Yesterday was Hen Harrier Day and we were delighted for the third year to host the event for BAWC at RSPB Rainham Marshes, to add our voices to the growing pressure to seek change in how our uplands are managed and to bring an end to the illegal persecution of our precious raptors and other collateral moorland wildlife.
The weather forecast had been slightly iffy and although we were overjoyed at the deluges during the week, it was sunny weather that we all hoped for and so were delighted to arrive at 7am to blue skies, no wind and warm early morning sunshine.
The traditional pre-rally gathering in the visitors centre gave everyone the chance to catch up with friends and colleagues and to collect their banners and enjoy a second breakfast before beginning the procession down to the Marquee Field with banners waving in the summer air.
Our esteemed cast of speakers were eager to air the problems faced and stir up passions and if the role call was not already impressive enough we were fortunate to be graced by the irrepressible force of enviromental campaigning that is Chris Packham.
He had only flown back to the UK from Montana the night before and let us know that he would like to join us for our special day.
Lisa Mobley from Birders Against Wildlife Crime (who had superbly organised the whole event, yet again) opened proceedings and handed over to the ebullient Mark Avery who got things going with appropriate zeal and was followed a powerfully worded poem from conservationist, Ruth Tingay which brought a cheer for various reasons!
Lisa Mobley opening the rally with a well earned smile...
Ruth Tingay - wearing one of my original Hen Harrier badges!
Natalie Bennett from the Green Party spoke passionately and then our very own Martin Harper – Director of Global Conversation talked about the fact that the RSPB was born of a conflict of interests such as this and brought us up to date on the current situation with breeding hen harriers this year and the way forward by working with government.
Martin also introduced us to this very special young lady, Isabel Haskell, who had her incredibly long hair cut off to raise money for a variety of charities but partly for the RSPB because of her love of hen harriers and what is happening to them. She is a star!
Chris took to the stage to rousing applause and did what he does best and spoke from the heart and left us with a feeling that we will succeed in the long run.
Mark Avery had noticed a guest in the crowd with binoculars around his neck and invited the Shadow Secretary of State - Barry Gardiner up to speak during which he recounted his first encounter with the grey ghost of a male hen harrier at Wicken Fen.
You can hear the speeches here on the film made by Paul Samuels during the rally.
About 220 likeminded soles stood or sat in the field in the summer sunshine glued intently to those speaking before them with one goal in mind. The collective voice was stronger than ever and the feeling that progress was being made, albeit slowly was evident.
We must not give up...
We want our Hen Harriers back...!
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