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The story of the short, tragic life of Bowland Beth – an English Hen Harrier – which dramatically highlights the major issues in UK conservation.
The Hen Harrier has become the conservation cause célèbre in the UK with only three nesting pairs in England it is seen as a totemic species in the battle between the conservationists and the ruralists. Extensive research has revealed that persecution is possibly the major issue highlighted by the death by shooting of a Hen Harrier called Beth. David Cobham, Vice-President of the Hawk and Owl Trust, has been at the centre of this research. In Bowland Beth: The Life of an English Hen Harrier he follows the short life of this Hen Harrier, interweaving her story with the story behind the species' plight.
Following the style of Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter and Fred Bodsworth's Last of the Curlews, Cobham has dramatised Bowland Beth's short life between 2011 and 2012, entering her world to show what being a Hen Harrier today is like. He immerses himself not only in the day-to-day regimen of her life, the hours of hunting, bathing, keeping her plumage in order and roosting, but also the fear of living in an environment run to provide packs and packs of driven grouse for a few wealthy sportsmen to shoot.
As one of the key players in this emotive debate, David Cobham is uniquely placed to reflect on Beth's life and tragic death. In this powerful narrative, he provides us with a profound story which helps to illuminate the larger implications of the species' decline, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts to reverse this.
Read an interview with the author, David Cobham on the NHBS blog.
David Cobham is an internationally renowned filmmaker, well known for his films Tarka the Otter and The Goshawk. He is currently Vice-President of the Hawk and Owl Trust.
Dan Powell is a wildlife artist best known for the field guide to The Dragonflies of Great Britain. His drawings and paintings have appeared in numerous wildlife books and publications.
"[...] As part of [...] ongoing research, Natural England has been tagging juvenile Hen Harriers with satellite transmitters in order to understand where they go both in summer and in winter, One such Hen Harrier chick was a female given the name of Betty by members of the public [...] She was fitted with a transmitter while still in the nest, in the uplands of Rowland in Lancashire in the summer of 2011, and her subsequent movements were monitored until her untimely death in June 2012. [...] This book is the story of Betty's first year of life. David Cobham is a skilful story-teller. [...] In this new volume he uses a mixture of fact and fiction to give readers an insight into the daily challenges facing a young Hen Harrier. My use of the word 'fiction' here is not meant to discredit the authenticity of the story being told. David Cobham had good knowledge of Beth's activities and when still in Bowland she was monitored daily by those who were tracking her. [...] Over the course of 21 chapters, Beth's Story is told with great affection and to accompany the text there are attractive line-drawings by Dan Powell. To bring us back to reality, the fictional text (always in italics) is interspersed with known facts to explain what factors may affect Beth's daily activities."
– Keith Betton, British Birds Volume 110(10), October 2017
"Bowland Beth manages to rise above the dark and contentious issues it covers to deliver an engaging read that transports the reader into the mind of one of the UK’s most controversial birds of prey. [...] With Christmas speeding up before we know it, I can see this book as a great gift for adults and teenagers interested in nature, and I am sure that it will inspire a new generation of conservationists in the future."
– Katherine Booth Jones, BTO book reviews