Go ‘in search of skydancers’

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The RSPB and United Utilities are hosting a series of guided walks exploring the amazing wildlife on the water company’s Bowland estate.

From April to July there will be eight walks – called “In Search of Skydancers” - with each one offering the possibility of spotting the elusive hen harrier, England’s rarest breeding bird of prey. These birds are also known as skydancers because of the spectacular aerobatics the male performs in spring to attract a mate.

Besides hen harriers, participants on the five-mile walk might also 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 this Saturday, April 6th, at 9-30 a.m.

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

The United Utilties Bowland estate has traditionally been the last remaining stronghold of the English hen harrier, but last year there were no nests there for the first time in three decades, with only one known pair breeding in the whole of England.

However, Jude remains hopeful this year will be more successful. She says: “We have seen a male and a female on the estate in the past few weeks so there are some birds in the area. The cold weather and snow has led to a late spring, so once the temperatures start to rise, we hope these harriers will come back, find each other and breed once again in Bowland.”

“In Search of Skydancers” is part of the year-round Festival Bowland, organised by the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty 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 guided walks take place on April 6th and 19th; May 6th, 18th and 31st; June 8th and 21st; and July 6th. All tickets are £5 and need to be booked in advance by contacting Fariha Quraishi on 01524 581001 or email: 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. Find out more about Skydancer at www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer