Sunday, 19 January 2014

Go West.....Geltsdale

Go West…..Geltsdale.

There where the air is free
We'll be (We'll be) what we want to be
Now if we make a stand
We'll find (We'll find) our promised land
Lyrics courtesy of The Village People

18th Jan.  Sam and I were invited to RSPB Geltdale today by Blanaid Denman, Project Leader of the Hen Harrier SkyDancer Project.  As we are now volunteering with the Skydancer Project it was a good idea to visit and view the small art exhibition showing at the reserve and of course grab some time out for bird watching.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone who has visited Geltsdale that this upland reserve is superbly managed by the RSPB (well all with an interest in our natural wildlife will I think/hope agree).  Although not heavily visited and lacking facilities in the form of cafes (in my opinion making it all the better for that!) this is a wonderful area.

The rain poured down heavily as we travelled westwards along the A69, but as if by prior arrangement with some controller in the heavens the sky brightened as we neared our destination.  As we travelled I got my eye on a bird lifting and it turned out to be a ringtail Hen Harrier.  One of two we watched today.  A perfect compliment to what the whole day was about.  On arrival and after a cup of coffee and a rather nice piece of ginger cake baked by Blanaid, and prior to the talks and presentation, Sam and I had the chance to walk a small area of the reserve along by the beck where we had Grey Heron, Lapwings and Merlin fly over the area.  It was dry by now.  I sensed this area would fit nicely into novels by the Brontes.  Grey, but changing skies lay heavily above the fells and there was little sound carrying in the cold air.  Sam and I were also filmed and interviewed for a forthcoming RSPB video concerning Hen Harriers.  Perhaps it is too late for me to become a star, but by no means is it too late for Sam.  Watch this space and I’ll keep you updated on any progress concerning the video.  I purchased an RSPB Hen Harrier badge to wear during any future Skydancer presentations Sam and I make. 

It was time for another coffee and piece of cake by now before listening to some talks and looking at the Ghost Bird exhibition.

Pictures from an Exhibition

 The talk of course was focused upon the plight of the Hen Harrier in England.  The introduction to the Ghost Bird exhibition was interesting and thought provoking as was the small exhibition itself.  I believe the exhibition will remain at Geltsdale until 4th April.  The title of the work referred to the ghostly grey feathers of the male Hen Harrier and the increasing absence, due to suspected persecution, of nesting pairs in the trough of Bowland’ (and elsewhere). ‘Ghost Bird celebrated the bird’s beauty whilst drawing attention to its sometimes fragile existence in the north of England.’  The informative notes from the exhibition makes reference to the Pendle Witches and the following comment makes clear the analogy between the situation of the Pendle witches and the situation of the Hen Harrier.  I became interested in how these 12 (the witches) were seemingly hunted down through fear, prejudice, ignorance and the pursuit of power.  I was made aware of the Hen Harrier – a beautiful bird close to extinction (in England) due to fear, prejudice, ignorance and the pursuit of grouse’.

Afterwards Sam and I were filmed again as we walked down towards Tindale Tarn.  The light was forever changing with dark thunderous cloud threatening a soaking of grand proportions whilst never actually carrying out the threat, as the sun tried eventually to break through lighter cloud.  Birds seen from the hide at the tarn included Goosanders, Goldeneyes, Mute Swan, Mallards and Tufted Duck.  We later added Common Buzzard and Kestrels to our day list of raptors.  One other top sighting of the day was the single Black Grouse (female Grey Hen) that we had fine views of.

A hide with a Tindale Tarn
Our day had been spent with knowledgeable people who care about Hen Harriers and their plight, and of course conservation of our natural heritage.  It had been a really enjoyable few hours and I’m sure everyone made for home wondering how best to improve on the present plight of the Hen Harrier.  I’m sure all would agree that such action must include the raising of the awareness of the general public to the Hen Harrier.  A major factor in the aims and objectives of the Skydancer Project. 

Lets all make it a duty to spread the word about the plight of the Hen Harrier and not only the plight, but also the right that this species has to live free of persecution.

The day included three very good year ticks for Sam and me in Hen Harrier, Merlin and Black Grouse.   My thanks go to all concerned and especially Blanaid Denman for the invitation to Sam and I to join her at Geltsdale.

Addendum.  Forgot to mention my first butterfly of 2014!  It was a Small Tortoiseshell probably disturbed by the ever so mild temperatures so far this winter.  Mind you having stood outside for a while I didn't feel it was that mild myself!


  1. Sounds like a productive day. I look forward to seeing the video! Hopefully stardom beckons as you say, lol.