Pupils from a Ribble Valley school have taken five rare hen harrier chicks under their wing, writes Bowland High School pupil Emily Craine.
The school children from Brennand’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn have adopted and officially named the birds, which are currently being raised in a nest on the United Utilities Bowland Estate.
They are the first hen harrier chicks to hatch in England since 2012 and come from one of only three nests in the country. Another one of these is also on the United Utilities Bowland Estate.
Following a visit from RSPB staff who spoke to the children about hen harriers and presented them with a certificate of adoption, they named the four female chicks Sky, Heather, Highlander and Fern, and their only brother, Flash.
Five of the children were then treated to a visit to the United Utilities Estate, where a team of RSPB staff and volunteers are protecting the nest 24 hours a day.
One of the pupils to visit the site was Matthew Anderton from Year Five.
He said: “I felt really excited and happy because they are a really rare bird.
“There isn’t many of them in the UK. It is a privilege to go and see them.”
Siobhan McGuigan, the RSPB’s youth development officer for Northern England, said: “The children at Brennand’s seem very proud of their role as hen harrier chick adopters and recognise how rare and special these birds are.
“The birds have been fitted with satellite tags so the children will be able to follow their progress as they leave Bowland next month, looking for places around the UK to feed and roost during the winter months.”
The RSPB’s hen harrier work in Bowland forms part of Skydancer, a four-year RSPB project aimed at protecting and conserving nesting hen harriers in the English uplands.
The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (with a grant of £317,700) and United Utilities, with additional support from the Forestry Commission.
Skydancer has reached the finals of this year’s National Lottery Awards in the Best Education Category. To vote for the project visit: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards/education or for more information about it visit: : www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer
Of the UK’s birds of prey, the hen harrier is the most intensively persecuted say the RSPB. Once predating free-range fowl, earning its present name, its effect on the number of grouse available to shoot is the cause of modern conflict and threatens its survival in some parts of the country, particularly on the driven grouse moors of England and Scotland.
On Sunday August 10th – two days ahead of the opening of the grouse shooting season – hundreds of people will be taking part in Hen Harrier Day, a series of events across the English uplands aimed at raising awareness of the plight of this threatened species. Visit: http://birdersagainst.org
A peaceful protest in support of the hen harrier is being staged by the North West Raptor Protection Group on the green at Dunsop Bridge from 10 am until 3 pm on Sunday August 10th followed by a free hen harrier viewing walk.