Admittedly this is a crap picture of a sub adult hen harrier snapped in France while I was on holiday last year. The point is that there are no English hen harriers to photograph

I put this question up on a photography forum today to hopefully engender some interesting debate. I’ve posed a difficult question out of a certain amount of desperation at the plight of the hen harrier and – I’ll wager – not a questionΒ that many people want to engage with properly because it’s neither black nor white.

The moderator deleted, as was his prerogative, because it didn’t appear to be about photography. A couple of people had complained that it should be removed in case it caused an argument. The moderatorΒ may have had a point that it was a photography forum and not a nature forum, but to me, the hen harrier debate is not just about conservation, it’s also about creating beautiful images of this magnificent bird. None of us can do that if it’s extinct in England. To me, it’s implicit in what I do that I have a naturalist’s interest (and often a conservation interest) in the wildlife I photograph and perhaps that didn’t come across in the post.

However, I think the question is still worth posing and there’s a poll at the bottom of this page if you’d like to give me your opinion either way. So here it is. Let me know what you think.

“Here’s a rather heretical question: I’m very keen for the hen harrier to be brought back to England after a shocking decimation in numbers following decades of persecution. However, what gives us the right to spend a large amount of money and time trying to bring back a bird that is only a problem for the UK?

For example, France is awash with hen harriers. In fact that’s the only place I’ve ever seen one. The red kite lobby successfully argued to land-owners that those birds are not really a problem for their grouse stocks. The best we can hope to ask shooting estates to do about hen harriers is to put out diversionary feeding. They’re simply not going to budge from such an entrenched way of life that earns large amounts of money – and they’ll argue creates job yadda, yadda.

Are we banging our collective head against a brick wall? And if so, what actually makes it worth the huge conservation effort, and equally huge sums of money necessary to achieve…well…achieve what?

Sorry if that sounds negative, but after having covered the success of the red kite project locally for years, the RSPB agreed to commission me for an idea I’d had about covering “the success story of the return of England’s hen harriers”. That was years ago and I haven’t set eyes on a single bird in England since.

What d’you think? Have I just turned into an old cynic?”

Now then, these are my views and you may disagree strongly with them. That’s absolutely fine! Just let’s have a civil conversation about it πŸ˜‰