At the last minute I decided to enter a competition being run by A Focus On Nature (AFON) where the first place prize was a trip to Scotland to help with the ringing of some Golden Eagle chicks. I thought it was worth a shot and I quickly came up with an idea of what to write. The only problem was that my idea of what to write about was about something that I myself have never actually witnessed, nor do I imagine I will ever have the privilege of seeing.
Anyway, enough of my rambling; here is what I did manage to write (please leave a comment with your thoughts on it - thanks!):
Like a ghost, the grey-winged beauty flies elegantly over the heather-covered moor. Wind batters the bird but still it persists, with purposeful, beating wings it powers across the land. The sleek grey shape with stark, black wing tips stands out like a sore thumb against the endless backdrop of flowering heather, deep purple in colour. Suddenly and without warning it flies upwards, climbing higher and higher before somersaulting and plummeting back down towards the earth at breakneck speeds. At the very last second pulling out of the dive and heading back up towards the sky.
Minutes pass, but entranced by the constant climbing and falling of the male Hen Harrier, like it's on some kind of mad, invisible roller coaster, those minutes seem like hours; slow and never-ending - every second to be savoured.
You could spend a lifetime out on a windy moor watching male Hen Harriers perform their sky dance display, however due to relentless persecution and the culmination of other factors over the last decade, many people will never have the opportunity to immerse themselves in this breathtaking experience and observe this magnificent creature.
Persecution. Habitat loss. Lack of understanding. Inability to act.
Our wildlife deserves better: it's time for a change.
So, the folks at the RSPB and Birders Against Wildlife Crime who helped AFON judge the entries must have thought mine was half decent, as they awarded me second place and the opportunity to travel to the midlands to help with the ringing of some Barn Owl chicks. Of course I jumped at the chance and spent the afternoon with Howard (chief Barn Owl ringer), Clare (another AFON member) and Lucy (co-founder of AFON) visiting three Owl boxes and observing and helping with the ringing of all three broods of chicks.
Here are some photos from the day:
|The sharp talons that Barn Owls rely upon for the swift|
dispatching of their prey.
|Lucy with a Barn Owl.|
|"There were four in a bed" - four Barn Owl chicks |
just chilling out after being ringed.
|Clare with a Barn Owl.|
|Howard looking at the Barn Owl's wing to see whether the |
primaries and secondaries are fully grown or not.
|A group shot of us all. L-R= my lovely chauffeur, me, Lucy and Clare.|