Therese Coffey was handed a hospital pass when Rory Stewart zipped off to another department leaving her holding the Hen Harrier Recovery Farce. A key, and totally ridiculous, element of the plan was to take away young Hen Harriers from grouse moors, raise them expensively in captivity, and then release them again on grouse moors where they would live happily ever afterwards. This was so clearly a plan to make life easier for grouse moor managers (who had a predator of Red Grouse removed from their land in the grouse rearing season) that only the hopeless Defra ministers of these days could possibly fall for it.
It’s clearly not a Hen Harrier plan, it’s a grouse moor managers’ plan. If you asked a Hen Harrier what ought to be in the Hen Harrier Recovery Plan then they might look rather piercingly at you with those yellow eyes and say ‘Just stop people killing us. It’s against the law and it’s not nice.’. It’s basically a plan to take Hen Harriers into detention during the time when they might take Red Grouse chicks that people want to shoot for fun, and then release them back into the killing fields of our uplands National Parks so that they can be killed off in private by grouse shooting interests.
Defra doesn’t have a plan for stopping people killing Hen Harriers except the continued funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit which has been in existence since 2008 and has not had a major impact on wildlife crime against birds of prey in that time. Let’s be quite clear, that the minister was quite clear, and oleaginously smug about it, that she has no plan whatsoever to tackle wildlife crime and really couldn’t give a damn about it.
Brood meddling (this business of being a parent to Hen Harriers that already have parents) might even be tested in England this year although there is no justification at all for any testing since there are likely to be very few pairs of Hen Harriers in England this coming year. Last year, remember, there were just three pairs of Hen Harriers, and none of them nested on grouse moors – a rousing start to the first year of the Hen Harrier Recovery Farce?
And the young from those nests, some of which were satellite tagged, aren’t doing terribly well. Bonnie, named after the Countryside Alliance’s CEO Tim Bonner, appears to have bitten the dust a little way from its Geltsdale home. Carroll, a Northumberland bird fledged on Forestry Commission land, died of a parasite infection but was found to have two shotgun pellets in her body when post-mortemed. And Mick, another bird from Forestry Commission land disappeared in December in an area of grouse moors in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Finn, another Forestry Commission bird is still flying around. And I’m pretty sure there’s another bird, tagged in Northumberland, by NE, whose fate will remain secret for weeks, or clouded in ‘likely to have’s whatever happens to it.
Of those five birds, two have disappeared off the radar, one has disappeared from public scrutiny because it is an NE bird and therefore no-one gets to know about it, one is dead and had shot in it when it died and another, my friend Finn, is still flapping around. Not a resounding success for Hen Harriers nor a resounding success of communication from Defra’s tame agency Natural England is it?
But whatever is happening, Hen Harriers fledged in England do not appear to be thriving, do they? And it doesn’t look as though they will be recruiting in droves to the breeding population does it? So why on this planet do NE and Defra think that brood meddling is a way to address the criminal actions of grouse shooting interests?
I assume that the RSPB will challenge any move to do brood meddling in England this year in the courts.
And we all ought to be thinking about using the last knockings of our EU membership to complain to the EU over the non-compliance of the UK government (most especially the English government) to maintain the conservation status of the Hen Harrier even in those SPAs designated with its conservation in mind.
- Posted in: Grouse and harriers