Baby H has been taking his first wee flights over the last few days. So I’m very excited to get back on the moor this evening. However, it’s not without trepidation. With his flying, and his soon going further afield into the big wide world, comes danger. The first winter is already the most dangerous time of a raptor’s life. If they don’t perfect their hunting skills before the scarcer food season, they don’t make it through. For our Hen harrier fledgling the winter will come so much sooner as he was laid, hatched and raised so late in the season. And on top of that are the enormous perils that come with being a Hen harrier. Persecution. Man.
I have just been working at BirdFair for three days. I spoke with many experts over the future of Baby H. Folk who have been working to save Hen harriers for a long time. I heard the same phrase repeated by all…”when the chick dies”. No ifs. Depressing.
I call him Baby H. Chris Packham selected a name from public suggestions. Bonnie. The Geltsdale team have our own name for him though. Gordon. And right now Gordons ALIVE!
Taking the supplementary feed over to the feed post is an interesting journey. The terrain is a nightmare for someone with weak ankles. Each step is an absolute mystery. Will it be firm? Will it be wet and spongy? Will it be an invisible hole that swallows my leg? Will it send me off balance? Twenty minutes each way. The female Hen harrier circles above calling her chattering warning call. I line out the yellow poultry chicks along with one white rat. She only takes the rats if she’s really really hungry. They are apparently more nutritious than the chicks. But the chicks must be yummier! Daddy or chips. Ratty or chicks!
Another first. Walking down the track. Through the exact area where a Black grouse spring lek occurs. And what flew across my path just a few metres ahead of me? Yes, a glorious Black grouse. Jet black plumage. Red bits. Long tail. And then a few seconds later, a second male followed him. Awesome.
The midges continue to make my life and job a misery. I am now covered in bites. On my face, along my hairline, behind my ears, my neck, my arms. Itch, itch, itch. I swear, if my employers do not provide me with a midge net I am not coming back next week.
This morning I have company. The cattle have finally made their way to the hut. I have a bunch of them here just watching me whilst chewing their cud. One has been using the quad as a scratching post. Ooh, it looked blissful.
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