Lottery Award win for RSPB bird of prey project

15 September 2014

An RSPB initiative aimed at protecting hen harriers in Lancashire has won this year’s National Lottery Award for Best Education Project.

Skydancer – a four-year project – works with schools, communities and the shooting industry to raise awareness and promote the conservation of England’s most threatened bird of prey.

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.

Selected as one of seven finalists from hundreds of entries, Skydancer emerged the winner after amassing more than 7,500 public votes.

The project takes its name from the male hen harrier’s aerobatic spring courtship display, which involves soaring and somersaulting high above his moorland home in hope of attracting a mate.

The Skydancer team found out it has won the award when wildlife presenter Chris Packham surprised them with the news while he was making a film in Bowland, Lancashire about the project.

The award will be officially presented at a star-studded award ceremony, which will be broadcast on BBC1 on Friday 19 September at 10.35pm.   The nature conservation organisation will also receive a £2,000 cash prize to spend on the project.

Blánaid Denman, who has run Skydancer since it began in 2011, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve won this award. It’s a fantastic opportunity to highlight the plight of this amazing bird to an audience of millions on primetime TV, not to mention the perfect excuse to buy a new dress.

“The more people we can inspire about hen harriers the best chance we have of rescuing the species from the brink of extinction as a breeding bird in England.”

Skydancer has been very active in Lancashire, particularly around Bowland, the traditional stronghold of the English hen harrier. Blánaid and her team have delivered hen harrier-themed school assemblies, workshops, and field trips, as well as community talks to groups ranging from the WI to local bird clubs.

Most recently, they worked with Brennand’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn who adopted and officially named the chicks from a nest on the United Utilities Bowland estate. These were the first hen harriers to fledge in England since 2012.

For more information about Skydancer, visit


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

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

Editor’s notes:

  1. About the RSPB

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. 

  1. About Heritage Lottery Fund

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.

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