Hen Harrier Day 2020

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Where does a story start? Perhaps I’ll start this one at the Hay Festival in June 2014. That’s where I met Mark Avery. We were both appearing on a panel in a recording of an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Shared Planet.

Mark went on to write Inglorious: Conflict in the uplands (published in July 2015), a book that tuned me in to the plight of the Hen Harrier, and the distribution – and (mis-)use – of land in Britain.

At the time, I was putting the finishing touches to my book Flying High! Discover the poetry in British birds. As a result of reading Mark’s book, the Oystercatcher got the heave-ho from Flying High!, and I replaced it with a poem (and accompanying facts) about the Hen Harrier instead.

It turns out that the multi-award-winning children’s author Gill Lewis was also influenced by Mark’s book Inglorious. She went on to write a children’s book called Sky Dancer (published in 2017), all about Hen Harriers and the uplands. (Another wonderful book that I thoroughly recommend!)

At the back end of last year (2019), my path crossed that of Gill Lewis. We were both invited to appear on a panel at the fantastic New Networks for Nature’s ‘Nature Matters’ event in my home town York.

Which is how it came to pass that, in May of this year, Gill Lewis, now a trustee of Hen Harrier Action, knew to contact me about this year’s Hen Harrier Day Online (Hen Harrier Day having been co-founded by Mark Avery in 2014). She and I hatched the idea of creating a children’s video, bringing to life my Hen Harrier poem, to be screened as part of the day’s online events.

Hen Harrier Day 2020 was yesterday (8 August). You can see the video I created below.

Of course there are many more stories to tell of how I came to know all the fabulous children who appear in this video. Those are stories for another day. For now, I will leave you with this video and with the thought that life is lived forwards and understood backwards.

You can watch the whole of virtual Hen Harrier Day 2020 here. (This poem is introduced by Chris Packham and Meghan McCubbin at around 1:23:30.) The day’s offerings were educational, uplifting, sometimes gut-wrenching but also inspiring, and included scientists, enthusiasts and artists from across the country and across the age range. Hats off to all those involved in bringing it into being.

Hen Harrier Day are asking you to contact your MP to ask them to Save Our Skydancers and to ‘take urgent action now to protect the wildlife and habitats of our uplands, for nature and for people’. It’s very easy to do. Just go to https://wildjustice.eaction.org.uk/saveourskydancers and key in your postcode. Everything else will be filled in for you.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in setting up this year’s Hen Harrier Day. And especially to the children who took part in, and created fabulous artwork for, our contribution. (And to their rellies for doing the video-ing!)

And what of the next chapter in the story of Britain’s Hen Harriers? Let’s hope land distribution and use in Britain’s uplands change for the better sooner rather than later, and with this, the fortunes of the glorious bird that is the Hen Harrier, too.

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life


  1. Hi Anneliese – nice to be reminded of these things. Thanks for your growing contribution to Hen Harrier Days and for all the other things you do to spread knowledge and love of wildlife.

    • Thank *you*, Mark, for being completely indefatigable when it comes to defending the interests of birds (which are also, of course, the interests of all of us – if all of us did but realise it!)

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