Most British birds of prey have largely recovered from historical persecution, but the beleaguered Hen Harrier is still struggling and remains far less common than it should be. This is a particular shame, because it is one of our most inspiring raptors. Spectacular sky-dancing displays and balletic food passes from male to female brighten up the moors in summer. And in winter, communal roosts in the lowlands attract birders from far and wide to catch sight of this now-elusive species.
This book follows the Hen Harrier over a year: from rearing young hidden away in dense heather, to the fight for survival in the harshest months of winter. Interspersed among the monthly accounts are chapters on the history and status of this iconic bird, as well as an overview of one of the most intractable conflicts in modern conservation: the Hen Harrier's liking for grouse moors (and the grouse that are raised there) wins it few friends among shooters, and ongoing persecution continues to hamper its recovery. There are tentative signs of progress, but its fate as a breeding bird in England hangs in the balance.
Evocative illustrations, in part based on privileged access to the handful of breeding birds that remain on England's moors, showcase the Hen Harrier's exploits through the seasons. These will delight admirers of this species and hopefully foster a greater interest in its wellbeing. The Hen Harrier needs all the help it can get.
Ian Carter worked as an ornithologist at Natural England for 25 years before retiring early to spend more time watching and writing about wildlife. His books include Human, Nature (2021) and The Red Kite’s Year, an earlier collaboration with Dan Powell.
Dan Powell is an award-winning wildlife artist. His work appears in nearly 100 books, as well as numerous magazines. He is married to Rosemary, whose paintings also appear in this book.
"[...] a rich source of information, delivered in a relaxed narrative style, and following a simple format. [...] The real highlights of the book are the evocative illustrations by Dan Powell. Hen Harriers are a subject for which watercolour is the perfect medium, and the illustrations wholly capture the airy and fleeting nature of viewing them. [...] This is a beautifully presented book, a love-letter to Hen Harriers, and a scathing appraisal of the failure to bring this delicate species back from the brink in the UK. [...]"
– Anthony Wetherhill, BTO News 349, winter 2023
"[...] The Carter and Powell duo have triumphed again. This book is informative and relevant, and a delight both to read and simply to look at. What will be next? Maybe the Golden Eagle’s Year, or the Peregrine’s Year? I, for one, hope that there are more books to come from this team."
– Keith Betton, British Wildlife 34(5), April 2023
"A portrait in words and watercolour, as tender and beautiful as it is informative, insightful and damning of failure to protect this iconic bird."
– Amy-Jane Beer, naturalist and author of The Flow
"This is an exploration and introduction to the ecology of the species and does that job very well [...] an affectionate portrait of a wonderful species."
– Mark Avery, author and environmental campaigner
"The Hen Harrier's Year, written by Ian Carter and illustrated by Dan Powell, is yet another superb book and compelling read, a sequel to their earlier work, The Red Kite's Year. The book is written and illustrated with a heart-felt and clear expertise of their subject. It is highly recommended and a must for those keen to learn more about the life history of the Hen Harrier, one of our most charismatic yet threatened raptors."
– Colin Shawyer, raptor biologist
"For anyone who wants to learn more about the life history and ecology of the hen harrier, but has been put off by dry, academic scripts, this is the book for you. Ian Carter has done a wonderful job of assimilating the scientific knowledge about the hen harrier and presenting it in such an engaging format that you're left deciding whether to turn the page or grab your coat to go in search of this precious species."
– Raptor Persecution UK
"A truly great read [...] this book will inspire you to get out into the countryside, not only to watch the harriers, but also to wonder at the marvels that British nature has to offer."
– Alan Snook, Hampshire Ornithological Society
"For the writing of this work, Ian Carter and Dan Powell followed the Hen Harrier for a year: from hatching the eggs and raising the young to the struggle for survival in winter's harshest months. Beautiful illustrations from life [...] will delight admirers of this species and the authors hope that this will also generate more interest its welfare."
– Walter Belis, Alauda