Friday 30 October 2009

So where's the 'illegal persecution' of harriers?

The Countryside Alliance says that Natural England’s Hen Harrier Recovery Project, together with the RSPB, will confirm illegal persecution played no part in the breeding failure of hen harriers, and the RSPB’s Birdcrime report for 2008 also showed that last year there were again no confirmed incidents of persecution against the species.

Countryside Alliance Moorlands Policy Officer Adrian Blackmore said: “Although there were just six successful hen harrier nests in England in 2009, that number could have been higher. The RSPB has blamed natural predation for the death of two hen harrier chicks in Bowland in August, which highlights the importance of carrying out predator control, and for the third year running, the RSPB’s upland reserve at Geltsdale failed to have a successful breeding pair after a female deserted her nest.

“The populations of all but one of 15 species of British birds of prey are increasing, in some cases to the maximum that the habitat can support. There are 806 breeding pairs in the United Kingdom, a 41% increase between 1998 and 2004. They are a common sight in the spring and autumn as they migrate through the country."

The Alliance points out that the hen harrier is not a rare bird across Europe. Near the top of its food chain and with 167,000 nesting females, it is not threatened. The Hen harrier is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) – the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species - as of ‘least concern’. They say that hen harriers are regularly seen migrating over grouse moors along the Pennine Chain but they do not often settle to breed in England (10 pairs in 2008, and 12 attempts in 2009 of which 6 were successful). The latest estimate is that there are 806 pairs breeding in the UK, of which 57 are on the Isle of Man.

All of which leaves me wondering, why all the shouting about "illegal persecution", unless it's good for drumming up membership and donations?


vicky said...

You've hit the nail on the head!
Bet the RSPB won't crow about these interesting findings which suggest there may be other reasons than gamekeepers that harriers don't nest here such as our higher population density leading to more disturbance, climate change (yawn) or habitat issues.

Alan Tilmouth said...

The smug title reveals your true colours. Whilst there may be no offical 'confirmation' of persecution largely as a result of the continued removal of evidence and the increasing sophistication of the individuals involved in covering their tracks for someone in your position to smugly crow about this is at best provocative and at worst provides the illusion of legitimacy to the individuals who continue to committ these crimes. "Hen Harriers are systematically persecuted across almost all game moors in England & Scotland, These threats are not the result of ‘incidental activities’ they are the result of determined criminality." Not my words but those of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Lets look at some other facts

"Statistics show that 131 Hen Harriers fledged from nesting sites established on 106 sq kilometres of moorland in the Forest of Bowland owned by United Utilities for the period 2000-2008. In stark contrast, only 24 young fledged throughout this same nine year period from moorland owned and managed by all the additional regional shooting estates, a combined area of 694 sq kilometres."
Perhaps Bowland exists in a bubble unaffected by population density, climate change or habitat issues?

At the end of 2008 the Guardian reported "In one 12-month period, six birds fitted with satellite transmitters were tracked as they flew from one of the hen harrier's strongholds on Bowland Fells, Lancashire, into parts of the north Pennines managed as grouse moors. They disappeared off the map.
The authors of Natural England's study, A Future for the Hen Harrier in England?, said that on several occasions, they have seen "masked and/or armed individuals" disturbing nest sites."

Frankly if your comments in this post are representative of the majority of the shooting fraternity then the only long term alternative is the imposition of licences for game moors and strict monitoring of the attached conditions combined with tough prison sentences for those committing and those sanctioning the destruction of the Hen Harrier.

James Marchington said...

Alan, have a sit down and a cup of tea before you blow a gasket. Smug? Well, I suppose it's nice for once to have some facts come to light that don't suggest shooters are massacring birds of prey on an industrial scale.

I am very interested to discover the true facts behind the whole hen harrier thing, but it's hard to see past the hyperbole, spin and downright venom from folks such as yourself who have already made up their minds and closed the door to any evidence that doesn't confirm their prejudice.

Tracked birds disappear? Must be those evil shooters and their increasing sophistication. Not as many successful nests as the RSPB's plucked-from-the-air figure? It's the shooting estates. No evidence? That'll the be the fault of... yes, we get the picture.

Many of your so-called 'facts' are actually opinion or just downright smears. There's a 'groupthink' thing going on here, where an idea is repeated so often it becomes the accepted 'truth'. Where did the National Wildlife Crime Unit get those words from? They didn't do their own research, they were fed that info from the 'experts'. And you, you talk confidently about the 'continued removal of evidence and the increasing sophistication of individuals' as though you've seen it first hand - but you haven't have you?

This goes right to the very nature of truth, and the way it is used and abused in our society. These are dangerous times - question everything.

James Marchington said...

...another thing: 'licensing' and 'strict monitoring' solves nothing, as this government's dire record on firearms crime shows. Shooters are already one of the most licensed, regulated and legislated against groups in the UK or anywhere else. It's already highly illegal to kill a harrier. If it's happening in specific places, do you really think it will help to invent more laws and devote untold resources to attempting to police all shoots, including by definition the ones that aren't a problem? Fortunately, the authorities have realised that the answer to this is to work with shooters (eg PAW) not alienate them.

Meconopsis said...

What no mention of the lovely Eagle Owls that reside on the Airden area of the Trough of Bowland ? Lots of young Harriers go the the Eagle Owls nest for dinner though not by choice :-)

Alan Tilmouth said...

James, please state which of the facts I highlighted are opinion. The nesting figures from Bowland and the surrounding areas are certainly not 'RSPB plucked from the air' numbers and are verifiable from a number of sources as is the disappearance of the six satellite tracked birds. As for the statement from the National Wildlife Crime Unit why not contact them and ask how they came to the conclusion and publish the statement they make back to you if you doubt their legitamacy or accuracy ( i dare you).
You are correct that I have no first hand evidence that 'evidence has been removed and increased sophistication of perperators' other than the personal experiences of individuals I have known for over 20 years who have been involved in the attempts to protect nest sites from those that would seek to destroy them.
Andy, with regard to the Eagle Owls at Bowland they failed this year due to nest disturbance which was as a result of the landowner and another individual who should have known better failing to take experienced advice in relation to nest site visits.

James Marchington said...

Well I've searched back through it looking for 'facts'. And I find:
i) Figures about breeding success in the Forest of Bowland area. No evidence of illegal activity, or who if anyone might be responsible.
ii) A reported disappearance of 6 birds fitted with trackers. No evidence of illegal activity, or who if anyone might be responsible.
iii) er, that's it. The rest of your post is the sort of innuendo and hate that would be illegal if directed at certain groups of society, but is apparently fine when directed against shooters.

Let me state my position clearly. I know that illegal killing of raptors does happen. Although I've never witnessed it with my own eyes, I accept that people connected with shooting are sometimes responsible. I have never seen reliable statistics on the true extent of the problem, and can only speculate on how widespread it is. I am 100% against any illegal killing of raptors. Any gamekeeper or shooter who illegally kills a raptor is not worthy of the name, and I despise him. If I personally came across a case of this happening, I would not hesitate to report it to the authorities, and I would urge any gamekeeper or shooter to do the same. It is not only despicable it drags the reputation of shooting through the dirt.

If you could resist the urge to slag off shooters as a whole, and accept that the problem lies with a minority of 'rogue' estates and individuals, you might find there's a whole army of knowledgeable, skilled people willing to help weed out the lawbreakers.

Meconopsis said...

I was at a keepers house the other day having lunch when to my surprise he told me about the way he disposes of Hen Harriers !

He eats them !

I was somewhat taken aback and had to ask what they taste like.

He replied, very similar to both a Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon :-/