A flock of painted hen harriers has appeared across the UK in the form of three striking murals.
These incredible creations have sprung up as part of Hen Harrier Day 2020: one at former home of Hen Harrier Day Rainham Marshes in Essex, one in Hartoft, in the heart of the North Yorks Moors and the other just outside Inverness.
They’re a tribute to people’s passion for these inspirational birds, and aim to serve as a visual reminder of the beauty and the plight of hen harriers in the UK.
Many of you will be familiar with the site at Rainham, which has played host to Hen Harrier Day on three occasions between 2016 and 2018. This striking female hen harrier has been painted by street Artist ATM on the entrance wall of the reserve.
ATM told us:
"It took two days to paint and a lot of consideration and sketches beforehand to work out the best way to use the space of that particular wall to capture a sense of movement in the bird. I'm very happy with it. I feel I caught something of the spirit of a male hen harrier, 'the ghost of the moors'.
"This is the fourth piece of hen harrier street art I've painted for Hen Harrier Day. The first was for Charlie Moores and BAWC in 2014, a male on a pillbox on the Isle of Sheppey, a spot over which they migrate. In July 2014 I also painted a female for the Whitecross Street Festival in East London, using the hashtag #HenHarrierDay, and handed out leaflets about hen harrier persecution (which no-one knew about; they didn't even know about hen harriers). That's why I do street art at festivals and other places, to try to reach new audiences.
"I painted a female at the 2015 Upfest Street Art Festival in Bristol, again with the hashtag #HenHarrierDay. There are lots of photographers and bloggers at that event, so I'm sure it got widely disseminated.
"It feels dreadful to me that these birds are persecuted. They're such beautiful birds, and top predators are an essential part of all healthy ecosystems.
"I hope the mural will help to inspire people with a love for hen harriers and a desire to protect them. I hope people will think about the disasters that are happening unseen on driven grouse moors and write to their MPs to change the law or strengthen it, to allow prosecution of landowners for crimes enacted on their estates, and convictions with proper deterrent sentences, as happens for example in Spain for raptor persecution. Putting pressure on legislators and law enforcement bodies is probably the best that can be done."
The Hartoft Mural
This epic scene was painted by Nicky and Simon Johnson, on the side of their house. Here’s what they told us:
“The idea to paint a mural was sparked after looking at social media coverage of Hen Harrier Day 2019. We have an old barn with a rendered gable end wall, which faces the local grouse moor and has a public footpath and bridleway running past it. It was crying out for a mural… though neither of us had ever painted one before!
“We had a shed full of half used paint pots, in many shades and colours, which were all suitable pigments for mixing with an acrylic exterior wall paint base… so we decided to go ahead and recycle them in a positive way!
“We gathered some ideas and asked an artist friend for his ‘take’. Between us we came up with a plan. Then, just as we were about to begin the painting project, news came out about the illegal trapping and shooting of a buzzard at Appleton le Moors. This was swiftly followed by news that a goshawk had been illegally killed near Goathland. We were so incensed about these crimes happening, virtually on our doorstep.
“As we lacked confidence in our ability to paint the planned hen harriers on the vertical wall, we decided to draw them onto the marine ply, cut them out, paint them and then fix them onto the landscape we had painted on the wall. It was scary, but we’ve done it!”
Inverness Mural: Flower of Scotland
If you’re driving along the A9 by the Daviot Woods, near Inverness, look out for this striking, Banksy-esque mural created by FRESHPAINT.
Thistle was a young hen harrier tagged in 2019, but by Christmas that year her tag stopped transmitting without warning or explanation. Her tag’s last fix came from an area of driven grouse moor.
Andrea Goddard, who arranged the mural, said: “With no physical Hen Harrier Day (Highlands) event to organise this year due to Covid-19 I wanted to develop something for the online event instead. As this year there was a strong emphasis on the creative arts I decided that creating a mural of the disappeared female hen harrier Thistle in the area where she lived was an ideal local project.
“I am over the moon with everything. The mural looks amazing. Large, striking and thought-provoking, it is everything I had hoped it would be. It will, for years to come catch people’s eye as they drive past and hopefully encourage discussion about hen harriers to all who stop to visit, particularly with those who weren’t previously aware of the species or their perilous situation. Additionally I hope Highland people will feel a connection with Thistle and her plight and develop a sense of ownership of the mural over time. Situated at North Gateway café development on the A9, four miles south of Inverness, it is easily accessible to all.”
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