Peregrines – moor is fewer.

I see peregrines quite often these days, but it’s usually in the middle of London (like this image is of one in the middle of Manchester) rather than in the uplands where I would only have expected to see them in my youth.  This is good – I’m glad they have become commoner and more widespread during my lifetime.

But the shocking level of persecution on birds of prey associated with grouse moors is again revealed in a paper published today by the RSPB and the Northern England Raptor Forum.

Using data on peregrine nesting success collected over almost the last three decades, and satellite images from Google earth to identify where the moorland had been burned for grouse shooting, the researchers showed that breeding success of peregrines attempting to nest on grouse moors was only half that of those nesting on other habitats.

Golden eagles do badly on grouse moors, hen harriers do badly on grouse moors and peregrines do badly on grouse moors.  Is it not time that wildlife laws were fully enforced on grouse moors?

Nicholas Le Quesne Herbert MP is the Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice and was a former public relations director of the British Field Sports Society.  The British Field Sports Society formed the main stock of the Countryside Alliance.

Dr Arjun Amar, of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute for Ornithology – formerly an RSPB scientist and also formerly a scientist at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust – is the paper’s lead author. He said: “I was shocked at just how low the bird’s breeding output was on grouse moors; they were significantly less likely to lay eggs or fledge young.” He added: “The few birds that did lay eggs or fledge young on grouse moors did just as well as those breeding off grouse moors, which suggests that a shortage of food supplies can be ruled out of the equation. The only logical explanation for these differences is that persecution is rife on many driven grouse moors.”.

Paul Irving, chair of the Northern England Raptor Forum, said: “To people who visit and live in the uplands of northern England, the peregrine should be a familiar bird in an iconic landscape. However, the guilty few deny the pleasure of many.” He added: “Now it’s up to the Government and the Police to turn fine words into action. So far, there has been little real progress in tackling bird of prey crime and this needs to change urgently to help species like the peregrine.”.

Birdwatch magazine is asking its readers to tell it what they think about the conflict between grouse shooting and hen harriers, this news on peregrines is just grist to the mill.

Membership of the Northern England Raptor Forum is Calderdale Raptor Group, Cumbria Raptor Study Group, Durham Upland Bird Study Group, Manchester Raptor Group, Northumbria Ringing Group, North York Moors Upland Bird (Merlin) Study Group, Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, South Peak Raptor Study Group, South Ryedale and East Yorkshire Raptor Group and Yorkshire Dales Upland Bird Study Group.


19 Replies to “Peregrines – moor is fewer.”

  1. Of course this problem of persecution of birds of prey has been around for a long time. It is a horrible business but I think the conservation community must now move on from the “wringing of hands” and saying the Government/ploice “must do something” to the proper formulation of a long term plan to eliminate this nasty illegal practice. The plan needs to involve Governments, the police, the NGOs, and responsible owners of grouse moors (hopefully there are a few). Money is usually an important factor in this sort of thing which won’t be easy in the present economic climate, but that does not stop a proper plan and strategy being put together. The general public/ fell walkers can also be invited to keep their ears and eyes open. So “heads need to be got together”. (I don’t doubt the RSPB have tried to do this but it may now be opportune to try again.)

  2. In majority of cases the % of success is 0% not 50%. Most Red Grouse moors will not have any Peregrines on them with historic nest sites not even used in the census. A quote from Paul Irthing says it all – A land owner to a keeper – ‘Next time I come up here I do not want to see those birds on my moor’. So the land owner was telling the game keeper to get rid of the Peregrine. As I have said before a game keeper can loose too much money if one of these birds upsets a shoot. Even as far as loosing his job, his home and his family if thrown out of the job he loves never to be taken on again in this country. As far as the law it is the mentality of the land owners that need to change and with it will come the game keeper not the other way round.

  3. Fourteen (14) peregrine eyries were observed destroyed or deserted in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland this year by unlicensed members of the North West Raptor Protection Group. Breeding pairs of falcons were found to have gone missing during the early stages of courtship and egg incubation from a majority of these abandoned territories.

    This post has been edited – some sentences have been fully removed – by Mark Avery

  4. I have been looking forwards reading this publication since Dr Amar gave us an insight into it at the Northern England Raptor Forum conference in 2010.I feel that this particular study will be very hard for the that wish to create a smoke screen and muddy the waters to deny.

    Those involved in these crimes seem to think they are above the law, accurate, solid and reviewed studies are the only way we can convince those in a position to ensure that the laws of the land are upheld, that they are being flouted continuously. To harp back to your article “why do they do that?” the problem I have with some of the people I speak to from within the shooting community is, that they expect (notice that word) that things should be done on their terms, anything else is in their view unacceptable, and viewed as an attack on their sport/industry and must be being done to give them all a bad name.

    If they were to admit how bad the problem is they would indeed face some serious questions but without that how can you begin to work towards a solution? How can you trust someone who either won’t accept these facts no matter what evidence they are presented with?

    My problem with that is this, for anyone of us to work together there must be a level of trust, trust can only be earned, my experience from those I have spoken too is that they have no interest in even starting to make any steps towards building up trust, they want to attack everything as this is in their view is the best form of defence.

    Hiding behind figures such as the that fact that only a small number of people are ever prosecuted, or that this year less poisoned birds were found is another ploy employed by the spin doctors that seek to undermind any proof that is offered about the level of persecution in areas where driven Red Grouse hold an interest, whether this is intended or not it is clear to see that this offers a element of collusion in offering the criminals something to hide behind.

    I am sure whilst we all applaud a drop in the figures until a continued trend in this area is seen, those figures prove nothing, I don’t need to explain the many reasons why this figure is most likely unrepresentative of the actual number of birds poison, we all know and understand that the chances of finding a dead raptor are low and therefore are likely to be many times higher than the reported figures in any one given year (the odds of finding the perpetrator(S) are even less likely.

    It is time that people stopped pretending it isn’t going on and got behind the efforts being made to put a stop to this illegal behaviour, the first step might be to protect the people who are put in such positions that their good name, their livelyhood and their homes are at risk if they do not toe the line, extending the the vicarious liability laws that have just been introduced in Scotland might be a good starting point but perhaps licencing shoots and being able to remove that licence for a time as a form of punishment where persecution is proving would be a bigger deterrent?

    I try to stay positive about the fight against raptor persecution but unless people are willing to stand up and be counted from within the industry this will be a very difficult fight, that I feel ultimately will result in a real turn of public opinion about shooting in general, I am beginning to agree with many of my peers that this might be the only way the problem could be resolved, not something I take lightly as I am in no way anti shooting and it doesn’t sit well with me to see a nut cracked with a hammer. Unfortunately speaking online with people involved in shooting yesterday was what led me to this conclusion.

  5. Sorry Mark, you have lost me a little on this one. I am with you on the serious situation BoP find themselves in but Nicholas Herbert appears out of nowhere in this blog. Has he or the Govt made a comment. If so that would be of interest.

  6. Isn’t it ironic that having dealt with the effects of DDT on Peregrines thanks to the research by one of my hero’s , Derek Ratcliffe, that these fantastic birds are now suffering in a more direct and insidious way in parts of the countryside. And how ironic that Peregrines are doing so well amongst the Townies and yet so reviled by some ‘rural folk’.

  7. Shooting and raptors will never go together that must be the obvious fact.The only solution is to copy Mull.Lots of all sorts of raptors including hen harriers and no shooting.Until that happens there will always be people trying to find ways round the problem that regrettably stand no chance.

  8. Forgive my ignorance, but being fairly new to the raptor protection debate I am at a loss as to why all the effort appears to come from one side, I don’t mean just the agencies themselves (I am rarely in contact with them) but whenever a debate or discussion takes place all those involved with shooting instantly seem to toe the party line and start with smoke screens and rubbishing of the facts, moreover most of the people involved, who are so against these illegal acts seem to don the kid gloves and begin to pander to their egos.

    I don’t understand it and I would like someone to explain to me why we are expected to dance to their beat and tread on egg shells?

    Surely there is enough evidence of illegal killing of raptors to challenge the powers that be over these issues in a formal and concerted effort. Everyone cries out in disgust at the issues of illegal hunting in Malta yet we try so very hard to accomodate the interests of what it is fast becoming evident is more than just a few bad apples that act unsupported within the shooting industry.
    With the release of the latest document Amar, A., et al. Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations. Biol. Conserv. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.10.014 yet more evidence that the number of instances of raptor persecution are majorly under discovered and/or reported.

    Perhaps I am not party to some secret master plan that is going on behind the scenes, in the meantime little seems to change in the field and the raptors continue to suffer in areas related to the shooting of driven Red Grouse.

    Perhaps there is some hidden agenda that keeps people from rocking the boat too much, lest they fall fowl to the whims of the people who have the power to make their interests unattainble, again at the cost of the raptors that are being destroyed year on year.

    I don’t understand why given the growing weight of evidence, the minister in charge of such issues was quoted as saying “There are very good laws in place to punish the illegal killing of any animal. If they are not being effectively enforced, they must be and we will take steps to make sure that happens. However, this is a good opportunity to applaud gamekeepers for the wonderful work they do in providing excellent biodiversity across our countryside.”
    When faced with the question in the House of Commons on the 30th June from the Labour MP Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire) who asked the following:

    “Only two weeks ago, a gamekeeper was convicted for illegally killing birds of prey in my constituency. Is it not time to think about introducing a vicarious liability offence to ensure that landowners and estate managers supervise their gamekeepers more closely and more effectively”?

    Lots of questions will we ever see satisfactory answers?

  9. The important thing here, (and I have shared the anticipation of this publication with Mike since Arjaun gave such a thought provoking talk at last year’s NERF conference) is that this is another major peer reviewed paper that shows grouse moor management in a very very unfavourable light when it comes to raptors , it is quite clearly not just about the extinction of breeding harriers away from United Utilities Bowland estate, nor the persecution of eagles on Scottish moors. Grouse moor Peregrine populations would go the same way as the harrier without young from other habitats, that these birds themselves at best fail to breed unmolested or at worst are themselves killed is nothing short of a national scandal.
    It is way beyond the time we can expect or allow grouse moor interests to get their house in order, they are still in denial. We need the government, their agencies, relevant NGO’s and law enforcement to work wholeheartedly together to solve this dreadful situation, the birds deserve no less, if that means changes in the law lets make sure it can and will happen.

    This comment has been edited by Mark Avery to remove a few sentences

  10. It is interesting to read all these comments and then ask yourself what is the new Langholm project all about! The truth is that Buccleuch’s estate would have taken SNH to court for damaging a Red Grouse moor on the first project. All the estate want is heather so they can once again run a shoot either with raptors or not. History shows us that Langholm once held the largest population of Black Grouse in Britain before ‘driven’ Red Grouse was invented. Management now destroys Black Grouse habitat similar to most Red Grouse moors in Britain even when it is an SSSI. If you want to protect Birds of Prey on these uplands please talk to the tax man.

  11. Gert,for sure some townies who own these areas where crimes are committed are the biggest culprits and quite often the FEW”rural folk”committing these crimes do so or lose their job in which case some other rural person gets the loaded job.

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