Harriers

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I watch two harriers going to roost beyond the turnip field. They’ve been hunting through the shaws and the deep grass all afternoon, and I see them seizing small birds in the rain. They’re females; ringtails, and I turn for home when they sink at last into the rushes.

These birds have been around for the last few days. They seem to like the moor behind the house and the rough grass where the cattle lie belching in the rain. And I think of all the pressures which we face in this landscape. How different will this place look in ten years time, when many smaller farms are out of business and the marginal land has been repurposed into a commercial forest? There won’t be much room for harriers then, and that’s the truth.

We’re told that the conservation of hen harriers is simple. Sign a petition, ban driven grouse shooting and everything will be A-Ok. But the reality is a little more cumbersome and detailed. If places like this cannot pay their way, they will soon be gone – and a host of birds alongside them. This kind of issue doesn’t fit an easy narrative. There are no goodies or baddies to abuse or applaud. It’s just people trying to do their best; people with bills and debts and no way to soften the impact of their decision-making.

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