Guest blog – Gary Burgess, a pigeon fancier

Hi all I’m Gary Burgess and I’m a Pigeon Fancier and would like to thank Mark for this opportunity to write this Blog.

I grew up in the late sixties/seventies. It now seems such a long time ago, almost like the dark ages. I was fortunate back in those days to live in an urban area that bordered on the outskirts of rural Lancashire.  Two of greatest loves of my life have always been pigeon racing and nature.  Somehow the two, seemed to make life complete.

I spent lots of time in the countryside and supposed I educated myself on all the things that nature had to offer.
I also witnessed the back end of the myxomatosis plague, that infected and almost wiped out the whole population of rabbits. This was a horrible time, where I witnessed these poor creatures, with matted fur and bulging eyes on a daily basis struggling to walk.

I lived through the demise of the Badger on Brockholes Wood.

Anyone who knew me would tell you I was quite solitary person, who spent most of my time, between the pigeon loft and the woodlands that surrounded the area.

I enjoyed wildlife and all it had to offer.

When I became a hedge layer, most of my work had to be done in the midst of winter, for obvious reasons, this suited me fine, because I had lots of time to spare in the summer.

For hours, used to sit and watch the wildlife in Mellings Wood, which was situated on the edge of a golf course on the banks of the River Ribble.

I remember watching the Sparrowhawks and Kestrels that have always inhabited that area as well as the Buzzards. Maybe I was fortunate back then to see such delightful species of birds that in some parts were rare and endangered.
Lots of other birds were also in abundance those days, finches, woodpeckers, lapwings, wagtails just to name a few.  I can still take people into these areas, to see creatures they have never seen. Such as Deer, Newts, and a whole array of birds.

But I must admit as the populations of birds of prey have increased dramatically, the small bird populations have started to diminish.

Another observation I have made, is where the populations of Sparrowhawks, were once in abundance. Are now devoid, because of the bigger birds of prey have moved in. Such as the Buzzards, Goshawks and the Peregrines.
It was nice to see quarry areas, that were always full of wildlife, be finally turned into nature reserves and attempts to get the smaller species of birds of prey like the Kestrel to finally re inhabit these areas, where it had been forced to leave because of the larger prey species had squeezed them out.

But now we have a problem and it’s a problem that is not going to go away.

That problem is, the smaller birds of prey that are being forced out of their natural habitats, by the larger more territorial species.

These mainly being the Sparrowhawk and the Peregrine.

Although they are two splendid creatures, they are now beginning to become nuisance in built up areas of the country.
Not only are they wreaking havoc on the populations of the well loved popular garden birds, they are creating a huge nuisance to the peaceful colourful garden aviary and terrorising their inhabitants.

More and more dovecotes are becoming barren places as their inhabitants are being taken and the pigeon fancier, is now becoming a target.

Their lofts are now being attacked relentlessly on a daily basis and although, the majority of pigeon fanciers are bird lovers.

They feel that nobody wants to hear their pleas for help on this matter.

The RSPB, just say what the hell it’s nature and come out with statements like. ‘ You should learn to appreciate the beauty of this magnificent hunter and how it skilfully catches it’s prey.’

I’m sorry, but this is the last thing the pigeon fancier wants to hear, when he has just witnessed a pigeon get attacked and eaten alive, when he has just paid five grand to breed this bird.

There seems to be very little concern about this from the powers that be.

This is now beginning to infuriate the fancy, who are now quite rightly demanding action should be taken on their behalf.

The vast majority of pigeon fanciers, do not want to see the demise of these birds, but are asking why these large populations cannot be at least controlled, by the right authorities of course.

But the way the media and the RSPB seem to be handling it at the moment, are infuriating pigeon fanciers.
These are not hunters, raptor persecutors, nor do they want to turn into Rambo, dressed in camouflage clothing stalking raptors around their back gardens.

But this problem is clearly getting out of control and needs to be seriously debated in a civilised manner and an amicable compromise agreed to deal with this problem.

But the more the problem is ignored, the larger the number of predators will become, the more pigeon fanciers are deciding to call it day.

This is causing much damage to pigeon racing, a pastime that has been enjoyed in this country for centuries and has always been enjoyed by the working classes, which has been enjoyed by all, regardless of age, sex, creed or colour and can even be enjoyed by disabled people.

Every year pigeon fanciers raise huge amounts of money for charities and good causes, this can be attributed to the nature of the pigeon fanciers in this country.

They are not the evil people they are trying to portray them as and it infuriates me to see the fancy portrayed in the press, in this way.

I know you are an educated man and also have a no nonsense approach to some matters.

For this is why you gained so much respect in your chosen field.

I haven’t gone down the route of quoting fact and figures as I know, as well as you, that would tie me up in knots.

 

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287 Comments

  1. Mike Price says:

    What a load of anti raptor s**t, based upon assumption, half facts and a biased opinion!

    What was experienced during the "good old days" was a result of many years of persecution and the effects of DDT suppressing the number of raptors in many cases to the edge of and past extinction in the UK, it was far from a natural state that can be harked back to with rose tinted glasses.

    You failed to mention the losses Pigeon owners face from collisions and bird that just stray, these make up the majority of your losses and made no mention of the fact that if a bird fails to return home, if found and reported often ends up being necked as it is useless.

    You have joined the anti raptor bandwagon peddling your poison about raptors for you own end, a recent study funded by another anti raptor group "Song bird Survival" found that the For 22 of the prey species considered in this study, analyses of extensive national bird and grey squirrel monitoring data from
    England provides no statistical evidence that increases in common avian predators and grey squirrels in recent years have resulted in population declines. Indeed, declining prey species were nomore likely to be negatively associated with an increase in predators than stable and increasing species. These results are largely in agreement with past analyses of garden bird data (Chamberlain, Glue & Toms 2009) and national monitoring data for magpie (Gooch, Baillie & Birkhead 1991) and sparrowhawk and magpie (Thomson et al. 1998).

    That along with research that increasingly show that it's the effect of humans and their requirements that are drastically impacting the numbers of birds, lead me to believe that despite your claims of being a nature lover you are infact wishing to blame nature for things because it suits your own agenda.

    You are entitled to carry out any "legal" hobby you wish but please don't start demanding that action is taken against nature because you have decided to breed/purchase a non predator aware species of bird and let it out into the big bad world where predators exist.

    You do touch on an interesting thought though, the fact that due to the misfortunes that have beset larger raptors, it may have allowed smaller raptors to prosper better than they might otherwise have faired, are we now seeing a fall in numbers of Kestrels for example as they return towards a more natural population size or is there some other underlying problem that is effecting the species, another discussion for another day.

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    • Gary Burgess says:

      Well Hooray, the onslaught has started and very well done for being the first.
      This is just my view, from a normal person. Who has spent all of his life in the countryside. But maybe that doesn't count for anything.
      I'm not anti raptor, nor am I anti anything.
      Unlike yourself.
      But this is just the sort of reaction I expected.
      I rest my case.

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      • Mike Price says:

        You offer no proof of anything you are claiming, you have no reply for any of the things stated, you wish to play the part of the injured party and you offer the view of a "normal" person except he you have an agenda, your pigeons.

        You are entitled to your opinions and I am entitled to mine, don't let the research that is done continually sway your opinion in any way as clearly your unsupport assumptions and half truths are the real cause of all the declines and it's all a great conspiracy, feel free correct any mistakes in my postings.

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        • DAVID BYCROFT says:

          Have you ever watched a webcam from an artificial peregrine nest site? Over 70% of their prey are racing pigeons.You can clearly see the rings on the birds.And it's interesting that the nests are 'cleaned of rings' every other day.

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  2. rene says:

    Mr price im a pigeon fancier myself i too get hit on a regular basis yes some of our birds do go astray that i do agree with BUT the S**t you are saying about when our birds are reported are NECKED is a load of CRAP we try our BEST to have our BIRDS brought back to us the only time we NECK them as YOU call it is when they are ill or been attacked by your so called presious Sparrow hawk/Periegrine and have been to badly injured

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    • Mike Price says:

      Rene,

      "Neck it" was the phrase used when a good friend of mine who runs a rehibilitation centre called a pigeon fancier to tell him that she has one of his birds if he would care to come and collect it.

      I don't doubt for one minute that a bird of prey will attack what it probably deems to be easy prey, I question whether that is the bird of preys fault for needing to feed, or if indeed the people that are buying/breeding/flying the birds in the wild should have any right to ask for them to be controlled or due to the fact that they CHOOSE to put their birds at risk should simply accept that there are going to be losses.
      I would also question whether they would be better spending their efforts looking for solutions to the much higher percentage of birds that do not return as a result of other issues.

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    • Mark says:

      rene - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment

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  3. Jo says:

    Gary, while I do sympathise with pigeon fanciers for the loss of birds, I would like to say one thing. I think what you are doing is applying your end point (lost birds being a bad thing that needs remedying) to an almost plausible ecological argument (that the larger birds are outcompeting the smaller), that suits. That is entirely possible, but you cannot take two observations in science and assume as you are doing, that the one is causing the other. There may be no causal link at all, there may be some link but there may be many other factors with an impact. I suspect the reason your voice may not be being heard is that you do not have the science to back up your stance.

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  4. Frank Welsh says:

    Mike.
    When was the last "independent" research carried out into population of birds of prey in the UK? http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/BoCC_tcm9-217852.pdf
    As you can see proof the smaller birds are in decline no matter what the Rspb spin machine try to have us believe.
    Poor farming methods, lack of insects and poor winter's??? Never Big birds of prey eating small birds!

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    • Mike Price says:

      Frank,

      I am aware that many bird species are suffering a decline, but how is it that some are whilst others aren't? or that some species are on the incline, even in areas where raptors are also on the incline?

      There is a lot of spin from all sides but there is a lot of good independant research as well some of if as I stated was paid for by the anti raptor group Songbird Survival.

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    • Mark says:

      Frank - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment.

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  5. Roderick Leslie says:

    Obviously this has been a long running saga - and one where there is some serious science. About 10 years ago a Government group looked at a range of issues around raptors, including pigeons taken during races. Colin Shawyer, well known for his raptor work, in particualr on barn owls, of the Hawk and Owl trust was commissioned by the Government on behalf of the group to look at race losses. His study found that racing pigeons are taken by Peregrines but are a much smaller proportion of the losses than often claimed by the fancy. Peregrine control would have little impact on overall race losses. I would expect this existing Government-funded science will play a key role in considering demands for control.

    Attacks around lofts are a quite different issue on which I don't have the knowledge to comment.

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  6. Gary Burgess says:

    Collisions, maybe you have a point, strays you may have a point. Which also could be inconclusive.
    I am not hiding behind no songbird theory. I just said in my opinion they are on the decline, would you not agree.
    There have been a whole list of theories for this.
    One thing that is conclusive, is attacks on pigeons on pigeon lofts on a daily basis.
    These incidents are not just localised, this is happening the width and breadth of the country. These are conclusive, without a shadow of a doubt.
    The species responsible are conclusive.
    The Kestrel numbers, you don't have to be a scientist or mathematician to work this one out.
    So please don't go waving the anti raptor flag.
    Like anything, if lots people complain about something, especially 100,000 people complain. Then would you not agree, this does sound like a problem.
    A problem that should be viewed from all sides, in an even handed way.
    I'm not peddling no anti raptor poison.
    I just want our concerns to be heard.
    I love my birds and it does affect me every-time I see one taken, killed, or fatally wounded.
    There clearly is a problem and no doubt there will be a suitable solution.
    But this will have to be debated openly in an unbiased way.
    There's no half truths here.
    But who am I, just another member of the public with an opinion.
    Oh yes, sorry I didn't mention the pigeon fancier bit.

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    • Mike Price says:

      I refer you back to my reply to Frank,

      I am aware that many bird species are suffering a decline, but how is it that some are whilst others aren’t? or that some species are on the incline, even in areas where raptors are also on the incline?

      There is a lot of spin from all sides but there is a lot of good independant research as well some of if as I stated was paid for by the anti raptor group Songbird Survival, maybe I should state here that the findings did not support their "blame it on the raptors theory"

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    • Mike Price says:

      By the way if your not peddling anti raptor poison, then maybe you could explain why your website http://saveourracingpigeons.yolasite.com/ states

      " Have you ever noticed the morning chorus has gone extremely quiet over the past 20 years or so. The powers that be, who have sustained the basically man made countryside environment. Have somehow become so infatuated with the BOP programme, have seemed to have overlooked some of it more severe implications. Not only the devastating effects it's having on on pigeon racing and the survival rates of the racing pigeon. But also the devastating effects it having on the survival on our smaller populations of birds that frequent our gardens"

      It's simply untrue and is clearly designed to mislead people and is being used to support what is essentially your dislike of bird of prey targetting your pigeons.

      Here's a link to the paper that they so hoped would implicate birds of prey and it failed http://www.songbird-survival.org.uk/pdfs/BTOSBSResearch2010.pdf

      I feel sure that there are legal measure that can be taken at pigeon lofts to reduce the problems but that is not what your asking for, your asking to control avian predators because it interferes with your enjoyment to own pigeons and fly them.

      We could sit here whist we take the whole website/issue to pieces and you still wouldn't be happy with the answers despite the scientific research because they don't support your case, .

      I finally ask the simple question is it morally correct to control a natural predator to enhance a hobby?

      For our own protection - maybe, but surely other measures could be taken.
      For protection of our food supply - I'd suppor this if other measures could not be taken
      To protect a business - again possibly (even the shooting business afterall it forms a part of the local ecomony.
      So that you can set a pigeon free at one end of the country and let it fly home? I can see no merit to this at all

      Sorry but that really is how I see it and all the arguing in the world without scientific proof to the contrary, you are going to have a hard job convincing me otherwise

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Gary,
      You obviously have a love of your environment and like many of us, will look for what might seem obvious answers when over time you preceive things have changed for the worse.
      Using your words but turning it round from another perspective ...
      "I love nature and it does affect me every-time I see a natural species persecuted to prop up a human and unnatural pastime."

      I'm a similar age to yourself and when I was growing up I rarely saw Sparrowhawks or Buzzards unless we travelled somewhere away from the Home Counties. I didn't realise the reasons until much later so maybe you need to consider that your childhood memories were of an un-natural balance borne out of persecution of BoP.

      You don't mention other reasons why prey species have declined since the 1960s - is this just because you find it easier to jump to a singular conclusion despite science finding alternatives?

      By the way - I like Pigeons - but racing them - it's a hobby, not nature.

      Regards
      Robin

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  7. steve moyes says:

    Without doubt the largest predator of racing pigeons are the fanciers themselves. At the end of the race season the birds that have not performed "go in the bin" as one fancier told me, this save the cost of food over the winter. In my experience any bird which does not return is assumed to have been predated. Remember the big race from France back in the 80's. The birds hit fog and over 10,000 went missing. If you want to keep your birds stop sending them so far and tiring them out. Most fit, fresh pigeons will avoid predation.

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  8. darren palmer says:

    rod 10 years is a very long time in terms of nature,i think most pigeon fanciers would accept a few losses to natural predators but when you (pro raptor) gloat over web cams and come onto other bird sites to wind up peace loving pet owners,i have lost 4 birds out of 30 to raptors last year and had several back injured from hawk attacks,i dont think that the rspb is their to protect all birds i think it has gone backwards in its morals due to the few.when the hobby of pigeons whether it be racers or tipplers or showbirds is finished then the real impact on our wild songbirds will be seen to the full and then the shame can lay with the few....also i would like to point out that many many race birds are lost training due to hawk attacks the youngsters who are on training runs get split by a peregine and just fly for hours absolutely petrified they then get de-hydrated go down and are lost due to lack of exsperience but this will all be shot down as non-scientific but its true.is it realy natural to be releasing 100's of raptors into our countryside and driving the smaller birds of prey into citys and towns and actualy providing nesting sites in urban areas i think not

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  9. Tim Sexton says:

    You say that larger birds of prey are forcing smaller birds of prey out of their natural habitat into our gardens, 'wreaking havoc on the populations of the well loved popular garden birds'.

    Do you have any evidence to support this?

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  10. James says:

    I was gob-smacked by these comments and then I took a look at Gary’s blog and was even more intrigued by his interpretation of ecology. Ecology is taught in primary schools in Years 4-6 which details the basics of predator-prey relationships that Gary fails to comprehend.

    The simple reason for the hatred of raptors is placed in his statement about birds costing 5 grand to breed. If pigeon fanciers are going to release birds into the wild then surely they will be predated. If I was to walk across the Everglades or the Maasai Mara I’d be called stupid and a waste of taxpayer’s money when my remains, if I was attacked by a predator, would be transported back to the UK at a cost of over £1 million. Would I decide to go for a jaunt in a yacht off the coast of Somalia? Of course not!

    Gary falls into the typical trap of control by extermination. If you provide a source of food then nature will take advantage of this food source. It is like putting out food for the birds and then moaning that rodents take advantage of the food source. What do you expect?

    Gary and the pigeon fanciers also want to look at the millions spent clearing up our towns and cities (especially our historic buildings and monuments) from the impact of feral pigeons. In addition to the various diseases these birds carry that can be transferred to the human population, especially those “at risk”. The impact of that the feral birds are having from interbreeding with native Rock Doves. The numbers of feral pigeons around industrial areas says it all, then why do Peregrine falcons move in?

    I applaud Michael Price for summing up how larger raptors have moved in due to changes in DDT. The Goshawk has been introduced into some parts of the country through falconers’ birds escaping. So if the feral pigeon is due to the release of fanciers’ birds and the Goshawk is due to the release of falconers’ birds then where is the problem? The easiest answer would be to ban the keeping of birds – but will we do that? As for culling, the Goshawk is a native bird of prey still in recovery in many parts of the country. The Buzzard is re-colonising areas still. The same applies to many other raptors that were once common.

    Michael also comments on the ‘necking’ of birds that don’t make the grade or have been lost. I’ve seen this for myself when I’ve reported pigeons that have been grounded or I have found. I have even had someone collect a bird and kill it in front of me because I refused to do it. It didn’t bother me, but it proves a point that they have no regard for the life except when it suits them.

    So if you read between the lines of all of this – the biggest impact on our bird populations is man. Songbirds would have starved in cold winters or migrated. Some of our birds are changing their migration patterns and even moult strategies? Why is that?

    Gary, I feel sorry for you having these misconceptions about our native wildlife and population dynamics. Someone from the community is bound to call me a ‘Townie’ – I was born into the countryside to a family embedded in farming. However, in those days there was still in East Anglia a real mixture of pastoral and arable and this kept up small bird populations. I grew up surrounded by the Victorian views on raptors and other predators. I just have chosen to go out and find the real facts for myself.

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  11. James says:

    Mike - You'll notice that groups like "Songbird Survival" have had a number of key individuals who are no stranger to controversy when it comes to the use of poisons, shooting game birds and the mysterious disappearing Hen Harriers from their estates.

    It is a 'mask' for the true agenda of these individuals and that is to portray raptors as the scapegoat and not the fact that we've grubbed up hedgerows, massacre them with machines and poison the land..... However with raptors increasing in some parts, I am sure the predator/prey relationships mean prey must be plentiful - unless you want to believe some individuals who think babies are being taken from their prams by eagles....

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  12. Andrew Kyle says:

    A lot of good points have been aired here.
    Mr Price, your points may very well be accurate, but your manner is one of dismissivness and Mr Burgess has asked for open clear debate. I acknowledge that your tone has become more reasonable as this debate has progressed and thank you for this.
    I am a pigeon fancier. I am also a nature lover, in that I enjoy all birds and animals and I do not wish to involve myself within their lives to their detriment.
    As a nation, we do have domesticated pets. In their case we do involve ourselves and alter their natural course.
    Pigeons. Yes, they are sent to far distances. Some do not return for various reasons. Smashes do happen. At the end of season quality control does happen in the manner suggested, but not in all cases. As I said, lots of good points.
    Pigeon racing involves releasing the pigeons into the wild from varying distances and as Mr Burgess has stated at quite some cost for these pedigreed athletes. Given that there are losses for various reasons, collisions, weather, disorientation, etc; there are many more, it can not however be disagreed with that birds of prey also bear some blame. Now they do not account for all the losses through their need to eat. Some of the collisions are caused when the pigeons go into a blind panic in their attempt to eascape, they go to ground and are picked off by other predators; there are more problems incurred at the wings of the birds of prey.
    Around the lofts fanciers witness multiple daily attacks.
    This is all factual, perhaps not backed up by science at this time, but nevertheless facts.
    Surely there can be some debate to assist in finding solutions instead of glib remarks of keep them in and keep them safe because this would defeat the whole purpose of racing.
    I offer no solution being a new start to pigeon racing, but can say it is distressing to witness the attacks, especially for my children whose beloved birds are the subject of the attack. they are learning the truth about nature as it is in this day and age.

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  13. Gert Corfield says:

    Some interesting comments. I used to live next door to the president of the local pigeon racing club. His view regarding losses to Peregrines was pragmatic. He accepted that he will loose a few, and those that survive are the fittest and presumably most valuable.
    My problem with this is that culling anything to ensure someones hobby is not interfered with isn't right whether it's raptors in this scenario or Cormorants for the Anglers. Yes there are some economic losses, but then there is in every line of business/pursuit.
    They other dangers is, where with this all stop? Raptors, Badgers, Corvids, Cormorants - what else will people want killing off. I won't subscribe to it, sorry, notwithstanding the clear evidence that Raptors do not have appreciable effects on the song bird population - as Songbird Survival won't admit, even though they commissioned a BTO report which said just that!

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      I agree completely Gert.
      How about Pine Martens ?

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-17130777.

      Robin

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    • Ian Brown says:

      A prepared mind readily accepts statistics which on the surface appear to relate to separate aspects of the research, conclusions with which that mind agrees. But with a little more thought it might become apparent these ‘different’ aspects are probably related. For example, Peregrine predation on racing pigeons is an established fact – but recorded kills are small. Annual Losses of Racing Pigeons is also an established fact, but the figures are large. It’s quite easy to decide that there is no relationship between Peregrine predation, and large losses of Racing Pigeons..

      Predation effects extend beyond recorded kills. Some commentators appear incapable of even imagining the effects of a peregrine strike on a large batch of pigeons. No researcher has ever followed a batch of pigeons homing from a race or training, so they are unlikely to have ever witnessed such an attack. Eye witness accounts report it is devastating, with large numbers of birds either grounding, trying to seek shelter, or flying off in all directions, panic-stricken. Relate that fact to uninformed comments on ‘collisions and straying’ - racing pigeons are trained to hone fitness, knowledge of territory and homing ability. They shouldn’t normally stray or collide with anything. They homed successfully during two World Wars, through War Zones. To suggest otherwise in incomplete and biased research is at best a lack of knowledge of the subject under investigation, and it is very easy to provide stats without the reasons behind them..

      This piece of research on peregrine ‘ringed wild bird’ prey in Wales is interesting because it is by a BTO member and completely contradicts the conservationists’ party line. ‘In South & Central Wales no (wild bird) rings were found except racing pigeons. So what is their staple diet? The preferred prey species is quite obvious from that, and when that preferred prey species isn’t available it is also quite obvious what happens from the title of his first reference: Dixon, A., Richards, C., Haffied, P., Thomas, M., Lawrence, M. & Roberts, G. 2010. Population decline of Peregrines Falco peregrinus in central Wales associated with a reduction in racing pigeon availability. Birds in Wales 7: 3-11.

      http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/taking-part/volunteering/volunteer-stories/winters-tale

      On bias, there was an interesting TV programme aired last weekend which explored the early beginnings of the RSPB, and the work it did. What some in the movement now fear is that RSPB now acts on behalf of benefiting the Society’s funds rather than on behalf of the general wild bird population. We the green public are continually regaled by RSPB about the decline in various bird populations, and everything and everybody is blamed for that, particularly farming methods. Quite rich that accusation considering that half the world’s population go to bed at night hungry, and not all of those people live in other countries. So should we stop growing food?

      But the movement does not promote endangered ‘songbird’ species – where are the re-introduction programmes for these – and that is because there’s no money for RSPB in that. Those same members reckon the public won’t (pay to) come to the numerous Reserves to see ‘the small birds’ but they will for Birds of Prey. No Birds of Prey, no visitors, no income.

      RSPB should do exactly what is says on the tin that they are so good at rattling on street corners. Protection of all birds, not just the marketable species it happens to like. And if a species is under threat, then it needs special protection - especially from predation - to maintain that viable population number below which extinction beckons and if that means birds of prey need to be taken out of the reducing numbers equation - then that is exactly what should happen. To continue to applaud these magnificent creatures while they munch their way towards yet another extinction, is not what I would expect from a Conservation group.

      And on same tack, BTO on a TV programme a number of years ago on the Yorkshire European Eagle Owls, told viewers ‘they could go out and shoot them’. And that is exactly what happened to the hen. ‘European Eagle Owls are not a bird you’d like in your back garden’ said RSPB on same programme. But on other programmes it is clear that RSPB thinks Sparrowhawks are. I don’t expect this from a Conservation group either.

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      • Tony Whitehead says:

        "But the movement does not promote endangered ‘songbird’ species – where are the re-introduction programmes for these – and that is because there’s no money for RSPB in that."

        The RSPB been working on cirl buntings, a (formerly) endangered songbird, for years over here in the far West. And we've re-introduced them to Cornwall http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/projects/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-212392

        And a small point over the raptor/songbird debate - cirl buntings have increased more than fourfold over the past fifteen years in south Devon in the presence of Messrs sparrowhawk, peregrine and co. This is because their problem, like other songbirds, was not predators, it was lack of food - especially in winter - and to a lesser extent nesting space. We work with farmers to correct this and, hey presto, more cirl buntings.

        Tony Whitehead, RSPB South West

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        A lot of good points made here Ian.
        I definitely think that there are a lot of entrenched views on both sides of this debate. I also think that it is completely incorrect to relate predation losses to direct kills only. I know for a fact, having personally witnessed it as it happened, that attacks do not always end up in direct kills, but they do cause great panic. I have had racing pigeons die through collision as a direct result of attack. If the collision figures were to be taken into consideration then the effects of predation on racing pigeons would be far greater than the scientific proof suggests.
        Someone once said that there are facts, facts and damn statistics. I know I have the quote incorrect, but the point is that statistics are able to be massaged to suit needs and purpose.

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  14. Gary, you’re reasoning for the loss of songbirds across the UK does not hold any water as far as I am concerned. Over the last three decades I have been a regular visitor to Eastern Europe, countries like the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. In each of these countries there has so far been no decline in songbird numbers, this is despite the fact that populations of raptors are at levels far greater than here in the UK. This may have more to do with the lack of modern agricultural practices and until recently the use of pesticides was very limited, sadly this is now beginning to change.

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    • phil brand says:

      Terry ,
      What you observed in eastern europe, the balance of nature, occurred ecause of the long term status quo .
      In the Uk birds of prey were culled during the wars to make sure that the pigeons could carry the messagesand from the troops.I believe that given time ,with no interfering from the RSPB or any other party for that matter, levels would have eventually evned out to a natural balance.I accept that modern farming methods are at some fault for our songbird decline but the simple math says that if there are more predators introduced into what could be potentially an overpopulation of songbirds caused by the raptor cull, then the population of songbirds will fall -it has to.
      My objection is not to the RSPB supporting the birds of prey, but to their insistance on introducing predator species into areas that are not remotely like their natural habitat.It is not conceivable that peregrine falcons would nest in high rise blocks without either one of two things happening .
      the first being the promotion of nest sites in urban areas and the second is a bit more sinister , if the RSPB refute the first point then it means that there must not be any suitable nest areas that are not already taken.
      does this mean that there is a population saturation?
      I have been a pigeon fancier for thirty years and I will defy anyone from any organisation to tell me that losses of racing pigeons to raptors have remained at the same level over the last 10 years.
      My loft is in a built up area and as such I do not suffer as much as some, but I recently watched a sparrowhawk take a blackbird in my garden and then visit again this time without success. I have taken my bird table in now because however it is dressed up watching a bird being eaten alive holds no pleasure for me.
      As pigeon fanciers we accept that some losses to raptors ,and other causes are inevitable but we do not blame all losses on raptors because we do not see them.We can only comment on the attacks that happen around our lofts.
      If you do not believe that the racing fraternity have a true grievance then please read the Homing World .It has a regular input from walkers, climbers and the like who do us the favour of reporting the ring numbers of our birds found at nest sites ,these can sometimes can number in the thirties.
      All we ask is that consideration is given to both the songbird population and of course the pigeon racing fraternity.A happy medium is the desired result not a war of accusations and counter allegations.
      hopefully common sense will prevail

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  15. Gary Burgess says:

    I am not asking for anything except a review of the facts.
    The fact is that our birds are being attacked relentlessly on a daily basis, by predators, which in this case are protected birds of prey and we are trying to desperately to seek a solution.
    Keeping our birds locked up is not a solution.
    Or maybe it could be a solution, because if we did all keep in our birds for one whole year, perhaps we would then see a huge demise in the prey species.
    When birds are on the wing, OK I accept the fact, that we letting them free into the wild and they will be preyed upon.
    But what it is unacceptable, is the relentless slaughter we have to endure every day at our homes, by urban dwelling raptors.
    This is not only happening to racing pigeons, this is also happening to the fancy breeds of pigeons and dove cotes, that was once a familiar site everywhere.
    Aviaries full of fancy birds and budgies are even being attacked, to the degree that some are perishing out of sheer fright.
    There is a problem, like it or not.
    I haven't even even mentioned the culling of any breed.
    In fact I never even mentioned the Goshawk or the Buzzard, as I don't really think these are a huge problem to us.
    Is it not fair to say, that the single mindedness of some people, creates far bigger problems.
    Insults do nothing but infuriate people.
    But every time anyone brings up this problem.
    Is it not fair to say, we get bullied into submission. We get insulted, we get belittled, we get told that we are ignorant and uneducated. We get told that us as fanciers and our birds are unimportant.
    Welcome to working class.
    I tell you this, this problem is not going to away and neither, are we going to get bullied in to submission.
    What may be dismissed and deemed unimportant to you, is extremely important to us.
    We will thrash out this debate relentlessly, be under no illusion of that, we will not just go away because you insult us and we will do whatever it takes to have our voice heard.

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  16. Filbert Cobb says:

    By allowing this guest post our host has trolled his own blog. Tee Hee!

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    • Neil Sumner says:

      "trolled his own blog?". Having read this thread I think this blog was a master stroke by Mark in allowing Gary to present his views and allowing everyone to reply to them. To me the debate was clearly won by those of us who believe that currently there is no justification for killing raptors: its statistics and the results of research versus heresay and a specific interest. But I was surprised at Ian saying " the movement does not promote endangered ‘songbird’ species – where are the re-introduction programmes for these – and that is because there’s no money for RSPB in that. " The RSPB spends thousands on its Farmland Bird Recovery Programme which is primarily aimed at songbirds - providing free advice and administartion services to landowners to help bring back skylark, corn bunting, yellowhamer, linnet etc.

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      • Filbert Cobb says:

        Trolling is an intentionally provocative action. Hence - Tee Hee. It elicited abuse and hostility against the guest poster. Job done.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      What does this mean?

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  17. Dave Hallam says:

    This is crazy? Sorry if that comes across as harsh but it's my gut reaction. You release pets into the wild and complain when one is taken by a wild animal, are you serious? It's in no way different to me racing pet rabbits across the country and compaining about foxes or pet fish down a river and complaining about pike!

    As for strikes on your captive birds in enclosures again I just think it's inevitable. If you keep prey species as pets in an environment that is unsafe for them then you've only got yourself to blame if they get hurt by a wild animal doing what it supposed to do.

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    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you Dave! I've spent ages reading all the comments and can't believe no-one has said this yet.

      I know lots of people who keep chickens and if they don't shut them up at night and a fox gets them they don't blame the fox, they blame themselves for forgetting to protect their pets.

      If raptors are killing pigeons at home use better protection to secure these valuable animals. Give them large aviarys to stay in and make sure they are locked, like any other pet owner or farmer would do. If they're worth that much then it must be worth adding the protection and it's probably cheaper than controlling the raptors. controlling predators is always more complex than first expected (ie badger culling research!)

      If raptors are killing pigeons during races then see Dave's comment above and accept it as part of the challenge. If you put unprepared prey into the wild they WILL get eaten.

      Surely an increase in BOP numbers means there is also an increase in natural prey, unless there are populations completely dependent on captive pigeons?

      If smaller birds are being pushed out of areas by larger birds of prey surely they are moving area, not increasing and so are not consuming more prey just in a different location. I don't know lots about racing pigeons but I think they cover very large distances, so large in fact that a small local change in bird ranges should not impact whether the pigeons are susceptible to predation on route. Thus a change in population location seems to only be relevant to those attacks which occur at home, and if so see my above comment.

      Have I understood this correctly? Maybe I have assumed things I cannot or there are other factors I have missed.

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      • phil brand says:

        Yours is obviously the opinion of someone who has done little or no research into the predation of racing pigeons by raptors.
        Let me put it in a way that you may understand
        You take out your pet dog in to an area that has wild boar , a natural species with no predators, and your dog is attacked and killed.
        Had it been killed by boar from a small managed number resident in that area then yes its just bad luck BUT in an uncontrolled population the odds are that you are more likely to encounter boar.
        Do you then suggest that your dog walking days are over or would you suit up your dog in armour?
        Please dont say that you would walk your dog somewhere else , I could repeat the exercise in any scenario.
        Empathy pal -try it -it just might make you feel good about yourself

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  18. Mick Young says:

    Just one comment for all of you that think this only happens now and again I have had 4 of my pigeons killed in the last 4 weeks by a sparrow hawk and this is happening around my loft. My question for the raptor lovers is give me a solution anything you can suggest to prevent this happening i would love to here the answer.

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  19. Jonathan Wallace says:

    Gary, I am concerned about the conservation of butterflies and moths many species of which are declining. Blue tits and great tits are voracious predators of caterpillars and have both increased in recent years according to theBTO. So should I be advocating tit control? The answer of course is no because it would be false logic to connect the decline of some moths with an increase in blue tits just because the abundance of one is heading in the opposite direction to the abundance of the other. Your connection of the decline of some songbirds with the increase of some birds of prey is similarly flawed. Contrary to your assertion, it really does take a scientist to tease out the often complicated reasons behind the rise and fall of animal populations.

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  20. Dennis Ames says:

    Think some people on here have been rather nasty to the blogger,totally unnecessary to a guest blogger.
    Two facts are 1)pigeon fanciers were very important allies to have in wars which we have been through providing the best way of getting messages back undoubtedly saving many of our soldiers lives.2)At these times Peregrines were killed unmercifully to save the homecoming birds so if anyone says they do not kill many pigeons it is obviously untrue.
    At least think about what he says and be polite.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Thanks for this comment Dennis. I think this is what Gary is asking for.
      Polite debate in the hope that some solution may be arrived at, such solution suitable to and for all.
      Am I correct in assuming that not every member on this forum is a scientist directly involved with bird conservancy?
      If I am correct, then we are none of us experts with regards to the solution. Some may have more insight than others as is the case in all walks of life. These more informed members are the ones who are able to give most to this debate.
      Please assist with factual knowledge and not just by stating statistics whilst holding a defiant stance regards the release of pets into a wildlife environment. In the case of racing pigeons this release of pets into a wildlife environment has been taking place for over 100 years without the demise of pigeons at the level which now exists.
      The pigeon fanciers are looking for solutions and are asking for help.

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  21. SIMON says:

    What I would suggest is that those who wish to have a debate over raptor control need to bring to the table some peer reviewed research to support their claims. Without this you cannot make any compelling case.

    Currently this research has been completed and showed that Birds of Prey are not limiting the populations of small birds. Besides wouldn't Blue Tit, Great Tit if this was the case?

    Sparrowhawk numbers have taken a recent decline - this is entirely acceptable however (but worth keeping an eye on) as their recovery to areas following the effects of DDT etc as inter-specific population dynamics could limit population etc.

    Of course the RSPB has proven (along with others) that you can increase song/farmland bird numbers through the appropriate habitat management and creation at the right scale.

    So I would suggest to have a reasoned discussion you have to make a reasonable evidenced based request - currently the research says different so it is not a reasoned, evidence based request.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      You have first hand stated evidence of the devastation bird of prey attacks on a racing pigeon convoy and around lofts.
      We are alsso in the process, via our governing bodiesd, of collating these attacks and their resultant devastation.
      To say no debate is able to take place until this collated evidence is able to be placed on the table is ludicrous.
      Surely debate is just that. What we have here is a plea from ordinary people who happen to keep and race pigeons as their past-time. We are not talking about playing golf or whatever else, but about ways we are able to go about our leisure enjoyment and how we are able in some small manner protect our pets.

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  22. James says:

    Dennis

    The trouble is this is a very emotive topic and I think it has been brave of Mark to post this on his blog. I think open debate should be encouraged. However people are going to have to understand.

    Gary himself has said several things even in reply like a reassessment of the facts - but you can't really reassess facts. A fact is indisputable. So is he really saying that the evidence from peer-assessed papers in journals are lies? Is what my university lecturers and school teachers taught me lies?

    Whilst I agree pigeons played a major role in warfare, things have moved on!

    I can see both sides of the argument, but then having kept birds myself I did not have Sparrowhawks constantly terrorising birds. For friends who have dovecotes the losses they have are very rare, if at all. One of them also has Sparrowhawks nesting in their garden.

    So why is it that these Sparrowhawks find their way into these towns where they are not that abundant in the first place and prey on your pigeons when out in the countryside they are much more numerous......

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  23. chris says:

    now for all the raptor lovers or anti pigeon fanciers , you ask for facts, what if i could get get 10 fanciers to film there loft for 1 month and all of them had say 1 attack every 3days would that prove raptors are a proplem ? no it wouldnt you come out with some other bull to cover it over as everythink else, i feed songbirds in my garden and i have watched BOP hit my table 10 times this month but then i guessing thats a load of bull to ? just what im thinking but some of you are very nasty towards eachother

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  24. Mike Price says:

    In my opinion the blogger started off wrong, instead of simply explaining that he is concerned about the problems he and others are experiencing with raptors and their birds, in an attempt to reinforce his opinion or case he choose to hold raptors up as the eminent evil, this immediately removed any credability from one side of the discussion, particularly as this very same tactic that has been used by the shooting industry and despite throwing their wealth behind the research they failed to prove, and indeed in some cases proved quite the opposite of what they were hoping to be able to.

    Had the discussion been about their collective losses I (and possibly others) may have had some sympathy for their cause, it wouldn't of actually altered my opinion that by releasing semi-tame/tame species into the wild you take and accept the risk that the birds are susceptible to loss from raptor predation, adverse weather, cats, road accidents etc.

    I can only find this http://p.behr.free.fr/biblio/birdsofprey_pigeons.pdf research into pigeon losses which appears (and without having more detail I wouldn't say more) to suggest that raptors are playing a much smaller part in your losses than other issues.

    It was suggested that I was dismissive, maybe that is the result of living in an area where there are real problems with bird of prey persecution, and having seen the arguments that ignore the basic principals of ecology before, or that having tried to explain that ignoring numerous scientific papers because they don't support your view point is the beginning a very tiresome debate.

    I don't really understand what Ian Brown is trying to say as he contradicts himself suggesting that it is possible to have an open mind and then blaming everything once again on Peregrine Falcons despite the fact that (and I once again point to the fact that I haven't read the revelant papers only the overview as stated above) the research I read suggests that 86% of pigeons lost each year fail to return to their lofts for reasons other than predation by birds of prey. It's fair to say that this data is now 9 or 10 years old but given the costs involved in these studies you might consider that it is unlikely that having once disproven this theory, that it could be difficult to re-ignite the interest and investment (what I mean is do we just keep doing the excercise again and again because it doesn't agree with you opinion? and who is going to fund this?)

    Pigeon fanciers feel bullied because research doesn't support their claims?

    A study by Lancaster University, commissioned by the pigeon racing unions concluded that even if all peregrines were removed each year from every territory in south Wales, it would reduce losses by just 10%, the equivalent of each loft having three more racingpigeons than it otherwise would. (and it quotes 8 British Homing World, 22 February 2002.)

    Some people might find the predation of birds distressing but I am afraid that it is nature at it's finest, the survival of the fittest. If you feed the birds in your garden you are also making a feeding table for the local Sparrowhawk and that is part and parcel of equation, no-one is denying that raptors take smaller birds that is how they live and without an abundance of prey they would not be there/here.

    I am fairly sure I won't be able to add much more to this debate and whilst I can't say it has been much of a pleasure I feel it helps to reinforce how people with an agenda will try to force their arguments with hearsay and supposition, not just where raptors are concerned but in many aspects of life (beware the man who claims that wildlife regulations harm or stifle growth and business).

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Mike Price said:-

      “I don’t really understand what Ian Brown is trying to say as he contradicts himself suggesting that it is possible to have an open mind and then blaming everything once again on Peregrine Falcons despite the fact that (and once again point to the fact that I haven’t read the relevant papers only the overview as stated above) the research I read suggests that 86% of pigeons lost each year fail to return to their lofts for reasons other than predation by birds of prey. It’s fair to say that this data is now 9 or 10 years old but given the costs involved in these studies you might consider that it is unlikely that having once disproven this theory, that it would be difficult to re-ignite the interest and investment (which I mean is do we just keep doing the exercise again and again because it doesn’t agree with your opinion? And who is going to fund this)”

      First and foremost, the research project to which you refer was commissioned and paid for by Pigeon fanciers through members’ subscriptions to their Unions. The Scottish Homing Union (SHU) paid SNH £10,000 for its research project. SHU agreed terms of reference, but after the research began these were altered by SNH and the researchers without SHU’s knowledge. For example Racing Pigeons Ring Counts were not taken at many Peregrines nests in known problem areas, and data provided by pigeon fanciers’ diaries was excluded. So how accurate were the published data? http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/pigeons_raptors_report.pdf

      SHU disputed the Report’s findings as soon as it was published. I do not have a direct link to the SHU’s response, but this link confirms that it was published - http://herald.vlex.co.uk/vid/feathers-fly-missing-homing-pigeons-66001749

      Secondly, the state of mind I mentioned was ‘prepared mind’ – the opposite of Open’ - a state of mind that finds it easy to pick & choose which data to use or drop, possibly as a best fit for the ‘facts’ as it believes them to be, or would like them to be.

      Mike Price also said:-

      “I can only find http://p.behr.free.fr/biblio/birdsofprey_pigeons.pdf research into pigeon losses which appears (and without having more detail I wouldn’t say more) to suggest that raptors are playing a much smaller part in your losses than other issues.”

      The figures from http://p.behr.free.fr/biblio/birdsofprey_pigeons.pdf:-

      Pigeons fail to return to their lofts for the following reasons:
      _ straying and exhaustion – 36% of losses
      _ collisions with solid objects, mainly buildings, windows and vehicles – 19% of losses
      _ collisions with overhead wires – 15% of losses
      _ predation by birds of prey – 14% of losses
      _ shooting, entanglement in netting, poisoning and oiling – 8% of losses
      _ predation by mammals, including domestic cats - 8% of losses.

      In my previous post I’d said collisions and straying may be connected with a peregrine strike. Your research link also says “Priority should be given to understanding why straying accounts for 36% of lost pigeons.” The research lacked the insight and knowledge of how a large batch of pigeons reacts to simultaneous peregrine attack from above and below, so cannot connect these events with a possible peregrine strike. No investigative work was done to prove the hypothesis that no link between peregrines and straying existed. It should also be obvious that cats etc can’t fly, and for that predation to take place the bird would need to be grounded. Pigeons can and do fly for 14 hours non-stop, when they are released they have one single aim, and that is to get home. They are exercised, trained and managed to achieve that aim. Just as they were years ago prior to flying through War Zones, when they were able to home despite sustaining terrible injuries. More than 50% of Dickens Medals won (Animal VCs) were won by pigeons. The ‘fail to return home data’ just does not stack up with the racing pigeon breeding, character & historical background.

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      • paul Irving says:

        Ian, whilst I would support independent research to find out about losses due to dispersion and failure to return home it is unlikely I suspect to be much to do with peregrine attack. Pigeons are after all still very close in most ways to the wild ancestor. Most prey species very quickly loose the memory of attacks, yes they get better at avoiding them but they do not apparently have the sort of longer term panic suggested or they would be unable to function. I have in the past seen a number of attacks on pigeons wild and otherwise when watching peregrines near the nest, those pigeons that are not predated and escape very quickly appear to resume normal behaviour. It is probably our own reactions that assume it causes long term panic.
        Peregrines are designed by nature to eat pigeons, pigeons are designed to try and avoid this, it is natures arms race. Wild pigeons are almost certainly better at this due to experience but that the peregrine takes domestic pigeons is unavoidable and does not make the pigeon some sort of criminal entity, it just is.

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Thanks for your knowledgeable input Ian.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Thank you for your input once again Mike. It appears that you are a person who has some knowledge and is prepared to look at other views. please continue in the debate.
      I also accept that predation can not carry all the blame for racing pigeon losses. I am a newcomer to the hobby, but feel that fanciers think that the predation aspect within the sport has increased and is now far more of a problem than it was some 10 years ago.
      I think the RSPB is to be congratulated on all its work with regards to conservancy and accept that this is not just towards birds of prey. They have other schemes running as well. They have been very successful with their work in Cornwall, as we have heard, and I am sure they have been as successful with their work in supporting birds of prey.
      I think it may be this very success that has made their factual evidence of some 10 years ago, no longer factual, so yes, facts can change and accepted knowledge can be ioncorrect.
      Cost of studies are a problem. I know and understand that the Scottish Homing union has put a lot of money to research this problem and perhaps it is time that the pigeon fanciers stop their good work in supporting many and various charities and instead support their own cause by putting the monies raised into research. How would this new research be started?

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  25. chris says:

    im not even going to get involed with you tbh you bore me and only for one side of the story

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  26. chris says:

    as you said to gaz about not replying to a statement what about mine

    now for all the raptor lovers or anti pigeon fanciers , you ask for facts, what if i could get get 10 fanciers to film there loft for 1 month and all of them had say 1 attack every 3days would that prove raptors are a proplem ?

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  27. Gert Corfield says:

    Chris- no. You might find it helpful to read research though.

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  28. James says:

    To Chris - yes, but the film would need to be done by a respected independent body. You can't research yourself - not like tobacco companies used to! Anyway a male Sparrowhawk only takes prey up to 120g and mostly much smaller than that. So it is only the female that you are looking at as being the claimed predator.

    When a Kestrel is predating a colony of Little Terns - the RSPB doesn't look to cull the Kestrel's but work on a solution to protect the birds.

    Perhaps to raise songbird numbers you could suggest culling cats.....

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  29. Neil Sumner says:

    Gary I think it was brave of you to put this blog on and you put your viewpoint so politely and its been really useful to see all the repsonses that highlight studies and reports on the issues. Many of us bird-watchers have noticed the changes in song bird population but most of us believe that it is habitat, food and conditions on migration that are the problem. In some cases these pressures are so enormous that species are vulnerable to extinction and the predation is the final straw. Many predators are very versatile and have adapted well to man's environment but culling should only be a last resort and following overwhelming evidence that it is necessary. Its not just predators (Radio 4 programme about deer in a Suffolk woodand last week which highlighted that deer have caused serious reductions in many song-bird species in some areas.) Perhaps pigeon fanciers should be lobbying for some sort of compensation or insurance scheme rather than culling?

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  30. paul Irving says:

    Firstly let me say and those who know me already know this, I am ar aptor enthusiast, but I have some sympathy with the pigeon men ( for want of a better phrase). However the introduced the argument about songbirds is false and has been PROVED so time and time again, at a population level predator numbers are controlled by the number of prey NOT the other way round. This is true for raptors, wolves, foxes and cormorants, indeed for every vertebrate predator studied ( there are a FEW exceptions in invertebrates) If this were not the case most predators would have become extinct long ago when they had eaten all their prey!
    Research has shown that the number of pigeons taken by peregrines and sparrowhawks from races is relatively small, yes there may be lots of pigeon rings at peregrine nests but you need to look at what proportion of the pigeon population this represents. The thing not to do is say look they live on lots of pigeons therefore they are the problem, that is false logic.

    But the pigeons that fanciers keep are not a natural population and what is needed is a way that limits the number of attacks at lofts, culling the predator will not work, it will be replaced in that territory quickly by another, so you would need to kill many to make just a little difference. That is morally unjustifiable to protect a sport or hobby and illegal, that some pigeon people take the law into their own hands makes conservationists less sympathetic. I don't profess to have answer Gary but what I do say is that killing raptors is not the answer. I know its no consolation but the pigeons that do not get predated are the fittest smartest birds.

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  31. DavidH says:

    What annoys me is that whenever there is any mention of antiraptor issues a lot of arrogant, often obnoxious,self opinionated, bigoted and often rude people emerge from out of the woodwork. Mr Burgess has outlined his problem with birds of prey attacking his homing pigeons. Presumably he has seen such attacks while exercising his pigeons and yet he has been accused of being badly educated and lacking in scientific understanding, but I would imagine that he knows much more about predator/ prey relationships than many of his adversaries here.
    If anyone asked me before I read these comments where I would stand, I would have said that I would be against Mr Burgess's argument, but after reading the caustic remarks against him I now tend to lean towards sympathising with him.
    For similar reasons I refused to vote for the vicarious liability petition ie I just do not want to associate with this type of people

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  32. Gary Burgess says:

    Thanks for the comments, it's just made a few thing quite clear.
    The first thing that becomes clear is the attitude of some people, it's nasty and extremely offensive.
    I have never once asked for any sort of cull whatsoever, all I was asking was for us to try and find a solution to a serious problem.
    But no, that would too easy.
    It's people like yourself, who cause raptors to be persecuted, congratulate yourselves on that.
    I have pleaded with pigeon fanciers not to take action by themselves and to have faith in democratic system.
    I have over the past couple of weeks taken much flack for this approach.
    I'm sorry, but maybe I am wrong for being a human being with a real passion for saving any creatures in danger.
    But one thing is for sure, I shall not say any more.
    You have proved to the fanciers who want to take matters into their own hands right, they should do whatever they deemed necessary to protect their birds.
    I hold my hands up, my approach is quite clearly, not the right approach.
    Well done to you all.

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    • Mike Price says:

      Gary,

      All it has made clear in my mind is that regardless of the studies into bird declines some people are firmly entrenched in their belief that raptors are the cause of this (clearly this is no reflection of their hatred of certain raptors due to the effects they have on their hobby).

      If they could seperate this erroneous aspect of the discussion you could have a far more worthwhile and suitable discussion into the effects of Peregrine Falcons on Racing Pigeons, but you still have to overcome the issue that you personally put your birds at risk of loss due to predation amongst other things by releasing them into the environment, this would make a sensible starting point of this discussion, before moving onto Peregrines in particular (instead of an attack upon ecology in general, because you believe it can add weight to your point).

      Your comments regarding "taking the law into their own hands" harms your argument even more, you need to leave your agenda out of your discussions if you wish them to be viewed reasonably, unfortunately for you I had read all the anti raptor venom on your website before.

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  33. Mike Price says:

    Ian,

    Had those been the points made by Gary (and were his website not testiment to his anti raptor opinions), a much more sensible discussion could have taken place.

    I make no excuse for being passionate about wild birds but sometmes I will admit too being overzealous when presented with an article such as Garys.

    I still find it very hard to blame a wild animal for actions it takes, when we humans willingly introduce an un-natural food source into the ecosysystem, I can understand the need for controls on a non-native predator that was introduced by humans that then goes on to have a detrimental effect on native species (IE mink or rats on some islands etc).

    Aside from my reservations above, a full study of the effects of Peregrine Falcons on racing pigeons would need to cover so many variables too make it conclusive that their is a danger that the cost implication alone would make it restrictive (as well as their being an issue of whether it is even possible to monitor a lot of the issues that would need to be addessed), without a complete and full study the outcome would never be agreed by either side.

    For example can you base the evidence on rings found only at an erie that is mainly used only in the breeding season (maybe you can?)

    Can you base it on rings found at all?

    It would need to cover all the time that any birds are free to take into account a usable loss rate.

    Another area that I struggle to quantify (and I am happy to admit that it's not my area of study) is the eye witness account for two reasons: One we have a hostile witness and two he/she cannot be monitoring the Peregrines kills 100% of the time and so cannot begin to equate what percent of the prey killed are racing pigeons.

    With regards to the comments of only racing pigeon rings being found at an erie (no wild birds), it is wildly reported that pigeons are popular prey for Peregrine Falcons and given the % of feral/wild pigeons that are ringed each year being so low it is no real suprise that not that many (if any) rings are found at the erie, also smaller rings will most likely be ejected as pellets from the Peregrine away from the Erie.

    There is also another issue that is worth bearing in mind and that is this http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Amar_et_al_-_Biol_Cons_Peregrine_paper_Final_Online_Version.pdf paper which suggests that due to the much lower success rate of breeding the grouse moor
    population of Peregrine Falcons is not self-sustaining, without the urban Peregrines we would once again be seeing them in decline.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your link, I've taken a copy of the paper for some reading later on.

      The eyewitness accounts: Yes, you are right as they are most likley to be fom the people who have just released the pigeons, They have not yet been caught on film in Britain - I hope to do something about that from this year - but there is a spectacular video of an attack over the sea at Tenerife in 2010 or 2011. I'll try and link that later.

      I witnessed 'something' in 2011 which I couldn't identify at the time, but which on reflection was almost certainly a peregrine attack. Despite appearing to try, my pigeons wouldn't or couldn't clear the area (Lauder, Scottish Borders) and were huddling together in a tight little group circling very high in the sky, with 'something' darting into or toward them from below. When I returned home, I had 4 pigeons missing. 4 weeks later one of the missing birds homed, feathers missing on one wing, whole tail had been out and new one was now half grown, and limping badly on one foot.

      On losses, I started with 40 pigeons in 2011, bred 30 youngsters = 70, and was left with 44 pigeons at the end of 2011. Losses like that I think you will agree are unsustainable, and from an Animal Welfare viewpoint, totally unacceptable. It is galling that some think I should shrug it off and accept it as 'Nature'.

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Again, well put Ian. I too have had pigeons continually turned returning to the release point and indeed overflying it, making several such attempts. On return to the loft I lost 3 and had one returned with feathers missing and a laceration on its side. Correctly or incorrectly, I put the behaviour and the injury down to an attack from bird of prey. I released 9 pigeons that day and had only 6 return, eventually and over a period of a week.
        I look forward to your further investigations and films, albeit the content of them may not be palatable to me.

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        • Ian Brown says:

          Hi Mike,

          I located the 2 Tenerife videos showing peregrine attacks on newly liberated racing pigeons in 2011. The pigeons in these 2 videos are all racing home to the same loft which is located around 50 miles away. On release the pigeons should form up into a single batch and disappear from sight within a couple of minutes – I’ve posted a 3rd video which isn’t as good quality as the other 2 – its purpose is to show that a normal liberation of even 10,000 pigeons clears from sight within a few minutes. Think of these as the ‘control’ pigeons. These birds are racing 200 miles home to different lofts:-

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oiXc7UfY6Q

          Now watch what happens when peregrines get involved:-

          Liberated on land
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR15_gINI6I&feature=player_profilepage

          Liberated at sea
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT8KUsXpFug&feature=related

          During 2011, in Britain, reports of attacks at several different liberation sites on newly liberated pigeons suggested to me that peregrine behaviour is evolving. They now seem to be able to recognise racing pigeon transporters. Only circumstantial proof of that at the moment, but it appears to me to be more than sheer co-incidence that they appear seconds after the pigeons take to the air. Some transporters now carry bird-scaring rockets which are fired into the sky before the pigeons are liberated.

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          • Mike Price says:

            Hi Ian,

            Thanks for the links, I can understand why the owners of domestic birds would fear Peregrine Falcons I have seen various species of birds that they have attacked and fed upon, unfortunately they need to eat to survive and that is all they understand, they look for the weakest or easiest prey to hunt, as it requires the least energy and gives them the best chance of a successful kill.

            I don't deny that their increases have an impact on certain bird species, but they have (prior to mans intervention) co-existed with these species for many many years, it is only in recent times (the last century or two) that we human have really begun to dominate with such drastic effect that we have caused massive damage to the natural world. The basics of ecology are what stop predators becoming extinct their numbers are simply governed by the available food sources, it is this aspect of this whole discussion I am finding so difficult to get past., and to say they were going to go extinct so we should let them when that extinction was caused entirely by man through persecution and the use of chemicals that may have resulted in many problems for us as a species had it not been discovered in our raptor population I find completely ludicrous.

            I am slightly amused at the class argument that seems to be growing into the discussion given that I am a) working class b) not particularly well educated (less than a handful of 'O' levels) and c) I live on a council estate, thankfully on the edge of such wonderful countryside (completely artificial, managed countryside but all the same it sure beats concrete).

            There is no point in people keep harping on about hiding behind science and figures when our whole existence is governed by such in depth study, papers are not simply released and then taken as gospel they are peer reviewed and often debated at great lengths (even by those who agree with their findings, it's how they ensure that what is being studied and how it is studied is indeed cohesive with the findings), as I have said before I spend quite a lot of my time studying birds (small and large) and whilst we, as field workers may only see part of the picture we are party to results of the research that is done using our collective data.

            You can't simply say that because predator numbers have increased and prey numbers have decreased the two must be linked, indeed as I stated earlier a massive indepth study was undertaken,funded by Songbird Survival essentially in a bid to prove this was the case (too support another anti raptor argument and it simply proved to be incorrect).

            When you can see the massive amount of breeding habitat destroyed and how food sources (insects or spilt seed/grain for example) have been massively reduced, I find it hard to believe that these type of discussion are still taking place.

            I believe there is or at least there was reportedly a long-term study that was going to control corvid numbers to see what effects that had on the success of certain species, and whilst on the one hand I slightly disagree with the control, I must admit to being particularly interested in the results , regardless of the findings I think it will make very interesting reading and offer us a real insight into effects of their seemingly (at least to me) huge increase in numbers.

            Now not being involved in pigeon fancing I have no idea what you might have tried so far, or even if any of the things I might say next are even feasible for racing pigeons but I think that if you haven't already tried them they may be worth a shot

            A local pheasant shoot use large hawk/owl faces that are about 4ft wide and 3ft high these are erected above the pens, they also have radio 4 (because it's mostly chat based) playing over some loud speakers (though not that much louder than we would converse) throughout the day.

            A local breeder of ornimental doves (I think they were) believed that he avoided a lot of hawk strikes by painting large eyes onto his birds wings, I must say that whilst neither of these people were particulary happy about the losses they had suffered neither of them were blaming the raptors but were looking for solutions that could reduce their losses.

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      • Cerian says:

        Hi Ian,

        Unfortunately I have not got time right now to read all of the comments on here so forgive me if this has been highlighted to you later on (I will definitely be returning to finish reading these comments later today, it is a debate I always find very interesting). There are many comments I would like to make, but shall wait until I have read all the other comments before I do. However, your comment about the animal welfare point of view I want to reply to now to ensure I don't forget it later as this is one of my areas of knowledge and I would like to further explore the comment. Peregrine falcons (or any other native bird of prey) are wild, native animals that belong in our natural environment. They have no concept of animal welfare and therefore have no control over it. Their behaviour when attack racing or homing pigeons is completely natural predatory behaviour. This means animal welfare is a very difficult thing to apply to wild animals. If you feel predation of your pigeons is unacceptable in animal welfare terms, then do you feel all predation is similarly unacceptable? Or do you feel it is different as your pigeons are not wild? If the latter, then I would agree with you. However, the problem then is the difference between wild and captive animals is essentially human intervention. This human intervention places us in control of most aspects of welfare and obliges us to do all that we can to ensure welfare levels of our animals is as high as possible and means that poor welfare is a result of human action (or inaction). When one of your pigeons is predated (or an attempt at predation is made which affects their ability to return home), the 'unacceptable' welfare is a result of you choosing to release the pigeons into the wild (or failing to safely enclose them if the attack is at loft). The peregrine is simply not distinguishing between wild pigeons, which are its natural prey, and your pigeons, which is not related to welfare. Therefore, if you truely feel the welfare of your pigeons when you race them is unacceptable, the only way you can completely guarantee that they will not suffer such predation and welfare impacts is to not release them. The only alternative I can think of is putting money towards the development of somekind of bird of prey deterrent device the pigeons could wear when out, but I can see many problems with that such as it not having a clue what a safe (for the bird of prey) deterrent could be, the need for small and weight if the bird is carry it and the need to not infringe the legal protection birds of prey have from disturbance, particularly around nest sites.

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        • Mark says:

          Cerian - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment.

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        • Ian Brown says:

          Hi Cerian,

          The animal welfare aspect of my discussion relates solely to my being responsible in Law for my pigeons, whether or not they are directly under my control, and the suggestions here by some that I should just 'shrug off' losses whether down to predation (nature) or not. I believe I am required to do everything reasonable to ensure my birds welfare, and that is why I am exploring different views & methods on how best to protect them.

          On safety around the loft, even when the pigeons are locked up, for example in an aviary, sparrowhawks are still known to attempt an attack - when they hang onto the aviary mesh it terrifies the pigeons. Attacks around 'target' lofts are known to terrify pigeons so much that they are reluctant to go outside it. So yes, they undoubtedly feel 'terror' or something very close to it.

          On the subject of captive birds, or birds bred in captivity: I think it is a mistake to apply that 'label' to racing pigeons. They are not captive, they are more or less free to leave whenever they want. They are birds - creatures of the sky - and I believe it would be cruel to prevent them going out. By going out, they then become attuned to their environment. They are aware, and are very wary of certain other birds. They are descended from Rock Dove so there must be genetic memory there; how else do they know what to fear, and what to ignore?

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  34. Chrissie says:

    Opinions and the opinionated!

    Good for you Gary, putting your opinion out there! In my opinion, the balance of nature is a very fine one and almost everytime it shifts is because of us!!

    Im sorry this is not longer, but time is an issue at the moment but would like to say I really enjoyed reading your blog and written from the heart,that was quite clear. Lets not forget the role of the trained pigeon in the First World War, saved many lives with the essential messages flown out by them.

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  35. John Miles says:

    Pigeons kill humans. fact. My best friend died from being a pigeon fancier. The cost to the country from feral birds runs in the £millions. Do pigeon fanciers pay any thing towards this cost due to them loosing birds?

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  36. Filbert Cobb says:

    "the balance of nature is a very fine one and almost everytime it shifts is because of us!!"

    Spot on. I'm with George Carlin on this - arrogant humans ...

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  37. Robin Edwards says:

    Gary,
    I haven't researched in any depth the problems you face but side-stepping the BoP versus Pigeon debate for a short moment and trying to think pragmatically, has there been any work undertaken to protect Pigeons from Sparrowhawks at the coop? Maybe using some sort of miniturised magnetic sensor on the Pigeon to allow them to enter the coop but other birds would be denied - a bit like a cat flap can be used to allow access only to cats with a magnet. In short, can technology help mitigate some of the problems you have?

    What I haven't seen from this thread is what you believe should be done and apologies if I've missed this. You have said you haven't mentioned culling BoP and you want to work with those organisations that protect wildlife but I'm not sure what you are proposing?

    I keep Chickens. They are not wild and if I don't keep them enclosed, logically they will form prey to a fox. Would you propose that I advocate killing the local foxes to protect my interests ? I hope you don't see this as obtuse or obusive in any way but I would say that being an advocate of wildlife protection, protecting pets is a wholly unrelated matter and not to be confused as having equal importance to wildlife.

    Regards
    Robin

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  38. bop killer says:

    i rekon we should get our shotguns out and take matters into are own hands. I for one am going to blast any hawk or pergrine that i can get a shot at i suggest all you other people should do the same.

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    • Mark says:

      bop killer - many thanks for your witty suggestion. If your aim is as good as your English then those magnificent raptors are safe.

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      • DavidH says:

        Mark
        A good idea when you criticise anyone's english is too ensure that your own spelling is correct !! Touche!

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        This debate will bring out all kinds of folk, that's for sure. Open hostility on any side of a debate is obstructive and does not help. This sort of comment is not helpful and I seriously hope it was made in jest.
        We have anti-cat traps, reflective tape, etc, but these items are only partly effective. There probably is no 100% effective solution to the problem, other than the total eradication of all birds of prey that prey on racing pigeons, but this would have massively serious effects on the whole ecology of nature. Birds of prey are a necessary requirement otherwise they would not exist, just as dinosaurs no longer exist.

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  39. James Marchington says:

    Gary, all respect to you for bravely coming on here to express your genuinely held concerns. This is just one of countless areas where perfectly legitimate human activities impact on, and are impacted by, the natural world. In years gone by we humans just bulldozered ahead regardless. Nowadays we are more enlightened, and try to minimise the impacts that we consider "bad", but unless the human race decides to wipe itself out this can only ever be a compromise.

    Unfortunately the loudest, shrillest voices tend to be the extremists - those who, unrealistically, want "nature" to outweigh everything. It suits such people to polarise the argument into "for" and "against", "conservationists" and "raptor haters"; they cannot accept there's a middle ground. They are very good at googling up "science" to prop up their arguments, but their approach is anything but scientific - they come from a fixed position, which no real scientist ever would. (And yes, there are such people at both ends of the scale).

    Don't let them grind you down with their obfustication, patronising, condescending, name calling and downright bullying. While they are busy shouting the odds and fighting for political influence, it's honest, ordinary, caring folk like you who are doing the real work of finding ways for humans and nature to get along in the real world.

    James

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  40. James Marchington says:

    Hello Mark! I'm enjoying your guest posts on here - it adds a whole new dimension to blogging, which is so often one man's soapbox. Keep it up!

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    • Mark says:

      James - Thank you - and you'd be welcome to write a guest blog for here yourself if you'd like to stand on a new soapbox some time.

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  41. Dennis Ames says:

    Would like James to do a guest blog because it would be very interesting.
    Mark of course would like it because it would get plenty of comments from those extremists.
    Think out of all this even though I do not agree with Gary entirely he comes out with more credit than those calling him names which just make the extremists in Pigeon racing say we told you so let do it our way.
    DavidH put it all very well just wish he would reconsider about the petition as the majority signing would be people different to the ones putting him off signing.

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  42. Gailb says:

    I am so far removed from an expert as can be but do feel that human intervention is surely not the way forward. If you let your birds out surely that is the gamble you take. Tend to agree with posts that blame food and habitat sources for songbird decline not BOP. Can it be a simple solution? Ever since I have put feeders into my garden and kept them well stocked I have enjoyed the company of garden birds in numbers not seen since my youth. If you feed them they will come ....

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  43. Brian says:

    I wonder who is the biggest predator of the peregrine?

    During the war which so many have drawn attention to for our plucky war-pigeons struggling home with injuries (I seem to recall one of the decorated few not having been mauled by a raptor - rather peppered with shot) was a pretty good time for raptors in the UK.

    Of course since then with the war prompting the intensification of agriculture and all the ills afforded to all species of bird in what that has entailed leaves us with what we now have; an out of touch view of the natural world and our place in it.

    I'm sorry for your pigeons and your upset at their pain when attacked. I'm afraid you're just another victim of ourselves like the rest of us.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Brian,

      During the war the biggest predator was man, because these birds were shot and a reward paid to the shooter. The reason then was again predation on racing pigeons, this time in their war-time role as messengers. Sometimes man must put his own survival first, no matter how distasteful the strategy adopted..

      IMO the next biggest event was the invention & use of DDT was another of mans actions which affected the entire bird population the knock-on effects drastically reducing peregrine numbers both through lack of prey, and the lack of peregrines’ breeding success through eggshell physiology changes.

      DDT was just one of our most stupid moments. Who is to say that current conservation isn’t also one of those moments in our history, where the wider effects of our ‘we know best mentality’ meddling in nature isn’t yet fully known? One of the things that makes me cringe in some of the wildlife ‘rescue’ programs is the first action is usually to inject the wild animal / bird with an antibiotic.

      Lastly my use of pigeons in war was to illustrate the ability of the pigeon to get itself home even under the most extreme conditions, which seems to be left out of the equation when considering ‘failure to home’ statistics. Personally, on the pigeon / peregrine front, I think our main problem is getting some people to accept that it is a problem area.

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  44. Jamie says:

    Hi Gary - i could possibly take you a bit more seriously if you were consistent even within this short piece. You say “Another observation I have made, is where the populations of Sparrowhawks, were once in abundance. Are now devoid, because of the bigger birds of prey have moved in. Such as the Buzzards, Goshawks and the Peregrines"
    followed by, just a few lines later "...being forced out of their natural habitats, by the larger more territorial species.
    These mainly being the Sparrowhawk and the Peregrine.
    Although they are two splendid creatures, they are now beginning to become nuisance in built up areas of the country."

    This strikes me as the writing of someone who is trying to build a flimsy case around what they already believe, rather than a thoughtful review of the evidence.

    I also take exception to your use of the phrase "colourful garden aviary" suggesting that somehow birds in your garden are your possession, or maybe there purely for your amusement. This maybe hints at the roots of your concern. You think that you should be the arbiter of which birds are common and which are rare, and you're merely encouraging the likes of 'bopkiller' by presenting your views as anything approaching fact.

    In the same sentence you state that Sparrowhawks are a menace to 'popular' garden birds. Again, you're showing your hand here - you claim RSPB backs birds of prey to the detriment of others, but you admit that you have your favourites and you're worried that somehow the others are edging them out.

    Which they're not. I would recommend an Ecology 101 course then look at the data again.

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  45. Chris g says:

    As a member of the public i feel i have to have my say on this, to be honest i am absolutely disgusted with the way Mike price and his obvious supporters have belittled gary burgesses heartfelt comments about the way his sport is being destroyed by the bloodymindedness of the the RSPB. I myself have always been a feeder of birds in my garden and spent all my life in the countryside and been an observer of countryside and wildlife matters, it is plain to see that there has been an explosion in hawks in the wrong places, my own garden has been stripped of any birdlife as has my neighbours, nothing to feed, no nesting in shrubs and trees and why? because all we have seen for the past year or two is sparrowhawks ripping them apart on my lawn to the extent there are no more and just lately i have witnessed racing pigeons suffering the same fate on my lawn, there is a pigeon fancier up the road and he tells me they are his and they have ruined his sport which has cost many thousands of pounds. ITS DISGUSTING! You are supposed to be bird lovers that love all birds not just dive bombing killers that look spectacular, take off your blinkers and look at the wider picture, treat all bird lovers and fanciers with respect and you will receive the same back, at the moment you are alienating everyone with your ignorance which will backfire on you.

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    • Mike Price says:

      Chris G,

      A part of my last reply to Ian Brown covers many of the points you mention here

      The only addition is that by standing up for anything you are bound to make some enemies, and I am interested in all birds, indeed a great deal more of my time and effort is made studying the "small" birds than is spent studying raptors but it all leads to the same thirst for knowledge and understanding of how and why populations of some species are being negatively impacted, hopefully working towards solutions to some of these issues, unfortunately it proves difficult to change the mindset of those that are so set in their ways that they can't accept that what we do impacts on nature, or other cases can simply not afford to change their methods due to the demand made on them to keep prices of food (at the wholesale level) unrealistically low.
      I am not asking you to take my word for any of these issues, there is plenty of evidence out there showing that it is possible to achieve a balance between our needs and natures needs, we just need to embrace the changes (it might take time and trial and error) and adapt our practices to be more sympathetic to nature.

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Hi Mike
        There is no reply button on your reply to Ian, but we have the owls although not the size you state, audio tapes, cd's strung out like lawn protectors but higher up, irridescent tape and balloons. Some are also firing the rockets before they release their birds. I have been narrowly missed by a Sparrowhawk when it attacked my pigeons. I thought my presence would add some protection to them since they had finished their fly, albeit early due to two attacks and I called them in to prevent a third. The third attack was whilst they were on the loft beginning to enter. The hawk came at them, they flew off in the opposite direction, it overshot missing me by about 3', circled and then managed to catch one, the previous 2 attempts having been un-successful. I did manage to scare it off my unfortunate bird after climbing over a 6' fence and two 3' fences. In this sense my presence did save the bird, but in no way did it deter the attacks. They are extremely brave and determined when hungry and in full hunt mode and do not show much fear of humans. I live in the open countryside.

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        • Mike Price says:

          Hi Andrew,

          I have seen flare guns that have some exploding charge used to scare Cormorants successfully at a local fish farm (they sound like a shotgun being discharged), the difference there of course is that people are there almost all daylight hours enabling them to take this course of action at the required time

          I do wonder if you could ask a local bird ringer to come put his nets up in an attempt to catch and ring the Sparrowhawk, as it seems to have the effect you require at the sites I use, I have never recaught an full grown Sparrowhawk in the same place despite visiting the sites many times, it's certainly an approach I would be willing to investigate but I guess its not going to offer a solution for everyone.

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          • Andrew Kyle says:

            If I see them, I bang two sticks together and they usually clear off, but not on this occasion. When the birds are in the air there is not much I can do, but this is life and nature no matter how disturbing it is to myself and my children. There seems to be periods when the situation is far worse than at other times.

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          • Mike Price says:

            Sorry Andrew,

            As per your last comment I can't reply so I have replied here which will make continuing the conversation in chronological order bit difficult.

            I imagine that the factors that influencing the times when your experiencing more problems are linked to the ebb and flow of natural food supply, March and April being months that are particularly hard for Sparrowhawks that are trying to get into breeding condition (before the migrants arrive and before many species breed producing more food) and again later in the year when the young in the nest are old enough to be left by the female I imagine she is likely to be more of a problem than the male (plus you will have both adults hunting to provide for them).

            This is the problem with having any artificially high number of potential prey in an area, the Sparrowhawks won't make them extinct but they will learn where there is a high chance of being able to make a successful kill (hence why people are seeing more Sparrowhawks in their gardens when they feed the smaller birds).

            I have to admit I don't have any additional suggestions as to how to stop raptors doing what comes naturally to them, but I will continue to give it thought, removing a predator will just enable a new predator to come in to take its place.

            If it is any comfort at all , it appears as though the peak density of Sparrowhawks has been reached and we are actually seeing their numbers fall back a little (at least this is true in this area).

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          • Ian Brown says:

            Hi Mike,

            The effects of your 'ringing' suggestion is very close to what the SHU asked for after the SHU/SNH 2010 Sparrowhawk Trapping & Relocation Pilot Study. But we experienced difficulties after the researchers dubbed the reports findings 'inconclusive', despite SHU believing that 'relocation' would be helpful for fanciers whose lofts were being targeted.

            I was particularly interested in the case of the only sparrowhawk that returned to the target loft after being relocated some 35/50 miles away. The bird was again trapped and relocated. It did return to the 'home' area but not to the target loft ... its behaviour had been modified. I think the treatment it received did that, and I look upon this as a type of 'aversion therapy'.

            But when SHU asked for licences to be issued for it, Environment Minister made it clear that no licences would ever be granted for this to be put into practice.. She also said that the Government was fearful of doing so because it believed RSPB would mount a Legal challenge. She was told that was tantamount to RSPB dictating Government Policy. So after 13 years and 2 research projects, we are not one step forward in finding answers to our problem.

            But your 'ringing' suggestion sounds like a sensible middle road that may be acceptable to all the parties. Thank you, I wiill certainly take that one forward to our Council meeting next week.

            Ian

            th that

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    • Cerian says:

      Chris G
      Can I just ask you to explain why you feel song birds belong in your garden but birds of prey do not ('there has been an explosion of hawks in the wrong places')? Only because a few posters have made comments like this and I genuinely don't understand the reasons and would like to better understand this point of view. My personal understanding of the ecological history of the UK is that song birds and birds of prey have historically lived alongside each other in both rural and urban environments (and of course if you go back far enough urban environments did not exist so I assume then both these types of birds lived together in most places).

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  46. Phil Espin says:

    Garry is looking for a constructive solution and building on Gert's comments my first reaction to him is to suggest that pigeon fanciers have an opportunity here to breed a super racing pigeon that is so unfazed by raptor strike that it can still make its way home. Just because its not been done so far doesn't mean its not possible and just think of all those pigeons to be bred and turned over finding the perfect characteristics to breed in.

    My second reaction is that people on this blog are always keen to launch into invective taking up one stance or another but in the bird world there is a degree of double standrads about persecuting birds that eat other birds. Sometimes the RSPB persecutes predators but always for "good conservation reasons". I once took part in a gull cull arranged by the RSPB to protect roseate terns. In certain circumstances some predators do have a negative impact on local prey populations.

    It will be interesting when an ichthyologist comes forward with evidence a particular scarce fish species is being driven over the edge by cormorants/ospreys/sea eagles/otters/seals. Fish have rights too, they are part of lifes rich tapestry. We all make value judgements and we tend to believe that what we think is important is important. Who is to say which is more important? A voice for nature perhaps?

    Personally give me raptors over racing pigeons, roseate terns over gulls, little tern chicks over kestrel every time, just be realistic about why we make our choices and recognise others have different choices.

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  47. Mike Price says:

    Chris G,

    I spend a vast amount of time looking at the bigger picture, and a reasonable amount of my own money studying birds in my area both passerines and non-passerines, I am also concerned about the pollinator declines what I am not doing is calling for controls on wild birds because they might eat them. (can we blame that on raptors to support our view that they need to be controlled?)

    I wasn't aware of any supporters, and can only assume that they are supporting the science that is available that disproves the theories Gary is trying to use to support the plight of Pigeon Fanciers, speaking of supporters there is plenty of black slapping and drumming up support going on here.

    http://pigeons.forumotion.com/t4346p15-guest-blog-mark-avery welcome guys nice to see your balanced logical discussions on the subject such as http://saveourracingpigeons.yolasite.com/

    I am sure that there are far more people that support the science but really dislike the way I choose to conduct myself when faced with someone who is peddling nonsense such as Gary is on his website, my current attitude has been borne out of frustration at the continual persecution that raptors face in areas such as the Dark Peak, I hope you will believe that I am a reasonably balanced individual who in the right circumstances would be happy to discuss in depth and with a balanced outlook the whole issue, as I have said before I don't feel that this was the intention from the start and I am happy to follow that course of discussion as well.

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    • Jamie says:

      Thanks for posting the link to the pigeon site Mike - a real eye-opener.

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      • Jamie says:

        "if you delved into the people behind all what is going on in the world they are all inter linked, the same names are involved in government, the banks, wars etc"

        Am i sensing a tiny bit of paranoia here??

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        • Jamie says:

          I also note he's all for shooting Cormorants and even is keeping an eye on Goosanders.

          http://pigeons.forumotion.com/t4344-anglers-start-their-action#73928

          I for one wouldn't want to live in a world where Gary and his mates decide what lives and dies. It'd just be pigeons everywhere. And even then, only the ones they like the look of...

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  48. darren palmer says:

    the thing is mike price it does not seem as though you want a balanced debate does it ,you just seem to want to discredit every comment that is made against the devilish raptors and mr burgess in paticular.you hide behind your favorite card science and surveys which i wonder about their credibility and i think to say that a proposal of being able to protect our own pets on our own land that we have reared at home from predation is not a unreasonable request ,would you accept a dog attacking your cat in your garden or a weasel attacking your childs bunny,i think if so i think this goes against human nature.dont get me wrong i agree when our birds are out on the wing then they are in gods hands ...just remember an englishmans home is his castle ?

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    • Mike Price says:

      Who do we blame for the rabbit dying in that case, the weasel? or the fact that we put the rabbit in danger from attack by a wild animal that needs to feed, did we do all we could to protect our pet? I would argue we did not if we allowed a weasel to get in.

      For many reasons I don't own a pet, cost, space and time due to other responsibiities make it difficult and indeed unfair on the animal, much I believe to the detriment of the children but needs must as they say and they are surrounded by nature (living on the edge of the peak district) and benefit from being able to go out and enjoy that.

      Every landowner and/or agent could argue that they have the right to protect their own interests, but being a civilised and educated culture we consider the benefits and needs of society and we, to an extent consider the needs of nature as well as our own, not purely unselfishly as we have learnt through studies and science that these ecosystems are important to our own well being as well as being of great interest and so we offer some (though not nearly enough in my opinion) protection to nature.

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Well I for one initially approached Gary's situation with an open mind but I would congratulate him and others in conclusion for cementing my opinions very firmly that those that declare here their love of nature and yet want controls of species that impact their sport are so very wrong - and I make no apologies for saying so.

      Also anyone who simultaneously brings both the devil and their god into this debate for me, brings a closure on further meaningful debate.

      May I thank Mark very much for facilitating this thread. It has been an education!

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        This has always been the way that this sort of problem was approached. This is the reason that we have the anti-raptor comments.
        What we are looking for is methods which do not have the weakness of such direct alterations to nature. Believe me, pigeon people are trying lots of different methods, some of which are quite expensive.
        Instead of going into conflict, I think Gary may havee been hoping for some form of co-operation in finding a solution which is acceptable to both sides of the table.
        To be fair, there are people with what appears to be intransigent outlooks on both sides of the table. They may never change their outlook, but what we are hoping is that those, whose outlook is not set in intransigence, may also come to the table and add some constructive comments, thus enabling a solution to decrease the slaughter of our pigeons which does not include the slaughter of birds of prey.

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  49. Jo says:

    I am no extremist, I don't prefer raptors to songbirds to pigeons. But honest debate should be matched on both sides. Someone mentioned bullying and name calling which I haven't seen, but perhaps I was not paying enough attention. There was some rudeness perhaps.

    My view hasn't changed though. I think Gary had you simply told us you were having problems with raptor strikes at your lofts and were seeking a solution you would not have raised so much ire. I personally got the impression that you were using an erroneous argument about smaller birds to back up the fact that you want something to be done about it. That may have been unintentional, as you are clearly passionate about your birds, but perhaps something you could consider.

    You did not mention culling as such but it was implicit in your statements. So, since songbirds are affected more by habitat and pet cats, if we could leave that out, what you are suggesting is controlling a wild bird for a hobby. That doesn't really work for most people, hence the songbirds?

    I think there must/should be other solutions and blaming the future bad behaviour of your compatriots on people who simply don't agree is not going to get you any support in finding them either.

    Your problem as I see it is not related to ecology, you are trying to protect pets. If you are honest about that then I have no problem, but I would not advocate a cull. I'd look at deterrents.

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    • Mark says:

      Jo - your comment came through five times and rather mixed up - i hope I've put all the bits together in more or less the right order! Thank you.

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  50. Sam says:

    I think it is a fantastic thing that raptors have such a presence in our urban areas, if it is a choice between this and some pigeon fanciers then the pigeon fanciers don't even get a second thought. Birds of prey are way more important, they should be here, they have a right to be here. A ridiculous hobby doesn't even compare.

    True nature lovers, as some of these pigeon fanciers say they are, wouldn't even give it a second thought either. There are way more important issues in the world today than worrying about birds of prey doing what they do naturally, nevermind actually suggesting that we should waste resources on controlling them because of a few pigeons! This whole "issue" that has been raised is just inconceivable to me.

    Birds of prey win every time, don't like it? Get another hobby (no pun intended)

    Sam

    P.S Mark - I thoroughly enjoy your blog, it has taught me a lot and makes me think.

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  51. Chris g says:

    Mike price you and your cronies have been exposed for what you are, ignorant. You have interfered with nature and natural evolution which has been going on for millions of years. Nobody wants to see species dying out but its what happens naturally and for a reason and so because it was happening to your beloved raptors you interfered to the extent they have become pests in areas which are not there natural habitat. The small bird popultions have been badly affected not just through direct killing but nesting cycles have been interupted making it a double whammy on small bird numbers. These small birds play a very important part in the food chain for humans and before long it is going to have a drastic affect, we are already concerned about bees and suchlike which play an important part, the birds are just as important. There should be some sort of reasonable control of raptor numbers in areas where they have become overpopulated, every creature has the right to exist safely in its own environment and if pigeon fanciers are having their lofts raided by hawks they should be allowed to defend their territory albeit by the correct methods of course, the bodies overseeing pigeon racing and bird life protection should be working together to help each other not ignoring each others arguments. We all live on the same planet and should pull together. There was a comment on this blog by somebody that things have moved on in time and the good old days are gone, referring to gary burgess comment of what pigeon racing used to be, well, that i,m afraid is what happened to raptors too, they struggled with their existence for a reason, evolution, it happens. Dont interfere with nature, the strongest will survive without us so dont upset the balance or in time it will go horrbly wrong. I,m going to be talking to my MP about this who is a good friend who is also concerned about the same things he has seen happening in his garden with birds being killed daily by sparrowhawks. Its about time the higher ups in government were made more aware of what is going to become a very serious issue.

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  52. darren palmer says:

    sam i find your reply very derogatory towards many a oap who has worked all their life and come to retirement and choose to keep pigeons.nobody is asking which they prefer what i am asking is what can we do about attacks around our lofts you are clearly a non passionate person with no thought or respect for other peoples hobby and quite frankly your attitude will only infuriate bad activity towards the birds that you love so much,sorry to say but i find your comment not only immature but idiotic and of no help at all

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  53. Gary Burgess says:

    You people just fail to see the big picture, you cannot even see outside your bubble.
    Our hobby as you put it. Is an Internationals Sport, just the same as Angling, just the same as shooting.
    To say I have had my eyes opened this week, would certainly be an understatement.
    I have done much in my life, to enrich the lives of many people, especially young people of the working classes.
    I would like to think, that this has in some way has stopped them growing into the thugs that you think we are.
    Who hang around on street corners, taking drugs and robbing old people.
    I am a trained angling coach, where I introduce many youths to the sport of angling, I also helped to promote responsible angling.
    i.e Their impact on the environment, litter, discarded fishing line.
    The responsibilities of the angler concerning wildlife and ecology.
    Angling is also a working class hobby and too is an International sport.
    I think that you honestly believe that you are doing the world a great service by forcibly ramming your extremely biased views down the throats of everyone who dares even to speak up.
    As for appeasing the bully, I'm sorry, I refuse to yield.
    But I am not going to preach about the the rights and wrongs of angling, as my thoughts will be just rubbished as the the ramblings of a normal, insignificant working class man.
    It appears that we should not have any enjoyment in life, if it infringes on your views and beliefs.
    I did say my last post would be my last, but I feel impelled to have this one last word.
    There is much I could say, but it would certainly not be worth the effort on the ignorant.
    Very soon, you will make so many enemies in the big wide open world, that does exist outside your bubble.
    That they will eventually turn around and bite back, these too will have the benefit of an education and will be able to string together big words and quote facts and figures.
    So up to now, you have attacked Pigeon Fanciers, Farmers, Bird lovers, The General Public, Anglers, The Shooting fraternity, the ignorant uneducated working class, hobbies and past times that people enjoy.
    Also attached to all these groups is a huge industry. That not only generates huge revenues for the country and keeps people in employment, but also helps the upkeep of Rural Britain.
    You really need to re evaluate your strategies, because very soon you will run out of groups to attack.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Gary, hang on in here. Not all the comments have been negative. There are some who are not completely blinkered. This is a forum where knowledgeable people who are into birds of prey frequent. Perhaps, just perhaps, one may read the comments and sieve out the rubbish, view the main point and respond. This responce may contain a valuable gem, something that will assist and enable advance.
      We, the pigeon fanciers, are asking the conservationists who support birds of prey, is there any methods that we are able to adopt that will add some protection to our birds whilst they exercise within the vicinity of their home loft and whilst they return from their training flights and races.
      The people with the scientific knowledge should uphold their responsibility to assist in these matters whilst the pigeon fanciers continue to dissuade the luddites in their attempts to eradicate the majestic birds of prey.
      Don't namecall and abuse. Help.

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  54. Jamie says:

    Gary - you say "You people just fail to see the big picture, you cannot even see outside your bubble"

    Yet you are calling for large scale meddling with natural systems and persecution of birds of prey because they interfere with your minority interest. I respectfully suggest that it is you who is in a bubble. I see that your petition has gathered 488 signatures. I also note the last big RSPB campaign gathered 360,000.

    If you want to know why people have reacted so badly to this issue, just take a look at your own forum. I very quickly came across a comment, in response to a recent Sparrowhawk encounter of your own that said

    "why its doing that get a air riffle and pop it right through its dam eye" (sic)

    Those of us that love nature know that this kind of thing goes on and suspect we only see the tip of the iceberg - the fact that your friends are so quick to suggest this only strengthens this suspicion.

    And your constant playing of the class card is also unhelpful. The RSPB has over a million members - are you telling me there isn't a large working class contingent there who love wild birds and don't want to see you and 'your cronies' - to re-use your phrase - attacking any bird that proves an inconvenience to you?

    I applaud your bravery and the spirit in which you came to this debate - we do need a discussion between groups, but i suggest you came to it with a closed mind regarding both the problem and also who would be responding to you.

    It is surely not beyond the wit of man to find a way to protect your pigeons at the loft. Maybe you should concentrate your efforts there, rather than bewailing the fact the birds of prey have recovered to reclaim their place in the ecosystem and are merely doing what comes naturally to them

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  55. Gill says:

    This is a fascinating debate showing polarised opinions. It gives much food for thought.

    And these are mine...There are two very interesting relationships going on here...

    1) Predator/ prey relationship. This is easy. Taking out the human equation, the predator/ prey relationship will find a natural balance between species on different levels of the food chain. Years of persecution and poisoning have altered that balance. Giving protection to natural habitats and those species living within them allows the big predators to return and we should see this as a success of conservation. Conserve our wetlands, our heaths and our woodlands and we will see return of the raptors. Conserve our oceans and we will see the return our dolphins etc. Their survival is dependent on the species they prey on and their numbers will self-regulate.

    2) Pigeon fancier/ pigeon relationship.
    Now THIS is the interesting one, and one that I do not fully understand, not being a pigeon fancier, and I would welcome clarification on this. Is the relationship a) one of sentimental endearment for a beloved animal. b) one of appreciation of the pigeon being a true athlete, and a degree of comparison and pleasure of seeing one's bird, bred and cared and nurtured return c) one of no compassion and seeing the bird as simply an athlete.
    Well, I don't think it is a), knowing that the majority of these birds are not kept on as pets. However, I think the relationship is probably closer to b), that pigeon owners do have compassion for their birds. I suspect that the excitement is seeing their birds return, knowing they have travelled across harsh landscapes and through adverse weather conditions. They are true athletes. They have run a gauntlet and returned, unscathed. A remarkable feat, no doubt. Increasing raptor numbers obviously have been taking some of these top racing birds.
    But the thing is this...pigeons have had it easy over the past 60 or so years. Their selective breeding has bred the fastest, the strongest. But there is another addition to that gauntlet they run, and that is raptors. The answer is not to persecute raptors. Surely, pigeon fanciers should now realise that a new pigeon will evolve from this. One that is strong and fast, but smart too, one that is able to twist and turn and evade predators in flight. We all know that a peregrine's speed is in the drop. A pigeon can out-fly it on the straight.
    Pigeon fanciers should celebrate the raptor return, as an extra challenge for their athletes. from which a faster, smarter pigeon will evolve.
    As Gary stated, his two great loves are nature and racing..take up the challenge and combine the two.

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    • Mark says:

      Gill - welcome and thank you for your comment.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Gill,

      Well done on your insightful views of why pigeon fanciers keep racing pigeons, and yes most would agree (b) fits best.

      But keeping birds must start with a love of / interest in birds, because racing (or showing) competition is not available all year round. The racing pigeon season is April / September, with the older birds working April / July, and the young pigeons July / September, so each group 'work' for 3 months approx., and 'rest' for 9 months in each year. No less attention is given during the off-season, they still need looking after, although daylight hours does affect when they can get out for exercise, for example I work Monday to Friday, so mine can only get out at weekends September - April.

      Rock doves once lived cheek-by-jowl with peregrines on rocky coastlines, so evading peregrine predation I think would have been instinctive in them. The Rock Dove is the base upon which the racing pigeon is founded, and from observing my own birds that genetic instinct is still present as they can attune to cues in the environment that a predator is on the prowl, and take evasive action usually by getting above the predator. If they still feel threatened, they will clear the area, and return when the coast is again clear.

      I totally agree that on the level, a racing pigeon will out-fly anything else with wings, they can maintain 40/50mph for hours. A peregrine relies on gravity, the pigeon has 98 degree view above and below, and can time evasive action, stalling in mid air moments before impact, leaving the peregrine clawing thin air below its quarry, while the pigeon makes its escape. There was a clip which captured an encounter like that on one of Discovery Channel films. It looked like the pigeon had been hit, until the clip was replayed in slow motion, revealing what actually happened. That set me thinking 'how did the pigeon KNOW how to do that'? If you can think of a better answer than the one above, I'd be interested.

      No, bird of prey persecution is not the answer to our problem.

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    • Michael Moran says:

      Gill..that was a very good and neutral reply i think. But what u have said i have been trying to do with my own birds, and that is not to just breed speed which most do but also breed from the ones that survive which may breed brains and awareness.

      Just a few points to make
      1. quote urself"Taking out the human equation, the predator/ prey relationship will find a natural balance between species on different levels of the food chain. " Exactly so why do the rspb have to reintroduce BOP , since they were protected their numbers have increased. There is just no need for man to intervene with re-introduction.
      2. some fanciers do have an infinity love for their birds and i would call them pet lovers
      3. The more skilled fancier and the one who wants to win all the time has athletes.
      4. Doesnt matter which is what, for when the predator comes into back garden regularly it rips the heart out of both, not to mention what they do to garden birds when we have locked up.

      All we ask for every one to sit down and talk about the problem and we hope u all stop thinking of us pigeon fanciers as a thorn in ur side.

      ATB
      Mick

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      • Mark says:

        Mick - Welcome and many thanks for your comment

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Excellent comments Mick.
        Perhaps it is time well past for conservationists to stop their interference and allow nature to take its course. At least then we only have to deal with nature instead of mankind's un-natural propping of species which apparently are doing very well thank you for the initial boost up.

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      • Cerian says:

        Michael Moran -this point that reintroductions are not needed as a natural balance will prevail has come up a bit, and as yet I haven't read a comment answering it so I will give it a go. Unfortunately, we do not live in a world with no human intervention and historically our intervention in this balance has been huge. Birds of prey were a particular target of our intervention, for the same reasons as they are being discussed right now-they do impact on other animals which humans utilise for pleasure (ie hobbies) or for livelihood (livestock). Because birds of prey have been associated with killing livestock, game birds etc they, like other predators, faced large-scale attempts to control or even erradicate them through shooting, poisoning and so on. This was further added to by the actions of egg collectors and then we added pesticides and changing land use to the mix. This had direct effects such as with DDT and the thining of egg shells so the birds couldn't breed successfully and the destruction of habitat such as our native woodlands and probably had indirect impacts through reductions of prey species too (but I know less about this so cant say for sure). All this meant that most UK bird of prey populations were in a very sorry state with some species becoming extinct and others reducing to such a low number the population was no longer sustainable (ie very likely to go extinct or suffer from inbreeding problems). This was all due to human intervention, not evolution and natural balance. Reintroduction of birds of prey in the UK has been used as a tool to restore the natural balance we had destroyed. It has not happened as commonly as some posters on here seem to think. Not all species have been reintroduced (e.g. sparrowhawk and peregrine have not) and those that have were only reintroduced to limit areas and then allowed to spread back to their old territories naturally (sea eagles, red kites). Most conservation measures surrounding birds of prey in the UK only involve protecting them from now illegal shooting, poisoning and nest disruption-which generally does not involve much human intervention at all, excluding nest monitoring, chick ringing/tagging and radio-tagging for research purposes. It is only once birds of prey are at their natural levels prior to all the negative human intervention that we have historically inflicted on them, that we can sit back and let nature balance itself out.

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  56. James says:

    I still find it rather odd all of this. The pigeon fancier side say they are not calling for culling - yet a quick Google search reveals this and
    this in just a few weeks. No wonder there is emotion on both sides.

    At the end of November last year a report was published by DEFRA (Dept Environment Food and Rural Affairs) based on the wild bird populations of 1970-2010. In it they showed that overall numbers of breeding birds have not changed. I do state overall numbers. The biggest exception though was farmland birds with 19 species being a major cause for concern and many declined by 90% such as the Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Turtle Dove and Grey Partridge. The truth is the vast majority of farmers are not interested in conservation, unless it is result is a bird can be put flight by a dog and shot. They have a business to run, they risk being undercut and the major supermarkets do not pay them a fair price for their produce, with the global food economy as it is. Nor are we willing to pay a fair price on the whole. In addition the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) does not help them. As someone mentioned if you go to places with traditional farming methods then you'll see an abundance of birds. Gary as a hedge layer you'll have seen as I witnessed this morning on the way to Norwich the massacre of hedgerows and the fact they are almost useless for breeding birds. To be honest I don't blame farmers - too many are on the edge of being bankrupt and suicide rates say it all.

    But to the pigeon fanciers - you fail to come up with answers to some of the points raised on here.
    - The inbreeding from released pigeons with the wild Rock Dove so putting that species at risk.
    - The fact it is only female Sparrowhawks that would be able to take a pigeon (a male Sparrowhawk can only and rarely catches large prey at 120g max). In the breeding season the male is bringing food to the female and the young deal with small prey items - hence the timing of their season with the hatching/fledging of Blue and Great Tits. Females will be less likely to be seen in gardens due to the sexual dimorphism and size difference. They will prefer more wooded areas.
    - The danger to human health posed by feral pigeons and cost to the tax payer

    and the real issue I have is that the raptors were present long before the pigeon was domesticated. What we are talking about is the impact of a wild bird on a sport for pure pleasure. Nothing else. I can understand your frustrations - but it is totally selfish in my point of view. My brother-in-law was moaning the other day that his cat was attacked by another cat and it cost him more money at the vets. Trying to point out to him that if he lets his cat out then it is a risk that he takes doesn't seem to register with him. Animals resort to their native instincts.....

    We should all be working together to conserve our native birds, rather than being at odds with each other and some people unjustifiably condemning conservation organisations.

    A George Orwell pointed out in 1944 when reviewing Sir William Beach Thomas' "The Way of a Countryman" "Real rustics are not concious of being picturesque, they do not construct bird sanctuaries, they are uninterested in any plant or animal that does not affect them directly.....The fact is that those who really have to deal with nature have no cause to be in love with it". Orwell even in 1944 knew how to sum-up some of those who would encourage the continued wanton destruction of our wild plants and animals.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi James,

      In my opinion you confuse issues by attempting to relate one to the other, or all, then blame the pigeon fancier for all of them..

      On your links:

      The first refers to a fancier in Fife who killed a domesticated hawk that had escaped its owner’s control and had attacked his pigeons in his own back garden, an act its owners admitted in court that it was trained to do. The court case was nothing to do with wildlife crime it was one of deciding property issues. One person destroying another persons property to prevent it destroying his own. What would you have done? The media also portrayed the hawk as ‘patrolling the skies over Parliament’. Parliament building is in Edinburgh, the incident took place in Fife.

      The second refers to raids on pigeon fanciers. In this country, people are considered innocent until proven guilty of an offence. RSPB is very good at tarring pigeon fanciers with wildlife crime, yet to my knowledge only one fancier (in Scotland) has ever been convicted of it – and that was reported in the newspapers at that time as possession of a trap.

      On sparrowhawks: The facts are that there have been incidents here of cock sparrowhawks attacking and killing racing pigeons. And the hen sparrowhawk certainly does come into the garden, I’ve had experience of that here.

      On feral pigeons: How does a pigeon fancier control the interbreeding of Rock Doves with Racing Pigeons? One is descended from the other, so how can interbreeding put either at risk? And many humans interact with feral pigeons. Many City Squares are famous for them. And many, many people, young and old, find pleasure in feeding them. Just suggest a cull, like Ken Livingstone did, and watch the public’s reaction.

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  57. James says:

    Chris G. Your comments about Mr Price are uncalled for. I am neither a "close friend or companion" - a crony of Mr Price.

    Wild Birds are protected under European Law as well and English Law. In fact many of the laws that Europe went on to adopt were based on English law.

    Now I understand there is a problem, but what is the solution. The trouble is some pigeon fanciers have taken matters into their own hands and killed birds of prey. It is well known around some of the towns where there is a high concentration of pigeon fanciers that the local raptor population is at risk from the actions of a minority.

    There are estimated (BBC News) to be 18 million feral pigeons in this country. They breed up to 6 times a year! So isn't the rise in birds of prey as has been suggested down to the sheer number of feral pigeons?

    Perhaps it is down to the numbers of songbirds?

    Your own comments show a level of ignorance as well. You say "There should be some sort of reasonable control of raptor numbers in areas where they have become overpopulated, every creature has the right to exist safely in its own environment......" - if that is the case then we should control the human population as well. Jeremy Clarkson suggested a cull and look where it got him! And surely if you say there has to be reasonable control and yet every creature has the right to exist safely in its own environment it is an oxymoron? One of the best I've heard for a long time! I honestly say that your argument is moronic.

    So where are these raptors overpopulated? Surely the basics of predator/prey relationships that control numbers which are taught from the age of 7 or 8 in England are enough to understand this - or are you going to claim we are brainwashing our children?

    Sadly with some pigeon fanciers on here being levelled headed and Gary even resorting starting responses as to "You people...." shows that he wishes to polarise himself further.

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  58. Andy Richardson says:

    Wow lots of interesting contrasting views.
    As an ex gamekeeper now shooting agent and wildlife photographer I suppose I'm a conundrum.
    I suspect none of the above contributors will have as many bird boxes out in the countryside as myself or indeed spend as many hours out in the wilds observing birds & other wildlife.
    Where do I see the problems then ?
    Obviously farming is no friend to birdlife with little winter food left after harvest and hedges shorn each year restricting cover etc.
    Supplementary feeding at bird tables cause "sinks" that obviously attract BOP along with diseases.
    So what makes my perfect day ? Well watching a peregrine falcon hunting along with watching some of the wild grey partridge that frequent the farm I manage for wildlife.
    Yes I do use modern Gamekeeping tecneques to enhance and protect wildlife with the support of the landowner whom leaves food strips etc.
    If folk opened their minds a little and realised the cars they drive every day kill more wildlife than anything else plus actually visited farms to assist using their knowlage the countryside could be a better place.

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  59. Mike Price says:

    Hi Andy,

    I am probably one of the view people that are involved in the discussion that do attend a vast array of nest boxes (small and large). Interestingly no Barn Owls have been recorded breeding in this area since the 1980's and this week one of the Tawny Owl boxes had roosting Barn Owls in it.

    As well as a good number of boxes erected around the sites I use for monitoring birds, I work with local community groups and more recently local schools helping with wildlife gardens, building, erecting, and bird bird boxes, and bug homes or insect houses etc.

    For my part I enjoy working with all these groups and have the added bonus of being able to monitor the contents of the boxes and hopefully increase people interest in wildlife.

    I am not finding farms as easy to involve in any of the schemes, many are really interested and happy for me to get on and do whatever I like to help nature on land they own/utilise (Nest boxes for owl/kestrels etc) and most farmers care a lot about the environment but they are hardly in need of any extra work to do themselves, many I speak to wish they could afford to employ help just to get the farm tasks done.

    Cutting silage is another area we have discussed together and they understand how some birds may well be nesting with a 2nd 3rd or even 4th brood of chicks, but the benefits to their farms and animals far outweights any chances of the fields being left (I should mention that I think we would be in a very sorry state if it wasn't for farms and farmers both with regard to food and the fact that this usage probaby stopped some of the land being concreted over a long time ago), I believe that the later is true of our moorlands as well with regards to shooting tenants/land owners, the land would either be unmanaged or other uses would be found (probably not all uses that are sympathetic to any nature).

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  60. I think Ian Brown may have offered a partial solution
    "The racing pigeon season is April / September, with the older birds working April / July, and the young pigeons July / September, so each group ‘work’ for 3 months approx."
    Why not swap the racing seasons round then the young inexperienced pigeons wouldn't be out at the same time as the maximum post breeding number of Peregrines/Sparrowhawks

    I would be most upset if my dog were attacked by another and would want to protect him as would any person. I'm sure that witnessing regular attacks on lofts must be upsetting and frustrating for pigeon owners. As we have had chickens/foxes and weasels/bunnies mentioned above the general consensus is that we have a responsibility to keep our pets safe from the intentions of predators. The problem with pigeons is they are free-flying and let loose and thus instantly cease to be pets but effectively become wild animals again and out of the owners' control.
    But the real argument boils down to economics rather than emotions at 'thousands of pounds' for a bird in some cases hard cash once again seems to shouting a lot louder than emotional attachment. cf the recent (yet again!) call for a cull on Cormorants...don't get me started on that one!

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      David, I am sure there are moves afoot to try alterations to the racing season. Pigeon fanciers are not standing still. we are looking at methods of dissuading the attacks, owls, cd's, tape, etc, and are also studying the worst times for these attacks in an attempt to minimise the problem for our birds. Money comes into everything in life nowadays, but because a sum of money was mentioned does not mean that it is the be all. I think it may be mentioned to allow those in ignorance of the cost and value in monetary terms of racing pigeons and therefore distinguish them from feral pigeons which a lot consider to be a nuisance.
      racing pigeons are far different, they are athletes of the sky and the training of them is a skill in itself.

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  61. Peter Jones says:

    On a previous post i read

    " Pigeons fail to return to their lofts for the following reasons "Straying and Exhaustion...36% " By far the highest percentage among the reasons, this i can accept quite easily, but, has anyone asked the reasons why ??

    Having seen as many as 4 pairs of Peregrine Falcons harassing ,splitting,panicking and scattering to all corners a convoy of racing pigeons, is it any wonder ??? it will always be the highest percentage people will quote at will

    On another point I personally believe raptors such as the Peregrine do not belong in cities and built up areas, they are by nature creatures of the coastal regions, hills and mountains and quarries, natural places that have provided their nesting sites for years, providing these un natural sites on high rise buildings brings them in to contact and, unfortunately competition with the pigeon fancier

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    • Mark says:

      Peter - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment.

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    • Mike Price says:

      Peter,

      Welcome to the discussion, I find it quite interesting to see this point of view because it has been suggested to me that since they are so successful in cities and other urban areas it should be considered reasonable to remove them from places where they are causing conflict (ie the Uplands), I am not sure if you have seen the link to the research at was done by Dr Arjun Amar et al , which suggests that due to the much lower breeding successes being achieved in these areas (and I must say I was very impressed with the way this research was conducted) without these other populations Peregrine Falcons would be in decline http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Amar_et_al_-_Biol_Cons_Peregrine_paper_Final_Online_Version.pdf (I linked it again due to the fact that this discussion is growing so large).
      So you can see that whilst everyone insists that they are not against these predators there could be a bit of a case of NIMBY.

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  62. JG says:

    Why does the RSPB persist in conserving and reintroducing particular species, whether raptor or not? When did mother nature appoint RSPB to do her job for her?

    If a species is in decline, it is in decline for a reason... it isn't successful in the big picture, and human interference in such matters is akin to when we decide it's a good thing to invade other countries because we don't like what's going on in them.

    Seems we cannot help ourselves sometimes and cannot repel the urge to get involved and change things, often for the worse. Peregrines in urban environments is a case in point.

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    • Mike Price says:

      HI JG,

      Because quite simply we are impacting greatly on the natural world and it is believe it or not very important for our own survival.

      For example the more of us there are the more we need the creatures that pollinate our food, of the 100 crop species that supply 90 percent of the world's food, bees pollinate more than 70 percent, the value of Europe's insect pollinators is estimated at €14.2 billion.

      As for the RSPB trying to help nature, they are far from the only conservation agency, and maybe not everything will go 100% to plan, but it is much easier to sit on the sidelines complaining than it is to get involved and try to influence society, government, industry etc, what better way is there than showing them it can be done successfully.

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  63. Sam says:

    Birds of prey are a natural component of our environment. Pigeon fanciers and their pigeons are not, that is as simple as it gets.

    When will society finally wake up and realise they have to stop putting their selfish needs ahead of our natural world and stop with the mentality of "nature is great unless it gets in MY way of what I WANT to do" and take a step back and look at the bigger picture, appreciate what we have and try to protect it and encourage it.

    Birds of prey are not stopping you from taking part in your chosen hobby, you are just kicking up a stink because they have become a small inconvience to you. Well newsflash, everyone and everything doesn't always get things their own way, just be happy that you have the freedom to enjoy your hobby at all.

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  64. Jamie says:

    Hi Peter

    You say "I personally believe raptors such as the Peregrine do not belong in cities and built up areas, they are by nature creatures of the coastal regions, hills and mountains and quarries, natural places that have provided their nesting sites for years, providing these un natural sites on high rise buildings..."

    Whereas pigeons evolved to live in sheds, i presume.

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    • Kevin says:

      Pigeons did not evolve to live in sheds, they live in sheds because people captured them for their own use. Originally for food and then as a messengers, for example Reuters transmitting information to gain stock market information or in war and then as a hobby.

      Can Jamie now explain why wolves live in kennels ?

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  65. Andy Richardson says:

    Am going to sidestep folk whom contribute nothing to nature posting here. Our pigeon blogger obviously knows his stuff but likewise so does the keeper whom let's out tame pheasants. Risk is they will be scoffed by a big bird so why not let more out ? It's in pheasant land not rocket science !!
    We now have a voice in nature and let's back him up ! Mark has personally told me he's not against shooting and that along with his knowlage stands him in good stead.

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  66. Michael Moran says:

    Hi all,
    i am passionate about what i do , the cart b4 wheel springs to mind , lol
    i left a reply to Mr. Gill on previous post. Hope you all get a chance to read.
    All us pigeon fanciers ask is to be heard and treated with respect as regard to the growing number of Perigrines and Sparrowhawks in our areas. Not to mention which i havnt seen untill this year was a Goshawk.

    During my youth i was a member of the YOC and went on many field trips. I love all birds including the predators, but with the re-introductions its got out of control.

    atb

    Mick

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    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      Hi Mick
      I think it is fair to say that at least as far as this blog is concerned you have been heard and treated with respect (which is not to be confused with having everyone necessarily agree with what you say!). In spite of some posters alleging that responses to Gary's original post have been 'patronising', 'condescending' or even 'extremist', his views have been debated perfectly politely on the whole, in my view. When he accepted the invitation to post a guest blog on Mark's site he must have known that the audience he would be speaking to would be largely made up of people with strong raptor friendly views. All credit to him for taking up the challenge but he must have expected to encounter some vigorously expressed views!
      Of course respect is a two way thing so can we expect raptor conservationists to be heard and respected by pigeon fanciers? Perhaps you all could offer a platform to Mark to make a case for birds of prey on a pigeon fanciers blog? I daresay he would encounter some strongly expressed views if he took up that challenge!
      I believe that it is worthwhile for pigeon fanciers and bird conservationists to talk to each other and try to understand one another's point of view even if complete agreement in all areas may not be achievable. On the basis of the thread above one area of potentially fruitful interaction would be in terms of investigating non lethal ways of detering sparrowawk predation around the loft itself.

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  67. Micheal

    There have only been three legitimate bird reintroductions, White tailed eagle, Red kite and Great bustard (extinct in the UK, almost in the case of the kites due to the hand of man), none of which are regular pigeon takers. two species have been inadvertently/deliberately released Goshawk and Eagle Owl (possibly includes a few naturally occurring colonisers from the near continent) Goshawks could be a threat but tend to be hunters of dense woodlands, not pigeon habitat (Woodpigeon taken in woodland rather than the open is a preferred prey) and the owls aren't going to be a problem as they aren't fast or agile enough to catch fast moving prey on the wing. Nor are any of the mammal and insect re-introductions likely to cause any harm to your birds. Introductions are a red herring in your argument.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Obviously strictly speaking you are correct, but I suspect Mick was, in using the word introductions, including those species which have been supported by introduction to man made nest sites and re-introduced to the countryside. I do so hope we don't fall into grammatically correct statements, but try to look to the intended meaning.

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      • Robin Edwards says:

        Andrew,

        I don't think it is fair to blame the RSPB where support has been provided for species that have colonising urban areas. The only BoP that would fall into this category is the Peregrine and many of the boxes that are provided on tall buildings are done so with corporate support and funding rather than just because the RSPB want them there. This has been the case with several breeding pairs that appeared (the birds appeared before the boxes were installed so not a case of placing a nest boxe to encourage them back) on BT towers in Bedford, Birmingham and Sheffield and likely more sites as well.

        Sparrowhawks are not box nesters and not subject to Mick's interpretation of being introduced by anyone.

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        • Andrew Kyle says:

          I am not trying to apportion blame. I was attempting to clarify what I though Mick may have meant. I know pigeon fanciers complain about the support given to birds of prey whilst being helpless, to a very large extent, to be able to do anything to protect their birds. It also appears that the numbers of bird of prey means they no longer require this support. I may very well be incorrect in this assumption.

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  68. Mike Price says:

    Andrew,

    I think it's important that the introduction of erroneous arguments and red herrings are removed from 'your' pleas to be heard, personally I feel that more time is taken addressing these in the discussion than is spent discussing the problem itself, it also creates a lot of the bad feeling in the discussion.

    I think it is fair to say that Sparrowhawks (and other raptors) have benefited greatly from the removal from use of chemicals like DDT, and from the extra protection wildlife in general has received in recent years, I maybe be wrong but it seems (at least to me) that without having these issues in the past the birds would already be trying to repopulate the areas where humans have encroached on wildlife, particularly as we have been so influential on what remains of their 'natural' habitat (reduced prey numbers etc) and created hotspots where prey is more abundant than it would naturally be.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Mike, no red herring intended. I am a newcomer to racing pigeons and am trying to educate myself regarding the hobby. I am not prepared to accept an outright attack on birds of prey, but do want to find out how best I am able to protect my birds.
      Is it time that un-natural support is not given to the birds of prey, I don't know.

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  69. Mass says:

    The facts are there is roughly 40.000 pairs of sparrowhawks so the rspb say on there website, so that makes 80.000 sparrowhawks each bird has to eat at least 1 bird a day minimum to survive, so that 80.000 helpless birds being killed a day and thats not including the bird that die and get injured trying to escape. It does not take a genius to work out that is roughly half a million birds being killed a week, this is the information the public needs to know and find out. Its a shame i have 2 young children and the time they grow up a song bird will be so rare, they will be the ones being protected.

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  70. Mike Price says:

    Mass said -Its a shame i have 2 young children and the time they grow up a song bird will be so rare, they will be the ones being protected.

    Indeed it is, it's about time that (in areas where we can), we humans stop putting our own needs above all else and starting giving nature some respect, unfortunately the damage we have done will probably never repair itself and our continually expansion is going to put even more pressure on it, we can at least try to be more sympathetic to its needs instead of only considering our own.

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  71. James Marchington says:

    This comment thread will soon be long enough for Mark to publish as his next book!

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  72. Mike Price says:

    And your even plugging it for him now, James

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  73. Gary Burgess says:

    Mr Price I do have to say, I think you are an Idiot a pompous one at that and who the the hell do you think you are.
    The Third Reich of Nazi Germany, behaved very much like yourself and your allies.
    So what is this really all about, your right and everybody else is wrong. I suggest you take your head from up your backside.
    For the past ten years, I think maybe every pigeon fancier in the country have been made a mockery, they have been so desperate to find an alternative solution to solve their problem of hawks attacking their birds on their lofts, they have at times turned their pigeon lofts into what can be only described as something from out of circus.
    Balloons with big stupid eyes on them http://www.dazer.com/guard-n-eyes.jsp
    That clearly don't work, I'm surprised birds of prey don't fall out of the sky laughing.
    Irri tape, which should be called silly tape. http://www.thefind.com/garden/browse-bird-x-irri-tape
    Stupid looking owls. http://www.birdrepeller.org/
    All kinds of audible gadgets, have been tried and might I add at great expense too.
    Even firework rockets.
    Ask any fancier if they have tried any one of these gadgets and to their own humiliation, I bet nearly every one of them would have replied yes.
    Do these look like the actions of a Raptor Persecutors?
    To say the fancy is desperate would be a huge understatement.
    To be ridiculed in the manner that you have so desperately tried to do.
    Just turns desperation into anger.
    Desperation and anger is not a combination that should be taken lightly and maybe we should feel humiliated, because the money we spent on these ridiculous useless scaring devices, we could have easily afforded a high powered air rifle and of your fondness of quoting something that I never wrote, pop it right in the eye.
    But maybe, this is not the course of action we want to take, but they way things are going at the moment, fanciers the whole country over will be considering taking this sort of action.
    Don't think myself and any other fancier who has come on here, would really like to converse with the likes of you Mr Price, I think we would rather put pins in our eyes.
    But we are desperate and antagonising us will only make matters worse.
    We so desperately want to find a humane solution to our huge problem.
    Ridiculing us is not the answer and for someone who likes to put themselves over as being intelligent, it in fact makes you sound quite ridiculous.
    It was never my intention to come here for a fight and really fighting from behind a keyboard isn't really my style.
    Thank you to the many who have managed sieve through all the nonsense and any constructive advice would be most appreciated

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  74. Mike Price says:

    Thanks Gary, you show very clearly that you never wanted any discussion, you just wanted people to agree with your view point, despite everything that has been discussed you resort to name calling, you are clearly frustrated and are starting to show your real colours (as if your website wasn't testiment enough).

    Just remember that what you are attacking is the fact that I believe that the ecosystem which managed to balance itself for such a long time and which is studied in great depth has suddenly stop working (and that no-one else noticed), that birds of prey are the reasons for the decline in our small bird population despite so much evidence to the contrary.

    I am terribly sorry if all your mates look at you in awe because your sticking up for pigeon fanciers by spouting such rubbish and I am sorry that I have spent my time explaining why that rubbish is just that.

    I am quite pleased that you view me with the same contempt I view your vile anti raptor website though, it proves that we are correct to fear for the protection of raptors and that the protection they are offered is indeed necessary.

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  75. Mike Price says:

    I fidn the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, comment hilarious by the way, weren't they the people that wanted to exterminate other races to improve their own end? to remove what they saw as a threat to themselves?

    Sound familar? replace races with species

    Heil Gary

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    • darren palmer says:

      well this blog for me has been a real eye opener as not once has their been any suggestion from the conservationists or raptor lovers that their is a problem and i am not suprised that with this attitude their are attacks on the birds you love which i dont condone but understand .their was a reply suggesting that pigeon fanciers dont realy have an infinity with their birds unless they are successful racing ,well i have never culled a bird and to have a young bird complete the racing programme in todays climate of the skys i would only be to happy to keep and as for the notion that raptor attacks would eventualy breed a super pigeon that could avoid these attacks is nothing short of ludicrous and uneducated.here was the chance to have a reasonable debate but alas not to be.i reiterate this point "what would you do if before your eyes on your own property your pets were attacked "lets be honest about it a real man would protect .this argument seems to me to be a persecution from certain members of the rspb against the pigeon fancier but remember not to pigeon hole every individual as we are not all the same and some are well aware that nature must be as intended ,i have one question to ask,what would conservationists believe to be a reasonable amount of breeding pairs of goshawk,sparrowhawk,perigine to be to sustain their own numbers without interfering with nature and releasing them independently.on another note about pigeons being pets that are relesed into the skies are no longer a pet whilst in this motion is utter nonsense,what would you do if a rotweiler attacked a yorkshire terrier in your garden and your dog happened to be the yorkie ....would you say ah well this ones bred for this and that one for that ,no of course not if you were man enough you would be in their like a shot protecting your beloved pet and to exspect anyone to act otherwise is against human nature and you can say what you want hide behind science and bias surveys but at the end of the day its a fact that man will protect what he loves on instinct jmo

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    • chris g says:

      Mike Price, its quite obvious you dont know who your father is and Sam you are obviously a student.

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  76. darren palmer says:

    mike price you seem to angle all your comments at mr burgess obviously, as you have stated you dont keep your own pets due to time.maybe if you did you could understand that we want to protect what we love on our own proprety,no cull no nothing just to be able to protect within our own gardens and to ask a man not to defend an animal he loves from being ripped apart in fronty of his own eyes is going against human nature.i am sorry to say but anyone that can view a bird being eaten alive by another is quite perverse in my view

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    • Jamie says:

      Hi darren

      We seem to be finally getting to the nub of the argument here - now that spurious arguments about countryside birds have been discarded.

      You say you don't want a cull, but ask that you be allowed to 'defend' your birds in your garden. What would this entail? Gary has already rather forcibly stated that he believes that there is no existing deterrent that works - so could you state for the sake of clarity and to further the discussion what you want this 'defending' to involve?

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  77. Alex Mellor says:

    Lots of very reasoned comments from both sides of the argument. I am a pigeon fancier but also a conservationist. I recently visited Gordale Scar in North Yorkshire and it was a great thrill to see a peregrine shooting across the sky, but nowhere near the thrill when one of my birds folds up and shoots in like a dart, hitting their nest box like a bullet to return to their mate and a few well earned tit bits.
    Where natural levels of raptors exist then the pigeon fancier just has to accept raptor attacks. However, is this right where predator numbers are artificially high do to their diets being supplemented by racing pigeons? Also are the species we are talking about here - sparrowhawks and peregrines - the natural apex predator in their environments?
    On another note the vast majority of the British countryside is managed and cannot be said to be truly wild

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  78. Dennis Ames says:

    How about seeing as Ospreys can return to exactly the same place they left.Instead of pigeons these fanciers use Ospreys,do not think Peregrines would fancy taking on Osprey.

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  79. darren palmer says:

    jamie i dont profess to have the answer and would like to hear some useful comments coming from the debate ,however what would happen if a sparrowhawk was humanely trapped and reported to the rspb as being a nuiscance around ones home and attacking the dwellers pets .....i think to stop releasing raptors independently would be a start as i do believe the numbers are their for them to thrive of their own accord.

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    • Rich says:

      Darren,
      Its been said further up but is worth reiterating. Other than the odd escapee from falconers or rehabilitated birds, there is no coordinated release of sparrowhawks or peregrines. Please can you and others leave this myth behind (or if you truly believe it provide a source) as the rest of your posts have been interesting but such misinformation doesn't do you justice.

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  80. James Marchington says:

    Mike, are you reading the same posts as me?

    The Nazi comment was unfortunate but Gary clearly isn't someone who is sophisticated at online debate and will not have encountered Godwin's Rule.

    When he says "We so desperately want to find a humane solution to our huge problem." That doesn't sound to me like someone who hates raptors and wants to wipe them out. But your attitude is calculated to drive him and his colleagues in 'the fancy' to consider extreme measures.

    Wouldn't it be more constructive to take the line that, here's someone who has nothing against raptors per se, but would like to protect his stock, now let's find out more about his problem and, knowing what we do about wildlife, see if there is a compromise or a solution that might be acceptable to all sides.

    No, I'm not talking about cull quotas, I mean ways of keeping the bops away from a certain area, or making the pigeons unattractive to them, or teaching them that pigeons are not good to eat... who knows, there are all sorts of possibilities. Discussing these in an adult fashion is more likely to be in the long-term interests of the birds everyone here claims to speak for.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Good sensible comments at last. I doubt you can teach them not to, but the help would be appreciated. Mike has already given me some pointers, but I do think that there is definite conflict between Mike and Gary. Perhaps a visit to Gary's website to see what Mike is talking about.

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  81. Mike Price says:

    Hi James,

    I thought I had suggested a few methods that could be worth considering, including offering to research the effects of doing a bit of ringing in the vicinity of the sheds if there are any local to me (infact I am not sure anyone else has suggested anything, but I would need to check again to be sure).

    As I don't have any pigeons I am unable to carry out any research of my own so its a bit harsh to attack me about those suggestions being useless and a waste of money.

    I don't think I could be accused of not trying to help but I struggle to understand what it is that is being looked for here other than a scapegoat.

    I took real offence to Garys website a few weeks previous and when Gary posted on here with much the same arguments about how small birds have disappeared because of all these terrible 'abominations', I guess I have let it spill over into my discussions where Gary is concerned.

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  82. darren palmer says:

    james i commend you comment and surely this is the way forward ,afterall this is about the birds themselves not one mans alter ego in belittleing a working class man and attacking certain comments also taking them out of context,mike have you ever had a pet of yours attacked and how did you feel in that moment ? our birds are being attacked and eaten alive on our own doorsteps for gods sake man get a grip and try being compassionate towards all

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  83. Alex Mellor says:

    As no-one either seems to have picked up my comment about sparrowhawks and peregrines being apex predators or doesn't want to reply I'll answer my own question. No they're not!

    http://www.owls.org/Archive/eagle_owl.htm

    Therefore any previous comments on predator prey relations are flawed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotka%E2%80%93Volterra_equation

    Without an apex predator (or controls on other variables) serious damage can be done to an ecosystem. A good example being the well documented reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone

    http://www.yellowstonepark.com/2011/06/yellowstone-national-park-wolf-reintroduction-is-changing-the-face-of-the-greater-yellowstone-ecosystem/

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Good post Alex. The second link is too confusing to me except the graph showed prey should outnumber predator, if I read it correctly. The first link looks as though European Eagle Owls have been attacked because they prey on other birds of prey among other things, so were anti-raptor. The third one appears to support the Owls, indirectly as being a possible control on other species and therefore a protector for the other species prey which is not their prey, if I have this correct. A balancing mechanism. In a way, the support given to birds of prey has caused the current problem because there is no natural control for them having been introduced at the same time.
      Have I got the gist of your argument correct?

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    • Mike Price says:

      Hi Alex,

      I think this has been left unanswered because either a) no-one knows or b) it opens an entirely different discussion (one that would I am sure be extremely interesting, but would probably continue to expand and keep expanding).

      I suppose it depends on the definition of Apex Predator

      A predator with no predators of its own, which I think it a bit flawed as man is considered an apex predator and can be predated on and yet we can predate all known apex predators, a Great White Shark is also considered an apex predator and there is film showing a killer Whale attacking and killing it.

      It is worth bearing in mind that Sparrowhawks do have more than one natural predator, Goshawk and Tawny Owl, (I have removed the remains of Sparrowhawk from more than one Tawny Owl nest box).

      Peregrines I am less confident about as I have not any personal experience to refer back to, though I have again found other raptor remains at eries but I have never found a predated Peregrine.

      Eagle Owls - now there is a real grey area, the only historic remains pre-date the UK becoming an island, they are reported as be reluctant to cross vast expanses of water, I wish that it was possible to prove that they do come to the UK from mainland Europe but at the present time there is no proof (and little explanation for why they ceased to exist as a native bird such a long time ago (long before human interference could be blamed), there are many questions to answer with regards to Eagle Owls and hopefully they will be monitored closely to ensure that we learn as much as we can, I am not sure how often they would prey upon Goshawk/Sparrowhawk/Pereginr for example but they were reported as being particularly fond of Common Buzzard in Holland and rabbit when they were nesting in North Yorkshire,

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  84. Gary Burgess says:

    Hooray James, I applaud you. At last someone can actually see where we are now coming from. Thanks James, no I'm not sophisticated at online debate, but am learning all the time mate.
    Just looked it up. Oops.
    But I cannot see, why my points are always being taken out of context.
    I'm the normal run of the mill guy, who has a great love of nature as well as my pigeons. If I was not a bird lover and that means all birds, then I would not be a pigeon fancier.
    This is a little about me http://gazburgess.wordpress.com/
    tip of the iceberg stuff.
    Us pigeon fanciers stand and watch our birds flying, 365 days a year. We see are birds attacked on a daily basis. This is happening as far down as Sussex and Guernsey, as far up as Edinburgh as far wide as Ellesmere Port to South Shields.
    Pigeon fanciers are not within a localised area, they are spread far and wide.
    Surely there must be areas, that problem birds could be relocated to, maybe be captured and moved, if this was not a possibility, then it would tell us that they are indeed overpopulated and more drastic measures taken.
    But the general opinion from the majority of pigeons is if something is not done, then we will all become criminals, something that we clearly are not.
    But I'm afraid desperate times, will call for desperate measures.
    For over ten years, we have desperately tried to bring this to the attention of the authorities, to no avail.
    Also be under no illusion, I can certainly use a rifle and must thank the British Army for teaching me that skill.
    Is it not human nature, to resort to such measures when we feel threatened. We only have to look at Iraq and Afghanistan to answer this question.
    This to us is a very serious problem and the powers that be, either work with us or work against us.
    If they work against us and don't listen, then sadly these birds that are becoming a huge problem, will be dealt with or without the law. I wouldn't like to see this happen, but they way things are going, it's going to be a distinct possibility.
    The problem needs to be taken seriously and being the bird lovers that we are, then shouldn't we look at it from both sides of the fence.

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  85. Alex Mellor says:

    Hi Andrew. Yes that's pretty much it. Predator prey relationships say that as prey numbers rise so do predator numbers until the number of predators gets so high it causes the prey populations to crash, the predator populations than also crash due to lack of prey and the whole cycle starts again . Two points, if racing pigeons are artificially supplementing predator diets there will be no crash, and, under natural circumstances sparrowhawk and peregrine numbers would also be controlled by their predator - the Eurasian Eagle Owl.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Thus the very controversial part of the argument that humans must become the apex predator and contol the subordinate birds of prey or that European eagle owls be supported to find out if a more natural means could be achieved.

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  86. Andy Richardson says:

    Let's not forget whilst a pigeon is racing its hardly going to be devoured by any hawks. The real problem is at the lofts where BOP learn its easy meal time. So back to a gamekeepers problems do we take them out or let them scoff our birds ?

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Andy,

      Sorry, but there are two different problems caused by 2 different BoPs.

      Attacks away from the loft while training & racing, once or twice a week, and the peregrine is the chief suspect. Mindsets here visualises the convoy suffering only a 'single' attack, by a 'single' bird, but a single convoy may be attacked 2/3/4 times on the liine of flight home, with more than 1 peregrine in each attack. More fanciers suffer a loss when the convoy is hit by a peregrine strike.

      Attacks at the loft, daily, the sparrowhawk is the chief culprit, and only one fancier's pigeons are affected, so only one fancier suffers loss, but it involves a larger percentage of his pigeons, and very stressful for both. Not all lofts are affected - mine included - but when attacks happen regularly at the same loft it is termed a 'target loft' and it these lofts that desperately require help.

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  87. darren palmer says:

    well come on guys what about relocating problem hawks ? if we catch them humanely.it seems to me you bop lovers want it all ways not 1 single comment from you boys as to anything constructive that we can do to work together on the problem? but of course that would be admitting their is one.i dont condone the killing or poisoning of raptors but is it any wonder when confronted with such pompous views.this stinks of nothing more than a vendetta against pigeon fanciers and their beloved birds.think we need a breakaway organisation from the rpra

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  88. Mike Price says:

    Andy, you introduce another discussion that really needs a seperate blog so as not to overtake the issues at hand (I am sure Mark will be happy to accomodate you)

    Darren, in theory it might be possible, as you can probably guess there is a but ....

    Most of the raptors ringed/marked are done as chicks in the nest, we rarely catch them as full grown birds, it took me a year to catch a Sparrowhawk at my main feeding site and I visit at least once a week for a minimum of 4 hours, (upto 4 times a week), there are exceptions of course but it's not as easy as ringing someone and for him to nip up catch the hawk and take it away.

    There is a way that it might work but you would need a ringer that was looking for a site to study and who was willing to do a long (ish) term study of birds, who would invest his time and effort in that site and the Sparrowhawk 'aversion' may be a side effect, but remember almost all bird ringing is done so on a voluntary basis and the costs involved are met by the ringers themselves (equipment, fuel, rings etc)

    Alternatively if using live bait was legal in the UK then things would probably be a lot easier.

    None of which really offers you much encouragement I am afraid

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  89. eric lofts says:

    im neither a pigeon racer or a hawk lover but i will add this, 10 years ago i had a garden full of songbirds the bird table used to be stocked all year round. but since a pair of sparrowhawks have nested on the local church ( in a purposebuilt nesting box which is not nature) about 18 months ago i had to stop feeding them i had seen so many different species of birds in my garden all year round it was a pleasure, until these murdering overpopulated hawks came my garden was covered with feathers every day for week and so many times i looked out and see one of the sparrowhawks with a bird of some species pinned down ripping it to bits and when they had young it was unbelievable, we even saw the female try and take one of my neighbours chickens (bantams), so all you who say that the hawks are no reducing the population of songbirds are talking crap and you need to open your eyes, very soon your lovely hawks are going to become overpopulated and in the winter when all the migratory birds have gone and the pigeon racers have stopped racing, they will die a long and painfull death of starvation, which is nothing more than these horrible murderous things deserve,
    ps. does anyone know where i can buy a breeding pair of eagle owls ?

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Eric,

      If your theory here is correct, all species that prey on another will become extinct. Have you considered why this hasn't already happened, long before Humans populated temperate regions of the globe?

      It is also not appropriate to use the term "murder" as predators feed to survive not because they are evil in some way. In encouraging birds to your garden, you are focusing a food source. Trust me, Blue Tits are not about to become extinct.

      Robin

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    • Neil says:

      Nature is not a Disney movie. If you put food out to feed the smaller birds, you are artificially increasing their population and density. This will attract predators who will feed on these birds. Its what happens. Im sorry but you seem to have no idea about wildlife as your claim this would cause a decline in songbirds is just wrong. You have increased the numbers of songbirds by feeding them and the sparrowhawks are feeding on these 'extra' birds, preying on the weaker individuals and keeping the species healthy.

      The only thing that would have caused a decline would be you stopping feeding them.

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  90. Mike Price says:

    Eric,

    You answered your own points in that post, you increased the number of birds in your garden and then complained that the predators have come as well.

    The dying or starving of hawks in the winter has always happened 2/3rd of young Sparrowhawks do not last the first year.

    As I stated elsewhere there are signs that Sparrowhawks have reached their peak density and are now starting to reduce number (at least that is what we are seeing in this area and I believe its being reflected in our areas).

    Finally studies are taking place continually and their findings refute the claims that they are the main cause of declines in bird numbers, indeed I noticed this study today that believes there is evidence to show that Grey Squirrels could be at least in part to blame (not something I have personally ever studied).

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9109378/Grey-squirrels-blamed-for-decline-in-woodland-birds.html

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  91. Peter Jones says:

    "Whereas pigeons evolved to live in sheds, i presume."

    Good morning, as i understand it pigeons evolved as a food source, kept in Dovecotes for 100's of years, some prime examples of which still exist, the discovery of their homing ability has been put to good use by humans for centuries , and as previously stated many a human being owes their life to this..the biggest problem as i see it is the public perception of racing pigeons as "flying rats", in my own opinion this is far from the truth, ive seen pigeon "lofts" that are better than my own home, birds that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds/euros are hardly kept and treated as the afore said flying rats

    Feral pigeons ...again a huge problem within the hobby of racing pigeons and i do believe the governing body of said sport should and could do something to help eradicate/control these birds, but then, somebody somewhere would object to this..a no win situation

    There is also another point id like to raise regarding these pigeon fanciers...CHARITY, not once have i ceased to be amazed at the generosity of these people when it comes to raising charity cash..go along to Blackpool any January to their annual get together/show and see the huge amounts of money they raise

    Culling....show me ANY person that does NOT keep only their best in ANY hobby/past time/sport, from the humble allotment holder to the sport of Kings only the very best is kept

    I was a pigeon racer and i still have my birds, but they havent been out of their loft for 10 years, they are far too valuable and i have so many memories of them for them to be breakfast for a hawk..this, i fear is the future of pigeon fancying as bodies like the RSPB keep up their in my opinion reckless protection of raptors..the bird tables in my garden stand empty now save for a few doves that brave the odds each day, the blackbird that sang in the Oak tree each spring is no more, the finches that came for the seeds have gone, the humble sparrow no longer chirrups from the house top, thrushes are never see,.the sparrowhawk has seen to that...i dont have the answers but i know something is amiss

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  92. Andy Ferguson says:

    I'm really quite stunned that someone thinks that nature should make way for his hobby of racing a domestic pet into the countryside. Unbelievable.

    We are slowly approaching a return to normal levels of raptors density in some parts of the country after many decades of them being almost completely absent. Some people wrongly think that this is an unnatural position, when the opposite is true.

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  93. darren palmer says:

    thanks for your reply mike,what if the pigeon fancier were to be able to trap the bird in a safe manner of course and only on his own property ,this would obviously be the sparrowhawk as he is the prime culprit around the pigeon loft.

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    • Mike Price says:

      I have no idea what the animal welfare implications of this are, for example we receive around 2 years of training before we are allowed to trap birds independently and even then we are still required to continue with training.

      The nets have to be attended every at least every 30 minutes and you would need to be able to remove other species that might enter the net quickly and safely, a net that contains a tit flock can be quite a challenge and at around £100 for 60' net you really don't want to be cutting them all out (although we will do if we feel the bird is under undue stress.

      I am trying not to be negative about it but I am not sure that its a workable solution.

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        The trial in Scotland used some form of cage trap. I think it was 1 year trial, but it may be ongoing. I suspect Ian would be fully aware of this.

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        • Mike Price says:

          I can only assume this was done using live bait, which requires yet another licence, then there are the release aspects to consider and the fact that as Paul mentions it might quickly be replaced by another, the more you think about things the more problems they begin to pose, to relocated a female Sparrowhawk that might be feeding chicks would be another consideration that would need to be looked at.

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          • Andrew Kyle says:

            I think the cages had to be empty, but a kill unfinished could be put in, but if Ian comes on, I'm sure he would know the facts.

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    • paul Irving says:

      If the pigeon fancier set out to trap the culprit and I agree it is most likely a female sparrowhawk, without a licence he would be committing an offence. Should he just be lucky and catch it by happenstance then that is fine except that to kill the bird would again be an offence and anyway the chances are it would quite quickly be replaced by another. To transport it any distance would also without a licence to do so be an offence and again it may well be replaced relatively quickly as vacant territories with prey are an anathema in nature and quickly taken over. Sorry to be so negative but trapping the culprits apart from hoping it will scare them off is not necessarily a route to take.

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      • Ian Brown says:

        Mike, Andrew, Paul

        I am unable to reply to Mike & Andrew's posts, so I have posted it under Paul's which is much the same subject.

        The SHU / SNH project was considered research, so a Licence was issued for it. It used a normal larssen trap, and all other legal requirements were met - no live pigeons were used as bait, and a trained handler set the trap and relocated the sparrowhawk.

        A few fanciers who had originally agreed to take part withdrew when the full implications of baiting the trap were made known by SNH. SHU had hoped that SNH would deploy a specially designed trap which would release the quarry after a sparrowhawk had entered the trap. A live pigeon could then be used as bait. SNH pointed out that the Law doesn't allow that.

        The stark reality was that for the fancier to take part in the project, he had to watch one of his birds being killed. He then phoned the handler who arrived with the trap, set it using that fancier's dead pigeon as bait, and when the sparrowhawk returned for its kill, and was trapped, the fancier again phoned the handler who arrived and removed the trap & sparrowhawk. The sparrowhawk was then radio-tagged and released up to 50 miles away. The relocated sparrowhawk's movements were then recorded after release.

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  94. paul Irving says:

    Eric,
    apart from being unnecessarily rude you are I'm afraid wrong. Every study ever undertaken (and there are many many) has shown that vertebrate predators (and of course this includes all birds) are controlled by the amount of prey, not the predator controlling the amount of prey. That does not mean that predators to not cause local declines because they do, but I suspect that your birds have gone for a different reason, particularly as raptors in a nest box will not be sparrowhawks as they build their own nest in trees but kestrels or peregrines neither of which take significant numbers of garden birds. This is not to use your phrase crap it is science, your argument is illogical because if true all predators would long ago have died of starvation because they had killed all their food.

    Garys problem and that of other pigeon fanciers is that they are releasing pigeons into the natural environment where they become part of the prey population, you cannot expect predators to differentiate between these and other prey they are just dinner and most will not be as good at avoiding predators as born wild prey, its called nature. Whilst I have some sympathy with Gary there is no easy solution and certainly killing predators is not an acceptable answer morally or in law nor will it change the status of song birds one iota.

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  95. Gary Burgess says:

    Some very good logical points are now being raised and it seems that now we have all put our cards on the table so to speak. Things are now becoming a lot more civilised and this can only benefit the whole debate. Maybe some real pearls of wisdom may come from it.
    Killing birds are the worst case scenario. If this was the point from where I was coming from, why would I have spent over three weeks working on our action.
    Truth is, I wouldn't.
    Nor have I asked for the culling of anything.
    The petition, if the wording has been read correctly is asking for the debate of the over population of predatory hawks in urban areas.
    All I am asking for is the chance for everyone to see the whole picture.
    I know some harsh comments have been made at the beginning and I too am guilty of some of these. I do also know that some of us, myself included are very passionate from where we stand on this subject.
    Now we have made where we stand, extremely clear to each other, maybe we can all ask each other some civilised questions.
    People keep harping back to the extremely good work that SHU and the Lancaster University did.
    I have an external hard drive with the whole report on it, and responses.
    But I want to ask some very important questions here.
    Considering the size of the UK, how do you actually count every single sparrowhawk that inhabits the UK?
    Who actually states the amounts that are permissible?
    I hear the term, they are now on the decline.
    Now I wish to elaborate on this.
    Would it not be fair to say, that they are on their decline in the natural areas that they used inhabit?
    Could the reason for this not also be argued that although they are on the decline in the natural habitat, because they have now moved into the urban areas of the country where they seem to be thriving.
    Nobody seems to be able to grasp this fact, this is because they are not being counted in our back gardens.
    For this reason is why I am urging all fanciers to report every single attack on their loft birds.
    Already this year attacks are up by 52 attacks compared to this time last year. Another big problem that we are facing which is a huge hurdle, is that not all fanciers use computers.
    But we are also trying to work on this one.
    One thing that will come out of this, is that all attacks will be conclusive, without a shadow of a doubt
    Once we have proved that indeed there is a serious problem, then should it not deemed fair that we get a fair hearing to take great remedial steps to alleviate this problem.
    We don't have all the answers, this is why we are asking for help, or for a better word, begging for help.

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Gary,

      You maybe need to look at the BTO website and to understand how populations of all species of birds, not just BOP, are counted and/or calculated. This data provides trends over years to show population increases and decreases. An interesting fact is that the Collared Dove population has mushroomed in the UK since the 1960s, despite gradual recovery of Sparrowhawk and Peregrine populations. This tends to contradict some people on this thread who believe that BoP will kill off all of there garden birds if something isn't done.

      We are talking of the natural populations here so there is no policing body that works out what population level is acceptable.

      It is also worth pointing out that our bird populations are often international birds. having said this, Sparrowhawks and Peregrines are generally not migratory although typically Peregrines may move between wintering and breeding areas.

      Regards
      Robin

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  96. darren palmer says:

    andy ferguson my point is, what is deemed a reasonable population of sparrowhawks and how did you come by this amount

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    • paul Irving says:

      the popultaion level of sparrowhawks is decided by the balance of nature we humans should not be deciding what is and is not the correct level of naturally occuring wild birds.

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  97. Mike Price says:

    Gary,

    As you have taken the first steps I will meet you in the middle, I will explain myself fully, maybe I shouldn't but at times I find things like the mis-information about the Sparrowhawk (or raptors in general) being responsible for the decline in small birds being repeated over and over, with the same old arguments used, besides being unproven and flying in the face of all the research very frustrating, they become the whole focus of the discussion, which as you say isn't really what you wanted to talk about (but yet was being upheld as an additional reason that in your opinion something must be done about them).

    Dr Ian Newton did some fantastic work where Sparrowhawks in particular are concerned that may be of interest if you can get hold of them.

    Paul Iriving will be probably be the best placed man to answer the question about numbers and how they are monitored, but I will attempt to.

    There is no way to continually count every single Sparrowhawk so we have to look at samples and surveys, brood sizes etc, a pair of Sparrowhawk will of course defend 'their' territory and the size of that territory is governed by the available food, at certain times of year that territory may contain their young offsprings, but they will be driven away to find a vacant territory or take one from another pair if they can, not finding a vacant territory that will offer them enough food is the reason why so many will perish (that plus they have a habit of flying into glass windows).

    So for our part we have an idea how much room a pair of Sparrowhawks need (at least a minimum and a maximum, the distance between two nests is usually between half a kilometre to two kilometres) so we search in suitable habitat in that area for the next pair, we often find pairs when they are displaying and then go back later in the year to find any nesting attempts, what we are seeing is that these territories are becoming larger, so we are seeing the density of the nesting attempts reducing (please bear in mind this is currently all hypothesis and would probably need a funded study to enable us to have a greater degree of certainty about what is happening presently).

    I feel it is important to mention that this research is undertaken primarily by volunteer field workers and often multiple vists (to confirm a pair, nesting attempt, clutch size, brood size (ringingmarking if indeed that is being undertaken and finally number fledged, some of this will involve climbing the trees) and to be of real value it needs to be repeated over many years, as you can imagine its not something that is undertaken lightly particularly when the territory might be an hour or more walk from the nearest access point (if its a remote wood in the middle of a farm for example).

    There are also specific studies that run from time to time http://edinburghhawkwatch.org.uk/hawkwatch is a good example and has some good information although you might not necessarily agree with it all.

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  98. Gary Burgess says:

    Thanks Mike. This has just clarified something for me that has been troubling me for a while. In two areas in Preston, where I visit on a regular basis, one has seven lofts roughly half a mile apart, four of these lofts have a constant barrage of attacks on a regular basis, the other three only seem to have attacks in the late summer autumn. So it sounds to me that these must just be in the immediate vicinity of the sparrowhawks territory and the ones that don't see the attacks until summer/autumn must just be on the boundaries of pairs and as you say these attacks must must be by juveniles.
    So this explains the severity of attacks on youngbird pigeon racing July to September.
    So if it was possible to relocate the female sparrowhawk early enough in the season, then in theory, this would break the cycle and ferocity of attacks throughout the year.

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  99. Andrew Kyle says:

    Thank goodness we seem to be talking and sharing now. Perhaps the knowledgeable will come up with some means of alleviating the problem.

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  100. Lynn Maxwell says:

    Perhaps the RSPB should be re-named the Royal Society for the Protection of Selected Birds, as in my opinion they are selective on which birds they choose to support or protect ie birds of prey. How do they justify the culling of the Ruddy Duck which they supported, Parakeets, Geese, Crows etc, in fact anything that poses a threat to their beloved birds of prey. How is placing false nesting sites on Town Halls and Churches allowing a natural balance of nature? I totally agree with the eradication of feral pigeons in towns and cities due to the mess and health problems they cause, but who pays for the clean up of the mess left behind in the nests of the the birds of prey, it's all poo after all and a danger to public health.

    The RSPB are obviously biased toward the protection of birds of prey but they should remember they have a Royal charter and subscribing members who wish to see the preservation of all bird species, not just selected ones. Going back to a point made earlier in the discussion about pigeons used in the war, I think it was offensive to say that was in the past we should move on, I'm sure the families of the thousands of soldiers who were saved will be eternally grateful that their troops returned home safely. HM Queen Elizabeth is also patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and has her own lofts on the Sandringham Estate, will she be compensated for her prized racing pigeons when they have been chased to the point of exhaustion then ripped to pieces? I think not.

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    • Mike Price says:

      I think we have put this argument to bed now, I am not sure anyone wants to see it continued any further, if you would like to start a discussion about invasive species, their effects and how we deal with them, I would love to take part and I bet Mark would love to have your contribution.

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  101. Mike Price says:

    Gary,

    As with all these things the answer is possibly and some research would need to be done before anything more could be said, but as Paul pointed out the territory would most likely be filled very quickly due to the abundant food source, potentially you could get more Sparrowhawks as they compete for the territory as (possibly interupting this stabilisation of breeding pairs that I feel we are experiencing in this area)

    Why I referred to ringing was that although you would catch and release the bird in the same place they seem to avoid to area to some extent (at least for a short while) afterwards

    None of which unfortunately brings us any closer to an answer

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  102. Gary Burgess says:

    I can understand that and some study would obviously have to be done and maybe in vicinity of some pigeon lofts and no doubt could involve both parties. The bird organisations and the fanciers, so instead of constantly working against each other, they could perhaps combine forces and perhaps for a greater good.
    Just a thought.

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  103. Steve Duggan says:

    Putting artificial nest boxes on top of buildings in my opinion is wrong, interfering with nature. I have watched with interest web cams on these nest the last couple of years and witnessed young falcon's fall to the floor and have to be rescued by members of the public (The Derby website ) also I have seen them injure themselves...surely any bird lover would agree this is not right, it is done because of the tourist attraction to the town and no other reason, we humans should stop interfering with nature and we should stop providing these nest boxes
    I also seen a nature documentary about the red kite, food was provided by humans to keep the birds there, let them fend for themselves and stop interfering....When you mess with nature it will come back to bite you

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      I think these points highlight the un-natural conditions in which some of these birds live and the support / interference by well minded individuals who are nevertheleess meddling with nature in the opposite direction of those who would wish a cull.
      It may go, in some way, to explain some of the attacks on the pigeons by birds we would not expect to find in these areas, but whether these points would be accepted at this stage is a moot point.
      At least now there is dialogue of a constructive manner and hopefully through this dialogue progress may be made.

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      • Mike Price says:

        Hi Andrew,

        It may well prove interesting to map (if possible) the Peregrine boxes that have been put up (and used) vs the areas that are having these increased problems, I doubt that there are really that many (although I could be wrong).

        I don't know of anyone who has ever put up any artificial nesting for Sparrowhawk, they build a nest in a tree and rarely use the same one in subsequent years, so I am afraid that theory doesn't work for them.

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Steve,

      You are wrong I am afraid on two counts.
      Peregrines losses will occur equally from falls from natural nest sites and they will from nest boxes. This is not cruel but nature - just like most salmon fry won't make it.

      Secondly, many nest boxes placed for Peregrines are kept secret or on private land to prevent young from been stolen for falconry and eggs being stolen by collectors. I would call these tourist sites although some sites in cities have been used to promote understanding and educate people young and old to a species they are likely not to have encountered before.

      Regards
      Robin

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  104. Mike Price says:

    Steve,

    I agree with a lot of what your saying there, although the implications of stopping feeding birds in our gardens when they are under pressure due to other lost food sources may make life very difficult for them and birds of all types fall from the nest and njure themselves occassionally.
    As I stated elsewhere recent research by an ex RSPB and GWCT scientist (Dr Arjun Amar) suggests that without the Peregrine Falcons that are breeding away from our uplands they would be in decline and no longer self sufficient due to human interference which adds more conflict to the discussion but is worth bearing in mind and does highlight due to our influences we might be to late to back off and leave nature to its own devices.

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  105. darren palmer says:

    mike thanks for your reply ,would i be correct in saying that the visits to nesting sites of sparrow hawks is done on a voluntary basis and the infomation gathered by these individuals is the basis of the number of breeding pairs portrayed and is not a independent survey outside of the rspb.also are these individuals knowledgeable enough to conduct this survey ,could you please exsplain their training ...finaly i would like to thankyou for your co-operation as at least 1 person is trying to have dialogue with the pigeon fanciers

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  106. Mike Price says:

    Darren,

    The research used for many of the bird population surveys is undertaken by volunteers via the BTO and in many cases these are licensed bird ringers, the RSPB and many other conservation agencies use this research and the data collect independently by the BTO , you can learn a lot more about their work at http://www.bto.org/ or http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys.

    Although it is voluntary it doesn't make it any less comprehensive as the people undertaking them are often some of the most knowledgeable people in their field.

    There are other surveys that are used to support this quantified data such as Bird Atlas, Bird Track, BBS surveys etc that enable members of the general public to add their observations.

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  107. Aaron Procter says:

    Iv read with interest through all the comments and have extracted some of the comments to address. Here they are.

    "All it has made clear in my mind is that regardless of the studies into bird declines some people are firmly entrenched in their belief that raptors are the cause of this (clearly this is no reflection of their hatred of certain raptors due to the effects they have on their hobby). "
    The only organization that gets its finding published in the news or put on the tv are the RSPB. In many artacals the RSPB have quoted 7 different figures about the true population of predators.

    "So where are these raptors overpopulated? Surely the basics of predator/prey relationships that control numbers which are taught from the age of 7 or 8 in England are enough to understand this – or are you going to claim we are brainwashing our children?"
    It is common knowledge and understanding if u are at the top of the food chain the only other thing that can kill u is u. if u have no predator u will not be killed FACT!!

    "The dying or starving of hawks in the winter has always happened 2/3rd of young Sparrowhawks do not last the first year"
    Says who and Who's research ? Ho yes that same group again RSPB.

    "We are slowly approaching a return to normal levels of raptors density in some parts of the country after many decades of them being almost completely absent"

    You must be looking at the RSPB figures again. They tell u what they wont u to now nothing more and anything u produce which contradicts them is hidden to the public. Here's a example there chief researcher that does there main studies for the past 20 to 30 years is no longer doing his job because he was sacked for reporting he's findings to the RSPB and they did not agree with them if that is not covering things up i don't know what is.
    The RSBP is not a charity its a buisness it's all about money. Have a look at its profits and losses sheets open to public. the RSPB dint have a pot to p**s in until they came up with the hawks that captured the public's attention. Now there so powerful in this country its unbelievable. The RSPB says before you " the public " or anyone else can release birds of pray u have to pay them a fee and get a permit to say you can release them but the RSPB have only ever applied for 10 permits to release birds of pray Fact. So they don't even follow there own rules. There is a artical that was on the net about the RSPB trying to cull the Eagle Owl in fear it would upset there brilliant birds. But The World Owl Trust Who is bigger then the RSPB came in and basically called the RSPB out and told um to put up or shut up. The World Owl Trust upclaims the eagle owl should be protected by the European Union birds directive and has warned it will take legal action if a cull is sanctioned. But What sort of organization would wont to cull another bird just to keep receiving there money every day. They claim to protect birds but pick and choose which ones. The RSPB are in the highest of place's possible even in the government in any articall u will always find something like the following. " A government assessment, published earlier this year, concluded that an increasing population of eagle owls in Britain would pose a significant threat to several species including hen harriers, which are already at risk"
    And my last point about the studdiy of missing racing pigeons. I have yet to see a RSPB official fly with the pigeons upon release to there destination to see if there beloved BOP have anything to answer for but even if it was possible to do that the study it will show nothing. I dare anyone to look at the RSPB figures from the time of the war to now get a calculator and on the basis of one pair of birds having one chick ( NOT 3 each ) how many pairs is there today. and you wont find any figures even close to what u have and a calculator does not lie unless u make it.
    Rant over cheers Aaron.

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    • paul Irving says:

      I'm not quite sure where to start Aaron, but most of what you say is so factually incorrect it is not worth discussing.

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  108. Mike Price says:

    Aaron,

    I don't know where to start, but I am sure someone will take the time to point out where you have incorrectly stated many things, I will pick out 3.

    1) The figures about bird populations are not the RSPB's they are independently collated by the BTO under license of Nature England and JNCC.

    2) The RSPB cannot allow (or disallow) the release of any wild animals (including birds)

    3) The research done on Sparrowhawks is not done by the RSPB this is also done independently

    I really don't mind who you attack but at least get the facts correct otherwise your input becomes an unnecessary distraction.

    I don't agree with everything the RSPB do, but its clear to see that they do a great deal of good work in some areas, Hope farm is an great example that springs to mind, above all they are doing something, not just complaining.

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    • Aaron Procter says:

      Hi Mike firstly
      point 1) The figures about bird populations are not the RSPB’s they are independently collated by the BTO under license of Nature England and JNCC.
      That is very strange thing some reports are identical to the BTO's and many are not but iv yet to see all the BTO's reports in the National papers like the RSPB's are The RSPB get all independent reports and tinker them to there own needs you say RSPB have nothing to do with the reports but on the BTO's web page there are quite obvious in bed with the RSPB saying statements like this " partnership between the BTO, the RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists' Club your telling me now the RSPB has no input in there figures. give me a break.

      2) The RSPB cannot allow (or disallow) the release of any wild animals (including birds)
      Give them a call and ask them were would u recommend to release your hawk that you can no longer care for and they will tell you the same as i did 5 years ago they wonted 40 pounds per bird plus money's for the permit. The permit is needed under European law apparently if this is incorrect there liars as well.

      3) The research done on Sparrowhawks is not done by the RSPB this is also done independently
      In most cases the RSPB fund the research or involed behind the seens so yes it is there research regardless of who writes what were.

      I really don’t mind who you attack but at least get the facts correct otherwise your input becomes an unnecessary distraction.
      In most cases i would agree with your comments but everything i have said is true and can be found via a bit of digging.

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      • Mike Price says:

        The only trouble is Aaron,

        1) Certain the RSPB use a lot of the data that is collated by the BTO , the population figures you see produced on garden/woodland birds that show an increase or decrease of x % are the result of Constant Effort Ringing http://www.bto.org./volunteer-surveys/ringing/surveys/ces/results , regardless of how it is packaged it produced independently and as a ringing group we have 4 or 5 sites along with software packages that allow us to produce our own localised reports (rather than the nationalised reports you see).

        2) The release of captive-bred birds of prey into the wild is illegal unless carried out under licence, but such instances are strictly controlled by DEFRA and applicants are required to comply with detailed guidelines which evaluate the effectiveness of such release schemes as a conservation measure.

        3) In most cases the individual who decided to do the study funds (or raises funds) to enable the work to take place, even the rings we use have to be paid for as well as the license, the costs of travelling, purchasing any equipment etc

        As you say, it is all out there you just need a little effort to find these things

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      • Robin Edwards says:

        Aaron,

        I don't wish to be rude but your postings, like a good few others, are misguided and all I can say is that on many points, you are simply wrong.

        The RSPB do not count BoP, they don't release BoP and they don't have a programme of placing nest boxes for BoP.

        From the county of Bedfordshire as an example, these figures are in the public domain and show the confirmed number of nesting Sparrowhawks as confirmed by volunteers, nothing to do with the RSPB.
        Between 1968-1977 - confirmed breeding in 3 tetrads
        Between 1986 -1992 confirmed breeding in 69 tetrads
        Between 2007- 2011 confirmed breeding in 94 tetrads
        These figures reflect what has happened across the country and this county is a rural. Can someone quote numbers of racing pigeons lost to BoP in or over Bedfordshire during the same periods and have the numbers lost each year risen by the same amount as the Sparrowhawks numbers have recovered from persecution and affects of DDT ?

        Robin

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        • Aaron Procter says:

          Robin im not been funny but i couldn't find the public record that u have quoted but i did find this report on county of Bedfordshire
          independently recorded nothing to do with the RSPB here's there findings
          93 sparrow Hawk, ect but what make's this strange is that it was recorded in 1955 . your not telling me all these sparrow hawks diserpiered in the 13 years before they did another recording to get new figures. you can download the complete report via this link
          http://www.bnhs.co.uk/focuson/journals/pdfs/BedsNats%201955%20No%2010.pdf
          the report was done by the Bedfordshire Natural History Society & Field Club Ill see if they have a upto date one.

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          • Robin Edwards says:

            Aaron,

            Bedfordshire may not be a typical county for Pigeon racers and fanciers but it probably is for Sparrowhawks. The Breeding Bird Atlas takes considerable volunteer efforts and is not carried out every year. There have been three formal studies, each taken over a number of breeding seasons to allow good coverage and the data shows trends for all wild breeding bird species encountered.

            See here for more details http://atlas.bedsbirdclub.org.uk/
            It is likely that similar studies are undertaken in your county.

            Robin

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  109. Mike Price says:

    I should probably add that I think the RSPB do some surveys themselves, but this is not where the national bird population figures come from.

    Everyone might find this interesting http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/environment/biodiversity/wild-bird-populations-in-uk-1970-2010/

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    • Aaron Procter says:

      DEFRA are as much of a farce as the RSPB.
      DEFRA is what i call a job for the boys nothing more.

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  110. Aaron Procter says:

    just one more quick repliy i followed your link to have a read but came across this in there artical "birds occupy a wide range of habitats, they tend to be near or at the top of food chains and there are considerable long-term data on changes in bird populations from a range of national surveys and monitoring schemes coordinated by expert organisations" and this
    "The bird population indices have been compiled in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). " i rest my case made up figuers to prove what they wont . All in the same bed lead by the RSPB.

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  111. Mike Price says:

    Mark,

    I know you were staying out of this but I would appreciate it if you could give me some guidance as to what surveys the RSPB does commission and it might help if this was clear.

    Thanks

    Mike

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      So Aaron,

      Your view is that the RSPB, BTO and JNCC are colluding in a big conspiracy?
      The figures they rely upon come from many hundreds if not thousands of volunteers who collect data over many years. Quite a conspiracy!

      Robin

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        This part from Aaron is a bit of a red herring, in that it is detracting from what we have now established we are after. It also runs the risk of alienating those people who have started to listen to us and accept that we are asking for help, not looking for an argument.
        It may be fair to say that the figures have been massaged because a National study has not been taken and the figures issued are from estimates derived from factual counts in certain areas. I don't know. One thing for sure, arguing over who is in bed with whom is not going to assist the pigeon fanciers with the problems that they are facing. Only honesty and trust will do that.

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  112. Gary Burgess says:

    This is a very puzzling point, that is actually spinning my head a little.
    If sparrowhawks die off, then what happens to their carcases?
    The reason I ask this, is because I spend a hell of a lot of time in the countryside in the winter, a lot of this time is on my hands and knees in woodlands as I do a lot of Fungi studies, but have never in over ten years come across a sparrowhawk carcass.
    Just a thought.

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    • Mike Price says:

      Hi Gary,

      A lot of Sparrowhawks die when they hit windows and patio doors, given that the estimated population are is reportedly 40,000 ish birds finding a dead bird would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, lord knows I have spent enough time looking for missing birds of prey (birds I knew were there last week and had a nest with young in), they tend to blend into the undergrowth and are particularly interesting to other predators (badgers for example).

      Could I ask you to consider how many other (far more abundant birds) you discover both large and small

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  113. darren palmer says:

    thanks for the reply mike this brings alot of clarity to the figures portrayed on our sparrowhawk population,i cant see that their could be possibly be a accurate survey done nationwide with volunteers however i do accept that some are exsperts in their field but what sort of percentage of the people conducting the survey,also arron you have highlighted what i have thought for a while now ....defra,bto and the rspb are all in bed together and the figures are being manipulated and pigeon fanciers are being persecuted with raids on their home.i did read an article that stated their were 54 police officers on one raid for one man and the area surrounding his property was cordoned off its laughable realy it is ,when the country is on its knees and cut backs in the police force,nothing short of a farce and a waiste of tax payers money

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    • Mike Price says:

      Darren,

      This is exactly why people get annoyed, another load of mis-information believed because it suits what you wish to believe.

      If this is all so incorrect please provide me with something sensible to back up the claims that it is so.

      I agree there is no 100% definative count of any birds, we use samples and surveys from all around the country and the estimates are based on this, the manpower just isn't available to survey over 94,000 square miles of the UK and what about the fact that birds move about?

      Of course all agencies work together the data provided by the BTO as I stated is used by lots of people, no doubt they also provide some of their own data, but to believe that there is some conspiracy is completely unreasonable.

      As this seems to be becoming the norm in this conversation I guess it is time to wind it up.

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  114. Mick Bowler says:

    I believe it will take many years or even generations before the prey/raptor situation comes back to nature. I had a discussion with an RSPB official recently and i couldnt believe that his opinion was one of nature had already been readressed. Surely how can it be when the prey species must have all been at an artificially high numbers due to lack of predation of raptors for decades, or so we are told. Does that now not mean we will get an artificially high number of raptors due to the prey available? But then what happens when that artificially high number of prey decreases at a higher rate than usual. How does nature then balance itself out? I also wonder how Raptors can be ruled out of the decline of songbird numbers, to me its simple, if raptors have increased 10 fold in the last 30 years then they have preyed on 10 times more prey and i'm sure the prey has'nt started breeding at 10 times more to make the numbers up for them!!

    As for pigeon fanciers, they could well hold the key, they probably have the power to legally have a devastating effect on raptor numbers and that lies in a simple solution.....no fly zones or a total ban on racing pigeons for one or two years. Of course it would also have a negative impact on the hobby itself, but something will have to give eventually so why not force the issue a bit?

    Of course my comments will prompt a smile, smirk or a laugh from those that really believe racing pigeons are not a big part of the Peregrines diet, (even though its proven in research at breeding periods for raptors), well smirk away lol, as they say he who laughs last, laughs longest....

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  115. Mark says:

    PLEASE READ THIS
    Dear All
    You all seem to have unlimited energy and I thank you for your comments and Gary for his original post. There are now well over 200 comments on this blog and I'm sure you have more in you waiting to be expressed. What I will do is let this fascinating conversation keep going until midnight on Wednesday - any comment posted after that will not appear - all good things must come to an end (and that will be a week's worth).
    But then I will spend some time trying to sum up the arguments and views expressed here and I will post something, my views on the subject, some time next week and we'll see whether that sparks off a new bout of discussion. So you have until midnight tomorrow to keep the comments coming and then you all deserve a rest!
    Mark

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Good idea. A roundup of relevant point should assist in crystalising the debate and may lead to ideas to help in our plight.

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  116. Dennis Ames says:

    Gary I have sympathy with your plight but cannot see any answer at all.
    Culling is out of the question,translocation would not work.
    One thing that has been said I find hard to believe,that was a bird worth £5,000 might be taken,now when my uncle had a valuable pigeon he kept it for breeding and never raced it again.Some Pigeon fanciers make big enemy's for example on a cliff putting bird with poison in it into Peregrines nest with fishing tackle.
    Not relevant to this really but some are really shifty lot taking rings off old birds that perhaps die or come to end of being of use and putting that ring on young bird,that has to be cheating on fellow pigeon racing fraternity.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Dennis,

      While Birds of Prey don't come under the Equality Acts, they abide by it religiously and do not discriminate between pigeons that are worth thousands of pounds and just a few pounds, a meal is a meal to them, and they'll kill either, or both. That is what amazes me about 'solutions' put forward by people you hope would know better, the best yet (1) from DEFRA, is that we should have another shed housing a colony of less valuable pigeons to feed hawks. Aye right. They'll just eat those and leave the racing & breeding lofts pigeons alone; and (2) from SNH? 'we'll fit water pistols to the pigeon's back, and when a hawk comes near it'll fire a jet, scaring it off. Aye right.

      So who were these pigeon fanciers fishing off a cliff face?

      And as for being shifty, try 'thrifty' instead. The practice you speak of - re-using old rings - is done to ring young birds that are hatched later in the season, July / August. These birds are called latebreds. It happens after the fanciers current years rings have been used up for the normal hatches in February, March.

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  117. Dennis Ames says:

    We might get to 300 then Mark.

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  118. Gary Burgess says:

    Thanks Mark, that will be interesting.
    I have learned much this week and it also shows what can be achieved, with just a little understanding and consideration.
    I am overwhelmed by the response and maybe I have found a partial way forward, to solving our problem in a humane and amicable way.
    Thank you all for your comments and keep them coming.

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  119. Gary Burgess says:

    No Dennis, you do not read it clearly.
    I said £5000 to breed it, hen £2500 the cock bird and the hen bird £2500.
    The young bird cost £5000 to breed.
    I have pigeons here in my stock loft that cost in excess of that, but why is this an issue.
    Putting old rings on a youngbird, ok if it's bred for stock, what's the problem, it stops you racing it. You cant race a young bird with an old ring on it.
    Argument flawed.
    Not cheating anything, or maybe robbing a young pigeon of it's best time racing.
    Fishing tackle cliffs, it just gets better.

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  120. Alex Mellor says:

    Potential studies to help both parties?

    - Taste Aversion (peregrines and sparrowhawks)
    - The indirect damage of a peregrine strike - not the individual bird being caught but the others in the flock that could be scattered or grounded - particularly damaging for young pigeons just learning to orientate
    - Controlled breeding programmes with dummy eggs (most likely peregrines)
    - Relocation of problem raptors (most likely peregrines)
    - Reintroduction of Eurasion Eagle Owl
    - Change racing pigeon routes every 2 to 3 years (peregrines) - routes limited by topography
    - All pigeon fanciers in a control area not to let any birds out between October and March (sparrowhawks and peregrines). Limit food sources through the winter.

    From an ecological perspective don't forget Britain has very few truly wild places and so we're not talking about a wholly natural situation here. Humans have interferred with nature for centuries - surely we can't be so naive to think that protecting a few non apex predator species will restore the natural balance in our man made environments..

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Mine had to be locked up from 27th August. I have not let them out yet. I was losing 1 a day and I don't have enough to sustain that or risk they would smarten up. They were dropping feathers like crazy and some of that was through the near misses. I am dreading April, but I can't leave it later than that or they will not have had time to be fit to race in May.

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    • paul Irving says:

      No control breeding of peregrines would ever be supported by raptor workers.
      Nor relocation it doesn't work.
      Eurasian eagle owl is irrelevant to the argument and certainly not a candidate for introduction . The balance of nature as you call it does not need restoring just because we live in a largely manmade environment does not mean a balance is not maintained quite the reverse it just is. what you propose is tipping the balance in favour of a position you approve of and it has nothing to do with natural balance or ecology.

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  121. darren palmer says:

    mike i am sorry to have riled you with my thoughts and beliefs no need to wind it up and i am sure all will be revealed eventualy ...thankyou for your replies to some of my questions even though i find some of them to be scepticle.

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  122. Mike Price says:

    It hardly leaves you wanting to contribute in any surveys (giving my time and at my own expense) if the data is only going to be considered useful if it supports the beliefs of one side or the other.

    I learn't some important lessons here tonight that I will be sure to take onboard, so thank you in that respect.

    I am however looking forwards to Marks review it should have some comedy value at the very least.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Mike, don't let some of these comments get to you. I have seen your outlook change from the early time until now and you have given of your knowledge. We need your continued expertise.

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  123. Aaron Procter says:

    Iv just commeted on robins post. But looking at the RSPB web site they say in the uk there is 40,100 pairs breeding in the uk today so we will just do some quick math.
    year 1 40,100 pairs
    year 2 60,050 pairs
    year 3 90,125 pairs
    year 4 135,187 pairs
    Now this is just accounting that each breeding pair has one chick per year and only includes Sparrow hawks Not any other BOP.
    now if the original number is to be believed how many songbirds or pigeons would have to be taken to fill 270,0375 birds for that one year is there any wonder there's not going to be any song birds left.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      These figures may have to be accepted or their fallibility explained. They do however seem to explain a certain validity in the outlook of those who believe them. Those who believe them are members of the general public as well as pigeon fanciers, so they are not being produced solely to promote a pigeon outlook.
      Personally, I would like to understand why they are incorrect. They seem to allow for less hatchlings than would be expected and this should allow for hatchling deaths through lack of food. The number of birds eaten could be less if the sparrow-hawk scavenges or eats small mammals also, but I would like to try to understand how the figures could be so very incorrect. They make frightening reading when seen in this stark manner on the computer screen.

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    • paul Irving says:

      Utter drivel, most young die before they join the breeding poipulation and you take no account of adult mortality at all. Even if it were true it is irrelevant to the discussion. I don't know how many times it has to be said but predators do not control the number of prey, the amount of prey controls the number of predators, PROVED time and again by independent research all over the world. Thus if the sparrowhawk population grew to levels you ignorantly suggest it would mean there was enough of a prey base to support it. the idea that surveys by conservation organisations are biased is utterly laughably ridiculous, such UK organisations are admired all over the world for their good unbiased science. At the very least get some of your facts right otherwise this debate has become utterly pointless.

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Aaron,
      Sparrowhawk populations will not mushroom as your calculations suggest. Mortality rates of young an adult are much greater than you might imagine.

      For example - over fifteen years in the area I live, pairs of Sparrowhawk population has not increased and remain at a single pair breeding - not successfully every year.

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      • Aaron Procter says:

        Hi im back just to get to a few of your comments about my calculation.
        First of what Paul said. Utter drivel, most young die before they join the breeding population and you take no account of adult mortality at all. Even if it were true it is irrelevant to the discussion. I don’t know how many times it has to be said but predators do not control the number of prey, the amount of prey controls the number of predators, PROVED time and again by independent research all over the world.

        Have a look at the calculation. I did the figures provide by the resurch from the UK organizations. FACT. ( there base line numbers not mine )
        You say i didnt take into account adult mortality the figures i arrived at was over a four year estimate. The average mortality of a sparrowhawk before it dies is 4 years old ( there figures again not mine )
        You say most young die before they join the breeding poipulation. Well the figuers posted was taking into account that each nest containd 1 chick NOT the 2 - 6 they have normally. ( again info surplliyed by the RSPB not mine )
        You cant say the numbers are way low then they should be when a report is published. then when i do a calculation with the numbers i have got from there web site say im talking rubbish. You cant have it booth ways sorry.
        You say "I don’t know how many times it has to be said but predators do not control the number of prey, the amount of prey controls the number of predators, PROVED time and again" I couldn't agree more with your comment I don't think the year 4 numbers i have quoted will ever get that high basically because of what you said. That is why we have a problem now there isn't enough prey for them to eat now so the end result will be say 80,000 sparrowhawks in England and NO song bird numbers to speak of. They will be at least just enough to keep the sparrowhawk from been extinct.
        Hi paul i think my above statement covers what you said first. Then you wrote For example – over fifteen years in the area I live, pairs of Sparrowhawk population has not increased and remain at a single pair breeding – not successfully every year.
        I cant comment on whats happening in your area as i don't live there but i would ask the RSPB if they had put females there instead of male and female birds because at 2-6 chicks per nest each year there is something very wrong if your numbers have not gone up.

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  124. darren palmer says:

    nothing funny about this debate mr price not when your on the receiving end of the damage that your beloved raptors are causing .....indeed a real eye opener this debate and thankyou mark for allowing the debate to go ahead.it was also good to see the comments and views from the general public some very interesting points as to whats going on in urban gardens.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      270,000 x 365 = 98,550,000
      Ninety eight million, five hundred and fifty thousand birds at one per day. That is really scary. They will not all be pigeons and this is why songbirds were mentioned in the earlier posts, because we know they will not all be pigeons, but nonetheless scary.
      Do sparrow-hawks live only on bird meat?
      Allowing for in-accuracies, 80,200 x 365 = 29,273,000
      Twenty nine million, two hundred and seventy three thousand birds. This is only on the pairs given by the RSPCC figures, it doesn't take cognisance of the unpaired birds that are about.

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      • Mike Price says:

        Wow Andrew and Aaron I think you really have something here, lets run with it

        2 million blue tits - an average of 4 young surviving to fledge

        Year 1 - 2,000,000
        Year 2- 8,000,000
        Year 3- 32,000,000

        At least we know why the insects are dying off they, young are fed once every 90 seconds on average , 4 young so thats 4 insects every 6 minutes 40 an hour x 10 hours a day (at that time of year) 400 insects a day per pair x 2 million etc etc

        How many species of breeding birds does the UK have?

        I think you need to think long and hard about whether your are clutching at straws in a bid to gather support for your cause? if you don't believe that the cause is sound enough on its own how is anyone else supposed to take it seriously?
        Now if I can just go get a shovel to dig my way out of the all these of blue tits I will go do some work, stroll on midnight

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        • Mike Price says:

          As I took the kids to school I realised I had made a grave error in the mathematics, I omitted the fact that the breeding birds in the first instance breed again (I think you might of done the same, the average lifespan on an adult Sparrowhawk age is 4 if I recall correct (note that is of an adult, a bird making it into its second year).

          So give the fact that the Blue Tits live for an aver age of 3 years you can expect that they breed 3 times, plus the data in on Bird Facts states this was in 2000 so all the insects have already been eaten and all the birds have already died from starvation, as have the Sparrowhawks so the whole discussion is now null and void.

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          • Mark says:

            Mike - just in passing, I think you have made just over 50 comments on my blog over the months but c45 of them have been on this particular Guest Blog. I admire your passion and stamina!

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          • Mike Price says:

            Mark Said

            Mike – just in passing, I think you have made just over 50 comments on my blog over the months but c45 of them have been on this particular Guest Blog. I admire your passion and stamina!

            Hi Mark,

            I thought I could possibly add something to this discussion but there appears to be no getting away from the fact that everything anyone who doesn't agree says or does is incorrect, and there comments are twisted into another argument, if that doesn't work then the next area of discussion instantly become "well we could be taking it into our own hands but no we are asking for help", quite how these two things are supposed to sit together is beyond my comprehension.

            I guess with more experience, I just won't enter into any discussions in the future as there is clearly no point when they already know anything and all science/facts data are clearly manipulated and part of a big conspiracy that is all being orchestrated by the RSPB of all people, I must sayperson interested in bird life, that as a I am outraged at this the RSPB should know better and I hold you personally responsible.

            (I bet you wish you hadn't commented now)

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          • Mark says:

            Mike - love it!

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          • Andrew Kyle says:

            Mike, you are dealing with a lot of ignorance here. You are in the position to give these facts and ensure balance. There is a degree of polarisation which initially has to be overcome and this can only happen if the facts are out there and accepted. I would think that to demand an attack on birds of prey would never gain support, especially nowadays when more "townies" want to become involved and the "country folk" who look for culls are the minority.
            Working with nature is the only way, but even you must understand the emotion involved when people state "take it into our own hands"; this is the way it used to be done, but is the way we want to shift from. You must be well used to this outlook and, as such, it must be very frustrating to hear it all again.

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        • Andrew Kyle says:

          Mike, sparrow-hawks won't just eat blue-tits, so the numbers are not as scary given the facts you have stated. Do they also eat mice, voles and shrews or is that just the kestrels?

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        • Aaron Procter says:

          Look i haven't got a clue how many insects there is in England no ones given me any research on it ill have a look to see if the RSPB or BTO knows they have data for everything eles. We can only go off figures that are available at this time and that is what i did do you think it was wrong to calculate 1 chick per nest would service out of a possible 6 i thought i was been sensible. wile we have a government body like the RSPB that tell specialist people in there own filed that there numbers are wrong and there's are write. You say u do some surveys about your particular field which is great independently done by yourself for your area which is great but what guarantee do you have that organizations report your figure as you have seen um because as far as im aware the numbers that go out as press releases don't cover individual areas there from a combined figures. So how do you no these are the true figures just because they say they are.

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  125. Aaron Procter says:

    just came across BTO Bird Facts on the Sparrow Hawk there claiming there is in the British Population:
    Summer: 39 thousand pairs in 2000 so who is telling the truth according to the RSPB the sparrowhawk only increased by 1000 pairs in 12 years yet right when each pair has between 2 - 6 eggs each some one is having a laff.
    what we need is a complete transparency body that has no agenda this way or that to conduct a proper survey. made up of one member from each organization. ie RSPB. BTO, Hawk and Owl Trust, The National Gamekeepers' Organization, RPRA, NEHU, British falconers club. National Farmers Union ect but no member can be involved in the other in any way shape or form. And funded equally by all organizations. Its just a thought because what we are all doing at this moment is not working.

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Aaron,
      Please see my earlier response. I don't think anyone is trying to deceive or have a laff as you put it. they are though trying to explain things that you seem reluctant to listen to.
      Using your theory and maths, if Blue Tits that can lay up to a dozen or more eggs, sometime in multiple broods in a srping time, had no predators, within ten years there would be hundreds of millions of birds at plague proportions.

      Nature balances Sparrowhawk population in line with their food sources and although I have mentioned before, no one has remarked on the population exposion of Collared Dove in the UK since the 1960s. Where I live Aaron, they are the staple diet of Sparrowhawks and yet the population has not crashed because they have all been eaten.

      For a balanced and adult dialgue to exist, both sides of this arguement need to know a little more factual information and less myth. You cannot simply add numbers up like you have and challenge the data used by organisations such as the BTO.

      Robin

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  126. Dennis Ames says:

    Well that is a surprise Gary because a young bird turned up with a old ring on it and racing ring on as well so I am sure that you me and all pigeon racers know this happens and although in the raptor discussion it is irrelevant if you cover up one simple thing that pigeon racing people know happens it makes me suspicious about everything else.Oh yes by the way the cliffs were a proven escapade in a quarry in Devon.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Dennis,

      Any pigeon in a race basket must be race marked - carry a race ring of some sort. A pigeon can carry a race ring but not be entered in the race. 1) It's gone as a 'trainer'. 2) It has gone as a stray pigeon returning from the finder's to the owners loft, with both fanciers agreement. It will be released close to home, with the intention that it will break off for home. A 2011: A bird was returned from Peterhead area to Falkirk area via Ripon race point. Check the line of flight, it passes close to Falkirk. And that is where the pigeon landed. Both actions are quite common.

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  127. Gary Burgess says:

    One day, Mike I will spend the day around my favorite haunts with my camera, although many species are not as abundant as they once were, I still have a few areas that are still un touched and if I'm lucky, I will get a picture of the only pair Eagle Owls in the South Ribble area of Preston as well as many other species of birds.
    Thanks for the debate, it was enlightening.

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  128. Neil says:

    How many of these 'predated' racing birds end up in the massive feral populations. I'm sure a fit young bird could be tempted off course by a suitable member of the opposite sex?
    I find it interesting that the 'small raptors' which just so happen to be no threat to the pigeons are now be portrayed as victims of the evil peregrines and goshawks which have supposedly exploded in numbers (even though they are still well below pre DDT numbers). I'm yet to see anything from gamekeepers or pigeon fanciers that is supported by any science.
    Using hyperbole like "this problem is clearly getting out of control" without any proof doesn't give any credibility to the already flimsy case.
    One final question: If pigeon racing "pastime that has been enjoyed in this country for centuries" it means it has been taking places for many years before the 1960s DDT poisioning decline in BOP, when BOP were a lot higher. BOP number have still not recovered to these numbers today, so why are BOP such an issue for them today?

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  129. Gary Burgess says:

    Dead discussion mate.

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  130. Peter Jones says:

    Noted on another post

    " Taste aversion", proposed i believe by BARONESS somebody ( i forget)....this was highlighted to the pigeon fancy by an old friend of mine via the internet..result ?? raided by Police and RSPB "officials" computor seized along with other shop bought pigeon ailment remedies the sort kept by every self respecting pigeon fancier... persecuted for following RSPB guidelines, it would seem even if fanciers listen to the RSPB they are still in the wrong

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  131. Andrew Kyle says:

    Taken from a pigeon chat site to show we are trying.

    We tried this hawkeye balloon this week. The birds have been locked up for 7 weeks since
    the last attack in the garden, the birds were attacked 3 times that day and we lost a good
    breeding cock to the sparrow hawk, that was enough for us. Before that the sparrow hawk
    attacked every time the birds were out.

    We put the balloon up a week ago and let the spare hens and cocks out and sat watching
    them all day. At no point did we see the sparrow hawk but it was unusual that it did not
    show up. Anyway we let the breeders and racers out yesterday and again sat and watched
    like a "hawk". The sparrow hawk showed up when the doo's were in the bath and sitting
    around in the garden but instead of going for the doo's the sparrow hawk continued on
    its path over the houses and away. This happened 3 times on that day and each time
    the sparrow hawk never came near the doo's, they were relaxed and enjoyed their bath
    and day out of the loft. It will take more than just one day to see if this really works but
    we were well pleased with no attacks yesterday.

    Is anyone else using this product? and how has it been for you?

    Anything and every thing is well worth thoughts and a try.

    Hope it workss of course like every one else.
    Was a time, though, when they placed these eyes on the wings. Seemed to have some sucess.... But main worry is that once the 'Hawks get used to them, their happenings start again. Like the Big Snow Owls statues, may need to be moved regularly.

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  132. Andrew Kyle says:

    Just another thought for you to co-relate Mark.

    On the whole, the natural state has been debated with a few references to racing pigeons as an un-natural food source.

    In the natural state, the food source governs the amount of birds of prey. Less food, starvation ensues and the number decrease. Less prey animals and the number increases, the birds of prey increase, ad finitum, if that is the correct term.

    Racing pigeons are outwith this scenario since they are not a natural food, however, they become a natural food source when they are released. On their return journeys from racepoints they are succeptible to many attacks as they pass through many territories. This is nature. At their home lofts when out flying they become natural food source and are likewise subject to attack. This is nature.

    Especially in areas of a large density of pigeon lofts, one would expect a large density of sparrow-hawks because of this extra occasional natural food source. Likewise on the established race routes one would expect a larger than normal density of peregrines.

    If this is accepted, albeit perhaps not scientifically proven at this stage, then subsequently we are not talking about purely natural situations and perhaps from this, one could understand the frustration suffered by the pigeon fancier.

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  133. Robin Edwards says:

    Very recent - hadn't seen this before.

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/pigeon-fanciers-homes-raided-in-peregrine-673450

    Arrests seem quite widespread.

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  134. mike jarvis says:

    In answer to Neil

    Up until recent years every estate in this country had gamekeepers to protect there game birds, also during the war years 1939/45 the government ordered a cull of raptors to protect pigeons carrying messages.
    My question is. If there numbers recovered in the 15 years to 1960 only to be knocked back again by DDT, why are they supposedly still below this number after 50 years.
    Also in a previous post it was suggested that to put food out for the birds on a table was encouraging hawks to take them ( a view I entirely agree with) but this is/was RSPB policy to encourage people to put a bird table in there garden.

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  135. Gideon Winston-Stanley says:

    One can plainly see the direction that the environmentalists are heading on this debate and it was only a matter of time before some bright spark suggested a whole plethora of future research studies with a view to finding a ‘practical solution’. No doubt the tax payer will be expected to fund these studies? Poppycock! Enough is enough; no longer should the tree-hugging environmentalists be allowed to drain the economic resources of this once great nation.

    Unquestionably something must be done to prevent pigeon fanciers illegally controlling birds of prey. One may have some degree of sympathy for their predicament, but under no circumstances should the working classes be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

    There is simply no need to further line the pockets of the environmentalists (or ecologists as I believe some of them call themselves) by funding pointless research, the findings of which will no doubt be manipulated to support the arguments of that most conspiratorial of organisations, the RSPB.

    The solution to this issue is remarkably straightforward, make pigeon racing illegal. No racing pigeons, no problem. The working classes may not like it, but they will quickly find other distractions to amuse themselves.

    What all you people all fail to understand it that the management of wildlife should only be guided by those who have an innate understanding of the countryside, those of us who are born into it, not sandal wearing academics or cloth cap sporting northern townsfolk.
    Nowhere is this more critical than in the management of birds of prey which can only be properly managed on land under the stewardship of a good gamekeeper, operating under the guidance and watchful eye of the gentleman landowner.

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  136. Gary Burgess says:

    OOPS, did you forget we live in a democracy.
    What really needs to be done, is the have the whole farce debated, don't worry about us fanciers, we can raise our own funds.
    But I really do believe that the whole RSPB farce should be exposed to the world.
    As was admitted openly on here yesterday, the RSPB doesn't have a clue how many raptors there really are in this country.
    But yes you have a point the easiest way to solve this problem is to ban pigeon racing. Go tell that to the Queen of England.
    Why don't we ban game shooting as well as angling.
    What a wonderful world it would then become.
    Wake up man, this is the real world.

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    • Aaron Procter says:

      Gideon Winston-Stanley i think you are a gamekeeper which is fine by me but you think gamekeepers should be the only one to be able to manage these BOP . The last time i heard of a gamekeeper managing hes grounds was plastered over the TV and prosecuted for doing hes job. Trust me no one is safe to even wave at a BOP in the wrong manner in this strange age of the RSPB.

      Garry i total agree with your last post. But it will never happen not until the powers at be give there head a shake and stopping kissing a*se just to be seen as supporting something they think the general public wont's.

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  137. Gary Burgess says:

    Non fanciers just cannot seem to apprehend that we love our pigeons.
    A fancier is just like a shepherd who tends and protects his flock, as well as the desire to tend to their everyday needs, we also have a great desire to protect them from harm.
    There is not a man amongst us who would not protect their children from the harm of a predator.
    If anyone attempted to harm our children, is it not fair to say, that we would with great anger strive to protect them at all cost.
    Do we not have a God Given Right, being a law abiding citizen of the United Kingdom to protect our loved ones, our property, our homes and everything that is contained within it.
    Including or much loved, cats, dogs, poultry and of course our racing pigeons.
    If a predator or intruder enters our property, to harm or destroy all of those things which we love and work extremely hard to maintain their upkeep.
    Then, do we not then have the right to defend and protect them regardless.
    In a democracy, do I not have the right, to refute any claims by any organisation not to protect them.
    Raptor Groups, claim to protect the well being of their hawks. But refute to protect any other wild creature that may be threatened by these precious creatures.
    Could this then not be said, that the Raptor protectors are not the ones who are caring and feel that they have to protect wildlife at all costs.
    Maybe, we should then statrt looking at their ulterior motives.
    Because the rest of Gods creatures also need protecting, but why do they not show compassion to these other weaker creatures that their beloved raptors prey on for their very own existence.
    To me their intentions seem very hypocritical against nature itself.
    Why should we be in fear of speaking our mind or be afraid that the Raptor Protectors may become upset because we speak our mind.
    After all this is a free country, is it not.
    Is it not fair to say, that the Raptor Protectors have no compassion for anything except their predators.
    Not being able to see that many other creatures on this earth have the right to life it is quite clear, that they cannot even imagine how we feel when one of our beloved, treasured champion pigeons gets brutally eaten alive in our own back garden.
    Would it not also be fair to say that judging by their very nature, that they too feel that they are in some way a higher being to the rest of us and maybe that we too have no rights.
    As they quite obviously believe that they too are of a predatory nature and feel compelled to suppress anything that we have to say, like we are indeed some inferior being.
    I do not care, if my statements offends them, nor do I care what they think of me as a human being or pigeon fancier.
    But I tell you this, I will not yield to your tactics and I will push my concerns all the way to downing Street if I have to, to save my beloved pigeons.
    If this does not work, then I will defend my property and my loved ones by any means deemed necessary.
    But unlike The Raptor Haters, I have compassion for all creatures, this is why I am trying to take action in the correct manner.
    But let any man or beast try to take away from me which is rightfully mine, then I shall lay my life or liberty down to protect it.

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  138. Mark says:

    Comments on this blog post are now at an end. Thank you to all who have contributed. I will be posting something on this subject some time next week.

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  139. [...] https://markavery.info/2012/02/23/guest-blog-gary-burgess/ [...]

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  1. Mike Price says:

    What a load of anti raptor s**t, based upon assumption, half facts and a biased opinion!

    What was experienced during the "good old days" was a result of many years of persecution and the effects of DDT suppressing the number of raptors in many cases to the edge of and past extinction in the UK, it was far from a natural state that can be harked back to with rose tinted glasses.

    You failed to mention the losses Pigeon owners face from collisions and bird that just stray, these make up the majority of your losses and made no mention of the fact that if a bird fails to return home, if found and reported often ends up being necked as it is useless.

    You have joined the anti raptor bandwagon peddling your poison about raptors for you own end, a recent study funded by another anti raptor group "Song bird Survival" found that the For 22 of the prey species considered in this study, analyses of extensive national bird and grey squirrel monitoring data from
    England provides no statistical evidence that increases in common avian predators and grey squirrels in recent years have resulted in population declines. Indeed, declining prey species were nomore likely to be negatively associated with an increase in predators than stable and increasing species. These results are largely in agreement with past analyses of garden bird data (Chamberlain, Glue & Toms 2009) and national monitoring data for magpie (Gooch, Baillie & Birkhead 1991) and sparrowhawk and magpie (Thomson et al. 1998).

    That along with research that increasingly show that it's the effect of humans and their requirements that are drastically impacting the numbers of birds, lead me to believe that despite your claims of being a nature lover you are infact wishing to blame nature for things because it suits your own agenda.

    You are entitled to carry out any "legal" hobby you wish but please don't start demanding that action is taken against nature because you have decided to breed/purchase a non predator aware species of bird and let it out into the big bad world where predators exist.

    You do touch on an interesting thought though, the fact that due to the misfortunes that have beset larger raptors, it may have allowed smaller raptors to prosper better than they might otherwise have faired, are we now seeing a fall in numbers of Kestrels for example as they return towards a more natural population size or is there some other underlying problem that is effecting the species, another discussion for another day.

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    • Gary Burgess says:

      Well Hooray, the onslaught has started and very well done for being the first.
      This is just my view, from a normal person. Who has spent all of his life in the countryside. But maybe that doesn't count for anything.
      I'm not anti raptor, nor am I anti anything.
      Unlike yourself.
      But this is just the sort of reaction I expected.
      I rest my case.

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      • Mike Price says:

        You offer no proof of anything you are claiming, you have no reply for any of the things stated, you wish to play the part of the injured party and you offer the view of a "normal" person except he you have an agenda, your pigeons.

        You are entitled to your opinions and I am entitled to mine, don't let the research that is done continually sway your opinion in any way as clearly your unsupport assumptions and half truths are the real cause of all the declines and it's all a great conspiracy, feel free correct any mistakes in my postings.

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        • DAVID BYCROFT says:

          Have you ever watched a webcam from an artificial peregrine nest site? Over 70% of their prey are racing pigeons.You can clearly see the rings on the birds.And it's interesting that the nests are 'cleaned of rings' every other day.

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  2. rene says:

    Mr price im a pigeon fancier myself i too get hit on a regular basis yes some of our birds do go astray that i do agree with BUT the S**t you are saying about when our birds are reported are NECKED is a load of CRAP we try our BEST to have our BIRDS brought back to us the only time we NECK them as YOU call it is when they are ill or been attacked by your so called presious Sparrow hawk/Periegrine and have been to badly injured

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    • Mike Price says:

      Rene,

      "Neck it" was the phrase used when a good friend of mine who runs a rehibilitation centre called a pigeon fancier to tell him that she has one of his birds if he would care to come and collect it.

      I don't doubt for one minute that a bird of prey will attack what it probably deems to be easy prey, I question whether that is the bird of preys fault for needing to feed, or if indeed the people that are buying/breeding/flying the birds in the wild should have any right to ask for them to be controlled or due to the fact that they CHOOSE to put their birds at risk should simply accept that there are going to be losses.
      I would also question whether they would be better spending their efforts looking for solutions to the much higher percentage of birds that do not return as a result of other issues.

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    • Mark says:

      rene - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment

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  3. Jo says:

    Gary, while I do sympathise with pigeon fanciers for the loss of birds, I would like to say one thing. I think what you are doing is applying your end point (lost birds being a bad thing that needs remedying) to an almost plausible ecological argument (that the larger birds are outcompeting the smaller), that suits. That is entirely possible, but you cannot take two observations in science and assume as you are doing, that the one is causing the other. There may be no causal link at all, there may be some link but there may be many other factors with an impact. I suspect the reason your voice may not be being heard is that you do not have the science to back up your stance.

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  4. Frank Welsh says:

    Mike.
    When was the last "independent" research carried out into population of birds of prey in the UK? http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/BoCC_tcm9-217852.pdf
    As you can see proof the smaller birds are in decline no matter what the Rspb spin machine try to have us believe.
    Poor farming methods, lack of insects and poor winter's??? Never Big birds of prey eating small birds!

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    • Mike Price says:

      Frank,

      I am aware that many bird species are suffering a decline, but how is it that some are whilst others aren't? or that some species are on the incline, even in areas where raptors are also on the incline?

      There is a lot of spin from all sides but there is a lot of good independant research as well some of if as I stated was paid for by the anti raptor group Songbird Survival.

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    • Mark says:

      Frank - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment.

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  5. Roderick Leslie says:

    Obviously this has been a long running saga - and one where there is some serious science. About 10 years ago a Government group looked at a range of issues around raptors, including pigeons taken during races. Colin Shawyer, well known for his raptor work, in particualr on barn owls, of the Hawk and Owl trust was commissioned by the Government on behalf of the group to look at race losses. His study found that racing pigeons are taken by Peregrines but are a much smaller proportion of the losses than often claimed by the fancy. Peregrine control would have little impact on overall race losses. I would expect this existing Government-funded science will play a key role in considering demands for control.

    Attacks around lofts are a quite different issue on which I don't have the knowledge to comment.

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  6. Gary Burgess says:

    Collisions, maybe you have a point, strays you may have a point. Which also could be inconclusive.
    I am not hiding behind no songbird theory. I just said in my opinion they are on the decline, would you not agree.
    There have been a whole list of theories for this.
    One thing that is conclusive, is attacks on pigeons on pigeon lofts on a daily basis.
    These incidents are not just localised, this is happening the width and breadth of the country. These are conclusive, without a shadow of a doubt.
    The species responsible are conclusive.
    The Kestrel numbers, you don't have to be a scientist or mathematician to work this one out.
    So please don't go waving the anti raptor flag.
    Like anything, if lots people complain about something, especially 100,000 people complain. Then would you not agree, this does sound like a problem.
    A problem that should be viewed from all sides, in an even handed way.
    I'm not peddling no anti raptor poison.
    I just want our concerns to be heard.
    I love my birds and it does affect me every-time I see one taken, killed, or fatally wounded.
    There clearly is a problem and no doubt there will be a suitable solution.
    But this will have to be debated openly in an unbiased way.
    There's no half truths here.
    But who am I, just another member of the public with an opinion.
    Oh yes, sorry I didn't mention the pigeon fancier bit.

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    • Mike Price says:

      I refer you back to my reply to Frank,

      I am aware that many bird species are suffering a decline, but how is it that some are whilst others aren’t? or that some species are on the incline, even in areas where raptors are also on the incline?

      There is a lot of spin from all sides but there is a lot of good independant research as well some of if as I stated was paid for by the anti raptor group Songbird Survival, maybe I should state here that the findings did not support their "blame it on the raptors theory"

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    • Mike Price says:

      By the way if your not peddling anti raptor poison, then maybe you could explain why your website http://saveourracingpigeons.yolasite.com/ states

      " Have you ever noticed the morning chorus has gone extremely quiet over the past 20 years or so. The powers that be, who have sustained the basically man made countryside environment. Have somehow become so infatuated with the BOP programme, have seemed to have overlooked some of it more severe implications. Not only the devastating effects it's having on on pigeon racing and the survival rates of the racing pigeon. But also the devastating effects it having on the survival on our smaller populations of birds that frequent our gardens"

      It's simply untrue and is clearly designed to mislead people and is being used to support what is essentially your dislike of bird of prey targetting your pigeons.

      Here's a link to the paper that they so hoped would implicate birds of prey and it failed http://www.songbird-survival.org.uk/pdfs/BTOSBSResearch2010.pdf

      I feel sure that there are legal measure that can be taken at pigeon lofts to reduce the problems but that is not what your asking for, your asking to control avian predators because it interferes with your enjoyment to own pigeons and fly them.

      We could sit here whist we take the whole website/issue to pieces and you still wouldn't be happy with the answers despite the scientific research because they don't support your case, .

      I finally ask the simple question is it morally correct to control a natural predator to enhance a hobby?

      For our own protection - maybe, but surely other measures could be taken.
      For protection of our food supply - I'd suppor this if other measures could not be taken
      To protect a business - again possibly (even the shooting business afterall it forms a part of the local ecomony.
      So that you can set a pigeon free at one end of the country and let it fly home? I can see no merit to this at all

      Sorry but that really is how I see it and all the arguing in the world without scientific proof to the contrary, you are going to have a hard job convincing me otherwise

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Gary,
      You obviously have a love of your environment and like many of us, will look for what might seem obvious answers when over time you preceive things have changed for the worse.
      Using your words but turning it round from another perspective ...
      "I love nature and it does affect me every-time I see a natural species persecuted to prop up a human and unnatural pastime."

      I'm a similar age to yourself and when I was growing up I rarely saw Sparrowhawks or Buzzards unless we travelled somewhere away from the Home Counties. I didn't realise the reasons until much later so maybe you need to consider that your childhood memories were of an un-natural balance borne out of persecution of BoP.

      You don't mention other reasons why prey species have declined since the 1960s - is this just because you find it easier to jump to a singular conclusion despite science finding alternatives?

      By the way - I like Pigeons - but racing them - it's a hobby, not nature.

      Regards
      Robin

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  7. steve moyes says:

    Without doubt the largest predator of racing pigeons are the fanciers themselves. At the end of the race season the birds that have not performed "go in the bin" as one fancier told me, this save the cost of food over the winter. In my experience any bird which does not return is assumed to have been predated. Remember the big race from France back in the 80's. The birds hit fog and over 10,000 went missing. If you want to keep your birds stop sending them so far and tiring them out. Most fit, fresh pigeons will avoid predation.

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  8. darren palmer says:

    rod 10 years is a very long time in terms of nature,i think most pigeon fanciers would accept a few losses to natural predators but when you (pro raptor) gloat over web cams and come onto other bird sites to wind up peace loving pet owners,i have lost 4 birds out of 30 to raptors last year and had several back injured from hawk attacks,i dont think that the rspb is their to protect all birds i think it has gone backwards in its morals due to the few.when the hobby of pigeons whether it be racers or tipplers or showbirds is finished then the real impact on our wild songbirds will be seen to the full and then the shame can lay with the few....also i would like to point out that many many race birds are lost training due to hawk attacks the youngsters who are on training runs get split by a peregine and just fly for hours absolutely petrified they then get de-hydrated go down and are lost due to lack of exsperience but this will all be shot down as non-scientific but its true.is it realy natural to be releasing 100's of raptors into our countryside and driving the smaller birds of prey into citys and towns and actualy providing nesting sites in urban areas i think not

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  9. Tim Sexton says:

    You say that larger birds of prey are forcing smaller birds of prey out of their natural habitat into our gardens, 'wreaking havoc on the populations of the well loved popular garden birds'.

    Do you have any evidence to support this?

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  10. James says:

    I was gob-smacked by these comments and then I took a look at Gary’s blog and was even more intrigued by his interpretation of ecology. Ecology is taught in primary schools in Years 4-6 which details the basics of predator-prey relationships that Gary fails to comprehend.

    The simple reason for the hatred of raptors is placed in his statement about birds costing 5 grand to breed. If pigeon fanciers are going to release birds into the wild then surely they will be predated. If I was to walk across the Everglades or the Maasai Mara I’d be called stupid and a waste of taxpayer’s money when my remains, if I was attacked by a predator, would be transported back to the UK at a cost of over £1 million. Would I decide to go for a jaunt in a yacht off the coast of Somalia? Of course not!

    Gary falls into the typical trap of control by extermination. If you provide a source of food then nature will take advantage of this food source. It is like putting out food for the birds and then moaning that rodents take advantage of the food source. What do you expect?

    Gary and the pigeon fanciers also want to look at the millions spent clearing up our towns and cities (especially our historic buildings and monuments) from the impact of feral pigeons. In addition to the various diseases these birds carry that can be transferred to the human population, especially those “at risk”. The impact of that the feral birds are having from interbreeding with native Rock Doves. The numbers of feral pigeons around industrial areas says it all, then why do Peregrine falcons move in?

    I applaud Michael Price for summing up how larger raptors have moved in due to changes in DDT. The Goshawk has been introduced into some parts of the country through falconers’ birds escaping. So if the feral pigeon is due to the release of fanciers’ birds and the Goshawk is due to the release of falconers’ birds then where is the problem? The easiest answer would be to ban the keeping of birds – but will we do that? As for culling, the Goshawk is a native bird of prey still in recovery in many parts of the country. The Buzzard is re-colonising areas still. The same applies to many other raptors that were once common.

    Michael also comments on the ‘necking’ of birds that don’t make the grade or have been lost. I’ve seen this for myself when I’ve reported pigeons that have been grounded or I have found. I have even had someone collect a bird and kill it in front of me because I refused to do it. It didn’t bother me, but it proves a point that they have no regard for the life except when it suits them.

    So if you read between the lines of all of this – the biggest impact on our bird populations is man. Songbirds would have starved in cold winters or migrated. Some of our birds are changing their migration patterns and even moult strategies? Why is that?

    Gary, I feel sorry for you having these misconceptions about our native wildlife and population dynamics. Someone from the community is bound to call me a ‘Townie’ – I was born into the countryside to a family embedded in farming. However, in those days there was still in East Anglia a real mixture of pastoral and arable and this kept up small bird populations. I grew up surrounded by the Victorian views on raptors and other predators. I just have chosen to go out and find the real facts for myself.

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  11. James says:

    Mike - You'll notice that groups like "Songbird Survival" have had a number of key individuals who are no stranger to controversy when it comes to the use of poisons, shooting game birds and the mysterious disappearing Hen Harriers from their estates.

    It is a 'mask' for the true agenda of these individuals and that is to portray raptors as the scapegoat and not the fact that we've grubbed up hedgerows, massacre them with machines and poison the land..... However with raptors increasing in some parts, I am sure the predator/prey relationships mean prey must be plentiful - unless you want to believe some individuals who think babies are being taken from their prams by eagles....

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  12. Andrew Kyle says:

    A lot of good points have been aired here.
    Mr Price, your points may very well be accurate, but your manner is one of dismissivness and Mr Burgess has asked for open clear debate. I acknowledge that your tone has become more reasonable as this debate has progressed and thank you for this.
    I am a pigeon fancier. I am also a nature lover, in that I enjoy all birds and animals and I do not wish to involve myself within their lives to their detriment.
    As a nation, we do have domesticated pets. In their case we do involve ourselves and alter their natural course.
    Pigeons. Yes, they are sent to far distances. Some do not return for various reasons. Smashes do happen. At the end of season quality control does happen in the manner suggested, but not in all cases. As I said, lots of good points.
    Pigeon racing involves releasing the pigeons into the wild from varying distances and as Mr Burgess has stated at quite some cost for these pedigreed athletes. Given that there are losses for various reasons, collisions, weather, disorientation, etc; there are many more, it can not however be disagreed with that birds of prey also bear some blame. Now they do not account for all the losses through their need to eat. Some of the collisions are caused when the pigeons go into a blind panic in their attempt to eascape, they go to ground and are picked off by other predators; there are more problems incurred at the wings of the birds of prey.
    Around the lofts fanciers witness multiple daily attacks.
    This is all factual, perhaps not backed up by science at this time, but nevertheless facts.
    Surely there can be some debate to assist in finding solutions instead of glib remarks of keep them in and keep them safe because this would defeat the whole purpose of racing.
    I offer no solution being a new start to pigeon racing, but can say it is distressing to witness the attacks, especially for my children whose beloved birds are the subject of the attack. they are learning the truth about nature as it is in this day and age.

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  13. Gert Corfield says:

    Some interesting comments. I used to live next door to the president of the local pigeon racing club. His view regarding losses to Peregrines was pragmatic. He accepted that he will loose a few, and those that survive are the fittest and presumably most valuable.
    My problem with this is that culling anything to ensure someones hobby is not interfered with isn't right whether it's raptors in this scenario or Cormorants for the Anglers. Yes there are some economic losses, but then there is in every line of business/pursuit.
    They other dangers is, where with this all stop? Raptors, Badgers, Corvids, Cormorants - what else will people want killing off. I won't subscribe to it, sorry, notwithstanding the clear evidence that Raptors do not have appreciable effects on the song bird population - as Songbird Survival won't admit, even though they commissioned a BTO report which said just that!

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      I agree completely Gert.
      How about Pine Martens ?

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-17130777.

      Robin

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    • Ian Brown says:

      A prepared mind readily accepts statistics which on the surface appear to relate to separate aspects of the research, conclusions with which that mind agrees. But with a little more thought it might become apparent these ‘different’ aspects are probably related. For example, Peregrine predation on racing pigeons is an established fact – but recorded kills are small. Annual Losses of Racing Pigeons is also an established fact, but the figures are large. It’s quite easy to decide that there is no relationship between Peregrine predation, and large losses of Racing Pigeons..

      Predation effects extend beyond recorded kills. Some commentators appear incapable of even imagining the effects of a peregrine strike on a large batch of pigeons. No researcher has ever followed a batch of pigeons homing from a race or training, so they are unlikely to have ever witnessed such an attack. Eye witness accounts report it is devastating, with large numbers of birds either grounding, trying to seek shelter, or flying off in all directions, panic-stricken. Relate that fact to uninformed comments on ‘collisions and straying’ - racing pigeons are trained to hone fitness, knowledge of territory and homing ability. They shouldn’t normally stray or collide with anything. They homed successfully during two World Wars, through War Zones. To suggest otherwise in incomplete and biased research is at best a lack of knowledge of the subject under investigation, and it is very easy to provide stats without the reasons behind them..

      This piece of research on peregrine ‘ringed wild bird’ prey in Wales is interesting because it is by a BTO member and completely contradicts the conservationists’ party line. ‘In South & Central Wales no (wild bird) rings were found except racing pigeons. So what is their staple diet? The preferred prey species is quite obvious from that, and when that preferred prey species isn’t available it is also quite obvious what happens from the title of his first reference: Dixon, A., Richards, C., Haffied, P., Thomas, M., Lawrence, M. & Roberts, G. 2010. Population decline of Peregrines Falco peregrinus in central Wales associated with a reduction in racing pigeon availability. Birds in Wales 7: 3-11.

      http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/taking-part/volunteering/volunteer-stories/winters-tale

      On bias, there was an interesting TV programme aired last weekend which explored the early beginnings of the RSPB, and the work it did. What some in the movement now fear is that RSPB now acts on behalf of benefiting the Society’s funds rather than on behalf of the general wild bird population. We the green public are continually regaled by RSPB about the decline in various bird populations, and everything and everybody is blamed for that, particularly farming methods. Quite rich that accusation considering that half the world’s population go to bed at night hungry, and not all of those people live in other countries. So should we stop growing food?

      But the movement does not promote endangered ‘songbird’ species – where are the re-introduction programmes for these – and that is because there’s no money for RSPB in that. Those same members reckon the public won’t (pay to) come to the numerous Reserves to see ‘the small birds’ but they will for Birds of Prey. No Birds of Prey, no visitors, no income.

      RSPB should do exactly what is says on the tin that they are so good at rattling on street corners. Protection of all birds, not just the marketable species it happens to like. And if a species is under threat, then it needs special protection - especially from predation - to maintain that viable population number below which extinction beckons and if that means birds of prey need to be taken out of the reducing numbers equation - then that is exactly what should happen. To continue to applaud these magnificent creatures while they munch their way towards yet another extinction, is not what I would expect from a Conservation group.

      And on same tack, BTO on a TV programme a number of years ago on the Yorkshire European Eagle Owls, told viewers ‘they could go out and shoot them’. And that is exactly what happened to the hen. ‘European Eagle Owls are not a bird you’d like in your back garden’ said RSPB on same programme. But on other programmes it is clear that RSPB thinks Sparrowhawks are. I don’t expect this from a Conservation group either.

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      • Tony Whitehead says:

        "But the movement does not promote endangered ‘songbird’ species – where are the re-introduction programmes for these – and that is because there’s no money for RSPB in that."

        The RSPB been working on cirl buntings, a (formerly) endangered songbird, for years over here in the far West. And we've re-introduced them to Cornwall http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/projects/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-212392

        And a small point over the raptor/songbird debate - cirl buntings have increased more than fourfold over the past fifteen years in south Devon in the presence of Messrs sparrowhawk, peregrine and co. This is because their problem, like other songbirds, was not predators, it was lack of food - especially in winter - and to a lesser extent nesting space. We work with farmers to correct this and, hey presto, more cirl buntings.

        Tony Whitehead, RSPB South West

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        A lot of good points made here Ian.
        I definitely think that there are a lot of entrenched views on both sides of this debate. I also think that it is completely incorrect to relate predation losses to direct kills only. I know for a fact, having personally witnessed it as it happened, that attacks do not always end up in direct kills, but they do cause great panic. I have had racing pigeons die through collision as a direct result of attack. If the collision figures were to be taken into consideration then the effects of predation on racing pigeons would be far greater than the scientific proof suggests.
        Someone once said that there are facts, facts and damn statistics. I know I have the quote incorrect, but the point is that statistics are able to be massaged to suit needs and purpose.

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  14. Gary, you’re reasoning for the loss of songbirds across the UK does not hold any water as far as I am concerned. Over the last three decades I have been a regular visitor to Eastern Europe, countries like the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. In each of these countries there has so far been no decline in songbird numbers, this is despite the fact that populations of raptors are at levels far greater than here in the UK. This may have more to do with the lack of modern agricultural practices and until recently the use of pesticides was very limited, sadly this is now beginning to change.

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    • phil brand says:

      Terry ,
      What you observed in eastern europe, the balance of nature, occurred ecause of the long term status quo .
      In the Uk birds of prey were culled during the wars to make sure that the pigeons could carry the messagesand from the troops.I believe that given time ,with no interfering from the RSPB or any other party for that matter, levels would have eventually evned out to a natural balance.I accept that modern farming methods are at some fault for our songbird decline but the simple math says that if there are more predators introduced into what could be potentially an overpopulation of songbirds caused by the raptor cull, then the population of songbirds will fall -it has to.
      My objection is not to the RSPB supporting the birds of prey, but to their insistance on introducing predator species into areas that are not remotely like their natural habitat.It is not conceivable that peregrine falcons would nest in high rise blocks without either one of two things happening .
      the first being the promotion of nest sites in urban areas and the second is a bit more sinister , if the RSPB refute the first point then it means that there must not be any suitable nest areas that are not already taken.
      does this mean that there is a population saturation?
      I have been a pigeon fancier for thirty years and I will defy anyone from any organisation to tell me that losses of racing pigeons to raptors have remained at the same level over the last 10 years.
      My loft is in a built up area and as such I do not suffer as much as some, but I recently watched a sparrowhawk take a blackbird in my garden and then visit again this time without success. I have taken my bird table in now because however it is dressed up watching a bird being eaten alive holds no pleasure for me.
      As pigeon fanciers we accept that some losses to raptors ,and other causes are inevitable but we do not blame all losses on raptors because we do not see them.We can only comment on the attacks that happen around our lofts.
      If you do not believe that the racing fraternity have a true grievance then please read the Homing World .It has a regular input from walkers, climbers and the like who do us the favour of reporting the ring numbers of our birds found at nest sites ,these can sometimes can number in the thirties.
      All we ask is that consideration is given to both the songbird population and of course the pigeon racing fraternity.A happy medium is the desired result not a war of accusations and counter allegations.
      hopefully common sense will prevail

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  15. Gary Burgess says:

    I am not asking for anything except a review of the facts.
    The fact is that our birds are being attacked relentlessly on a daily basis, by predators, which in this case are protected birds of prey and we are trying to desperately to seek a solution.
    Keeping our birds locked up is not a solution.
    Or maybe it could be a solution, because if we did all keep in our birds for one whole year, perhaps we would then see a huge demise in the prey species.
    When birds are on the wing, OK I accept the fact, that we letting them free into the wild and they will be preyed upon.
    But what it is unacceptable, is the relentless slaughter we have to endure every day at our homes, by urban dwelling raptors.
    This is not only happening to racing pigeons, this is also happening to the fancy breeds of pigeons and dove cotes, that was once a familiar site everywhere.
    Aviaries full of fancy birds and budgies are even being attacked, to the degree that some are perishing out of sheer fright.
    There is a problem, like it or not.
    I haven't even even mentioned the culling of any breed.
    In fact I never even mentioned the Goshawk or the Buzzard, as I don't really think these are a huge problem to us.
    Is it not fair to say, that the single mindedness of some people, creates far bigger problems.
    Insults do nothing but infuriate people.
    But every time anyone brings up this problem.
    Is it not fair to say, we get bullied into submission. We get insulted, we get belittled, we get told that we are ignorant and uneducated. We get told that us as fanciers and our birds are unimportant.
    Welcome to working class.
    I tell you this, this problem is not going to away and neither, are we going to get bullied in to submission.
    What may be dismissed and deemed unimportant to you, is extremely important to us.
    We will thrash out this debate relentlessly, be under no illusion of that, we will not just go away because you insult us and we will do whatever it takes to have our voice heard.

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  16. Filbert Cobb says:

    By allowing this guest post our host has trolled his own blog. Tee Hee!

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    • Neil Sumner says:

      "trolled his own blog?". Having read this thread I think this blog was a master stroke by Mark in allowing Gary to present his views and allowing everyone to reply to them. To me the debate was clearly won by those of us who believe that currently there is no justification for killing raptors: its statistics and the results of research versus heresay and a specific interest. But I was surprised at Ian saying " the movement does not promote endangered ‘songbird’ species – where are the re-introduction programmes for these – and that is because there’s no money for RSPB in that. " The RSPB spends thousands on its Farmland Bird Recovery Programme which is primarily aimed at songbirds - providing free advice and administartion services to landowners to help bring back skylark, corn bunting, yellowhamer, linnet etc.

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      • Filbert Cobb says:

        Trolling is an intentionally provocative action. Hence - Tee Hee. It elicited abuse and hostility against the guest poster. Job done.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      What does this mean?

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  17. Dave Hallam says:

    This is crazy? Sorry if that comes across as harsh but it's my gut reaction. You release pets into the wild and complain when one is taken by a wild animal, are you serious? It's in no way different to me racing pet rabbits across the country and compaining about foxes or pet fish down a river and complaining about pike!

    As for strikes on your captive birds in enclosures again I just think it's inevitable. If you keep prey species as pets in an environment that is unsafe for them then you've only got yourself to blame if they get hurt by a wild animal doing what it supposed to do.

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    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you Dave! I've spent ages reading all the comments and can't believe no-one has said this yet.

      I know lots of people who keep chickens and if they don't shut them up at night and a fox gets them they don't blame the fox, they blame themselves for forgetting to protect their pets.

      If raptors are killing pigeons at home use better protection to secure these valuable animals. Give them large aviarys to stay in and make sure they are locked, like any other pet owner or farmer would do. If they're worth that much then it must be worth adding the protection and it's probably cheaper than controlling the raptors. controlling predators is always more complex than first expected (ie badger culling research!)

      If raptors are killing pigeons during races then see Dave's comment above and accept it as part of the challenge. If you put unprepared prey into the wild they WILL get eaten.

      Surely an increase in BOP numbers means there is also an increase in natural prey, unless there are populations completely dependent on captive pigeons?

      If smaller birds are being pushed out of areas by larger birds of prey surely they are moving area, not increasing and so are not consuming more prey just in a different location. I don't know lots about racing pigeons but I think they cover very large distances, so large in fact that a small local change in bird ranges should not impact whether the pigeons are susceptible to predation on route. Thus a change in population location seems to only be relevant to those attacks which occur at home, and if so see my above comment.

      Have I understood this correctly? Maybe I have assumed things I cannot or there are other factors I have missed.

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      • phil brand says:

        Yours is obviously the opinion of someone who has done little or no research into the predation of racing pigeons by raptors.
        Let me put it in a way that you may understand
        You take out your pet dog in to an area that has wild boar , a natural species with no predators, and your dog is attacked and killed.
        Had it been killed by boar from a small managed number resident in that area then yes its just bad luck BUT in an uncontrolled population the odds are that you are more likely to encounter boar.
        Do you then suggest that your dog walking days are over or would you suit up your dog in armour?
        Please dont say that you would walk your dog somewhere else , I could repeat the exercise in any scenario.
        Empathy pal -try it -it just might make you feel good about yourself

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  18. Mick Young says:

    Just one comment for all of you that think this only happens now and again I have had 4 of my pigeons killed in the last 4 weeks by a sparrow hawk and this is happening around my loft. My question for the raptor lovers is give me a solution anything you can suggest to prevent this happening i would love to here the answer.

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  19. Jonathan Wallace says:

    Gary, I am concerned about the conservation of butterflies and moths many species of which are declining. Blue tits and great tits are voracious predators of caterpillars and have both increased in recent years according to theBTO. So should I be advocating tit control? The answer of course is no because it would be false logic to connect the decline of some moths with an increase in blue tits just because the abundance of one is heading in the opposite direction to the abundance of the other. Your connection of the decline of some songbirds with the increase of some birds of prey is similarly flawed. Contrary to your assertion, it really does take a scientist to tease out the often complicated reasons behind the rise and fall of animal populations.

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  20. Dennis Ames says:

    Think some people on here have been rather nasty to the blogger,totally unnecessary to a guest blogger.
    Two facts are 1)pigeon fanciers were very important allies to have in wars which we have been through providing the best way of getting messages back undoubtedly saving many of our soldiers lives.2)At these times Peregrines were killed unmercifully to save the homecoming birds so if anyone says they do not kill many pigeons it is obviously untrue.
    At least think about what he says and be polite.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Thanks for this comment Dennis. I think this is what Gary is asking for.
      Polite debate in the hope that some solution may be arrived at, such solution suitable to and for all.
      Am I correct in assuming that not every member on this forum is a scientist directly involved with bird conservancy?
      If I am correct, then we are none of us experts with regards to the solution. Some may have more insight than others as is the case in all walks of life. These more informed members are the ones who are able to give most to this debate.
      Please assist with factual knowledge and not just by stating statistics whilst holding a defiant stance regards the release of pets into a wildlife environment. In the case of racing pigeons this release of pets into a wildlife environment has been taking place for over 100 years without the demise of pigeons at the level which now exists.
      The pigeon fanciers are looking for solutions and are asking for help.

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  21. SIMON says:

    What I would suggest is that those who wish to have a debate over raptor control need to bring to the table some peer reviewed research to support their claims. Without this you cannot make any compelling case.

    Currently this research has been completed and showed that Birds of Prey are not limiting the populations of small birds. Besides wouldn't Blue Tit, Great Tit if this was the case?

    Sparrowhawk numbers have taken a recent decline - this is entirely acceptable however (but worth keeping an eye on) as their recovery to areas following the effects of DDT etc as inter-specific population dynamics could limit population etc.

    Of course the RSPB has proven (along with others) that you can increase song/farmland bird numbers through the appropriate habitat management and creation at the right scale.

    So I would suggest to have a reasoned discussion you have to make a reasonable evidenced based request - currently the research says different so it is not a reasoned, evidence based request.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      You have first hand stated evidence of the devastation bird of prey attacks on a racing pigeon convoy and around lofts.
      We are alsso in the process, via our governing bodiesd, of collating these attacks and their resultant devastation.
      To say no debate is able to take place until this collated evidence is able to be placed on the table is ludicrous.
      Surely debate is just that. What we have here is a plea from ordinary people who happen to keep and race pigeons as their past-time. We are not talking about playing golf or whatever else, but about ways we are able to go about our leisure enjoyment and how we are able in some small manner protect our pets.

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  22. James says:

    Dennis

    The trouble is this is a very emotive topic and I think it has been brave of Mark to post this on his blog. I think open debate should be encouraged. However people are going to have to understand.

    Gary himself has said several things even in reply like a reassessment of the facts - but you can't really reassess facts. A fact is indisputable. So is he really saying that the evidence from peer-assessed papers in journals are lies? Is what my university lecturers and school teachers taught me lies?

    Whilst I agree pigeons played a major role in warfare, things have moved on!

    I can see both sides of the argument, but then having kept birds myself I did not have Sparrowhawks constantly terrorising birds. For friends who have dovecotes the losses they have are very rare, if at all. One of them also has Sparrowhawks nesting in their garden.

    So why is it that these Sparrowhawks find their way into these towns where they are not that abundant in the first place and prey on your pigeons when out in the countryside they are much more numerous......

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  23. chris says:

    now for all the raptor lovers or anti pigeon fanciers , you ask for facts, what if i could get get 10 fanciers to film there loft for 1 month and all of them had say 1 attack every 3days would that prove raptors are a proplem ? no it wouldnt you come out with some other bull to cover it over as everythink else, i feed songbirds in my garden and i have watched BOP hit my table 10 times this month but then i guessing thats a load of bull to ? just what im thinking but some of you are very nasty towards eachother

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  24. Mike Price says:

    In my opinion the blogger started off wrong, instead of simply explaining that he is concerned about the problems he and others are experiencing with raptors and their birds, in an attempt to reinforce his opinion or case he choose to hold raptors up as the eminent evil, this immediately removed any credability from one side of the discussion, particularly as this very same tactic that has been used by the shooting industry and despite throwing their wealth behind the research they failed to prove, and indeed in some cases proved quite the opposite of what they were hoping to be able to.

    Had the discussion been about their collective losses I (and possibly others) may have had some sympathy for their cause, it wouldn't of actually altered my opinion that by releasing semi-tame/tame species into the wild you take and accept the risk that the birds are susceptible to loss from raptor predation, adverse weather, cats, road accidents etc.

    I can only find this http://p.behr.free.fr/biblio/birdsofprey_pigeons.pdf research into pigeon losses which appears (and without having more detail I wouldn't say more) to suggest that raptors are playing a much smaller part in your losses than other issues.

    It was suggested that I was dismissive, maybe that is the result of living in an area where there are real problems with bird of prey persecution, and having seen the arguments that ignore the basic principals of ecology before, or that having tried to explain that ignoring numerous scientific papers because they don't support your view point is the beginning a very tiresome debate.

    I don't really understand what Ian Brown is trying to say as he contradicts himself suggesting that it is possible to have an open mind and then blaming everything once again on Peregrine Falcons despite the fact that (and I once again point to the fact that I haven't read the revelant papers only the overview as stated above) the research I read suggests that 86% of pigeons lost each year fail to return to their lofts for reasons other than predation by birds of prey. It's fair to say that this data is now 9 or 10 years old but given the costs involved in these studies you might consider that it is unlikely that having once disproven this theory, that it could be difficult to re-ignite the interest and investment (what I mean is do we just keep doing the excercise again and again because it doesn't agree with you opinion? and who is going to fund this?)

    Pigeon fanciers feel bullied because research doesn't support their claims?

    A study by Lancaster University, commissioned by the pigeon racing unions concluded that even if all peregrines were removed each year from every territory in south Wales, it would reduce losses by just 10%, the equivalent of each loft having three more racingpigeons than it otherwise would. (and it quotes 8 British Homing World, 22 February 2002.)

    Some people might find the predation of birds distressing but I am afraid that it is nature at it's finest, the survival of the fittest. If you feed the birds in your garden you are also making a feeding table for the local Sparrowhawk and that is part and parcel of equation, no-one is denying that raptors take smaller birds that is how they live and without an abundance of prey they would not be there/here.

    I am fairly sure I won't be able to add much more to this debate and whilst I can't say it has been much of a pleasure I feel it helps to reinforce how people with an agenda will try to force their arguments with hearsay and supposition, not just where raptors are concerned but in many aspects of life (beware the man who claims that wildlife regulations harm or stifle growth and business).

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Mike Price said:-

      “I don’t really understand what Ian Brown is trying to say as he contradicts himself suggesting that it is possible to have an open mind and then blaming everything once again on Peregrine Falcons despite the fact that (and once again point to the fact that I haven’t read the relevant papers only the overview as stated above) the research I read suggests that 86% of pigeons lost each year fail to return to their lofts for reasons other than predation by birds of prey. It’s fair to say that this data is now 9 or 10 years old but given the costs involved in these studies you might consider that it is unlikely that having once disproven this theory, that it would be difficult to re-ignite the interest and investment (which I mean is do we just keep doing the exercise again and again because it doesn’t agree with your opinion? And who is going to fund this)”

      First and foremost, the research project to which you refer was commissioned and paid for by Pigeon fanciers through members’ subscriptions to their Unions. The Scottish Homing Union (SHU) paid SNH £10,000 for its research project. SHU agreed terms of reference, but after the research began these were altered by SNH and the researchers without SHU’s knowledge. For example Racing Pigeons Ring Counts were not taken at many Peregrines nests in known problem areas, and data provided by pigeon fanciers’ diaries was excluded. So how accurate were the published data? http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/pigeons_raptors_report.pdf

      SHU disputed the Report’s findings as soon as it was published. I do not have a direct link to the SHU’s response, but this link confirms that it was published - http://herald.vlex.co.uk/vid/feathers-fly-missing-homing-pigeons-66001749

      Secondly, the state of mind I mentioned was ‘prepared mind’ – the opposite of Open’ - a state of mind that finds it easy to pick & choose which data to use or drop, possibly as a best fit for the ‘facts’ as it believes them to be, or would like them to be.

      Mike Price also said:-

      “I can only find http://p.behr.free.fr/biblio/birdsofprey_pigeons.pdf research into pigeon losses which appears (and without having more detail I wouldn’t say more) to suggest that raptors are playing a much smaller part in your losses than other issues.”

      The figures from http://p.behr.free.fr/biblio/birdsofprey_pigeons.pdf:-

      Pigeons fail to return to their lofts for the following reasons:
      _ straying and exhaustion – 36% of losses
      _ collisions with solid objects, mainly buildings, windows and vehicles – 19% of losses
      _ collisions with overhead wires – 15% of losses
      _ predation by birds of prey – 14% of losses
      _ shooting, entanglement in netting, poisoning and oiling – 8% of losses
      _ predation by mammals, including domestic cats - 8% of losses.

      In my previous post I’d said collisions and straying may be connected with a peregrine strike. Your research link also says “Priority should be given to understanding why straying accounts for 36% of lost pigeons.” The research lacked the insight and knowledge of how a large batch of pigeons reacts to simultaneous peregrine attack from above and below, so cannot connect these events with a possible peregrine strike. No investigative work was done to prove the hypothesis that no link between peregrines and straying existed. It should also be obvious that cats etc can’t fly, and for that predation to take place the bird would need to be grounded. Pigeons can and do fly for 14 hours non-stop, when they are released they have one single aim, and that is to get home. They are exercised, trained and managed to achieve that aim. Just as they were years ago prior to flying through War Zones, when they were able to home despite sustaining terrible injuries. More than 50% of Dickens Medals won (Animal VCs) were won by pigeons. The ‘fail to return home data’ just does not stack up with the racing pigeon breeding, character & historical background.

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      • paul Irving says:

        Ian, whilst I would support independent research to find out about losses due to dispersion and failure to return home it is unlikely I suspect to be much to do with peregrine attack. Pigeons are after all still very close in most ways to the wild ancestor. Most prey species very quickly loose the memory of attacks, yes they get better at avoiding them but they do not apparently have the sort of longer term panic suggested or they would be unable to function. I have in the past seen a number of attacks on pigeons wild and otherwise when watching peregrines near the nest, those pigeons that are not predated and escape very quickly appear to resume normal behaviour. It is probably our own reactions that assume it causes long term panic.
        Peregrines are designed by nature to eat pigeons, pigeons are designed to try and avoid this, it is natures arms race. Wild pigeons are almost certainly better at this due to experience but that the peregrine takes domestic pigeons is unavoidable and does not make the pigeon some sort of criminal entity, it just is.

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Thanks for your knowledgeable input Ian.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Thank you for your input once again Mike. It appears that you are a person who has some knowledge and is prepared to look at other views. please continue in the debate.
      I also accept that predation can not carry all the blame for racing pigeon losses. I am a newcomer to the hobby, but feel that fanciers think that the predation aspect within the sport has increased and is now far more of a problem than it was some 10 years ago.
      I think the RSPB is to be congratulated on all its work with regards to conservancy and accept that this is not just towards birds of prey. They have other schemes running as well. They have been very successful with their work in Cornwall, as we have heard, and I am sure they have been as successful with their work in supporting birds of prey.
      I think it may be this very success that has made their factual evidence of some 10 years ago, no longer factual, so yes, facts can change and accepted knowledge can be ioncorrect.
      Cost of studies are a problem. I know and understand that the Scottish Homing union has put a lot of money to research this problem and perhaps it is time that the pigeon fanciers stop their good work in supporting many and various charities and instead support their own cause by putting the monies raised into research. How would this new research be started?

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  25. chris says:

    im not even going to get involed with you tbh you bore me and only for one side of the story

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  26. chris says:

    as you said to gaz about not replying to a statement what about mine

    now for all the raptor lovers or anti pigeon fanciers , you ask for facts, what if i could get get 10 fanciers to film there loft for 1 month and all of them had say 1 attack every 3days would that prove raptors are a proplem ?

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  27. Gert Corfield says:

    Chris- no. You might find it helpful to read research though.

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  28. James says:

    To Chris - yes, but the film would need to be done by a respected independent body. You can't research yourself - not like tobacco companies used to! Anyway a male Sparrowhawk only takes prey up to 120g and mostly much smaller than that. So it is only the female that you are looking at as being the claimed predator.

    When a Kestrel is predating a colony of Little Terns - the RSPB doesn't look to cull the Kestrel's but work on a solution to protect the birds.

    Perhaps to raise songbird numbers you could suggest culling cats.....

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  29. Neil Sumner says:

    Gary I think it was brave of you to put this blog on and you put your viewpoint so politely and its been really useful to see all the repsonses that highlight studies and reports on the issues. Many of us bird-watchers have noticed the changes in song bird population but most of us believe that it is habitat, food and conditions on migration that are the problem. In some cases these pressures are so enormous that species are vulnerable to extinction and the predation is the final straw. Many predators are very versatile and have adapted well to man's environment but culling should only be a last resort and following overwhelming evidence that it is necessary. Its not just predators (Radio 4 programme about deer in a Suffolk woodand last week which highlighted that deer have caused serious reductions in many song-bird species in some areas.) Perhaps pigeon fanciers should be lobbying for some sort of compensation or insurance scheme rather than culling?

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  30. paul Irving says:

    Firstly let me say and those who know me already know this, I am ar aptor enthusiast, but I have some sympathy with the pigeon men ( for want of a better phrase). However the introduced the argument about songbirds is false and has been PROVED so time and time again, at a population level predator numbers are controlled by the number of prey NOT the other way round. This is true for raptors, wolves, foxes and cormorants, indeed for every vertebrate predator studied ( there are a FEW exceptions in invertebrates) If this were not the case most predators would have become extinct long ago when they had eaten all their prey!
    Research has shown that the number of pigeons taken by peregrines and sparrowhawks from races is relatively small, yes there may be lots of pigeon rings at peregrine nests but you need to look at what proportion of the pigeon population this represents. The thing not to do is say look they live on lots of pigeons therefore they are the problem, that is false logic.

    But the pigeons that fanciers keep are not a natural population and what is needed is a way that limits the number of attacks at lofts, culling the predator will not work, it will be replaced in that territory quickly by another, so you would need to kill many to make just a little difference. That is morally unjustifiable to protect a sport or hobby and illegal, that some pigeon people take the law into their own hands makes conservationists less sympathetic. I don't profess to have answer Gary but what I do say is that killing raptors is not the answer. I know its no consolation but the pigeons that do not get predated are the fittest smartest birds.

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  31. DavidH says:

    What annoys me is that whenever there is any mention of antiraptor issues a lot of arrogant, often obnoxious,self opinionated, bigoted and often rude people emerge from out of the woodwork. Mr Burgess has outlined his problem with birds of prey attacking his homing pigeons. Presumably he has seen such attacks while exercising his pigeons and yet he has been accused of being badly educated and lacking in scientific understanding, but I would imagine that he knows much more about predator/ prey relationships than many of his adversaries here.
    If anyone asked me before I read these comments where I would stand, I would have said that I would be against Mr Burgess's argument, but after reading the caustic remarks against him I now tend to lean towards sympathising with him.
    For similar reasons I refused to vote for the vicarious liability petition ie I just do not want to associate with this type of people

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  32. Gary Burgess says:

    Thanks for the comments, it's just made a few thing quite clear.
    The first thing that becomes clear is the attitude of some people, it's nasty and extremely offensive.
    I have never once asked for any sort of cull whatsoever, all I was asking was for us to try and find a solution to a serious problem.
    But no, that would too easy.
    It's people like yourself, who cause raptors to be persecuted, congratulate yourselves on that.
    I have pleaded with pigeon fanciers not to take action by themselves and to have faith in democratic system.
    I have over the past couple of weeks taken much flack for this approach.
    I'm sorry, but maybe I am wrong for being a human being with a real passion for saving any creatures in danger.
    But one thing is for sure, I shall not say any more.
    You have proved to the fanciers who want to take matters into their own hands right, they should do whatever they deemed necessary to protect their birds.
    I hold my hands up, my approach is quite clearly, not the right approach.
    Well done to you all.

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    • Mike Price says:

      Gary,

      All it has made clear in my mind is that regardless of the studies into bird declines some people are firmly entrenched in their belief that raptors are the cause of this (clearly this is no reflection of their hatred of certain raptors due to the effects they have on their hobby).

      If they could seperate this erroneous aspect of the discussion you could have a far more worthwhile and suitable discussion into the effects of Peregrine Falcons on Racing Pigeons, but you still have to overcome the issue that you personally put your birds at risk of loss due to predation amongst other things by releasing them into the environment, this would make a sensible starting point of this discussion, before moving onto Peregrines in particular (instead of an attack upon ecology in general, because you believe it can add weight to your point).

      Your comments regarding "taking the law into their own hands" harms your argument even more, you need to leave your agenda out of your discussions if you wish them to be viewed reasonably, unfortunately for you I had read all the anti raptor venom on your website before.

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  33. Mike Price says:

    Ian,

    Had those been the points made by Gary (and were his website not testiment to his anti raptor opinions), a much more sensible discussion could have taken place.

    I make no excuse for being passionate about wild birds but sometmes I will admit too being overzealous when presented with an article such as Garys.

    I still find it very hard to blame a wild animal for actions it takes, when we humans willingly introduce an un-natural food source into the ecosysystem, I can understand the need for controls on a non-native predator that was introduced by humans that then goes on to have a detrimental effect on native species (IE mink or rats on some islands etc).

    Aside from my reservations above, a full study of the effects of Peregrine Falcons on racing pigeons would need to cover so many variables too make it conclusive that their is a danger that the cost implication alone would make it restrictive (as well as their being an issue of whether it is even possible to monitor a lot of the issues that would need to be addessed), without a complete and full study the outcome would never be agreed by either side.

    For example can you base the evidence on rings found only at an erie that is mainly used only in the breeding season (maybe you can?)

    Can you base it on rings found at all?

    It would need to cover all the time that any birds are free to take into account a usable loss rate.

    Another area that I struggle to quantify (and I am happy to admit that it's not my area of study) is the eye witness account for two reasons: One we have a hostile witness and two he/she cannot be monitoring the Peregrines kills 100% of the time and so cannot begin to equate what percent of the prey killed are racing pigeons.

    With regards to the comments of only racing pigeon rings being found at an erie (no wild birds), it is wildly reported that pigeons are popular prey for Peregrine Falcons and given the % of feral/wild pigeons that are ringed each year being so low it is no real suprise that not that many (if any) rings are found at the erie, also smaller rings will most likely be ejected as pellets from the Peregrine away from the Erie.

    There is also another issue that is worth bearing in mind and that is this http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Amar_et_al_-_Biol_Cons_Peregrine_paper_Final_Online_Version.pdf paper which suggests that due to the much lower success rate of breeding the grouse moor
    population of Peregrine Falcons is not self-sustaining, without the urban Peregrines we would once again be seeing them in decline.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your link, I've taken a copy of the paper for some reading later on.

      The eyewitness accounts: Yes, you are right as they are most likley to be fom the people who have just released the pigeons, They have not yet been caught on film in Britain - I hope to do something about that from this year - but there is a spectacular video of an attack over the sea at Tenerife in 2010 or 2011. I'll try and link that later.

      I witnessed 'something' in 2011 which I couldn't identify at the time, but which on reflection was almost certainly a peregrine attack. Despite appearing to try, my pigeons wouldn't or couldn't clear the area (Lauder, Scottish Borders) and were huddling together in a tight little group circling very high in the sky, with 'something' darting into or toward them from below. When I returned home, I had 4 pigeons missing. 4 weeks later one of the missing birds homed, feathers missing on one wing, whole tail had been out and new one was now half grown, and limping badly on one foot.

      On losses, I started with 40 pigeons in 2011, bred 30 youngsters = 70, and was left with 44 pigeons at the end of 2011. Losses like that I think you will agree are unsustainable, and from an Animal Welfare viewpoint, totally unacceptable. It is galling that some think I should shrug it off and accept it as 'Nature'.

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Again, well put Ian. I too have had pigeons continually turned returning to the release point and indeed overflying it, making several such attempts. On return to the loft I lost 3 and had one returned with feathers missing and a laceration on its side. Correctly or incorrectly, I put the behaviour and the injury down to an attack from bird of prey. I released 9 pigeons that day and had only 6 return, eventually and over a period of a week.
        I look forward to your further investigations and films, albeit the content of them may not be palatable to me.

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        • Ian Brown says:

          Hi Mike,

          I located the 2 Tenerife videos showing peregrine attacks on newly liberated racing pigeons in 2011. The pigeons in these 2 videos are all racing home to the same loft which is located around 50 miles away. On release the pigeons should form up into a single batch and disappear from sight within a couple of minutes – I’ve posted a 3rd video which isn’t as good quality as the other 2 – its purpose is to show that a normal liberation of even 10,000 pigeons clears from sight within a few minutes. Think of these as the ‘control’ pigeons. These birds are racing 200 miles home to different lofts:-

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oiXc7UfY6Q

          Now watch what happens when peregrines get involved:-

          Liberated on land
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR15_gINI6I&feature=player_profilepage

          Liberated at sea
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT8KUsXpFug&feature=related

          During 2011, in Britain, reports of attacks at several different liberation sites on newly liberated pigeons suggested to me that peregrine behaviour is evolving. They now seem to be able to recognise racing pigeon transporters. Only circumstantial proof of that at the moment, but it appears to me to be more than sheer co-incidence that they appear seconds after the pigeons take to the air. Some transporters now carry bird-scaring rockets which are fired into the sky before the pigeons are liberated.

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          • Mike Price says:

            Hi Ian,

            Thanks for the links, I can understand why the owners of domestic birds would fear Peregrine Falcons I have seen various species of birds that they have attacked and fed upon, unfortunately they need to eat to survive and that is all they understand, they look for the weakest or easiest prey to hunt, as it requires the least energy and gives them the best chance of a successful kill.

            I don't deny that their increases have an impact on certain bird species, but they have (prior to mans intervention) co-existed with these species for many many years, it is only in recent times (the last century or two) that we human have really begun to dominate with such drastic effect that we have caused massive damage to the natural world. The basics of ecology are what stop predators becoming extinct their numbers are simply governed by the available food sources, it is this aspect of this whole discussion I am finding so difficult to get past., and to say they were going to go extinct so we should let them when that extinction was caused entirely by man through persecution and the use of chemicals that may have resulted in many problems for us as a species had it not been discovered in our raptor population I find completely ludicrous.

            I am slightly amused at the class argument that seems to be growing into the discussion given that I am a) working class b) not particularly well educated (less than a handful of 'O' levels) and c) I live on a council estate, thankfully on the edge of such wonderful countryside (completely artificial, managed countryside but all the same it sure beats concrete).

            There is no point in people keep harping on about hiding behind science and figures when our whole existence is governed by such in depth study, papers are not simply released and then taken as gospel they are peer reviewed and often debated at great lengths (even by those who agree with their findings, it's how they ensure that what is being studied and how it is studied is indeed cohesive with the findings), as I have said before I spend quite a lot of my time studying birds (small and large) and whilst we, as field workers may only see part of the picture we are party to results of the research that is done using our collective data.

            You can't simply say that because predator numbers have increased and prey numbers have decreased the two must be linked, indeed as I stated earlier a massive indepth study was undertaken,funded by Songbird Survival essentially in a bid to prove this was the case (too support another anti raptor argument and it simply proved to be incorrect).

            When you can see the massive amount of breeding habitat destroyed and how food sources (insects or spilt seed/grain for example) have been massively reduced, I find it hard to believe that these type of discussion are still taking place.

            I believe there is or at least there was reportedly a long-term study that was going to control corvid numbers to see what effects that had on the success of certain species, and whilst on the one hand I slightly disagree with the control, I must admit to being particularly interested in the results , regardless of the findings I think it will make very interesting reading and offer us a real insight into effects of their seemingly (at least to me) huge increase in numbers.

            Now not being involved in pigeon fancing I have no idea what you might have tried so far, or even if any of the things I might say next are even feasible for racing pigeons but I think that if you haven't already tried them they may be worth a shot

            A local pheasant shoot use large hawk/owl faces that are about 4ft wide and 3ft high these are erected above the pens, they also have radio 4 (because it's mostly chat based) playing over some loud speakers (though not that much louder than we would converse) throughout the day.

            A local breeder of ornimental doves (I think they were) believed that he avoided a lot of hawk strikes by painting large eyes onto his birds wings, I must say that whilst neither of these people were particulary happy about the losses they had suffered neither of them were blaming the raptors but were looking for solutions that could reduce their losses.

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      • Cerian says:

        Hi Ian,

        Unfortunately I have not got time right now to read all of the comments on here so forgive me if this has been highlighted to you later on (I will definitely be returning to finish reading these comments later today, it is a debate I always find very interesting). There are many comments I would like to make, but shall wait until I have read all the other comments before I do. However, your comment about the animal welfare point of view I want to reply to now to ensure I don't forget it later as this is one of my areas of knowledge and I would like to further explore the comment. Peregrine falcons (or any other native bird of prey) are wild, native animals that belong in our natural environment. They have no concept of animal welfare and therefore have no control over it. Their behaviour when attack racing or homing pigeons is completely natural predatory behaviour. This means animal welfare is a very difficult thing to apply to wild animals. If you feel predation of your pigeons is unacceptable in animal welfare terms, then do you feel all predation is similarly unacceptable? Or do you feel it is different as your pigeons are not wild? If the latter, then I would agree with you. However, the problem then is the difference between wild and captive animals is essentially human intervention. This human intervention places us in control of most aspects of welfare and obliges us to do all that we can to ensure welfare levels of our animals is as high as possible and means that poor welfare is a result of human action (or inaction). When one of your pigeons is predated (or an attempt at predation is made which affects their ability to return home), the 'unacceptable' welfare is a result of you choosing to release the pigeons into the wild (or failing to safely enclose them if the attack is at loft). The peregrine is simply not distinguishing between wild pigeons, which are its natural prey, and your pigeons, which is not related to welfare. Therefore, if you truely feel the welfare of your pigeons when you race them is unacceptable, the only way you can completely guarantee that they will not suffer such predation and welfare impacts is to not release them. The only alternative I can think of is putting money towards the development of somekind of bird of prey deterrent device the pigeons could wear when out, but I can see many problems with that such as it not having a clue what a safe (for the bird of prey) deterrent could be, the need for small and weight if the bird is carry it and the need to not infringe the legal protection birds of prey have from disturbance, particularly around nest sites.

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        • Mark says:

          Cerian - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment.

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        • Ian Brown says:

          Hi Cerian,

          The animal welfare aspect of my discussion relates solely to my being responsible in Law for my pigeons, whether or not they are directly under my control, and the suggestions here by some that I should just 'shrug off' losses whether down to predation (nature) or not. I believe I am required to do everything reasonable to ensure my birds welfare, and that is why I am exploring different views & methods on how best to protect them.

          On safety around the loft, even when the pigeons are locked up, for example in an aviary, sparrowhawks are still known to attempt an attack - when they hang onto the aviary mesh it terrifies the pigeons. Attacks around 'target' lofts are known to terrify pigeons so much that they are reluctant to go outside it. So yes, they undoubtedly feel 'terror' or something very close to it.

          On the subject of captive birds, or birds bred in captivity: I think it is a mistake to apply that 'label' to racing pigeons. They are not captive, they are more or less free to leave whenever they want. They are birds - creatures of the sky - and I believe it would be cruel to prevent them going out. By going out, they then become attuned to their environment. They are aware, and are very wary of certain other birds. They are descended from Rock Dove so there must be genetic memory there; how else do they know what to fear, and what to ignore?

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  34. Chrissie says:

    Opinions and the opinionated!

    Good for you Gary, putting your opinion out there! In my opinion, the balance of nature is a very fine one and almost everytime it shifts is because of us!!

    Im sorry this is not longer, but time is an issue at the moment but would like to say I really enjoyed reading your blog and written from the heart,that was quite clear. Lets not forget the role of the trained pigeon in the First World War, saved many lives with the essential messages flown out by them.

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  35. John Miles says:

    Pigeons kill humans. fact. My best friend died from being a pigeon fancier. The cost to the country from feral birds runs in the £millions. Do pigeon fanciers pay any thing towards this cost due to them loosing birds?

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  36. Filbert Cobb says:

    "the balance of nature is a very fine one and almost everytime it shifts is because of us!!"

    Spot on. I'm with George Carlin on this - arrogant humans ...

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  37. Robin Edwards says:

    Gary,
    I haven't researched in any depth the problems you face but side-stepping the BoP versus Pigeon debate for a short moment and trying to think pragmatically, has there been any work undertaken to protect Pigeons from Sparrowhawks at the coop? Maybe using some sort of miniturised magnetic sensor on the Pigeon to allow them to enter the coop but other birds would be denied - a bit like a cat flap can be used to allow access only to cats with a magnet. In short, can technology help mitigate some of the problems you have?

    What I haven't seen from this thread is what you believe should be done and apologies if I've missed this. You have said you haven't mentioned culling BoP and you want to work with those organisations that protect wildlife but I'm not sure what you are proposing?

    I keep Chickens. They are not wild and if I don't keep them enclosed, logically they will form prey to a fox. Would you propose that I advocate killing the local foxes to protect my interests ? I hope you don't see this as obtuse or obusive in any way but I would say that being an advocate of wildlife protection, protecting pets is a wholly unrelated matter and not to be confused as having equal importance to wildlife.

    Regards
    Robin

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  38. bop killer says:

    i rekon we should get our shotguns out and take matters into are own hands. I for one am going to blast any hawk or pergrine that i can get a shot at i suggest all you other people should do the same.

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    • Mark says:

      bop killer - many thanks for your witty suggestion. If your aim is as good as your English then those magnificent raptors are safe.

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      • DavidH says:

        Mark
        A good idea when you criticise anyone's english is too ensure that your own spelling is correct !! Touche!

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        This debate will bring out all kinds of folk, that's for sure. Open hostility on any side of a debate is obstructive and does not help. This sort of comment is not helpful and I seriously hope it was made in jest.
        We have anti-cat traps, reflective tape, etc, but these items are only partly effective. There probably is no 100% effective solution to the problem, other than the total eradication of all birds of prey that prey on racing pigeons, but this would have massively serious effects on the whole ecology of nature. Birds of prey are a necessary requirement otherwise they would not exist, just as dinosaurs no longer exist.

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  39. James Marchington says:

    Gary, all respect to you for bravely coming on here to express your genuinely held concerns. This is just one of countless areas where perfectly legitimate human activities impact on, and are impacted by, the natural world. In years gone by we humans just bulldozered ahead regardless. Nowadays we are more enlightened, and try to minimise the impacts that we consider "bad", but unless the human race decides to wipe itself out this can only ever be a compromise.

    Unfortunately the loudest, shrillest voices tend to be the extremists - those who, unrealistically, want "nature" to outweigh everything. It suits such people to polarise the argument into "for" and "against", "conservationists" and "raptor haters"; they cannot accept there's a middle ground. They are very good at googling up "science" to prop up their arguments, but their approach is anything but scientific - they come from a fixed position, which no real scientist ever would. (And yes, there are such people at both ends of the scale).

    Don't let them grind you down with their obfustication, patronising, condescending, name calling and downright bullying. While they are busy shouting the odds and fighting for political influence, it's honest, ordinary, caring folk like you who are doing the real work of finding ways for humans and nature to get along in the real world.

    James

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  40. James Marchington says:

    Hello Mark! I'm enjoying your guest posts on here - it adds a whole new dimension to blogging, which is so often one man's soapbox. Keep it up!

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    • Mark says:

      James - Thank you - and you'd be welcome to write a guest blog for here yourself if you'd like to stand on a new soapbox some time.

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  41. Dennis Ames says:

    Would like James to do a guest blog because it would be very interesting.
    Mark of course would like it because it would get plenty of comments from those extremists.
    Think out of all this even though I do not agree with Gary entirely he comes out with more credit than those calling him names which just make the extremists in Pigeon racing say we told you so let do it our way.
    DavidH put it all very well just wish he would reconsider about the petition as the majority signing would be people different to the ones putting him off signing.

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  42. Gailb says:

    I am so far removed from an expert as can be but do feel that human intervention is surely not the way forward. If you let your birds out surely that is the gamble you take. Tend to agree with posts that blame food and habitat sources for songbird decline not BOP. Can it be a simple solution? Ever since I have put feeders into my garden and kept them well stocked I have enjoyed the company of garden birds in numbers not seen since my youth. If you feed them they will come ....

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  43. Brian says:

    I wonder who is the biggest predator of the peregrine?

    During the war which so many have drawn attention to for our plucky war-pigeons struggling home with injuries (I seem to recall one of the decorated few not having been mauled by a raptor - rather peppered with shot) was a pretty good time for raptors in the UK.

    Of course since then with the war prompting the intensification of agriculture and all the ills afforded to all species of bird in what that has entailed leaves us with what we now have; an out of touch view of the natural world and our place in it.

    I'm sorry for your pigeons and your upset at their pain when attacked. I'm afraid you're just another victim of ourselves like the rest of us.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Brian,

      During the war the biggest predator was man, because these birds were shot and a reward paid to the shooter. The reason then was again predation on racing pigeons, this time in their war-time role as messengers. Sometimes man must put his own survival first, no matter how distasteful the strategy adopted..

      IMO the next biggest event was the invention & use of DDT was another of mans actions which affected the entire bird population the knock-on effects drastically reducing peregrine numbers both through lack of prey, and the lack of peregrines’ breeding success through eggshell physiology changes.

      DDT was just one of our most stupid moments. Who is to say that current conservation isn’t also one of those moments in our history, where the wider effects of our ‘we know best mentality’ meddling in nature isn’t yet fully known? One of the things that makes me cringe in some of the wildlife ‘rescue’ programs is the first action is usually to inject the wild animal / bird with an antibiotic.

      Lastly my use of pigeons in war was to illustrate the ability of the pigeon to get itself home even under the most extreme conditions, which seems to be left out of the equation when considering ‘failure to home’ statistics. Personally, on the pigeon / peregrine front, I think our main problem is getting some people to accept that it is a problem area.

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  44. Jamie says:

    Hi Gary - i could possibly take you a bit more seriously if you were consistent even within this short piece. You say “Another observation I have made, is where the populations of Sparrowhawks, were once in abundance. Are now devoid, because of the bigger birds of prey have moved in. Such as the Buzzards, Goshawks and the Peregrines"
    followed by, just a few lines later "...being forced out of their natural habitats, by the larger more territorial species.
    These mainly being the Sparrowhawk and the Peregrine.
    Although they are two splendid creatures, they are now beginning to become nuisance in built up areas of the country."

    This strikes me as the writing of someone who is trying to build a flimsy case around what they already believe, rather than a thoughtful review of the evidence.

    I also take exception to your use of the phrase "colourful garden aviary" suggesting that somehow birds in your garden are your possession, or maybe there purely for your amusement. This maybe hints at the roots of your concern. You think that you should be the arbiter of which birds are common and which are rare, and you're merely encouraging the likes of 'bopkiller' by presenting your views as anything approaching fact.

    In the same sentence you state that Sparrowhawks are a menace to 'popular' garden birds. Again, you're showing your hand here - you claim RSPB backs birds of prey to the detriment of others, but you admit that you have your favourites and you're worried that somehow the others are edging them out.

    Which they're not. I would recommend an Ecology 101 course then look at the data again.

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  45. Chris g says:

    As a member of the public i feel i have to have my say on this, to be honest i am absolutely disgusted with the way Mike price and his obvious supporters have belittled gary burgesses heartfelt comments about the way his sport is being destroyed by the bloodymindedness of the the RSPB. I myself have always been a feeder of birds in my garden and spent all my life in the countryside and been an observer of countryside and wildlife matters, it is plain to see that there has been an explosion in hawks in the wrong places, my own garden has been stripped of any birdlife as has my neighbours, nothing to feed, no nesting in shrubs and trees and why? because all we have seen for the past year or two is sparrowhawks ripping them apart on my lawn to the extent there are no more and just lately i have witnessed racing pigeons suffering the same fate on my lawn, there is a pigeon fancier up the road and he tells me they are his and they have ruined his sport which has cost many thousands of pounds. ITS DISGUSTING! You are supposed to be bird lovers that love all birds not just dive bombing killers that look spectacular, take off your blinkers and look at the wider picture, treat all bird lovers and fanciers with respect and you will receive the same back, at the moment you are alienating everyone with your ignorance which will backfire on you.

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    • Mike Price says:

      Chris G,

      A part of my last reply to Ian Brown covers many of the points you mention here

      The only addition is that by standing up for anything you are bound to make some enemies, and I am interested in all birds, indeed a great deal more of my time and effort is made studying the "small" birds than is spent studying raptors but it all leads to the same thirst for knowledge and understanding of how and why populations of some species are being negatively impacted, hopefully working towards solutions to some of these issues, unfortunately it proves difficult to change the mindset of those that are so set in their ways that they can't accept that what we do impacts on nature, or other cases can simply not afford to change their methods due to the demand made on them to keep prices of food (at the wholesale level) unrealistically low.
      I am not asking you to take my word for any of these issues, there is plenty of evidence out there showing that it is possible to achieve a balance between our needs and natures needs, we just need to embrace the changes (it might take time and trial and error) and adapt our practices to be more sympathetic to nature.

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Hi Mike
        There is no reply button on your reply to Ian, but we have the owls although not the size you state, audio tapes, cd's strung out like lawn protectors but higher up, irridescent tape and balloons. Some are also firing the rockets before they release their birds. I have been narrowly missed by a Sparrowhawk when it attacked my pigeons. I thought my presence would add some protection to them since they had finished their fly, albeit early due to two attacks and I called them in to prevent a third. The third attack was whilst they were on the loft beginning to enter. The hawk came at them, they flew off in the opposite direction, it overshot missing me by about 3', circled and then managed to catch one, the previous 2 attempts having been un-successful. I did manage to scare it off my unfortunate bird after climbing over a 6' fence and two 3' fences. In this sense my presence did save the bird, but in no way did it deter the attacks. They are extremely brave and determined when hungry and in full hunt mode and do not show much fear of humans. I live in the open countryside.

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        • Mike Price says:

          Hi Andrew,

          I have seen flare guns that have some exploding charge used to scare Cormorants successfully at a local fish farm (they sound like a shotgun being discharged), the difference there of course is that people are there almost all daylight hours enabling them to take this course of action at the required time

          I do wonder if you could ask a local bird ringer to come put his nets up in an attempt to catch and ring the Sparrowhawk, as it seems to have the effect you require at the sites I use, I have never recaught an full grown Sparrowhawk in the same place despite visiting the sites many times, it's certainly an approach I would be willing to investigate but I guess its not going to offer a solution for everyone.

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          • Andrew Kyle says:

            If I see them, I bang two sticks together and they usually clear off, but not on this occasion. When the birds are in the air there is not much I can do, but this is life and nature no matter how disturbing it is to myself and my children. There seems to be periods when the situation is far worse than at other times.

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          • Mike Price says:

            Sorry Andrew,

            As per your last comment I can't reply so I have replied here which will make continuing the conversation in chronological order bit difficult.

            I imagine that the factors that influencing the times when your experiencing more problems are linked to the ebb and flow of natural food supply, March and April being months that are particularly hard for Sparrowhawks that are trying to get into breeding condition (before the migrants arrive and before many species breed producing more food) and again later in the year when the young in the nest are old enough to be left by the female I imagine she is likely to be more of a problem than the male (plus you will have both adults hunting to provide for them).

            This is the problem with having any artificially high number of potential prey in an area, the Sparrowhawks won't make them extinct but they will learn where there is a high chance of being able to make a successful kill (hence why people are seeing more Sparrowhawks in their gardens when they feed the smaller birds).

            I have to admit I don't have any additional suggestions as to how to stop raptors doing what comes naturally to them, but I will continue to give it thought, removing a predator will just enable a new predator to come in to take its place.

            If it is any comfort at all , it appears as though the peak density of Sparrowhawks has been reached and we are actually seeing their numbers fall back a little (at least this is true in this area).

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          • Ian Brown says:

            Hi Mike,

            The effects of your 'ringing' suggestion is very close to what the SHU asked for after the SHU/SNH 2010 Sparrowhawk Trapping & Relocation Pilot Study. But we experienced difficulties after the researchers dubbed the reports findings 'inconclusive', despite SHU believing that 'relocation' would be helpful for fanciers whose lofts were being targeted.

            I was particularly interested in the case of the only sparrowhawk that returned to the target loft after being relocated some 35/50 miles away. The bird was again trapped and relocated. It did return to the 'home' area but not to the target loft ... its behaviour had been modified. I think the treatment it received did that, and I look upon this as a type of 'aversion therapy'.

            But when SHU asked for licences to be issued for it, Environment Minister made it clear that no licences would ever be granted for this to be put into practice.. She also said that the Government was fearful of doing so because it believed RSPB would mount a Legal challenge. She was told that was tantamount to RSPB dictating Government Policy. So after 13 years and 2 research projects, we are not one step forward in finding answers to our problem.

            But your 'ringing' suggestion sounds like a sensible middle road that may be acceptable to all the parties. Thank you, I wiill certainly take that one forward to our Council meeting next week.

            Ian

            th that

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    • Cerian says:

      Chris G
      Can I just ask you to explain why you feel song birds belong in your garden but birds of prey do not ('there has been an explosion of hawks in the wrong places')? Only because a few posters have made comments like this and I genuinely don't understand the reasons and would like to better understand this point of view. My personal understanding of the ecological history of the UK is that song birds and birds of prey have historically lived alongside each other in both rural and urban environments (and of course if you go back far enough urban environments did not exist so I assume then both these types of birds lived together in most places).

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  46. Phil Espin says:

    Garry is looking for a constructive solution and building on Gert's comments my first reaction to him is to suggest that pigeon fanciers have an opportunity here to breed a super racing pigeon that is so unfazed by raptor strike that it can still make its way home. Just because its not been done so far doesn't mean its not possible and just think of all those pigeons to be bred and turned over finding the perfect characteristics to breed in.

    My second reaction is that people on this blog are always keen to launch into invective taking up one stance or another but in the bird world there is a degree of double standrads about persecuting birds that eat other birds. Sometimes the RSPB persecutes predators but always for "good conservation reasons". I once took part in a gull cull arranged by the RSPB to protect roseate terns. In certain circumstances some predators do have a negative impact on local prey populations.

    It will be interesting when an ichthyologist comes forward with evidence a particular scarce fish species is being driven over the edge by cormorants/ospreys/sea eagles/otters/seals. Fish have rights too, they are part of lifes rich tapestry. We all make value judgements and we tend to believe that what we think is important is important. Who is to say which is more important? A voice for nature perhaps?

    Personally give me raptors over racing pigeons, roseate terns over gulls, little tern chicks over kestrel every time, just be realistic about why we make our choices and recognise others have different choices.

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  47. Mike Price says:

    Chris G,

    I spend a vast amount of time looking at the bigger picture, and a reasonable amount of my own money studying birds in my area both passerines and non-passerines, I am also concerned about the pollinator declines what I am not doing is calling for controls on wild birds because they might eat them. (can we blame that on raptors to support our view that they need to be controlled?)

    I wasn't aware of any supporters, and can only assume that they are supporting the science that is available that disproves the theories Gary is trying to use to support the plight of Pigeon Fanciers, speaking of supporters there is plenty of black slapping and drumming up support going on here.

    http://pigeons.forumotion.com/t4346p15-guest-blog-mark-avery welcome guys nice to see your balanced logical discussions on the subject such as http://saveourracingpigeons.yolasite.com/

    I am sure that there are far more people that support the science but really dislike the way I choose to conduct myself when faced with someone who is peddling nonsense such as Gary is on his website, my current attitude has been borne out of frustration at the continual persecution that raptors face in areas such as the Dark Peak, I hope you will believe that I am a reasonably balanced individual who in the right circumstances would be happy to discuss in depth and with a balanced outlook the whole issue, as I have said before I don't feel that this was the intention from the start and I am happy to follow that course of discussion as well.

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    • Jamie says:

      Thanks for posting the link to the pigeon site Mike - a real eye-opener.

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      • Jamie says:

        "if you delved into the people behind all what is going on in the world they are all inter linked, the same names are involved in government, the banks, wars etc"

        Am i sensing a tiny bit of paranoia here??

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        • Jamie says:

          I also note he's all for shooting Cormorants and even is keeping an eye on Goosanders.

          http://pigeons.forumotion.com/t4344-anglers-start-their-action#73928

          I for one wouldn't want to live in a world where Gary and his mates decide what lives and dies. It'd just be pigeons everywhere. And even then, only the ones they like the look of...

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  48. darren palmer says:

    the thing is mike price it does not seem as though you want a balanced debate does it ,you just seem to want to discredit every comment that is made against the devilish raptors and mr burgess in paticular.you hide behind your favorite card science and surveys which i wonder about their credibility and i think to say that a proposal of being able to protect our own pets on our own land that we have reared at home from predation is not a unreasonable request ,would you accept a dog attacking your cat in your garden or a weasel attacking your childs bunny,i think if so i think this goes against human nature.dont get me wrong i agree when our birds are out on the wing then they are in gods hands ...just remember an englishmans home is his castle ?

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    • Mike Price says:

      Who do we blame for the rabbit dying in that case, the weasel? or the fact that we put the rabbit in danger from attack by a wild animal that needs to feed, did we do all we could to protect our pet? I would argue we did not if we allowed a weasel to get in.

      For many reasons I don't own a pet, cost, space and time due to other responsibiities make it difficult and indeed unfair on the animal, much I believe to the detriment of the children but needs must as they say and they are surrounded by nature (living on the edge of the peak district) and benefit from being able to go out and enjoy that.

      Every landowner and/or agent could argue that they have the right to protect their own interests, but being a civilised and educated culture we consider the benefits and needs of society and we, to an extent consider the needs of nature as well as our own, not purely unselfishly as we have learnt through studies and science that these ecosystems are important to our own well being as well as being of great interest and so we offer some (though not nearly enough in my opinion) protection to nature.

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    • Robin Edwards says:

      Well I for one initially approached Gary's situation with an open mind but I would congratulate him and others in conclusion for cementing my opinions very firmly that those that declare here their love of nature and yet want controls of species that impact their sport are so very wrong - and I make no apologies for saying so.

      Also anyone who simultaneously brings both the devil and their god into this debate for me, brings a closure on further meaningful debate.

      May I thank Mark very much for facilitating this thread. It has been an education!

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        This has always been the way that this sort of problem was approached. This is the reason that we have the anti-raptor comments.
        What we are looking for is methods which do not have the weakness of such direct alterations to nature. Believe me, pigeon people are trying lots of different methods, some of which are quite expensive.
        Instead of going into conflict, I think Gary may havee been hoping for some form of co-operation in finding a solution which is acceptable to both sides of the table.
        To be fair, there are people with what appears to be intransigent outlooks on both sides of the table. They may never change their outlook, but what we are hoping is that those, whose outlook is not set in intransigence, may also come to the table and add some constructive comments, thus enabling a solution to decrease the slaughter of our pigeons which does not include the slaughter of birds of prey.

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  49. Jo says:

    I am no extremist, I don't prefer raptors to songbirds to pigeons. But honest debate should be matched on both sides. Someone mentioned bullying and name calling which I haven't seen, but perhaps I was not paying enough attention. There was some rudeness perhaps.

    My view hasn't changed though. I think Gary had you simply told us you were having problems with raptor strikes at your lofts and were seeking a solution you would not have raised so much ire. I personally got the impression that you were using an erroneous argument about smaller birds to back up the fact that you want something to be done about it. That may have been unintentional, as you are clearly passionate about your birds, but perhaps something you could consider.

    You did not mention culling as such but it was implicit in your statements. So, since songbirds are affected more by habitat and pet cats, if we could leave that out, what you are suggesting is controlling a wild bird for a hobby. That doesn't really work for most people, hence the songbirds?

    I think there must/should be other solutions and blaming the future bad behaviour of your compatriots on people who simply don't agree is not going to get you any support in finding them either.

    Your problem as I see it is not related to ecology, you are trying to protect pets. If you are honest about that then I have no problem, but I would not advocate a cull. I'd look at deterrents.

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    • Mark says:

      Jo - your comment came through five times and rather mixed up - i hope I've put all the bits together in more or less the right order! Thank you.

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  50. Sam says:

    I think it is a fantastic thing that raptors have such a presence in our urban areas, if it is a choice between this and some pigeon fanciers then the pigeon fanciers don't even get a second thought. Birds of prey are way more important, they should be here, they have a right to be here. A ridiculous hobby doesn't even compare.

    True nature lovers, as some of these pigeon fanciers say they are, wouldn't even give it a second thought either. There are way more important issues in the world today than worrying about birds of prey doing what they do naturally, nevermind actually suggesting that we should waste resources on controlling them because of a few pigeons! This whole "issue" that has been raised is just inconceivable to me.

    Birds of prey win every time, don't like it? Get another hobby (no pun intended)

    Sam

    P.S Mark - I thoroughly enjoy your blog, it has taught me a lot and makes me think.

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  51. Chris g says:

    Mike price you and your cronies have been exposed for what you are, ignorant. You have interfered with nature and natural evolution which has been going on for millions of years. Nobody wants to see species dying out but its what happens naturally and for a reason and so because it was happening to your beloved raptors you interfered to the extent they have become pests in areas which are not there natural habitat. The small bird popultions have been badly affected not just through direct killing but nesting cycles have been interupted making it a double whammy on small bird numbers. These small birds play a very important part in the food chain for humans and before long it is going to have a drastic affect, we are already concerned about bees and suchlike which play an important part, the birds are just as important. There should be some sort of reasonable control of raptor numbers in areas where they have become overpopulated, every creature has the right to exist safely in its own environment and if pigeon fanciers are having their lofts raided by hawks they should be allowed to defend their territory albeit by the correct methods of course, the bodies overseeing pigeon racing and bird life protection should be working together to help each other not ignoring each others arguments. We all live on the same planet and should pull together. There was a comment on this blog by somebody that things have moved on in time and the good old days are gone, referring to gary burgess comment of what pigeon racing used to be, well, that i,m afraid is what happened to raptors too, they struggled with their existence for a reason, evolution, it happens. Dont interfere with nature, the strongest will survive without us so dont upset the balance or in time it will go horrbly wrong. I,m going to be talking to my MP about this who is a good friend who is also concerned about the same things he has seen happening in his garden with birds being killed daily by sparrowhawks. Its about time the higher ups in government were made more aware of what is going to become a very serious issue.

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  52. darren palmer says:

    sam i find your reply very derogatory towards many a oap who has worked all their life and come to retirement and choose to keep pigeons.nobody is asking which they prefer what i am asking is what can we do about attacks around our lofts you are clearly a non passionate person with no thought or respect for other peoples hobby and quite frankly your attitude will only infuriate bad activity towards the birds that you love so much,sorry to say but i find your comment not only immature but idiotic and of no help at all

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  53. Gary Burgess says:

    You people just fail to see the big picture, you cannot even see outside your bubble.
    Our hobby as you put it. Is an Internationals Sport, just the same as Angling, just the same as shooting.
    To say I have had my eyes opened this week, would certainly be an understatement.
    I have done much in my life, to enrich the lives of many people, especially young people of the working classes.
    I would like to think, that this has in some way has stopped them growing into the thugs that you think we are.
    Who hang around on street corners, taking drugs and robbing old people.
    I am a trained angling coach, where I introduce many youths to the sport of angling, I also helped to promote responsible angling.
    i.e Their impact on the environment, litter, discarded fishing line.
    The responsibilities of the angler concerning wildlife and ecology.
    Angling is also a working class hobby and too is an International sport.
    I think that you honestly believe that you are doing the world a great service by forcibly ramming your extremely biased views down the throats of everyone who dares even to speak up.
    As for appeasing the bully, I'm sorry, I refuse to yield.
    But I am not going to preach about the the rights and wrongs of angling, as my thoughts will be just rubbished as the the ramblings of a normal, insignificant working class man.
    It appears that we should not have any enjoyment in life, if it infringes on your views and beliefs.
    I did say my last post would be my last, but I feel impelled to have this one last word.
    There is much I could say, but it would certainly not be worth the effort on the ignorant.
    Very soon, you will make so many enemies in the big wide open world, that does exist outside your bubble.
    That they will eventually turn around and bite back, these too will have the benefit of an education and will be able to string together big words and quote facts and figures.
    So up to now, you have attacked Pigeon Fanciers, Farmers, Bird lovers, The General Public, Anglers, The Shooting fraternity, the ignorant uneducated working class, hobbies and past times that people enjoy.
    Also attached to all these groups is a huge industry. That not only generates huge revenues for the country and keeps people in employment, but also helps the upkeep of Rural Britain.
    You really need to re evaluate your strategies, because very soon you will run out of groups to attack.

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      Gary, hang on in here. Not all the comments have been negative. There are some who are not completely blinkered. This is a forum where knowledgeable people who are into birds of prey frequent. Perhaps, just perhaps, one may read the comments and sieve out the rubbish, view the main point and respond. This responce may contain a valuable gem, something that will assist and enable advance.
      We, the pigeon fanciers, are asking the conservationists who support birds of prey, is there any methods that we are able to adopt that will add some protection to our birds whilst they exercise within the vicinity of their home loft and whilst they return from their training flights and races.
      The people with the scientific knowledge should uphold their responsibility to assist in these matters whilst the pigeon fanciers continue to dissuade the luddites in their attempts to eradicate the majestic birds of prey.
      Don't namecall and abuse. Help.

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  54. Jamie says:

    Gary - you say "You people just fail to see the big picture, you cannot even see outside your bubble"

    Yet you are calling for large scale meddling with natural systems and persecution of birds of prey because they interfere with your minority interest. I respectfully suggest that it is you who is in a bubble. I see that your petition has gathered 488 signatures. I also note the last big RSPB campaign gathered 360,000.

    If you want to know why people have reacted so badly to this issue, just take a look at your own forum. I very quickly came across a comment, in response to a recent Sparrowhawk encounter of your own that said

    "why its doing that get a air riffle and pop it right through its dam eye" (sic)

    Those of us that love nature know that this kind of thing goes on and suspect we only see the tip of the iceberg - the fact that your friends are so quick to suggest this only strengthens this suspicion.

    And your constant playing of the class card is also unhelpful. The RSPB has over a million members - are you telling me there isn't a large working class contingent there who love wild birds and don't want to see you and 'your cronies' - to re-use your phrase - attacking any bird that proves an inconvenience to you?

    I applaud your bravery and the spirit in which you came to this debate - we do need a discussion between groups, but i suggest you came to it with a closed mind regarding both the problem and also who would be responding to you.

    It is surely not beyond the wit of man to find a way to protect your pigeons at the loft. Maybe you should concentrate your efforts there, rather than bewailing the fact the birds of prey have recovered to reclaim their place in the ecosystem and are merely doing what comes naturally to them

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  55. Gill says:

    This is a fascinating debate showing polarised opinions. It gives much food for thought.

    And these are mine...There are two very interesting relationships going on here...

    1) Predator/ prey relationship. This is easy. Taking out the human equation, the predator/ prey relationship will find a natural balance between species on different levels of the food chain. Years of persecution and poisoning have altered that balance. Giving protection to natural habitats and those species living within them allows the big predators to return and we should see this as a success of conservation. Conserve our wetlands, our heaths and our woodlands and we will see return of the raptors. Conserve our oceans and we will see the return our dolphins etc. Their survival is dependent on the species they prey on and their numbers will self-regulate.

    2) Pigeon fancier/ pigeon relationship.
    Now THIS is the interesting one, and one that I do not fully understand, not being a pigeon fancier, and I would welcome clarification on this. Is the relationship a) one of sentimental endearment for a beloved animal. b) one of appreciation of the pigeon being a true athlete, and a degree of comparison and pleasure of seeing one's bird, bred and cared and nurtured return c) one of no compassion and seeing the bird as simply an athlete.
    Well, I don't think it is a), knowing that the majority of these birds are not kept on as pets. However, I think the relationship is probably closer to b), that pigeon owners do have compassion for their birds. I suspect that the excitement is seeing their birds return, knowing they have travelled across harsh landscapes and through adverse weather conditions. They are true athletes. They have run a gauntlet and returned, unscathed. A remarkable feat, no doubt. Increasing raptor numbers obviously have been taking some of these top racing birds.
    But the thing is this...pigeons have had it easy over the past 60 or so years. Their selective breeding has bred the fastest, the strongest. But there is another addition to that gauntlet they run, and that is raptors. The answer is not to persecute raptors. Surely, pigeon fanciers should now realise that a new pigeon will evolve from this. One that is strong and fast, but smart too, one that is able to twist and turn and evade predators in flight. We all know that a peregrine's speed is in the drop. A pigeon can out-fly it on the straight.
    Pigeon fanciers should celebrate the raptor return, as an extra challenge for their athletes. from which a faster, smarter pigeon will evolve.
    As Gary stated, his two great loves are nature and racing..take up the challenge and combine the two.

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    • Mark says:

      Gill - welcome and thank you for your comment.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi Gill,

      Well done on your insightful views of why pigeon fanciers keep racing pigeons, and yes most would agree (b) fits best.

      But keeping birds must start with a love of / interest in birds, because racing (or showing) competition is not available all year round. The racing pigeon season is April / September, with the older birds working April / July, and the young pigeons July / September, so each group 'work' for 3 months approx., and 'rest' for 9 months in each year. No less attention is given during the off-season, they still need looking after, although daylight hours does affect when they can get out for exercise, for example I work Monday to Friday, so mine can only get out at weekends September - April.

      Rock doves once lived cheek-by-jowl with peregrines on rocky coastlines, so evading peregrine predation I think would have been instinctive in them. The Rock Dove is the base upon which the racing pigeon is founded, and from observing my own birds that genetic instinct is still present as they can attune to cues in the environment that a predator is on the prowl, and take evasive action usually by getting above the predator. If they still feel threatened, they will clear the area, and return when the coast is again clear.

      I totally agree that on the level, a racing pigeon will out-fly anything else with wings, they can maintain 40/50mph for hours. A peregrine relies on gravity, the pigeon has 98 degree view above and below, and can time evasive action, stalling in mid air moments before impact, leaving the peregrine clawing thin air below its quarry, while the pigeon makes its escape. There was a clip which captured an encounter like that on one of Discovery Channel films. It looked like the pigeon had been hit, until the clip was replayed in slow motion, revealing what actually happened. That set me thinking 'how did the pigeon KNOW how to do that'? If you can think of a better answer than the one above, I'd be interested.

      No, bird of prey persecution is not the answer to our problem.

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    • Michael Moran says:

      Gill..that was a very good and neutral reply i think. But what u have said i have been trying to do with my own birds, and that is not to just breed speed which most do but also breed from the ones that survive which may breed brains and awareness.

      Just a few points to make
      1. quote urself"Taking out the human equation, the predator/ prey relationship will find a natural balance between species on different levels of the food chain. " Exactly so why do the rspb have to reintroduce BOP , since they were protected their numbers have increased. There is just no need for man to intervene with re-introduction.
      2. some fanciers do have an infinity love for their birds and i would call them pet lovers
      3. The more skilled fancier and the one who wants to win all the time has athletes.
      4. Doesnt matter which is what, for when the predator comes into back garden regularly it rips the heart out of both, not to mention what they do to garden birds when we have locked up.

      All we ask for every one to sit down and talk about the problem and we hope u all stop thinking of us pigeon fanciers as a thorn in ur side.

      ATB
      Mick

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      • Mark says:

        Mick - Welcome and many thanks for your comment

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      • Andrew Kyle says:

        Excellent comments Mick.
        Perhaps it is time well past for conservationists to stop their interference and allow nature to take its course. At least then we only have to deal with nature instead of mankind's un-natural propping of species which apparently are doing very well thank you for the initial boost up.

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      • Cerian says:

        Michael Moran -this point that reintroductions are not needed as a natural balance will prevail has come up a bit, and as yet I haven't read a comment answering it so I will give it a go. Unfortunately, we do not live in a world with no human intervention and historically our intervention in this balance has been huge. Birds of prey were a particular target of our intervention, for the same reasons as they are being discussed right now-they do impact on other animals which humans utilise for pleasure (ie hobbies) or for livelihood (livestock). Because birds of prey have been associated with killing livestock, game birds etc they, like other predators, faced large-scale attempts to control or even erradicate them through shooting, poisoning and so on. This was further added to by the actions of egg collectors and then we added pesticides and changing land use to the mix. This had direct effects such as with DDT and the thining of egg shells so the birds couldn't breed successfully and the destruction of habitat such as our native woodlands and probably had indirect impacts through reductions of prey species too (but I know less about this so cant say for sure). All this meant that most UK bird of prey populations were in a very sorry state with some species becoming extinct and others reducing to such a low number the population was no longer sustainable (ie very likely to go extinct or suffer from inbreeding problems). This was all due to human intervention, not evolution and natural balance. Reintroduction of birds of prey in the UK has been used as a tool to restore the natural balance we had destroyed. It has not happened as commonly as some posters on here seem to think. Not all species have been reintroduced (e.g. sparrowhawk and peregrine have not) and those that have were only reintroduced to limit areas and then allowed to spread back to their old territories naturally (sea eagles, red kites). Most conservation measures surrounding birds of prey in the UK only involve protecting them from now illegal shooting, poisoning and nest disruption-which generally does not involve much human intervention at all, excluding nest monitoring, chick ringing/tagging and radio-tagging for research purposes. It is only once birds of prey are at their natural levels prior to all the negative human intervention that we have historically inflicted on them, that we can sit back and let nature balance itself out.

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  56. James says:

    I still find it rather odd all of this. The pigeon fancier side say they are not calling for culling - yet a quick Google search reveals this and
    this in just a few weeks. No wonder there is emotion on both sides.

    At the end of November last year a report was published by DEFRA (Dept Environment Food and Rural Affairs) based on the wild bird populations of 1970-2010. In it they showed that overall numbers of breeding birds have not changed. I do state overall numbers. The biggest exception though was farmland birds with 19 species being a major cause for concern and many declined by 90% such as the Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Turtle Dove and Grey Partridge. The truth is the vast majority of farmers are not interested in conservation, unless it is result is a bird can be put flight by a dog and shot. They have a business to run, they risk being undercut and the major supermarkets do not pay them a fair price for their produce, with the global food economy as it is. Nor are we willing to pay a fair price on the whole. In addition the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) does not help them. As someone mentioned if you go to places with traditional farming methods then you'll see an abundance of birds. Gary as a hedge layer you'll have seen as I witnessed this morning on the way to Norwich the massacre of hedgerows and the fact they are almost useless for breeding birds. To be honest I don't blame farmers - too many are on the edge of being bankrupt and suicide rates say it all.

    But to the pigeon fanciers - you fail to come up with answers to some of the points raised on here.
    - The inbreeding from released pigeons with the wild Rock Dove so putting that species at risk.
    - The fact it is only female Sparrowhawks that would be able to take a pigeon (a male Sparrowhawk can only and rarely catches large prey at 120g max). In the breeding season the male is bringing food to the female and the young deal with small prey items - hence the timing of their season with the hatching/fledging of Blue and Great Tits. Females will be less likely to be seen in gardens due to the sexual dimorphism and size difference. They will prefer more wooded areas.
    - The danger to human health posed by feral pigeons and cost to the tax payer

    and the real issue I have is that the raptors were present long before the pigeon was domesticated. What we are talking about is the impact of a wild bird on a sport for pure pleasure. Nothing else. I can understand your frustrations - but it is totally selfish in my point of view. My brother-in-law was moaning the other day that his cat was attacked by another cat and it cost him more money at the vets. Trying to point out to him that if he lets his cat out then it is a risk that he takes doesn't seem to register with him. Animals resort to their native instincts.....

    We should all be working together to conserve our native birds, rather than being at odds with each other and some people unjustifiably condemning conservation organisations.

    A George Orwell pointed out in 1944 when reviewing Sir William Beach Thomas' "The Way of a Countryman" "Real rustics are not concious of being picturesque, they do not construct bird sanctuaries, they are uninterested in any plant or animal that does not affect them directly.....The fact is that those who really have to deal with nature have no cause to be in love with it". Orwell even in 1944 knew how to sum-up some of those who would encourage the continued wanton destruction of our wild plants and animals.

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    • Ian Brown says:

      Hi James,

      In my opinion you confuse issues by attempting to relate one to the other, or all, then blame the pigeon fancier for all of them..

      On your links:

      The first refers to a fancier in Fife who killed a domesticated hawk that had escaped its owner’s control and had attacked his pigeons in his own back garden, an act its owners admitted in court that it was trained to do. The court case was nothing to do with wildlife crime it was one of deciding property issues. One person destroying another persons property to prevent it destroying his own. What would you have done? The media also portrayed the hawk as ‘patrolling the skies over Parliament’. Parliament building is in Edinburgh, the incident took place in Fife.

      The second refers to raids on pigeon fanciers. In this country, people are considered innocent until proven guilty of an offence. RSPB is very good at tarring pigeon fanciers with wildlife crime, yet to my knowledge only one fancier (in Scotland) has ever been convicted of it – and that was reported in the newspapers at that time as possession of a trap.

      On sparrowhawks: The facts are that there have been incidents here of cock sparrowhawks attacking and killing racing pigeons. And the hen sparrowhawk certainly does come into the garden, I’ve had experience of that here.

      On feral pigeons: How does a pigeon fancier control the interbreeding of Rock Doves with Racing Pigeons? One is descended from the other, so how can interbreeding put either at risk? And many humans interact with feral pigeons. Many City Squares are famous for them. And many, many people, young and old, find pleasure in feeding them. Just suggest a cull, like Ken Livingstone did, and watch the public’s reaction.

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  57. James says:

    Chris G. Your comments about Mr Price are uncalled for. I am neither a "close friend or companion" - a crony of Mr Price.

    Wild Birds are protected under European Law as well and English Law. In fact many of the laws that Europe went on to adopt were based on English law.

    Now I understand there is a problem, but what is the solution. The trouble is some pigeon fanciers have taken matters into their own hands and killed birds of prey. It is well known around some of the towns where there is a high concentration of pigeon fanciers that the local raptor population is at risk from the actions of a minority.

    There are estimated (BBC News) to be 18 million feral pigeons in this country. They breed up to 6 times a year! So isn't the rise in birds of prey as has been suggested down to the sheer number of feral pigeons?

    Perhaps it is down to the numbers of songbirds?

    Your own comments show a level of ignorance as well. You say "There should be some sort of reasonable control of raptor numbers in areas where they have become overpopulated, every creature has the right to exist safely in its own environment......" - if that is the case then we should control the human population as well. Jeremy Clarkson suggested a cull and look where it got him! And surely if you say there has to be reasonable control and yet every creature has the right to exist safely in its own environment it is an oxymoron? One of the best I've heard for a long time! I honestly say that your argument is moronic.

    So where are these raptors overpopulated? Surely the basics of predator/prey relationships that control numbers which are taught from the age of 7 or 8 in England are enough to understand this - or are you going to claim we are brainwashing our children?

    Sadly with some pigeon fanciers on here being levelled headed and Gary even resorting starting responses as to "You people...." shows that he wishes to polarise himself further.

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  58. Andy Richardson says:

    Wow lots of interesting contrasting views.
    As an ex gamekeeper now shooting agent and wildlife photographer I suppose I'm a conundrum.
    I suspect none of the above contributors will have as many bird boxes out in the countryside as myself or indeed spend as many hours out in the wilds observing birds & other wildlife.
    Where do I see the problems then ?
    Obviously farming is no friend to birdlife with little winter food left after harvest and hedges shorn each year restricting cover etc.
    Supplementary feeding at bird tables cause "sinks" that obviously attract BOP along with diseases.
    So what makes my perfect day ? Well watching a peregrine falcon hunting along with watching some of the wild grey partridge that frequent the farm I manage for wildlife.
    Yes I do use modern Gamekeeping tecneques to enhance and protect wildlife with the support of the landowner whom leaves food strips etc.
    If folk opened their minds a little and realised the cars they drive every day kill more wildlife than anything else plus actually visited farms to assist using their knowlage the countryside could be a better place.

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  59. Mike Price says:

    Hi Andy,

    I am probably one of the view people that are involved in the discussion that do attend a vast array of nest boxes (small and large). Interestingly no Barn Owls have been recorded breeding in this area since the 1980's and this week one of the Tawny Owl boxes had roosting Barn Owls in it.

    As well as a good number of boxes erected around the sites I use for monitoring birds, I work with local community groups and more recently local schools helping with wildlife gardens, building, erecting, and bird bird boxes, and bug homes or insect houses etc.

    For my part I enjoy working with all these groups and have the added bonus of being able to monitor the contents of the boxes and hopefully increase people interest in wildlife.

    I am not finding farms as easy to involve in any of the schemes, many are really interested and happy for me to get on and do whatever I like to help nature on land they own/utilise (Nest boxes for owl/kestrels etc) and most farmers care a lot about the environment but they are hardly in need of any extra work to do themselves, many I speak to wish they could afford to employ help just to get the farm tasks done.

    Cutting silage is another area we have discussed together and they understand how some birds may well be nesting with a 2nd 3rd or even 4th brood of chicks, but the benefits to their farms and animals far outweights any chances of the fields being left (I should mention that I think we would be in a very sorry state if it wasn't for farms and farmers both with regard to food and the fact that this usage probaby stopped some of the land being concreted over a long time ago), I believe that the later is true of our moorlands as well with regards to shooting tenants/land owners, the land would either be unmanaged or other uses would be found (probably not all uses that are sympathetic to any nature).

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  60. I think Ian Brown may have offered a partial solution
    "The racing pigeon season is April / September, with the older birds working April / July, and the young pigeons July / September, so each group ‘work’ for 3 months approx."
    Why not swap the racing seasons round then the young inexperienced pigeons wouldn't be out at the same time as the maximum post breeding number of Peregrines/Sparrowhawks

    I would be most upset if my dog were attacked by another and would want to protect him as would any person. I'm sure that witnessing regular attacks on lofts must be upsetting and frustrating for pigeon owners. As we have had chickens/foxes and weasels/bunnies mentioned above the general consensus is that we have a responsibility to keep our pets safe from the intentions of predators. The problem with pigeons is they are free-flying and let loose and thus instantly cease to be pets but effectively become wild animals again and out of the owners' control.
    But the real argument boils down to economics rather than emotions at 'thousands of pounds' for a bird in some cases hard cash once again seems to shouting a lot louder than emotional attachment. cf the recent (yet again!) call for a cull on Cormorants...don't get me started on that one!

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    • Andrew Kyle says:

      David, I am sure there are moves afoot to try alterations to the racing season. Pigeon fanciers are not standing still. we are looking at methods of dissuading the attacks, owls, cd's, tape, etc, and are also studying the worst times for these attacks in an attempt to minimise the problem for our birds. Money comes into everything in life nowadays, but because a sum of money was mentioned does not mean that it is the be all. I think it may be mentioned to allow those in ignorance of the cost and value in monetary terms of racing pigeons and therefore distinguish them from feral pigeons which a lot consider to be a nuisance.
      racing pigeons are far different, they are athletes of the sky and the training of them is a skill in itself.

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  61. Peter Jones says:

    On a previous post i read

    " Pigeons fail to return to their lofts for the following reasons "Straying and Exhaustion...36% " By far the highest percentage among the reasons, this i can accept quite easily, but, has anyone asked the reasons why ??

    Having seen as many as 4 pairs of Peregrine Falcons harassing ,splitting,panicking and scattering to all corners a convoy of racing pigeons, is it any wonder ??? it will always be the highest percentage people will quote at will

    On another point I personally believe raptors such as the Peregrine do not belong in cities and built up areas, they are by nature creatures of the coastal regions, hills and mountains and quarries, natural places that have provided their nesting sites for years, providing these un natural sites on high rise buildings brings them in to contact and, unfortunately competition with the pigeon fancier

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