at risk.
Now, thanks to sales of the Skydancer bath bomb, we’ve been able to double the number of satellite tags the project can fit! What’s more, the funds raised by Lush customers have also enabled us to provide more RSPB staff with specialist training to fit satellite tags to Hen Harriers. The more people who are trained and licensed to fit these tags, the more tags we can fit!
So far this year, we have fitted satellite tags on birds as far north as Banffshire in Scotland, and soon hope to tag a chick on our Geltsdale reserve in Cumbria, the first Hen Harrier to hatch at that location in ten long years. Tags have also gone on birds at National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire, and on an MOD estate in the West of Scotland, amongst other locations. From the end of the summer, you’ll be able to follow the fortunes of eleven of these birds on the LIFE Project website here.
This work has never been more important. Despite an independent government report citing enough habitat in England for over 320 breeding pairs of Hen Harriers, as I type there are currently only three. That’s less than 1 per cent of the potential. In Scotland, a staggering 20 per cent decline was recorded in just six years between the last two national surveys in 2004 and 2010.
And the cause? Simply put, hen harriers (and other birds of prey) are illegally killed on some shooting estates because they eat red grouse, a popular gamebird. Crimes are committed to increase the number of grouse that can be shot. That is why RSPB are calling for the introduction of a licensing system for gamebird shooting and why yet others feel moved to go a step further and call for a ban.
In the meantime, the Hen Harrier LIFE Project is continuing to work hard for Hen Harriers through conservation monitoring and nest protection, investigations work, and engaging directly with landowners, schools and community groups.
At the heart of all of this, thanks to the generosity of LUSH customers, satellite tagging will help us to raise vital awareness and shine a light on what is happening to these incredible birds.
Watch this space – I can’t wait to share their stories with you.
Project Manager, RSPB Hen Harrier LIFE Project.