Two weeks today, we will be going back into the courts to appeal the judgment of Hon Justice Lang on brood meddling of Hen Harriers. We, and the RSPB, will be seeking to overturn her judgment that brood meddling of this threatened bird was legal because it was just, for now, research.
Win or lose, this is a fight worth having. Win or lose, thank you to everyone who has supported the crowdfunders that have got us this far. And win or lose, I am very grateful to our legal team for their brilliance and passion.
On Sunday and yesterday late afternoons I was at Wicken Fen, with a different assortment of lawyers, looking for Hen Harriers coming in to roost at the National Trust nature reserve. And on both afternoons and evening we saw Cranes flying, many Marsh Harriers, fantastic Barn Owls over the reedbed and yes, on both days, ringtail and adult male Hen Harriers.
Sunday was cold and windy and we had a short very distant view of a ringtail, and then, just as we were heading back to the car park thinking that it could have been better, an adult male, a grey ghost, floated past. A good view, a pulse quickener and it couldn’t have been much better.
But yesterday was the pressure visit. One of our legal team had missed the earlier visits, for good reasons, and this was the chance to see the bird before going back into court. She wanted to see a Hen Harrier and I wanted her to see one. This was my fifth Hen Harrier search this year and we were four from four so far – could it be five from five?
Yesterday was not so cold, the light was amazing, there were few other people around and the Hen Harriers kept us waiting until the light was really slipping away. But then we had first distant, and then fairly close, views of a (or were there several?) grey male. In the dim light it seemed to shine. We saw the male and a ringtail in the air together in the distance but the backdrop of dark bushes allowed us to pick out the details of the ringtail’s white rump and the black wingtips of the male. The last view of the male was the longest, the closest and the best and we saw him drop into the reeds like a full stop at the end of a chapter. We could all move on.
Hen Harriers are pretty safe at Wicken Fen, far safer than on the grouse moors of the north, and two weeks today we go to court to argue the case that Hen Harriers would want argued – leave them alone, protect them from wildlife crime – that’s all this threatened bird needs.