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RSPB project needs Lancashire’s vote

Wednesday, 25th June 2014

An RSPB initiative focussed on protecting England’s most threatened bird of prey has reached the final of this year’s National Lottery Awards in the Best Education Project category.

A four-year project, Skydancer aims to raise awareness and promote the conservation of hen harriers across the North of England including Lancashire. Skydancer is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (with a grant of £317,700) and United Utilities, with additional support from the Forestry Commission. 

Selected from more than 750 applications, the project is one of seven finalists, which are going head-to-head in a public vote. The winner will receive £2,000 at a BBC-televised award ceremony in September. 

Nicknamed Skydancer on account of the male’s stunning aerobatic courtship ritual, the hen harrier is currently on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird in England.

Blánaid Denman, Skydancer Project Officer at the RSPB, says: “There is room for at least 300 pairs of hen harriers breeding in the English uplands but this year, there are only three confirmed nests in the whole country, two of which are on the United Utilities Estate in Bowland, Lancashire.

“The problem is that hen harriers occasionally eat red grouse, a popular gamebird for which most of the harriers’ moorland nesting habitat in England is managed. Though grouse forms only a small part of their diet, hen harriers can in some circumstances reduce the number of grouse available to shoot, leading some moorland managers to illegally kill or disturb the harriers to protect their stock.

“Hen harriers are amazing birds, yet very few people have heard of them or their plight. Skydancer is helping to change that. If we want to save this integral part of Lancashire’s wildlife, we need to show everyone why these birds are important and inspire people to care about them.”

Since Skydancer began in 2011, Blánaid has been in Lancashire delivering hen harrier-themed school assemblies, workshops, and field trips, as well as community talks to groups ranging from the WI to local bird clubs.

She has also been engaging directly with members of the grouse shooting community, attending game fairs and local shows, and running workshops with game keeping students.

Blánaid continues: “We need to get to a place where hen harriers are allowed to exist alongside grouse moor management, otherwise they will never recover.

“This is a massive challenge but I’ve been really encouraged by the responses I’ve had from many of the gamekeeping students I’ve spoken to. It does give me some hope for the future.”

Public voting for the National Lottery Awards opens today and runs until 23 July. Votes for Skydancer can be cast via the website or by telephone.  The project with the most votes in each category will be declared the winner.

To vote for Skydancer, visit: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards/education

ENDS

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Chris Collett, RSPB Communications Manager, 0191 233 4317, 07885 834889

Images: Attached image shows pupils and parents from Hornby St Margaret’s Primary School, Lancashire at Hen harrier of peace Skydancer event in November 2012. More images available.

Editor’s notes:

  1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organizations.
  2. Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 36,000 projects with more than £6bn across the UK.  www.hlf.org.uk.

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