It was Easter weekend, an early start after a great night watching the Northern Lights. I was driving through the magnificent Glen More in the south east of Mull, the sun was beaming down and as it reached mid morning the temperatures started to pick up. An immature Golden Eagle appeared above the mountainous skyline in classic fashion. A couple of Ravens joined from a distance with their constant gronking echoing through the glen. The persistent corvids seemed to send the young eagle further down the valley and shortly after another three distant Golden Eagles appeared above the horizon lifting higher and higher.
Later on a flash of grey caught my eye and it was a male Hen Harrier in flight working the rough grass. Suddenly something spectacular happened that I have heard so much about but never seen. The bird broke out into a sensational sky dancing display peaking and troughing at intense speeds for over a minute. The female ringtail appeared in flight and the birds paired up and headed off over a young conifer plantation. They truly earn their name as “the Sky Dancer”, beautiful, what a privilege. After seeing the dancing lights of the aurora borealis hours earlier it would be some dance off between the two natural spectacles!
The Isle of Mull has around 45 breeding females and the main factor for this healthy population is that there is no land managed for Red Grouse. This upland game bird is naturally scarce on the isle as western Scotland has a wetter climate and ground condition which doesn’t promote as much heather, a Red Grouse’s food source. This still doesn’t guarantee the safety of the Harriers as birds can travel long distances outside of the breeding season potentially hundreds of miles from the refuge of Mull’s moors to other areas around the UK, some of the most heavily persecuted regions in Europe.
I will monitor the Hen Harriers on Mull as the season unfolds and will also be hoping that there is some success with the birds on my north English moors. Mentioning the northern lights again and that is one natural phenomenon that no one can ever take away from you…but magnificent sky dancing Hen Harriers need our help.
This article was published on Raptor Politics