As I write this blog, I am still pinching myself and wondering if I dreamt it all, I am still a little stunned, but mostly, I am insanely happy!!! Yesterday, whilst we were picnicking and looking for yellowhammers, I saw two Hen Harriers. I always wondered what this moment would feel like, any dreams I’d had just didn’t compare to the wonderful sight we saw.

The Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) is a Red List raptor, endangered, persecuted but also recently, it has captured the imagination of many, many people all over the UK. It is fast becoming an icon for the kind of world we live in, a world that can easily and without conscience, shoot and poison this wonderful, majestic bird. You can read all about the Hen Harrier story here, this a link to the amazing RSPB Skydancer project. I have written two previous blogs on Hen Harriers here and here. If any of you reading this have read my previous blogs, you will already know how passionate, concerned and in love with these birds I am. They have become an obsession for me, and a moment came, completely by chance yesterday.  I had the chance to watch; awed and inspired by the realisation that these birds are out there, for me to see in Fermanagh. I had seen a glimpse of a female Hen Harrier fly into the trees in the same spot earlier in the month, but I never once dared (in case of disappointment – I don’t cope with this very well) to think that I would see any action again.

We were sitting by the lake, really looking for yellowhammers, when all of a sudden, a ghostly shape rose like a whisper above the trees. I went to reach for my camera, but I was paralysed, I couldn’t move or take my eyes of the possibility that this was a Hen Harrier! Another one! They rose and  both dropped down into the trees and flew, they exited dramatically out of the trees and up, up into the sky!! They dropped and  flew over the purple uplands and soared once more, dark shapes against the azure sunlit sky. Two males, swirling and alarming, one protector and one impostor. They displayed for about a minute twisting and turning. I hastily gripped my camera and took some images, I tried my very best, but they were so fast, so dark against the background but I didn’t care. This memory didn’t need any photography perfection, if anything, it was evidence, that I was not dreaming, that my mind was not playing tricks. Every hair stood on end, every nerve twitched with excitement, I was observiing a sight that few people have ever got to see. I wanted to shout, to roar to the hills and trees but I was subdued into a respect that these birds are worthy of. I might sound sentimental, dramatic and over indulgent, but I don’t care. This for me, was like a Blue Whale, a tiger in the wild; this was my home landscape and it is supporting  these iconic birds. I never really thought, that when I read of the Harrier Jets ( a fighter aircraft capable of vertical take-off without a runway) in my books, and so on to their inspration, that I would be writing this.


My heart soared as they did, I was completely with them, moved, entranced and captivated by them. I have seen a Hen Harrier, I have seen now, three individual Hen Harriers and as I watched them fly over the trees, as I ran up the hill so I could never lose sight of them, my heart nearly burst. As they disappeared and I sat in almost shock, I could feel an overwhelming lump, an overpowering sadness, that others are being deprived of this spectacle. That due to persecution and systematic targeting by the unsustainable grouse industry, there are people who would love to, but have never  seen a Hen Harrier. I would urge you to sign Mark Avery’s petition which is promoting parliamentary debate on the driven grouse shooting industry. I would mean so much to me. Please let us, let everyone, see a Hen Harrier, a Skydancer, a swirling raptor who deserves to be free, to fly and soar.

Thank you so much to Eimear Rooney from Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group who is supporting and encouraging my love, and passion for learning all I can about Hen Harriers,

Thank you for reading

Dara