Hen Harrier campaigners flock to Sheffield for protest

L-r Liz Ballard, CEO Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Dave Dickinson, Lead Campaigner Sheffield Environmental, Dr. Ross Cameron, Sheffield University Senior Lecturer of Landscape Management, Ecology and Design, David Wood, Chairman of Sheffield Bird study group, Dr. Mark Avery, Writer and Campaigner,  Blanaid Denman, RSPB Hen Harrier Life Project Officer, Natalie Bennett, former Green party leader and Lolo Williams, of BBC Springwatch.Picture: Marie Caley NSST Hen Harriers MC 2
L-r Liz Ballard, CEO Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Dave Dickinson, Lead Campaigner Sheffield Environmental, Dr. Ross Cameron, Sheffield University Senior Lecturer of Landscape Management, Ecology and Design, David Wood, Chairman of Sheffield Bird study group, Dr. Mark Avery, Writer and Campaigner, Blanaid Denman, RSPB Hen Harrier Life Project Officer, Natalie Bennett, former Green party leader and Lolo Williams, of BBC Springwatch.Picture: Marie Caley NSST Hen Harriers MC 2

Protesters have flocked to Sheffield this weekend to protest against the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers around grouse moors in the UK's uplands.

The Hen Harrier Day was held on Devonshire Green, where dozens of people showed their support for a campaign which aims to stop people from interfering with the birds of prey, which is a criminal offence.

People flocked to Devonshire Green for the Sheffield Hen Harrier day. Picture: Marie Caley NSST Hen Harriers MC 8

People flocked to Devonshire Green for the Sheffield Hen Harrier day. Picture: Marie Caley NSST Hen Harriers MC 8

Among those in attendance at the weekend rally were BBC Springwatch's Lolo Williams, Liz Ballard, CEO at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett.

One of the speakers on the day, Dr Mark Avery, called for driven grouse shooting to be banned, in order to end the reason for persecution once and for all.

Dave Dickinson from Sheffield Environmental says “I believe that people committing these crimes must be given stronger sentences and the shooting estates that employ game keepers who carry out such activities should be held to account, bringing English legislation into line with Scottish law.”

Organisers for the event say that Hen Harrier populations in England should be close to 300 breeding pairs, according to the National Hen Harrier Census that took place in 2016.

But they believe that illegal persecution close to grouse moors in our uplands has resulted in the population being limited to just four breeding pairs.

In Scotland, the UK’s traditional stronghold, their population has declined by nine per cent since 2010 and the overall UK breeding population has fallen by 39 per cent since 2004.

A spokesman for the event said: "Hen Harriers are sometimes known as the Skydancer because of the males’ iconic courtship display and, although voles form the main part of their diet, they are known to feed on small birds, including the red grouse, which has brought the bird into conflict with shooting estates in some cases.

"As a result, it is thought that persecution of hen harriers and other birds of prey may be still occurring, despite it being a criminal offence that carries a prison sentence."

Following Saturday's protest, owners and managers of England’s grouse moors have restated their support for the recovery of hen harriers.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: "We welcome the highlighting of the hen harrier issue throughout Hen Harrier weekend and believe those managing the land must be a part of the solution.”

“Our support for the Hen Harrier Recovery Plan is unwavering and we eagerly await a decision on our joint application for a licence to instigate a brood management scheme trial of the Action Plan, which we believe would be another step in the right direction to improve the harrier population in the north of England.”