As I write this blog, I am still pinching myself and wondering if I dreamt it all. I am still a little stunned, but mostly… I am insanely, deliriously happy!!!
Yesterday, whilst we were picnicking and looking for nothing in particular, I saw two Hen Harriers. I always wondered what this moment would feel like. In reality, any dreams I’d had just didn’t compare to the wonderful sight we saw.
The Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) is a Red List raptor, endangered, persecuted but also recently, it has captured the imagination of many, many people all over the UK. It is fast becoming an icon for the kind of world we live in, a world that can easily without conscience or care, destroy and harm nature and wildlife.
You can read all about the Hen Harrier story here, this is a link to the amazing RSPB Skydancer project. I have written two previous blogs on Hen Harriers here and here. If any of you reading this have read my previous blogs, you will already know how passionate, concerned and in love with these birds I am. They have become an obsession for me, and perchance a moment came, that would completely change me. That would supercharge my passion and drive to care and so protect what is left of our natural world. I had the chance to watch; awed and inspired by the realisation that these birds are out there, for me to see in Fermanagh. I had seen a glimpse of a female Hen Harrier fly into the trees in the same spot earlier in the month, but I never once dared (in case of disappointment – I don’t cope with this very well) to think that I would see any action again.
We were sitting by the lake chatting, when all of a sudden the air changed and a strange silence in me came. A ghostly shape rose like a whisper above the trees. I went to reach for my camera, but I was paralysed, I couldn’t move or take my eyes of the possibility that this was a Hen Harrier! What? Another one! They rose and both dropped down into the trees and disappeared. Then they exited dramatically out and up, up into the blinding light of the sky!! They rose and fell and flew and danced; over the purple uplands they soared once more, dark shapes against the azure sunlit sky. Two males, swirling and alarming, one protector and one impostor. They displayed for about a minute twisting and turning. I hastily gripped my camera and took some images, I tried my very best, but they were so fast, so dark against the background – but I didn’t care. This memory didn’t need any photography perfection, if anything, it was evidence, that I was not dreaming, that my mind was not playing tricks. Every hair stood on end, every nerve twitched with excitement. I was observiing a sight that few people have ever got to see. I wanted to shout, to roar to the hills and trees but I was subdued into a respect that these birds are worthy of. I might sound sentimental, dramatic and over indulgent, but I don’t care. This for me, was like a Blue Whale, a tiger in the wild; this was my home landscape and it is supporting these iconic birds. I never really thought, that at age 4, when I read of the Harrier Jets ( a fighter aircraft capable of vertical take-off without a runway) in my books, and so on to their inspration, that I would be writing this. I’m amazed I can articulate it all.
My heart soared as they did, I was completely with them, moved, entranced and captivated by them. I have seen a Hen Harrier. I have seen now, three individual Hen Harriers and as I watched them fly over the trees…as I ran up the hill so I could never lose sight of them, my heart nearly burst. My body seemed too small to fit all the emotion inside. As they disappeared and I sat in almost shock, I could feel an overwhelming lump, an overpowering sadness that others are being deprived of this spectacle. That due to persecution and systematic targeting, there are people who would love to, but have never seen a Hen Harrier. My heart aches and breaks for them because really we have the landscape to support their needs.
I would urge you to sign Mark Avery’s petition which is promoting parliamentary debate on the driven grouse shooting industry. I would mean so much to me. Please let us, let everyone, see a Hen Harrier, a Skydancer, a swirling raptor who deserves to be free, to fly and soar.
Thank you so much to Eimear Rooney from Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group who is supporting and encouraging my love, and passion for learning all I can about Hen Harriers,
Thank you for reading