The raptor haters? Robin Page.

Robin Page clearly is special.  He has issues.  When you read his own words it is difficult not to think that he has a lot of pent up anger that needs to spill out now and again (see here and here).

And so it comes as no surprise that he is angry about birds of prey – slagging off raptors is almost the badge of honour for ‘real country people’.

Robin was particularly irate about the plans to reintroduce white-tailed eagles into East Anglia but he isn’t keen on any predators (except of course blue tits and blackbirds are predators too).  His latest offering in the Daily Telegraph is a rant about predators and nature conservationists – it’s difficult to know which he loathes more, and previous articles do just the same thing (all of these seem at least as anti-conservation organisation as they are anti-predator: here, here, here, here).

Robin has chosen to be a bit of a caricature of the grumpy old countryman.  Witty and entertaining when having a rant (including when calling me the Oliver Hardy of nature conservation), Robin plays the countryman who loves nature so much that he has a longer list of species that need to be killed than anyone else.  There’s an awful lot of anger that seems to get its release from lashing out in many directions at once.  Marsh harriers, the National Trust, badgers, the RSPB, people who live in towns, the EU and sparrowhawks are all subjects of Robin’s ire.

In fairness, the title of his article ‘Time to prey on the predators‘, and its sub-title ‘ We must cull the killing machines now if we are to preserve the balance of nature in this country‘, appear nowhere in the article.  So we are left not knowing whether Robin himself wrote these words or whether they are another indication of the Telegraph’s raptor-hating policy.

Robin Page’s view of the countryside is highly sentimental.  The answer to most of Robin’s complaints is  ‘yes, they are predators, they eat things, get over it! Don’t look if you can’t stand the sight of blood ‘. The ‘havoc’ allegedly caused by pine martens is the same havoc that they have caused for thousands of years – pine martens have sharp teeth and do eat capercaillies and cuddly red squirrels.  The bitterns that ‘suffer’ when killed by foxes are the latest in a long line of bitterns that have gone the same way over thousands of years but their population is booming.  The stone curlews whose ‘wellbeing’ depends on predator control are also doing very well these days.  That’s life (and death) and nature conservationists know that it happens and can live with it.

Robin collects anecdotes rather than sees the big picture.  If you deal in anecdotes it’s easy to be selective.  And if you have an agenda it’s easy to select the anecdotes in such a way as to promote your agenda.

I don’t know a nature conservation organisation that opposes the sensible use of legal predator control, and I don’t know one that supports the illegal killing of birds of prey.  That seems a position about which it would be difficult to be angry.

Why does the Daily Telegraph promote an agenda that appears to be anti-predator, particularly anti-raptor?

A last word on Robin – I do wish his parents had called him Falcon or Peregrine.

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59 Comments

  1. Whilst I agree with 90% of your analysis of Robin, is is really fair to entirely discount his views on the effect of predators.

    It not strictly correct to suggest that we have the same balance of nature as two hundred years ago. At that time, most of the countryside was managed by gamekeepers who would trap predators during the breeding season, this is much less common now.

    The sight of a sparrow hawk or a marsh harrier hunting prey can be the highlight of a day's tractor driving for me and they are positive indicators of agri-environmental progress. This is not the case with all predatory species. We farm near a main road and roadkill provides easy food for magpies and crows. Their numbers have exploded locally and I am very concerned by the impact that this has on small bird numbers. The impact of modern lifestyles and a high population mean that we no longer have a level playing field and it falls within the role of conservationists to adjust the situation.

    Whilst it is enormous fun to follow a debate between you and Robin it serves no practical benefit when debates become polarised in this way.

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    • Mark says:

      Matthew - I don't discount his views on the effects of predators but it's quite difficult to know what they are. Does he want conservation organisations to control predators when necessary? They already do and he gives some good examples. Does he want them to say that they do this - they do say that they do it. Does he think that predator control might help threatened species such as bittern and stone curlew? So does everyone else but not nearly as much as he does - and both these examples are doing very well thanks to the work of a wide range of nature conservationists, but let's be honest, led by those he appears to dislike most.

      And this isn't a debate - it's a campaign by Robin and perhaps the Daily Telegraph. What is the Telegraph's position? Let's see how many words of reply the Telegraph gives the National Trust or the RSPB. What practical benefit does it serve to publish such stuff in the first place?

      I'm glad that you agree with 90% of my analysis.

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  2. John Miles says:

    I know Robin well and although he comes over as a raptor hater he also poisons his Barn Owls. Like most farmers [including the RSPB!] poison is an every day occurrence on the farm as predators are not part of the equation when dealing with mice and rats. So bad is this poison that not only Barn Owls are suffering with secondary poison but Red Kites, Polecats and Kestrels. Even cats are effected with vets calling 'cancer' a problem with farm cats especially. Having lost a cat to this 'cancer' my new cat at least, just brings the rats to the back door and hopefully does not eat them. May be Robin and many others should have taken a leave out of my sister's farming experience. 13 cats meant no mice or rats and no poison!! [just a few Robins thrown in as extra food!]

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    • Mark says:

      John - you are, of course, talking about accidental poisoning through use of rodenticides. And I don't know the use of them by Robin or the RSPB - do you?

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    • giles bradshaw says:

      Good point about rat poison. We don't have too many rats. I think this is because we leave the dogs outside all the time, as well as four cats. They are only collies but I've seen them kill rats in the past. Much much better to use dogs on rats than poison. Some people make a sport of it with terriers which to me is an excellent example of 'killing for fun' combined with humane environmentally friendly pest control. I am sure getting killed by a terrier is not the most pleasant experience a rat could have but a damned sight better than poison.

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  3. Birdseye says:

    Balance that is the key.
    It is very easy to mock Robin, but sadly there are many conservationists who will not look behind his words, but mutter about not opposing predator control.
    MA says ‘I know of no conservation organisation that opposes the sensible use of legal predator control’ [the let out is there ‘sensible’ who judges sensible? Predator control is necessary to achieve balance]. MA will not advocate it nor did he on RSPB reserves - fencing out foxes [a joke - no reality]. The reality is that if man does not maintain the balance [Tapper, S.C. (ed.) (1999)
    A Question of Balance - Game Animals and Their Role in the British Countryside. The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge], then the predators will always win. Few conservation organisations advocate or overtly support legal predator control, thus frustrations build up because those that manage the countryside at large know it is necessary. If conservation organisations and their leaders were prepared to support predator control wholeheartedly and practice it, not only would the dialogue be easier, but also there would be more birds in the countryside and in reserves. That was Robin’s message.

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    • Mark says:

      Birdseye - if that were Robin's message it is very well hidden and unlikely to get across. And if it is very easy to mock Robin, that's because Robin makes it easy.

      I don't know of any conservation organisation that has a policy of opposing the use of any form of predator control. And I can't think of a conservation organisation that doesn't do some predator control on its own land (there may be some but not that I can recall). If Robin and others had the breadth of experience of the large land-managing conservation organsiations he (and they) might realise that sometimes you need predator control and sometimes you do not. The comparison between the GWCT's Loddington farm and the RSPB's Hope Farm might, when published, demonstrate that difference, mightn't it?

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  4. Derek Moore says:

    The saddest thing about Robin Page is that irresponsible people have always given him a platform. Now you Mark have joined that band. Starve him of publicity and his silly views will fade away. Take him on and he just sits and grins.

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    • Mark says:

      Derek - maybe. But the same approach wouldn't have worked with Hitler would it? It's a balance I agree, but silliness and error need to be challenged sometimes otherwise the undecided don't realsie their silliness and wrongness.

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  5. Roderick leslie says:

    Falcon or Peregrine ? As David Lack proved many years ago the cuddly, popular Robin is actually about as agressive as birds get - so Robin's only living up to his name !

    What most townies aren't aware of is that fine old British countryside tradition that when something you can't do anything about the answer is to pick up your gun, call the Labs to heel and go out and kill something. Linked to that is a belief that if a species is doing damage killing some will always help - regardless of whether it does any good, eg actually reducing the popluation. An extreme exmple is shooting foxes in the autumn - lots of inexperienced young foxes are dispersing, many won't survive the winter anyway and there are no lambs in danger - so each fox killed gives all the other foxes a leg up in making it through the winter.

    And I strongly agree we should be culling the killing machines - the feral upper classes who believe the law simply doesn't apply to them when they order their keepers to slaughter protected species. Not, I hasten to add, that I'm suggesting a return to capital punishment - simply the vigourous & effective application of the
    laws we are all meant to live together under.

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  6. Aaron Blair says:

    "What practical benefit does it serve to publish such stuff in the first place?"

    It inspires outraged blogs which drive traffic to the Telegraph's website and boosts their ad revenue. That's the whole point of columnists. They're there to be mocked, not taken seriously.

    On which note, if you are the Oliver Hardy of conservation, then Page must surely be the Ronnie Corbett of "real country people" (AKA landowners), on steroids?

    I'm sure his diminutive stature is not to blame, but he's always struck me as a something of a sociopath, perpetually wronged by the fact that the wider world outside the confines of his farm - both predators and politics - is beyond his control.

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  7. Jonathan Wallace says:

    Birdseye asserts that in the absence of man maintaining the balance "the predators will always win" but where is the evidence for this? The reality is that top predators often tend to be among the most vulnerable species in an ecosystem.
    Also, I am curious to know where exactly "the balance" is supposed to lie. For many advocates of raptor control any number of raptors seems to be too many and restoring the balance is more of a euphemism for elimination than anything else. That's why there are so few Hen Harriers in England.
    Nature Conservation organisations do use predator control on occasion but this is and should be limited in extent and highly targetted - as for example when protecting a tern colony from local fox predation that could otherwise wipe out the colony - not a free for all extermination campaign against a species that someone has arbitrarily decided is too common.

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  8. Gert Corfield says:

    Funnily enough I am reading 'The Life of the Robin' by David lack at the moment - and aggressive little blighters they are (the Robins that is).
    The problem of 'unplanned' culling is of course that it simply creates niches for other 'lesser predators' to move in. Remove, or substantially remove, foxes and Weasels move in for example. Where do you stop? I think articles like Mr Pages are not based on anything vaguely scientific. They seem to based more on emotional responses and a hatred for interfering townies more than anything else.
    And his view doesn't explain falling insect numbers, devastating falls in native wild flower species etc etc - should we be culling bats as moth numbers are falling drastically. Of course not.
    The worry is that because a 'respected' national newspaper publishes it that the wider public start believing it.
    Regrettably this all deflects from the wider problem of habitat destruction, pollution, development, climate change (the list is depressingly endless) which is the real cause of falling bird populations.

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  9. Dennis Ames says:

    Well think there must be lots like myself,not towny haters,can see something in both sides of the argument and do not dislike conservation bodies and in fact personally think they do a fantastic job.There are lots of species I would never have been lucky enough to have seen without their protection of them,the staff always being especially helpful.Perhaps the only doubt comes from the fact that they know which species to control and give themselves the right to do so while those of us who see species that suffer from too many corvids are wrong to suggest controls.Raptors in my opinion are nowhere near numbers to worry about but an example of corvid problem would be that on the farm our Little Owls could never increase over 30 years because the Carrion Crows always got the chicks.You very rarely see Little Owls perhaps for this reason.

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    • Mark says:

      Dennis - interesting point. Our little owls seem to have disappeared locally and this is Northamptonshire - the county where they were introduced in the 19th century. I don't know anyone who is trying to stop corvid control as it is legal. Many of us worry though that the enthusiasm for killing things is really aimed at killing raptors eventually and that would be very sad.

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  10. giles bradshaw says:

    On the subject of predators I was wondering what your views are on the theory of mesopredator release which from what I understand is that when apex predators disappear mesopredators become more abundant and this causes a loss in bio diversity in the trophic levels below the mesopredators.

    I think this would not apply to most raptors which I guess are apex predators however would to species such as foxes and also deer which are I believe technically mesopredators except they predate plants.

    The effect of the lack of wolves and lynx on the deer population is an especially good case and it's not only from numerical control but behavorial changes - for example where wolves are present wild deer tend to avoid the woodland edge because this is an ideal place to get killed which leads to a change in the pattern of woodland regeneration.

    So maybe removing an apex predator has a massive effect on the rest of the ecosystem.

    There's a good summary here http://www.nctimes.com/news/science/article_3856b6c2-103d-5dc6-948d-7bc0a7fdb870.html of a more in depth paper here http://www.cof.orst.edu/leopold/papers/mesopredators.pdf

    A counter theory to this is that apex predators make very little difference because the ecosystem is controlled bottom up by resource availability.

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    • Mark says:

      Giles - stick a few white-tailed eagles in and see what happens? May be fewer foxes and marsh harriers. or stop rleasing 35 million pheasants a year into the countryside - who are they feeding? Either way intervening to restor 'balnce' is likely to create more of a mess!

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      • giles bradshaw says:

        Did you read the article? It's very interesting. The other effect that predators have (or had) is taking out sick animals. I think this is quite important. From a welfare perspective getting caught and killed is not especially pleasant but then again neither is dieing from septacemia as a result of a gangrenous wound or with your lungs a writhing mass of lungworm. That's one of the reasons I feel we have a duty to manage deer populations. To argue that we should never interfere is as fallacious as to argue we always should. When I first started coppicing some of our woods a load of deer started to congregate and killed a load of the coppice stools. I was heart broken. Then I realised that all I had to do was take my dogs down there on a regular basis. By 'mixing it' with the wild deer they stopped them congregating and causing damage. This is a key effect of predators imo.

        As far as pheasant shooting is concerned I would have thought there are good and bad consequences of it. If it encourages people to invest in habitat creation then it can be a good thing. I'd like to see shoots encouraged to be more wildlife friendly and think the best way to get that to happen is not to be too adversarial.

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  11. Jon says:

    I've wondered for years what the Telegraph's hidden agenda is with the anti-raptor schtick. (Ditto The Times - both papers regularly feature letters from Outraged of Tunbridge Wells (or should that be Holkham...?) decrying the nasty Sparrowhawks et al).

    At least with Songbird Survival it's easy to see where the driving force behind their campaigning lies - just look at their trustees (they're a charity, so it's in the public domain via the Charity Commision website) and play spot the shooting estate owner.

    Then do a spot of Googling with the names and see if you can find any links to keepers on their estates being done for raptor persecution. Not saying you will, of course! Just saying...

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  12. Val Gall says:

    In all this it depends where your interests lie!! Protection to one person is persecution to another & I have always found that results of studies depend on who is paying for that particular study!
    Balance? Now there is a topic to conjure with! Balance to one person will feel like the scales are totally tipped in an opposing direction to someone else!
    I do feel that Robin likes to write inflammatory articles to shock & upset many but that's his way.
    As I have said before there are always alternatives .... It is just finding the right one & Robins certainly isn't it!!!

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  13. CaperKylie says:

    Ok, so Robin's parents failed to call him Peregrine. But they provided us with other satirical possibilities, for Robin Page is an anagram of "Boring Ape". How curiously apt.

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  14. JIM DIXON says:

    Mark
    I once recall a conversation with Robin (when he was awarding prizes for our home made apple wine) about why it was ok to celebrate predators in the African savanna (something he has written about a lot) but to be up tight about sparrowhawks. But, he does have a point about waders in the SW Peak which really are being affected by badgers- and that's science not anecdote. Jim

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  15. Joe W says:

    Personally I welcome the Telegraph giving "Boring Ape" a platform for his myopic rants, in much the same way I was in favour of the BNP being given air time at the last General Election. Give them enough rope.....etc.

    Sometimes I do wonder if he believes a lot of what he says, after all he does seem to have made a good living as a Professional Cudmudgeon.

    The great shame is that (from my own perspective) there is perhaps some truth in some of his views. However his habit of relying on anecdotes rather than hard science to back up his arguments, entirely undermines the debate.

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    • Mark says:

      Joe W - yes indeed i think there is some truth in what Robin writes - it's a pity he makes it so hard to find though. And is his way of protraying the truth likely to win over the undecided - probably not? Thanks for your comment.

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  16. Carlos Abrahams says:

    Mark, Robin's article is clearly just the sort of lazy pap thrown together to fill the pages of the papers. In the ideal world we would be able to just shrug it off and pay no more attention to his rants than we do to Jeremy Clarkson's. Unfortunately, some people might read this stuff and let it form their opinions - or confirm their prejudices - and that's bad. Not just because we conservationists think so. But because his soundings are based on misrepresentation and misleading assessment of 'evidence'.

    What I'm most struck by is the similarity between this issue and the sort of stuff that Ben Goldacre rails against in his Bad Science blog in relation to claims of evidence for e.g. homeopathy and the 'fact' that computer games will melt your brain. Robin Page's reliance on anecdote rather than actual data in his article is telling in this regard - although he would probably say I'm just being politically correct in trusting to science rather than believing the hearsay in his writing.

    We have a right to expect better from the Telegraph - and are right to call them on it when they fail to deliver

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  17. DavidH says:

    All of these comments ignore the fact that man is the top predator in the UK/world. He can decide if foxes or crows should be killed on nature reserves or if badgers should be killed because they may have a harmful effect on countryside businesses. So why should buzzards, magpies and other avian predators not be a part of this equation? The answer is that many birders treat raptors as a god substitute . This raptor religion is as fanatical as it is possible to be. Anyone see Chris Packham’s reaction when he saw a film of a male hen harrier. Why is it Ok to kill a fox but not kill a bird of prey?
    Buzzard numbers have increased 5 fold in the past few decades and magpies 3 fold between 1970 and 1990 (Rspb Website). These predators are not any lomger in a close knit predator prey relationship but rely now on prey such as road kill pheasants to boost their unnaturally high numbers. Ok so they eat road kill pheasants in the winter, but what do they eat in the summer? Answer.. An awful lot of nestlings and eggs amongst other things.
    I think that Robin Page presents a logistic and sensible argument , whereas most of his opponents base their arguments on purely sentimentalistic view points. I agree with what Robin Page has to say about the conservation organisations. What have they been doing over the past 4 or 5 decades to allow so much of our wildlife habitats to be lost. For example 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost. Really this is a scandalous situation. And such a decline in many of our native bird species. Perhaps Mark Avery ex RSPB conservation officer should be the one being ridiculed and not Robin Page. Mark, what have you been doing over the past few decades counting declining species or maybe promoting the reintroduction of more raptors such as sea eagles and red kites ?. The RSPB have allowed gamekeepers to control hen harrier numbers so what is so wrong with killing a few buzzards if they are threatening endangered species.
    On Hermaness NNR in Shetland there are now 650 pairs of great skuas but not only that but there is also a colony of feral cats there as well. How many waders nest on these moorlands? Not many!! The population of these predators has increased 100 fold or more, but their numbers are not controlled. Even the cats still survive. In the past man took the skuas eggs and controlled their numbers . Now he is not allowed because he is not accepted as a part of the evolutionary process.
    Conservationists who are managing wildlife habitats have got to be realistic and need to aim towards a specific end result. Islands such as Islay, Tiree, Outer Hebrides and Shetland have fewer predator species and are almost perfect for breeding birds. Nature reserves need to be managed in a similar manner if they wish to produce a high success rate for birds such as breeding waders.
    The problem with any kind of wildlife management is that one person or more often a group of persons has to decide on the aims and objectives of a wildlife management plan and often what the outcome should be must be ignored. How can any agreements be made when everyone has their own idealistic objectives . Nobody in the UK knows sufficient about wildlife and habitat management to be able to implement a perfect management plan for wildlife.
    Robin Page’s article is looking at the big picture. How great it was for wildlife in the past and how bad it is now and i am not just talking about bird species but mammals , invertebrates and plants. The nature conservation charities seem to be incapable of doing this, although with Landscape conservation hopefully things may change.

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    • Mark says:

      Dave - interesting points. Why is killing a raptor different from killing a fox? Here are three answers; 1) no difference at all from a moral point of view, 2) different if they cause different impacts on their prey, so if Robin is falesely accusing raptors then they are different and 3) the impacts of killing the predator may be different - raptors have been wiped out in the past (and present actually) by culling whjereas there will always be another fox. And I dare say there are other differences too - but it depends where you start from.
      Just on a factual point - I cannot think of any case where the RSPB has 'allowed' gamekeepers to control hen harriers.
      What have I been doing - quite a lot but maybe not enough?

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      • DavidH says:

        Mark The RSPB hasn't succeded in stopping gamekeepers controlling hen harriers which in my book means that it has allowed them to continue controlling the harriers

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        • Mark says:

          DavidH - you haven't persauded me of your view which means, in your view, that you have let me continue in error.

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  18. Paul v Irving says:

    We seem to have moved a long way from Robin Page raptor hater, but then may be not. Professional curmudgeon, yes fool no, because he makes a good living. He is one of very many who profess to love the countryside and its wildlife as long as red in tooth and claw is at a distance, preferably elsewhere.
    Balance, what ever we do to alter nature, nature itself sets the balance , it may be a balance we dislike but much of the predator control advocated is applying human value judgement, nothing to do with balance.
    one interesting point worth pursuing is this idea that our high densities of corvids and foxes is due to their dependence on the 35 mill pheasants and 10 million plus red legs released each year. May be a more preferred balance would be achieved if there were controls on this mass release of alien protein? Whilst foxes, crows and magpies appear not to be responsiblefor the decline of other wildlife their high numbers may prevent some recovery, reduced winter food (ie far fewer bloody longtails) might in the long term reduce winter survival of foxes and crows et al. and what invertibrate damage do these high pheasant densities do?

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  19. Dennis Ames says:

    Think you have done as much as is absolutely possible Mark and take my hat off to your determination even though myself and others do not always agree with you think we all respect your views as being your own honest views.
    Do not think David H could blame conservation bodies for loss of 97% of wild flower meadows afraid us farmers did that having to produce more from same area or even less area at less than the increase in inflation so that we fed our family's and did not go bankrupt.Think with hindsight and higher end prices(if people would have paid them of course)we would have kept the wild flower meadows and hadd a easier less stressful life.

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  20. Roderick leslie says:

    Val Gall has a point about studies often reflecting the paymaster - except, of course, the famous BTO study funded by Songbird Survival which proved the opposite to what they were looking for. Didn't deter them of course - non-science swung into action and they picked out, completely out of context, the relatively few sentences that suited them. Before long we'll be getting people claiming a study says what they want because they've found the words they want and arranged them into the sentences that suit them ! Maybe they should hire word-wizard Caperkylie to help them - though I fear Caperkylie may not be too ready to turn out for the Boring Apes.

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  21. Birdseye says:

    It is interesting that the subject of raptors and Mr Page has 39 blogs, when the subject of CAP Reform has 9. I suggest CAP reform will have far more impact if it is reformed badly. I suggest everyone concentrates on the issues critical rather than emotive.

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    • Mark says:

      Birdseye - although, to be fair, you were one of the first to comment yesterday - just after 8am! And there is nothing wrong with emotion. People feel more wound up about cruelty than they do about indifference, and raptor persecution is deliberate cruelty whereas an unreformed CAP is much more like indifference. Whereas Robin rants about nature and demonises particular species in a very irrational way it is, I would dsay, perfectly reasonable to feel emotional about people who wish to harm nature.

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  22. Dave J says:

    Mark, thank you for bringing the article to my attention. I've alerted the photographer who took the Sparrowhawk photo (in Northants) and he is furious at it being used in this way and without his consent and plans to take action against The Daily Telegraph.

    I stopped buying the Telegraph about 20 years ago for one reason and one reason only - Robin Page. Does anyone remember his article condemning the RSPB for not giving him a grant for his barn? Or his condemnation of twitchers and then admitting he 'twitched' an Osprey at Grafham Water? It's just as well he doesn't run a fish farm! The man's a hypocrite who knows as much about conservation as I know about farming.

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  23. Resting Conservationist says:

    If predatory bird numbers are increasing due to the obscene number of pheasants being released to be run over (or shot and sent to landfill) and this is causing this "problem", then perhaps there is a more direct and efficient human intervention to be considered before predator "control"? But then it wouldn't be as much FUN, would it?

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  24. Dennis Ames says:

    Birdseye one reason not many comments on CAP reform could be that like myself think that overall they are very good recomendations and conservationists have to respect that there are lots of ordinary citizens in E U so not every acre can be used for conservation which is how it appears some conservationists stance is.
    Not anti conrervationists rant Mark but some go over the top,I happen to get lots of help from middle of the road conservationists.

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  25. Paul Risley says:

    The “wurzel Gummidge of the shooting media” finally takes his place on the list, like the old guy who walks around town with the banner saying the end of the world is nigh he's been prophesying that raptors would kill and eat every single bird in the countryside for years and it still hasn’t got anything near like happening. No doubt he’ll soon be writing in the shooting times when they have a quiet week mentioning his inclusion as if it’s a badge of honour. Keep up the good work Mark, cheers Paul

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  26. Ed Hutchings says:

    When I visited Transylvania in the summer, the countryside was saturated with wild flowers, butterflies and birds. Farming is very traditional and chemicals have never been used on the land. There are raptors aplenty too.

    The loss of the majority of our wild flowers, butterflies and birds is down to modern farming practice and the loss of rich habitat, particularly due to herbicide and pesticide use.

    Robin Page's anti-raptor argument is a scapegoat in my opinion.

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    • Reece says:

      You blame modern farming but you completely fail to mention that habitat has actually been improving since the 70s. 70% of farmland is managed for environmental stewardship. Thousands of miles of hedges are being replanted and derelict ones restored. The situation with farming has been improving but the situation with wildlife has not.

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  27. Gavin O'seachnasaigh says:

    Hi, this is my first post. I would like to say that negative opinions on raptors absolutely boggles the mind. It has no doubt been said a million times that the presence of raptors (level four on the trophic scale) is a good sign of a healthy community. If the top predator is removed then there is the chance of creating a 'trophic cascade'. If you take away the hen harrier for example then the herbivores will increase, as a consequence the primary producers will decrease i.e. plants. Like Mark mentioned earlier Great Tits and Robins are predators too why people simply cannot leave nature be is totally incomprehensible to me. Five little words sum it all up "nature takes care of itself"

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    • Mark says:

      Gavin - welcome!

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    • Reece says:

      Nature certainly does NOT take care of itself anymore. The British countryside is not natural at all. A quick look outside reveals a man made countryside. Farm fields - man made. Hedges - man made. Woodland - no natural woodland left. Moorland - man made. Etc.

      Humans often have to interfere in order to maintain the balance because if you leave it alone, it becomes unbalanced. There is no natural balance anymore. Human interference is absolutely essential, and this means controlling predators. Leaving it to nature should not even be considered.

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  28. lizzie t says:

    why havent you commented on his february 4th article - this man is clearly just telling a select group of people what they want to hear not what is actually fact - what he omits is the biggest predetor of all - the one responsible for trashing nature - that is the human race but sadly most people dont want to believe it and this is why he appeals to his readers

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  29. Reece says:

    I agree with everything Robin Page says about predators. He is one of the few who actually understands the countryside.

    When thinking about predators, there is one thing which you MUST understand - there is no natural balance anymore. Predator numbers are unbalanced as a result of unnatural habitats, and humans need to interfere to maintain the balance. That means controlling predators. Page is right to want to control predators.

    Remember, control, not eradication. Eradication is only desired for non native invasive species such as mink and grey squirrels. For native predators, no one wants eradication.

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  30. Jeremy Squier says:

    When I started on the family farm in South East Essex in the mid '50s we had a good spread of small birds, bumble bees, hedgehogs, few carrion crows and magpies huge flocks of sparrows, and now and again saw a kestrel. There were lots of hares, rabbits, partridges ( both sorts) few pheastants, plenty of turtle doves, an occsional badger and a few foxes, enough to keep hounds busy.
    Now we are all farming "greenly" we see; kestrels, sparrow hawks, bussards, hobbies the odd black kite and marsh harrier. The sparrows have almost disappeared, the turtle doves are replaced by collars, hedge hogs are gone, only one covey this year of French partridges no English, badgers every where and foxes. We are seeing all three woodpeckers and thrushes and blackbirds are ok, bumble bees seem ok but I dont know them all! Butterflies; something like 20 species have been recorded.I think we must be getting something right at last but are the raptors helping doubt it..
    You won't remember but I crossed swords with you at an Essex FWAG when you complained re. RSPB's saying that reptors were indicators of plenty of food so everything would be doing well! I have changed my mind.

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  31. Tony Jones says:

    Such a shame the RSPB are so blinkered when so many us living and working in the countryside see the balance of nature out of kilter with devastating results. Living in Yorkshire for 8 years everyyear we witnessed sparrowhawks killing our young blackbirds and thrushes.We even saw them taking young birds from the nest! Sadly the last year we were there we had no nests.
    Moving to West Dorset is equally horrifying. 30 years ago we had brown hares and 1 or 2 pairs of buzzards. Now we have no hares and often count 30 plus buzzards following a plough like seagulls used to do! You cannot blame farmers as farming practices in this area have hardly changed.Again the sparrowhawks daily plunder our song birds. The worst thing to witness is young housemartins grabbed on the wing.The village now only has 2 nests! I fail to see how numbers can increase as these huntersare so effective and are breeding out of control.I suppose their numbers will decline when the songbirds finally disappear .

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  32. […] rhetoric is nothing new from the Boring Ape – he’s been at it for years (see here). Safe to say he’s not best known for his grasp of science, ecological principles, and […]

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  33. Leslie mates says:

    I was astonished by his article in the Daily Mail (I recycle my neighbour's copy to light my stove) on Monday, wondered if there was some sort of Political metaphor therein so soon after the election? But probably not(my paranoia)
    and I am sure he doesn't give a monkeys about the small dog brigade. But I bet he is for Fox hunting. And the pheasant and the other game birds.

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  34. Chris Peake says:

    I would like to throw in my threepennyworth - we have a pair of sparrow Hawks who nest in a nearby garden every year. Some summers we seem to have few baby birds other years are better. This year was excellent. And we also have magpies squirrels and other egg and chick stealers. What I wish is a raptor who'd take the wood pigeons!!

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Trackbacks

  1. Whilst I agree with 90% of your analysis of Robin, is is really fair to entirely discount his views on the effect of predators.

    It not strictly correct to suggest that we have the same balance of nature as two hundred years ago. At that time, most of the countryside was managed by gamekeepers who would trap predators during the breeding season, this is much less common now.

    The sight of a sparrow hawk or a marsh harrier hunting prey can be the highlight of a day's tractor driving for me and they are positive indicators of agri-environmental progress. This is not the case with all predatory species. We farm near a main road and roadkill provides easy food for magpies and crows. Their numbers have exploded locally and I am very concerned by the impact that this has on small bird numbers. The impact of modern lifestyles and a high population mean that we no longer have a level playing field and it falls within the role of conservationists to adjust the situation.

    Whilst it is enormous fun to follow a debate between you and Robin it serves no practical benefit when debates become polarised in this way.

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    • Mark says:

      Matthew - I don't discount his views on the effects of predators but it's quite difficult to know what they are. Does he want conservation organisations to control predators when necessary? They already do and he gives some good examples. Does he want them to say that they do this - they do say that they do it. Does he think that predator control might help threatened species such as bittern and stone curlew? So does everyone else but not nearly as much as he does - and both these examples are doing very well thanks to the work of a wide range of nature conservationists, but let's be honest, led by those he appears to dislike most.

      And this isn't a debate - it's a campaign by Robin and perhaps the Daily Telegraph. What is the Telegraph's position? Let's see how many words of reply the Telegraph gives the National Trust or the RSPB. What practical benefit does it serve to publish such stuff in the first place?

      I'm glad that you agree with 90% of my analysis.

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  2. John Miles says:

    I know Robin well and although he comes over as a raptor hater he also poisons his Barn Owls. Like most farmers [including the RSPB!] poison is an every day occurrence on the farm as predators are not part of the equation when dealing with mice and rats. So bad is this poison that not only Barn Owls are suffering with secondary poison but Red Kites, Polecats and Kestrels. Even cats are effected with vets calling 'cancer' a problem with farm cats especially. Having lost a cat to this 'cancer' my new cat at least, just brings the rats to the back door and hopefully does not eat them. May be Robin and many others should have taken a leave out of my sister's farming experience. 13 cats meant no mice or rats and no poison!! [just a few Robins thrown in as extra food!]

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    • Mark says:

      John - you are, of course, talking about accidental poisoning through use of rodenticides. And I don't know the use of them by Robin or the RSPB - do you?

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    • giles bradshaw says:

      Good point about rat poison. We don't have too many rats. I think this is because we leave the dogs outside all the time, as well as four cats. They are only collies but I've seen them kill rats in the past. Much much better to use dogs on rats than poison. Some people make a sport of it with terriers which to me is an excellent example of 'killing for fun' combined with humane environmentally friendly pest control. I am sure getting killed by a terrier is not the most pleasant experience a rat could have but a damned sight better than poison.

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  3. Birdseye says:

    Balance that is the key.
    It is very easy to mock Robin, but sadly there are many conservationists who will not look behind his words, but mutter about not opposing predator control.
    MA says ‘I know of no conservation organisation that opposes the sensible use of legal predator control’ [the let out is there ‘sensible’ who judges sensible? Predator control is necessary to achieve balance]. MA will not advocate it nor did he on RSPB reserves - fencing out foxes [a joke - no reality]. The reality is that if man does not maintain the balance [Tapper, S.C. (ed.) (1999)
    A Question of Balance - Game Animals and Their Role in the British Countryside. The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge], then the predators will always win. Few conservation organisations advocate or overtly support legal predator control, thus frustrations build up because those that manage the countryside at large know it is necessary. If conservation organisations and their leaders were prepared to support predator control wholeheartedly and practice it, not only would the dialogue be easier, but also there would be more birds in the countryside and in reserves. That was Robin’s message.

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    • Mark says:

      Birdseye - if that were Robin's message it is very well hidden and unlikely to get across. And if it is very easy to mock Robin, that's because Robin makes it easy.

      I don't know of any conservation organisation that has a policy of opposing the use of any form of predator control. And I can't think of a conservation organisation that doesn't do some predator control on its own land (there may be some but not that I can recall). If Robin and others had the breadth of experience of the large land-managing conservation organsiations he (and they) might realise that sometimes you need predator control and sometimes you do not. The comparison between the GWCT's Loddington farm and the RSPB's Hope Farm might, when published, demonstrate that difference, mightn't it?

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  4. Derek Moore says:

    The saddest thing about Robin Page is that irresponsible people have always given him a platform. Now you Mark have joined that band. Starve him of publicity and his silly views will fade away. Take him on and he just sits and grins.

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    • Mark says:

      Derek - maybe. But the same approach wouldn't have worked with Hitler would it? It's a balance I agree, but silliness and error need to be challenged sometimes otherwise the undecided don't realsie their silliness and wrongness.

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  5. Roderick leslie says:

    Falcon or Peregrine ? As David Lack proved many years ago the cuddly, popular Robin is actually about as agressive as birds get - so Robin's only living up to his name !

    What most townies aren't aware of is that fine old British countryside tradition that when something you can't do anything about the answer is to pick up your gun, call the Labs to heel and go out and kill something. Linked to that is a belief that if a species is doing damage killing some will always help - regardless of whether it does any good, eg actually reducing the popluation. An extreme exmple is shooting foxes in the autumn - lots of inexperienced young foxes are dispersing, many won't survive the winter anyway and there are no lambs in danger - so each fox killed gives all the other foxes a leg up in making it through the winter.

    And I strongly agree we should be culling the killing machines - the feral upper classes who believe the law simply doesn't apply to them when they order their keepers to slaughter protected species. Not, I hasten to add, that I'm suggesting a return to capital punishment - simply the vigourous & effective application of the
    laws we are all meant to live together under.

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  6. Aaron Blair says:

    "What practical benefit does it serve to publish such stuff in the first place?"

    It inspires outraged blogs which drive traffic to the Telegraph's website and boosts their ad revenue. That's the whole point of columnists. They're there to be mocked, not taken seriously.

    On which note, if you are the Oliver Hardy of conservation, then Page must surely be the Ronnie Corbett of "real country people" (AKA landowners), on steroids?

    I'm sure his diminutive stature is not to blame, but he's always struck me as a something of a sociopath, perpetually wronged by the fact that the wider world outside the confines of his farm - both predators and politics - is beyond his control.

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  7. Jonathan Wallace says:

    Birdseye asserts that in the absence of man maintaining the balance "the predators will always win" but where is the evidence for this? The reality is that top predators often tend to be among the most vulnerable species in an ecosystem.
    Also, I am curious to know where exactly "the balance" is supposed to lie. For many advocates of raptor control any number of raptors seems to be too many and restoring the balance is more of a euphemism for elimination than anything else. That's why there are so few Hen Harriers in England.
    Nature Conservation organisations do use predator control on occasion but this is and should be limited in extent and highly targetted - as for example when protecting a tern colony from local fox predation that could otherwise wipe out the colony - not a free for all extermination campaign against a species that someone has arbitrarily decided is too common.

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  8. Gert Corfield says:

    Funnily enough I am reading 'The Life of the Robin' by David lack at the moment - and aggressive little blighters they are (the Robins that is).
    The problem of 'unplanned' culling is of course that it simply creates niches for other 'lesser predators' to move in. Remove, or substantially remove, foxes and Weasels move in for example. Where do you stop? I think articles like Mr Pages are not based on anything vaguely scientific. They seem to based more on emotional responses and a hatred for interfering townies more than anything else.
    And his view doesn't explain falling insect numbers, devastating falls in native wild flower species etc etc - should we be culling bats as moth numbers are falling drastically. Of course not.
    The worry is that because a 'respected' national newspaper publishes it that the wider public start believing it.
    Regrettably this all deflects from the wider problem of habitat destruction, pollution, development, climate change (the list is depressingly endless) which is the real cause of falling bird populations.

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  9. Dennis Ames says:

    Well think there must be lots like myself,not towny haters,can see something in both sides of the argument and do not dislike conservation bodies and in fact personally think they do a fantastic job.There are lots of species I would never have been lucky enough to have seen without their protection of them,the staff always being especially helpful.Perhaps the only doubt comes from the fact that they know which species to control and give themselves the right to do so while those of us who see species that suffer from too many corvids are wrong to suggest controls.Raptors in my opinion are nowhere near numbers to worry about but an example of corvid problem would be that on the farm our Little Owls could never increase over 30 years because the Carrion Crows always got the chicks.You very rarely see Little Owls perhaps for this reason.

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    • Mark says:

      Dennis - interesting point. Our little owls seem to have disappeared locally and this is Northamptonshire - the county where they were introduced in the 19th century. I don't know anyone who is trying to stop corvid control as it is legal. Many of us worry though that the enthusiasm for killing things is really aimed at killing raptors eventually and that would be very sad.

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  10. giles bradshaw says:

    On the subject of predators I was wondering what your views are on the theory of mesopredator release which from what I understand is that when apex predators disappear mesopredators become more abundant and this causes a loss in bio diversity in the trophic levels below the mesopredators.

    I think this would not apply to most raptors which I guess are apex predators however would to species such as foxes and also deer which are I believe technically mesopredators except they predate plants.

    The effect of the lack of wolves and lynx on the deer population is an especially good case and it's not only from numerical control but behavorial changes - for example where wolves are present wild deer tend to avoid the woodland edge because this is an ideal place to get killed which leads to a change in the pattern of woodland regeneration.

    So maybe removing an apex predator has a massive effect on the rest of the ecosystem.

    There's a good summary here http://www.nctimes.com/news/science/article_3856b6c2-103d-5dc6-948d-7bc0a7fdb870.html of a more in depth paper here http://www.cof.orst.edu/leopold/papers/mesopredators.pdf

    A counter theory to this is that apex predators make very little difference because the ecosystem is controlled bottom up by resource availability.

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    • Mark says:

      Giles - stick a few white-tailed eagles in and see what happens? May be fewer foxes and marsh harriers. or stop rleasing 35 million pheasants a year into the countryside - who are they feeding? Either way intervening to restor 'balnce' is likely to create more of a mess!

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      • giles bradshaw says:

        Did you read the article? It's very interesting. The other effect that predators have (or had) is taking out sick animals. I think this is quite important. From a welfare perspective getting caught and killed is not especially pleasant but then again neither is dieing from septacemia as a result of a gangrenous wound or with your lungs a writhing mass of lungworm. That's one of the reasons I feel we have a duty to manage deer populations. To argue that we should never interfere is as fallacious as to argue we always should. When I first started coppicing some of our woods a load of deer started to congregate and killed a load of the coppice stools. I was heart broken. Then I realised that all I had to do was take my dogs down there on a regular basis. By 'mixing it' with the wild deer they stopped them congregating and causing damage. This is a key effect of predators imo.

        As far as pheasant shooting is concerned I would have thought there are good and bad consequences of it. If it encourages people to invest in habitat creation then it can be a good thing. I'd like to see shoots encouraged to be more wildlife friendly and think the best way to get that to happen is not to be too adversarial.

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  11. Jon says:

    I've wondered for years what the Telegraph's hidden agenda is with the anti-raptor schtick. (Ditto The Times - both papers regularly feature letters from Outraged of Tunbridge Wells (or should that be Holkham...?) decrying the nasty Sparrowhawks et al).

    At least with Songbird Survival it's easy to see where the driving force behind their campaigning lies - just look at their trustees (they're a charity, so it's in the public domain via the Charity Commision website) and play spot the shooting estate owner.

    Then do a spot of Googling with the names and see if you can find any links to keepers on their estates being done for raptor persecution. Not saying you will, of course! Just saying...

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  12. Val Gall says:

    In all this it depends where your interests lie!! Protection to one person is persecution to another & I have always found that results of studies depend on who is paying for that particular study!
    Balance? Now there is a topic to conjure with! Balance to one person will feel like the scales are totally tipped in an opposing direction to someone else!
    I do feel that Robin likes to write inflammatory articles to shock & upset many but that's his way.
    As I have said before there are always alternatives .... It is just finding the right one & Robins certainly isn't it!!!

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  13. CaperKylie says:

    Ok, so Robin's parents failed to call him Peregrine. But they provided us with other satirical possibilities, for Robin Page is an anagram of "Boring Ape". How curiously apt.

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  14. JIM DIXON says:

    Mark
    I once recall a conversation with Robin (when he was awarding prizes for our home made apple wine) about why it was ok to celebrate predators in the African savanna (something he has written about a lot) but to be up tight about sparrowhawks. But, he does have a point about waders in the SW Peak which really are being affected by badgers- and that's science not anecdote. Jim

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  15. Joe W says:

    Personally I welcome the Telegraph giving "Boring Ape" a platform for his myopic rants, in much the same way I was in favour of the BNP being given air time at the last General Election. Give them enough rope.....etc.

    Sometimes I do wonder if he believes a lot of what he says, after all he does seem to have made a good living as a Professional Cudmudgeon.

    The great shame is that (from my own perspective) there is perhaps some truth in some of his views. However his habit of relying on anecdotes rather than hard science to back up his arguments, entirely undermines the debate.

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    • Mark says:

      Joe W - yes indeed i think there is some truth in what Robin writes - it's a pity he makes it so hard to find though. And is his way of protraying the truth likely to win over the undecided - probably not? Thanks for your comment.

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  16. Carlos Abrahams says:

    Mark, Robin's article is clearly just the sort of lazy pap thrown together to fill the pages of the papers. In the ideal world we would be able to just shrug it off and pay no more attention to his rants than we do to Jeremy Clarkson's. Unfortunately, some people might read this stuff and let it form their opinions - or confirm their prejudices - and that's bad. Not just because we conservationists think so. But because his soundings are based on misrepresentation and misleading assessment of 'evidence'.

    What I'm most struck by is the similarity between this issue and the sort of stuff that Ben Goldacre rails against in his Bad Science blog in relation to claims of evidence for e.g. homeopathy and the 'fact' that computer games will melt your brain. Robin Page's reliance on anecdote rather than actual data in his article is telling in this regard - although he would probably say I'm just being politically correct in trusting to science rather than believing the hearsay in his writing.

    We have a right to expect better from the Telegraph - and are right to call them on it when they fail to deliver

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  17. DavidH says:

    All of these comments ignore the fact that man is the top predator in the UK/world. He can decide if foxes or crows should be killed on nature reserves or if badgers should be killed because they may have a harmful effect on countryside businesses. So why should buzzards, magpies and other avian predators not be a part of this equation? The answer is that many birders treat raptors as a god substitute . This raptor religion is as fanatical as it is possible to be. Anyone see Chris Packham’s reaction when he saw a film of a male hen harrier. Why is it Ok to kill a fox but not kill a bird of prey?
    Buzzard numbers have increased 5 fold in the past few decades and magpies 3 fold between 1970 and 1990 (Rspb Website). These predators are not any lomger in a close knit predator prey relationship but rely now on prey such as road kill pheasants to boost their unnaturally high numbers. Ok so they eat road kill pheasants in the winter, but what do they eat in the summer? Answer.. An awful lot of nestlings and eggs amongst other things.
    I think that Robin Page presents a logistic and sensible argument , whereas most of his opponents base their arguments on purely sentimentalistic view points. I agree with what Robin Page has to say about the conservation organisations. What have they been doing over the past 4 or 5 decades to allow so much of our wildlife habitats to be lost. For example 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost. Really this is a scandalous situation. And such a decline in many of our native bird species. Perhaps Mark Avery ex RSPB conservation officer should be the one being ridiculed and not Robin Page. Mark, what have you been doing over the past few decades counting declining species or maybe promoting the reintroduction of more raptors such as sea eagles and red kites ?. The RSPB have allowed gamekeepers to control hen harrier numbers so what is so wrong with killing a few buzzards if they are threatening endangered species.
    On Hermaness NNR in Shetland there are now 650 pairs of great skuas but not only that but there is also a colony of feral cats there as well. How many waders nest on these moorlands? Not many!! The population of these predators has increased 100 fold or more, but their numbers are not controlled. Even the cats still survive. In the past man took the skuas eggs and controlled their numbers . Now he is not allowed because he is not accepted as a part of the evolutionary process.
    Conservationists who are managing wildlife habitats have got to be realistic and need to aim towards a specific end result. Islands such as Islay, Tiree, Outer Hebrides and Shetland have fewer predator species and are almost perfect for breeding birds. Nature reserves need to be managed in a similar manner if they wish to produce a high success rate for birds such as breeding waders.
    The problem with any kind of wildlife management is that one person or more often a group of persons has to decide on the aims and objectives of a wildlife management plan and often what the outcome should be must be ignored. How can any agreements be made when everyone has their own idealistic objectives . Nobody in the UK knows sufficient about wildlife and habitat management to be able to implement a perfect management plan for wildlife.
    Robin Page’s article is looking at the big picture. How great it was for wildlife in the past and how bad it is now and i am not just talking about bird species but mammals , invertebrates and plants. The nature conservation charities seem to be incapable of doing this, although with Landscape conservation hopefully things may change.

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    • Mark says:

      Dave - interesting points. Why is killing a raptor different from killing a fox? Here are three answers; 1) no difference at all from a moral point of view, 2) different if they cause different impacts on their prey, so if Robin is falesely accusing raptors then they are different and 3) the impacts of killing the predator may be different - raptors have been wiped out in the past (and present actually) by culling whjereas there will always be another fox. And I dare say there are other differences too - but it depends where you start from.
      Just on a factual point - I cannot think of any case where the RSPB has 'allowed' gamekeepers to control hen harriers.
      What have I been doing - quite a lot but maybe not enough?

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      • DavidH says:

        Mark The RSPB hasn't succeded in stopping gamekeepers controlling hen harriers which in my book means that it has allowed them to continue controlling the harriers

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        • Mark says:

          DavidH - you haven't persauded me of your view which means, in your view, that you have let me continue in error.

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  18. Paul v Irving says:

    We seem to have moved a long way from Robin Page raptor hater, but then may be not. Professional curmudgeon, yes fool no, because he makes a good living. He is one of very many who profess to love the countryside and its wildlife as long as red in tooth and claw is at a distance, preferably elsewhere.
    Balance, what ever we do to alter nature, nature itself sets the balance , it may be a balance we dislike but much of the predator control advocated is applying human value judgement, nothing to do with balance.
    one interesting point worth pursuing is this idea that our high densities of corvids and foxes is due to their dependence on the 35 mill pheasants and 10 million plus red legs released each year. May be a more preferred balance would be achieved if there were controls on this mass release of alien protein? Whilst foxes, crows and magpies appear not to be responsiblefor the decline of other wildlife their high numbers may prevent some recovery, reduced winter food (ie far fewer bloody longtails) might in the long term reduce winter survival of foxes and crows et al. and what invertibrate damage do these high pheasant densities do?

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  19. Dennis Ames says:

    Think you have done as much as is absolutely possible Mark and take my hat off to your determination even though myself and others do not always agree with you think we all respect your views as being your own honest views.
    Do not think David H could blame conservation bodies for loss of 97% of wild flower meadows afraid us farmers did that having to produce more from same area or even less area at less than the increase in inflation so that we fed our family's and did not go bankrupt.Think with hindsight and higher end prices(if people would have paid them of course)we would have kept the wild flower meadows and hadd a easier less stressful life.

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  20. Roderick leslie says:

    Val Gall has a point about studies often reflecting the paymaster - except, of course, the famous BTO study funded by Songbird Survival which proved the opposite to what they were looking for. Didn't deter them of course - non-science swung into action and they picked out, completely out of context, the relatively few sentences that suited them. Before long we'll be getting people claiming a study says what they want because they've found the words they want and arranged them into the sentences that suit them ! Maybe they should hire word-wizard Caperkylie to help them - though I fear Caperkylie may not be too ready to turn out for the Boring Apes.

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  21. Birdseye says:

    It is interesting that the subject of raptors and Mr Page has 39 blogs, when the subject of CAP Reform has 9. I suggest CAP reform will have far more impact if it is reformed badly. I suggest everyone concentrates on the issues critical rather than emotive.

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    • Mark says:

      Birdseye - although, to be fair, you were one of the first to comment yesterday - just after 8am! And there is nothing wrong with emotion. People feel more wound up about cruelty than they do about indifference, and raptor persecution is deliberate cruelty whereas an unreformed CAP is much more like indifference. Whereas Robin rants about nature and demonises particular species in a very irrational way it is, I would dsay, perfectly reasonable to feel emotional about people who wish to harm nature.

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  22. Dave J says:

    Mark, thank you for bringing the article to my attention. I've alerted the photographer who took the Sparrowhawk photo (in Northants) and he is furious at it being used in this way and without his consent and plans to take action against The Daily Telegraph.

    I stopped buying the Telegraph about 20 years ago for one reason and one reason only - Robin Page. Does anyone remember his article condemning the RSPB for not giving him a grant for his barn? Or his condemnation of twitchers and then admitting he 'twitched' an Osprey at Grafham Water? It's just as well he doesn't run a fish farm! The man's a hypocrite who knows as much about conservation as I know about farming.

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  23. Resting Conservationist says:

    If predatory bird numbers are increasing due to the obscene number of pheasants being released to be run over (or shot and sent to landfill) and this is causing this "problem", then perhaps there is a more direct and efficient human intervention to be considered before predator "control"? But then it wouldn't be as much FUN, would it?

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  24. Dennis Ames says:

    Birdseye one reason not many comments on CAP reform could be that like myself think that overall they are very good recomendations and conservationists have to respect that there are lots of ordinary citizens in E U so not every acre can be used for conservation which is how it appears some conservationists stance is.
    Not anti conrervationists rant Mark but some go over the top,I happen to get lots of help from middle of the road conservationists.

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  25. Paul Risley says:

    The “wurzel Gummidge of the shooting media” finally takes his place on the list, like the old guy who walks around town with the banner saying the end of the world is nigh he's been prophesying that raptors would kill and eat every single bird in the countryside for years and it still hasn’t got anything near like happening. No doubt he’ll soon be writing in the shooting times when they have a quiet week mentioning his inclusion as if it’s a badge of honour. Keep up the good work Mark, cheers Paul

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  26. Ed Hutchings says:

    When I visited Transylvania in the summer, the countryside was saturated with wild flowers, butterflies and birds. Farming is very traditional and chemicals have never been used on the land. There are raptors aplenty too.

    The loss of the majority of our wild flowers, butterflies and birds is down to modern farming practice and the loss of rich habitat, particularly due to herbicide and pesticide use.

    Robin Page's anti-raptor argument is a scapegoat in my opinion.

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    • Reece says:

      You blame modern farming but you completely fail to mention that habitat has actually been improving since the 70s. 70% of farmland is managed for environmental stewardship. Thousands of miles of hedges are being replanted and derelict ones restored. The situation with farming has been improving but the situation with wildlife has not.

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  27. Gavin O'seachnasaigh says:

    Hi, this is my first post. I would like to say that negative opinions on raptors absolutely boggles the mind. It has no doubt been said a million times that the presence of raptors (level four on the trophic scale) is a good sign of a healthy community. If the top predator is removed then there is the chance of creating a 'trophic cascade'. If you take away the hen harrier for example then the herbivores will increase, as a consequence the primary producers will decrease i.e. plants. Like Mark mentioned earlier Great Tits and Robins are predators too why people simply cannot leave nature be is totally incomprehensible to me. Five little words sum it all up "nature takes care of itself"

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    • Mark says:

      Gavin - welcome!

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    • Reece says:

      Nature certainly does NOT take care of itself anymore. The British countryside is not natural at all. A quick look outside reveals a man made countryside. Farm fields - man made. Hedges - man made. Woodland - no natural woodland left. Moorland - man made. Etc.

      Humans often have to interfere in order to maintain the balance because if you leave it alone, it becomes unbalanced. There is no natural balance anymore. Human interference is absolutely essential, and this means controlling predators. Leaving it to nature should not even be considered.

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  28. lizzie t says:

    why havent you commented on his february 4th article - this man is clearly just telling a select group of people what they want to hear not what is actually fact - what he omits is the biggest predetor of all - the one responsible for trashing nature - that is the human race but sadly most people dont want to believe it and this is why he appeals to his readers

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  29. Reece says:

    I agree with everything Robin Page says about predators. He is one of the few who actually understands the countryside.

    When thinking about predators, there is one thing which you MUST understand - there is no natural balance anymore. Predator numbers are unbalanced as a result of unnatural habitats, and humans need to interfere to maintain the balance. That means controlling predators. Page is right to want to control predators.

    Remember, control, not eradication. Eradication is only desired for non native invasive species such as mink and grey squirrels. For native predators, no one wants eradication.

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  30. Jeremy Squier says:

    When I started on the family farm in South East Essex in the mid '50s we had a good spread of small birds, bumble bees, hedgehogs, few carrion crows and magpies huge flocks of sparrows, and now and again saw a kestrel. There were lots of hares, rabbits, partridges ( both sorts) few pheastants, plenty of turtle doves, an occsional badger and a few foxes, enough to keep hounds busy.
    Now we are all farming "greenly" we see; kestrels, sparrow hawks, bussards, hobbies the odd black kite and marsh harrier. The sparrows have almost disappeared, the turtle doves are replaced by collars, hedge hogs are gone, only one covey this year of French partridges no English, badgers every where and foxes. We are seeing all three woodpeckers and thrushes and blackbirds are ok, bumble bees seem ok but I dont know them all! Butterflies; something like 20 species have been recorded.I think we must be getting something right at last but are the raptors helping doubt it..
    You won't remember but I crossed swords with you at an Essex FWAG when you complained re. RSPB's saying that reptors were indicators of plenty of food so everything would be doing well! I have changed my mind.

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  31. Tony Jones says:

    Such a shame the RSPB are so blinkered when so many us living and working in the countryside see the balance of nature out of kilter with devastating results. Living in Yorkshire for 8 years everyyear we witnessed sparrowhawks killing our young blackbirds and thrushes.We even saw them taking young birds from the nest! Sadly the last year we were there we had no nests.
    Moving to West Dorset is equally horrifying. 30 years ago we had brown hares and 1 or 2 pairs of buzzards. Now we have no hares and often count 30 plus buzzards following a plough like seagulls used to do! You cannot blame farmers as farming practices in this area have hardly changed.Again the sparrowhawks daily plunder our song birds. The worst thing to witness is young housemartins grabbed on the wing.The village now only has 2 nests! I fail to see how numbers can increase as these huntersare so effective and are breeding out of control.I suppose their numbers will decline when the songbirds finally disappear .

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  32. […] rhetoric is nothing new from the Boring Ape – he’s been at it for years (see here). Safe to say he’s not best known for his grasp of science, ecological principles, and […]

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  33. Leslie mates says:

    I was astonished by his article in the Daily Mail (I recycle my neighbour's copy to light my stove) on Monday, wondered if there was some sort of Political metaphor therein so soon after the election? But probably not(my paranoia)
    and I am sure he doesn't give a monkeys about the small dog brigade. But I bet he is for Fox hunting. And the pheasant and the other game birds.

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  34. Chris Peake says:

    I would like to throw in my threepennyworth - we have a pair of sparrow Hawks who nest in a nearby garden every year. Some summers we seem to have few baby birds other years are better. This year was excellent. And we also have magpies squirrels and other egg and chick stealers. What I wish is a raptor who'd take the wood pigeons!!

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