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?