TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham will be among the speakers when Hen Harrier Day comes to RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve in Purfleet on Saturday 5 August.
The event aims to raise awareness of the illegal persecution suffered by these spectacular birds of prey – one of the key factors in its precarious position as a breeding bird in Britain.
Around 600 people joined the first London and South-East Hen Harrier Day at RSPB Rainham Marshes last year. There is free entry for everyone to the event, which starts at 11am.
Chris will be joined by Mark Thomas from the RSPB’s Investigations team, which tackles wildlife crime including illegal persecution of hen harriers, and Rob Sheldon from Birders Against Wildlife Crime, which spearheads the Hen Harrier Day events. They will each share their passionate perspective on the ongoing hen harrier decline and how best to reverse its fortunes. There will also be live music from vocal ensemble Peregrina EnChantica, who will be performing their single Forgotten Names, written about the plight of the hen harrier.
Despite full legal protection since the early 1950s, hen harriers are absent from vast swathes of the UK, primarily because of illegal persecution on intensively managed areas of upland driven grouse moor.
The fifth Hen Harrier Survey, published last month (June 2017), shows the UK-wide population in 2016 was 545 pairs – a drop of 88 pairs (13 per cent) since the last national survey in 2010. The figures show a huge decline of nearly 40 per cent in the last 12 years.
In England, the survey shows there were just four territorial pairs last year – down from 12 pairs in 2010 – despite evidence from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee that shows there is ample habitat to support more than 300 pairs in England alone.
Chris Packham said: “If, like me, you have had enough of the lies, corruption and criminal behaviour that are wrecking our uplands and killing our precious raptors, please come to Rainham and be counted.
“And combine it with a great day out at a fabulous reserve – not to mention a slice of cake in the café.”
Mark Thomas said: “The RSPB’s investigations team works on the front line, receiving calls about raptor persecution and those committing these crimes. The hen harrier is our number one priority; we know persecution is limiting its distribution and severely impacting its conservation status. We are guarding nests, satellite-tagging juveniles and following up all reported sightings.
“I’m looking forward to joining Hen Harrier Day supporters who care as passionately about the fortunes of this bird as we do, as well as helping to raise awareness of the issue among more members of the public who perhaps were not aware of it. Together, we can stop the persecution.”
Rob Sheldon added: “One of the key reasons a group of like-minded birdwatchers and wildlife lovers formed BAWC was to increase public awareness of wildlife crime such as raptor persecution. BAWC’s volunteers campaign tirelessly to achieve this, and Hen Harrier Day has become the public face of this ongoing work.
“This year BAWC launched its first practical field project, to satellite-tag more birds of prey so everyone can find out more about their lives and keep track of their fortunes. Members of the public donated more than £20,000 in a crowd-funding appeal to make this happen, and the money raised at last year’s Hen Harrier Day event also went towards this important work. So this will be a great opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us get this project off the ground, and update them on what we have achieved so far.”
Hen Harrier Day has quickly become an annual fixture, growing from a single rally in the Peak District just three years ago to a dozen events up and down the UK this year. The rally at RSPB Rainham Marshes covers the London and South-East region. Most Hen Harrier Day 2017 events take place over the weekend of 5-6 August – the weekend before the so-called ‘Glorious 12th’ when the grouse shooting season starts.
The free event at RSPB Rainham Marshes starts at 11am on Saturday 5 August. No need to book – people can just turn up on the day.
There will be plenty of family activities for all ages and a book signing with Chris Packham, as well as the main talks.
Visitors should travel by public transport if at all possible as parking at the reserve is limited. C2C trains run every 30 minutes between London Liverpool Street (please note this is a change from the usual Fenchurch Street on this date) to Purfleet via Stratford. It is an easy, signposted 15-minute stroll to the venue from Purfleet station.