Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Watch a rare sky dance

Hen harrier © Stefan Johansson

Britain’s most persecuted bird of prey, the hen harrier’s exuberant display over its upland homes may soon be a thing of the past.

Head to the moors, with a pair of walking boots, binoculars and a hot flask, and keep your eyes on the skies

The hen harrier is a bird of British uplands.  The ghostly grey males and larger, browner females arrive back to their summer home on heather moorland in the spring, and the male proceeds to set out his pitch.  He finds the best territory, and there he dances.  A rollercoaster ride of a display, climbing high into the air, then twisting and falling down before an acrobatic swoop skywards and back to start it all over again.  The sky dance of the male hen harrier is a heart-lifting sight to behold.

When not courting, the hen harriers hunt, quartering low over the moorland in search of meadow pipits, skylarks, voles and the occasional grouse chick... And that’s where their problems start.

The illegal persecution of the hen harrier, with the disappearance of pair after pair from moors managed for grouse shooting has driven it to the brink of extinction as a breeding bird in England, and there are now less than a handful of birds clinging on in those northern moorlands.  There is a real possibility that within the next few years, those last English pairs will have disappeared and the ‘grey ghost’ will no longer be haunting our uplands.

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below… At the current level of persecution, the only place to see displaying hen harriers in England will soon be online… One place to look is the BBC website , which has several great films of hen harrier behaviour.  For more on the mystery of the missing hen harriers, read Patrick Barkham’s thoughtful and balanced piece .

Special spots

The Isle of Man still has a healthy population of hen harriers, with Manx Wildlife Trust nature reserves at Glen Dhoo  and Dalby Mountain are as good a place as any to witness the birds sky dancing. 

Denbighshire, Gors Maen Llwyd

Highlands,  Ben Mor Coigach

Highlands,  Isle of Eigg

Highlands,  Rahoy Hills

Orkney,  Hill of White Hamars

Hen harrier © Amy Lewis

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