Go in search of Skydancers in Bowland

A female hen harrier in flight
A female hen harrier in flight
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“IN Search of Skydancers” is the title of a series of guided walks presented by the RSPB and United Utilities to explore the wildlife on the water company’s Bowland estate.

Over the next three months there will be eight walks, each offering the chance to see a hen harrier, England’s rarest breeding bird of prey. These are also known as skydancers because of the spectacular aerobatics the male performs to attract a mate.

Besides hen harriers, participants on the five-mile walk might be able to see other upland wildlife including peregrines, merlins and ring ouzels and learn more about how the estate is managed for both water and wildlife.

The first guided walk of the season is on Saturday, April 14th, at 9-30 a.m.

RSPB Bowland Project Officer Jude Lane said: “The walks will give visitors the chance to explore the United Utilities Bowland estate with an expert guide who will reveal the fascinating wildlife and heritage hidden within this rugged and dramatic landscape.”

For most, the highlight will be the chance to see hen harriers as the United Utilities estate is their last remaining English stronghold. In 2011, there were only four successful English nests, all of which were on the estate.

Ian Grindy, United Utilities Bowland estate manager, added: “It’s a real privilege that such rare and beautiful birds make their home here, and we’re glad to share that experience with the public. It shows how our long-standing partnership with the RSPB and our tenants helps to protect this landscape for wildlife as well as water quality.”

In Search of Skydancers is part of the year-round Festival Bowland, organised by the Forest of Bowland AONB and also 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 and United Utilities.

The full list of dates for the guided walks is: April 14th and 20th, May 7th, 12th and 26th, June 8th and 16th and July 6th. All tickets are £5 and need to be booked in advance by contacting Fariha Quraishi on 01524 581001 or e-mail fariha.quraishi​@rspb.org.uk.

All money raised will be put directly back into the conservation of hen harriers in Northern England.

For more information on Festival Bowland visit www.forestofbowland.com and you can find out more about the Skydancer project at: www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer