It’s always nice to hear from you…

I received this letter by email a little while ago.  I thought I’d share it with you, without commenting on it (except I couldn’t resist adding a photo (or three) of a magnificent sea eagle (or sea eagles)).


By Bohuš Číčel ( (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsDear Mr. Avery

I have never written to you before but have heard a great deal about you.

By Surub (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
I find your views on nature and nature conservancy somewhat confusing. On the one hand you wax lyrically about the beauty of our coastland birds and the sheer joy of seeing such a splendid variety and in such great numbers. Sounds good! Yet you, when Director of Conservation at the RSPB was one of the most vociferous supporters of importing the white tailed sea eagles onto our wetlands and coastal breeding sites in the East of England. Coastal breeding sites that are home to some of our most rare coastal birds.

This major predator being brought in to feed off these birds, whilst the RSPB rubs its hands at the thought of the money they hoped to make out of eco tourism these eagles could encourage.

When the RSPB was asked to respond to the great concerns of so many to the threat of these major predators, you actually lied, quite blalantly. The lie ‘the white tailed sea eagle will mainly feed off the rabbits that abound there’.

It was pointed out that this act of gross destruction would decimate our rare breeding sites, that these sites were already over-predated upon and yet you intend to release, I believe 20 pairs of white tailed sea eagles onto this area.

The small mammals and birds in our countryside are becoming more and more scarce, the lanes quieter, the skies deserted except for the hawks that populate every square inch to the detriment of so much. Every garden, every woodland, every piece of countryside is persecuted with growing numbers of hawks. Top predators, not predated upon and multiplying every year. Even here you lie saying that numbers are still very much down due to persecution, when in fact many hawks over populating and near saturation point, an admission by your RSPB.

The responsibility for this growing problem which will lead to an environmental disaster, is the RSPB’s and we will make sure the buck stops there.

Then you accuse those who are genuinely concerned with this growing problem of over-predation and want to see a balanced conservation programme;  hawk haters. Now how emotional is that? Not only that but the insults and abuse that comes from you and your supporters is appalling. How balanced is that?

This is not conservation, this is obssession and that is how you are seen now by a geat majority of the British public, as an obssessive.

From a disillusioned, once member of the RSPB

By Uclax at de.wikipedia (Original text : ucla) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
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81 Replies to “It’s always nice to hear from you…”

  1. I for one would love to see these birds flying over my farm. Unfortunately I live in Devon so not much chance.

    I do not know much about sea eagles but it does seem odd if they did once live across East Anglia and much of Britain why they did not cause a mass extinction of coastal bird populations?

  2. There is still no evidence that these birds did breed in East Anglia. Birds attending a battle scene could well be immature birds from distant breeding areas. Remember the Orcadians fed their dead to the eagles. In a recent poll for the reintroduction of White tailed Eagle to Cumbria over 80% of folk wanted to see the birds brought back.

  3. Why do some / many people just not get it?? Or not want to get it? Is it our fault maybe - are we simply failing as ecologists and conservationists to get the predator : prey numbers thing across properly? Or is it because some people really do hate raptors like you say?!

  4. There was this study that did the news-rounds a while back (, - based on historic range information, place names and mapping suitable habitat. I don't know how reliable this method is thought to be? Interestingly it puts more eagles into the midlands than East Anglia. Reintroduction scheme in Birmingham, anyone?.....

    I'd also point out to your correspondent the incredible numbers of Bald Eagles I see at Blackwater NWR in Maryland, USA, both breeding and wintering (with anything up to 150 birds present in the winter). They don't seem to do the other 'rare coastal birds' present in very good numbers much harm! I know it's a different species, but only just.

    1. Chris I mentioned in other post of Mark the stark difference between us and the USA, a country whom place a heavy empahsis on gun culture I wasn't expecting to see so many various raptor species (Ospreys sitting on telegraph poles surrounded by sunbathers on a public beach!!!) and importantly the number of warblers,waders and passerines, in fact evne though the have numerous hawks they have a severe problem with Starlings and other passerines raiding cereal crops, so the whole "hawks destroying our song bird population" arguement doesn't hold any weight when you see how other country deals with nature. Tougher penalties in the USA means many more Raptors, something we need to do here.

    2. Chris - the Birmingham eagles!

      You are right to point out that the Bald Eagle is much the same species as the wt eagle. It lives in the same types of places and feeds similarly too. in the USA my experience is that the US national bird is much-loved and much respected. Chesapeake Bay (on a bad day) looks a bit like Essex (on a good day)!

  5. John Miles- today they breed just across the water from us at the Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands, in habitat which in many ways must be similar to that which was present right across Eastern England before much of the region was drained for agriculture. I don't think it's that unreasonable to make the conjecture that these birds would have been present in suitable habitat right across NW Europe in the absence of significant human persecution. But regardless of whether they did or not, the current proximity of breeding birds so close to the East coast may render the debate about reintroduction irrelevant in the decades to come anyway...

    1. Chequertree - thank you and welcome. Yes, the eagles are heading our way. How long will they take do you think? 20 years or a lot quicker? I'm impatient.

      1. Mark, I'm impatient too but I would think 20 years is a reasonable ball- park figure, possibly a bit longer do you think? We're still waiting for osprey and red kite to return as breeders here in East Kent even though they have been seen pretty frequently for quite a while. There was a juvenile WTE flying around here for a while last Winter- nearly had it as a garden tick...I wonder where it came from?

        The point I was trying to get across about the reintroduction to those who baulk at the potential presence of WTE in Eastern England is that they ARE going to be breeding in Eastern England within the next few decades, reintroduction or not, and whether they like it or not. What do they propose doing when the inevitable natural recolonisation occurs? Blast them out of the sky before the eggs hatch on the basis that there may be some limited conflicts with commercial interests, or that they will occasionally eat another creature of conservation concern?

        I guess the prospect of natural recolonisation also means that us conservationists need to ask ourselves some questions about why we want the reintroduction if it isn't strictly necessary for WTE re- establishment in England. Is it because we can't make the case for conservation and landscape scale habitat restoration among officials and the public without a flagship species? Is it to stimulate the local economy? Or is it just because eagles are really cool and we are impatient to see them?

        1. Chequertree - many thanks. Well, I for one think eagles are really cool and am impatient to see them. I also think that they will do little or no harm to anyone and be an economic asset as well. But for me it's 'cos they are fantastic!

  6. I suppose another remark to add would be in answer to over-predation. In order for any predator to increase and maintain healthy populations, then sufficient prey must be available. In short, without prey there is no predator, reduction in prey numbers lead to reductions in predators. Bit simplistic I know, but then again so is the email.

  7. For me it is a case of finding a scapegoat; turning a blind eye to the real reason why so many birds are in decline. In one word that is Humans. Sea eagle, hawks, raptors in general, are they the root cause of modern farming methods, global warming and massive urbanisation to name but a few? No they are not - it is us; we are the ones to blame - we just don't like to admit it.

    I don't believe it to be hatred, per-se, but this picture of our countryside, seething with raptors, descending on unfortunate song birds like a plague is entirely false. It is a picture painted by those, such as the letter writer, to cover up our short-comings, if you will. Let's hide our heads in the sand and just hope that the problem goes away. I know, let's blame something else because the real picture is just a little bit to horrible to contemplate.

    You will notice that I am not blaming any specific group in all this. It is all of us, as a whole - humans - we've made this mess, now we're going to have to sort it out. Yes, we can all do more, but a lot of it comes down to educating people about the why's and how's.

    Also we (as conservationists) need to find better ways of working and communicating with them (farmers, hunters, fishermen, the letter writer etc, etc) or we will effectively be banging our collective heads on a brick wall.

  8. Perhaps the problem lies with the teaching of biology in our schools. So many people do not understand food webs and the fact that it is the predators at the top of a food chain that lead the most precarious lives. If the population of the prey species crashes, the predator either starves of has to turn to a less suitable prey species. It is only when humans are the predators that prey species are commonly wiped out (or almost so) - think of marine fish stocks or the great whales.
    As other commentators have pointed out, these prey species - coastal birds in this case - evolved alongside their predators and have breeding strategies that allow them to flourish despite the losses to predation. In most cases where species lower down the food chain are in trouble, the underlying cause turns out to be human interference with their habitat. A healthy population of top predators is a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

  9. Well we go to Mull regularly to see the WTE and so am a big supporter of them but having them in East Anglia or in lots of other places is not as simple in my opinion as you think and I think you have ignored one or two simple important facts.Almost certainly areas where WTE are in the UK have management fees handed out to landowners who are victims or could be victims of unlikely damage to livestock from WTE and so my guess is that anywhere that wants WTE then those landowners will require quite legitimately the same type of recompense especially as there are certainly more free range poultry on the mainland area under consideration than where the WTE are at present.However rare it may be and I do not contest that,it will certainly happen that a WTE will see free range poultry as easy dinner.Probably just as bad or worse poultry can panic and bunch in a corner with lots on the bottom dead.
    Is there anyone who thinks East Anglia landowners should be treated differently regarding compensation to other areas.
    I would find it very interesting if(ignoring shooting estates)landowners had objections if they were compensated for losses.

    1. Dennis
      Yours is the only common sense reply that I have read with anything other than the blinkered raptor fan response.Of course farmers are going to need be compensated and there are many other impracticalities.
      If it is OK to control foxes where rare breeding coastal birds are breeding then why is it so wrong not to want sea eagles introduced into these areas. Sea eagles are opportunist feeders and all this talk about being an apex predator at the top of a food web is a lot of rubbish. If raptors are unnaturally fed on carrion as are the red kites (feeding stations) , golden eagles (dead Sheep), buzzards (road kill) and sea eagles (fish from tour boats, dead sheep etc) then their numbers will escalate. With greater numbers patrolling certain rare bird breeding areas then opportunist predation of these young birds must increase.
      Man is a part of the food chain/web and yet most people here seem to think that humans are not part of the natural world. So what advantage does mankind gain by introducing sea eagles in this context ? None? Why such a need to introduce sea eagles into Norfolk? Is this so that birders/twitchers can get their yearly tick without having to travel to Scotland? No great loss then if they are not reintroduced.

      1. Speaking for myself, my comments were directed more at the letter writer's general 'blinkered [anti] raptor' attitude rather than his specific objection to sea eagles in Norfolk. I personally would be pleased to see Sea Eagles re-introduced into other areas of the country than the Scottish west coast where appropriate but I am happy to accept that in and of itself opposition to such re-introductions does not mark anyone out as anti conservation or anti raptor. Likewise I am happy to acknowledge the principle of compensating farmers for livestock losses that might be attributable to sea eagles in an area where they were re-introduced. However, the letter writer expressed a much wider antipathy to birds of prey, suggesting that other wildlife is disappearing and "...the skies deserted except for the hawks that populate every square inch to the detriment of so much. Every garden, every woodland, every piece of countryside is persecuted with growing numbers of hawks. Top predators, not predated upon and multiplying every year.". I assume you accept that this is not a reliable interpretation of what is going on with our wildlife in the countryside and that it is of concern to the RSPB and others involved in bird conservation to challenge such misguided assertions and their corollary that birds of prey need culling?"


          1. I used the html tags and attributes (as indicated under the comment box) but apparently failed to turn them back off. It should be sufficient to insert '' to switch it back off.

          2. Sorry Mark. If you can see and edit the blog as html it should be possible to insert the tag to switch off italics which is: left hand triangular bracket forward slash i right hand triangular bracket.
            In my earlier post I typed that in using the actual keys but because the program understands it to be an html attribute it did not display it but just showed the inverted commas I put around it.
            I am sorry if you can't reverse the italics - at least I didn't manage to turn it into hieroglyphics!

          3. Jonathan - don't worry about it thanks. That html code is there - but it doesn't seem to be working to turn off italics. I've updates, deleted and retyped it and put in the code in some other places and none of them works! Not serious (but don't do it again please! ;-))

  10. The writer does not seem to have taken account that a) there cannot be a situation whereby there are all predators - nature has a way of dealing with that scenario - b) hawks are quite uncommon and there may be some confustion with falcons etc., c) man is more responsible than any other presatory species for any changes in populations of prey species and d) It is a re-introduction so these creatures kind of belong here. One last point, I am sure that there are some farmers, gamekeepers etc who will try their best to thwart the long term success of this project, in any case!

  11. I'm no scientist, mainly because I find the thought of algebra and differential equations terrifying. My loss I guess.

    I do, however, "get" predator/prey relationships which is why the kind of bilge spouted in the email from a " disillusioned former RSPB member" makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I have no recollection of being taught about food webs in school but I understand the concept of built in redundancy within prey species breeding patterns, and the fact that top predators don't breed anywhere near as prolifically. Sparrowhawks have practiced "sustainable harvesting" since before we were running around with flint axes, so you'd think that humankind could have grasped this approach by now.

  12. Chequertree - I said no proof not that they could not breed. The attitude in Europe seems to be more in favour of raptors with massive increases in especially White tailed Eagles in Poland and the Czech Republic where this year, I saw broods of up to 3 young due to the many fish pools allowing the birds to take carp. Something our fishermen friends may not like in England!

  13. Well as an "ex-member" of the RSPB the bloke obviously walked around with his eyes closed. "hawks" over populating every inch of the country decimating small bird populations, REALLY, where are these raptors mate. As a photographer who favours raptors I really don't see these numbers on a uncontrollable increase, the opposite is true, far fewer Kestrels, then I can ever remember, constantly stumbling across dead sparrowhawks. All animals need a natural predator otherwise un-healthy speciems survive and do more harm then good. Funny how the emailer doesn't mention the decline in waders on the east coast (knots, barwits,godwits,sanderling,golden plover) compared to say twenty years ago, a few raptors can't be balmed for every dead wader, how about pollution the destruction of habitat the increasing global temperature, did the emailer ever see footage of farmers spraying pesticides on crops and the writhing dying larks,buntings and other passerines, no sadly the real decline in our "small" bird population has more to do with human activity then some raptor, both raptor and passerines have lived side by side since the evolved, if raptors were an issue, then we wouldn't have passerines and waders today,sadly instead of an ex-rspb member i think your secret emailer is more likely to be a member of the "hook bill and talon hater", send us a photograph of your membersip card, I as an ex-member of the RSPB can I qoute my membership number for verification (81943279), CAN YOU?

  14. Its well known (at least among the ecologically literate) that the absence of top predators has a hugely distorting effect on ecosystems. There is sufficient information and research papers available though a web-search to keep anyone interested busy for months. And some great examples of impacts on people.

    But instead of looking at the whole ecosystem, undersanding it and looking for the best place to apply a remedy if there is one, the usual response is to look at the superficial effects and respond to those - often by killing something! Its seems so demoralising... until you consider the huge opportunity to make people better informed: now there's a job for your next book.

    Not a suggestion for the the book title, although it could be, but I blame Common Sense! And as an example how wrong common sense can be how about this for an anti Common Sense headline - "Spanish Wolves prefer wild roe deer to domestic animals"?

    Now that would be a reintroduction to support in the UK - and is likely to suppress fox, badger, and feral cat populations too - with benefits to ground nesting birds along with changing the behaviour of red deer to the extent that we might expect woodland regeneration onto the open hills in Scotland. Another brilliant headline "grouse moor managers seek to re-introduce the wolf to control predators!"

    I'm off to take my tablets and have a lie down now. Good luck with your correspondent though - look upon it as a challenge.

  15. As ever, a truly emotive subject.
    The role of apex predators is poorly understood by the "hunting, shooting n' fishing" fraternity and their perception of "balance" is determined by game numbers and how it impinges on their chosen "sport".
    Perhaps science backed conservation needs to be even more vocal against outdated and outmoded prejudice such as this.

  16. maybe the RSPB should retain it's membership of people who think like your letter writer Mark, to a free trip to the flat wetlands of the Hortobag in Hungary - more birds than he would imagine given the pressense of so many WTE. I wonder if he/she would change his/her mind? Probably not!

  17. What a depressing letter! There does not seem to be much point here in discussing why and how the writer has so comprehensively misunderstood predator prey relationships as several people already have and I imagine that 99.99% of the readership of this blog is already well aware that there is not a poblem with too many predators! The question is what can be done about attitudes such as that displayed in the letter?
    I think Bimbling has a good point when (S)he (sorry I am not sure if Bimbling is a male or a female name!) blames common sense. It is very easy for people to jump to the wrong conclusion when perhaps they see a temporary decline in the number of songbirds visiting their garden after a few visits from a sparrowhawk (indeed it has taken a little persuasion to convince my own elderly parents that the sparrowhawk that regularly perches on top of their bird feeder is something they should be thrilled to see!). Organisations such as Countryside Alliance and Songbird Survival that should know better then have an easy job to persuade such people that there are too many birds of prey and that "something must be done".
    We need to vigorously contest such views whenever and wherever possible. A polite but firm response to the letter and similar ones is obviously one place to start (pointing out amongst other things that the RSPB invests massive efforts into protecting all birds including song birds and so it is very clearly not in its interests to promote anything that would be detrimental to birds as a whole). At the same time every opportunity has to be taken to try and promote a proper understanding of what healthy ecosytems are including the role of predators within them. This means getting articles and items into newspapers, magazines and on television and radio and particularly onto those organs which reach the biggest audiences. The Guardian and the Independent may be more naturally sympathetic to enlightened conservation views but we also need to get the message into the pages of the Mail, the Telegraph and the Express which may be more hostile.

  18. For all his mistakes, the author of the letter obviously considers themselves a conservationist and wants what is best for the environment. Where such people are mistaken conservation organisations have an opportunity to educate or an opportunity to be angry. For me this is an example of the RSPB failing to convey the scientific basis for their conservation action, something which will inevitably happen. Instead of getting angry at misguided individuals, conservation organisations must place themselves in their shoes and ask how they can better go about their education. But, at the end of the day, explanations will always fall on a few deaf ears.

  19. Hi Mark.

    The letter doesn't seem to be particularly well thought out, but as you are not commenting here (or even if you do) I hope you send a reply to the complainant, as I think most of his points could be addressed quite quickly, and with facts or at least scientifically obtained information.

    To anyone who does want to write complaining letters, I would advise that if you feel a "blatant lie" has been told then it is best to offer some evidence to contradict it. Also, it is important to note that your opinion should not be assumed to represent the great (or geat) majority.

    All this said, as an East Anglian birder, I was far from convinced that there was a need for the re-introduction of Sea Eagles. From what I read, there was rather flimsy evidence to suggest that they were resident in the area within a reasonable time frame and therefore wouldn't qualify as a re-introduction. As a bird of least concern globally there seem to me to be better ways that the money could be spent.


  20. Seems quite a simple issue which somehow the RSBP has failed to grasp. Release as many Sea Eagles as you like on your own land but when they disappear onto someone else's and cause a financial loss to that occupant be prepared for a case against you.

    Is that too simple a concept or are NGO exempt from common law ?

    1. Julian - RSPB I think.

      So to whom can I send the bill for the dent in my car from a non-native muntjac deer please?

      And who recompenses me for any damage a pheasant does to my car?

      And who pays me compensation for the loss of white-tailed eagles from my life?

      And what if, as is likely to be true, the economic gain to East Anglia in increased tourism and spending greatly outweighs any loss to individual farmers? Should the gainers pay the losers? Should the gainers pay the RSPB?

      And the wt eagle is a native species. Do you get on the phone asking for compensation if birdsong wakes you up early - to whom exactly?

      Simple, is it?

  21. I have a few questions for your correspondent. Why haven't the kestrels eaten all of the field voles? Why haven't merlins eaten all of the meadow pipits? Why haven't the buzzards eaten all of the rabbits? Why haven't the sparrowhawks eaten all of the sparrows? Why haven't the peregrines eaten all of the pigeons? Why haven't the golden eagles eaten all of the mountain hares? Why haven't the hen harriers eaten all of the grouse? Why haven't the white tailed eagles eaten all of the fish in the sea?

  22. Yes actually it is very simple and the fact that you just can't get it is why these people get so worked up with NGOs. All the arguments you've just realed off just don't wash. The Muntjac has done untold damage by its thoughtless release. The Mink did similar damage, the list goes on and on. Release what you like but stand by the consequences please just like the rest of us have to. If a pheasant is released and damages a car the person who released it is liable if the damage caused can be proved and that the applicant was not culpable.

    The fact that the released pheasant or sea eagle is immune from being implicated in a case of where loss has occurred just because someone enjoyed its presence is a very odd argument.

    Your last argument that income derived from an NGO,s unilateral aim to release outways an individuals rights just because that NGO deems it to be for the common good is bizarre. We live in a county which has the right of the individual at the heart of both is democracy and its legal system. That's way people get angry at you and its a pitty that you can't see it.

    1. Julian - reintroductions are licenced, so aren't 'unilateral' and in any case a majority of the Suffolk population (if I remember rightly) said they would like wt eagles.

      Muntjac and pheasant are non-native species which were introduced into UK. WT eagles are native species that were wiped out from the UK. Do you not recognise a difference between alien introductions and native reintroductions? That seems very odd to me.

  23. Mark
    Everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves.
    First though for education and information. What do WTE eat? In Mull surely in these days of digital cameras there must be some records from nests to give an indication. Also the Netherlands?

    1. Andrew - what a sensible question! Thank you. Almost anything to some extent but not babies!

      My understanding from Mull is that the wt eagles there eat lots of fish (caught at sea) lots of rabbits and a variety of coastal birds and a lot of carrion (including dead sheep). They may, I'm not sure where the strength of evidence lies on this these days, eat a few lambs (although most of those may be already-dead lambs too).

      what would they eat in East Anglia? Fish (mullet etc?), rabbits, a few gulls, coots, greylag (and Canada?) geese etc. They might even eat the odd pheasant too.

      1. There's a new paper hot off the press in Bird Study that provides detailed information on the breeding season diet of white-tailed eagles in western Scotland (specifically Skye, Mull, Lewis & Harris) based on a long-term study of pellets and prey remains collected from breeding territories:

        These particular sea eagles have a cosmopolitan diet but are especially partial to seabirds (principally Fulmar and Northern Gannet), then sheep (incl. lambs but not known whether predated or scavenged, but see other studies by Marquiss et al.) and then lagomorphs. Fish were probably severely underestimated due to the chosen study methods. Apparently not that interested in waterbirds and only mildly interested in waterfowl, waders and what were classed as 'terrestrial birds' (mainly Raven & Hooded Crow). No babies or small children found.

  24. Fine Mark and who pushes for the licenses ? The NGO does because it feels morally justified for whatever reason but that doesn't alter what I've said about responsibility and personal rights of the indivuals concerned. Your not a government, no one elected you so don't use the argument that the majority is behind you, it's irrelevant if your actions cause harm or financial loss to anyone.

    Yes I do know the difference between native and non native species and frankly its just a smokescreen to mask what is a very odd position that the RSPB takes on releases. To say a pheasant is non native just because its only been here since 300 Ad is nuts ! Who cares ?

    1. Julian - NGOs don't press for licences any more than I suspect you 'press' for your car licence. you apply for one and it you meet the criteria then you probably get one. You are trying to make it sound like a sinister plot and it isn't. Why aren't pheasant release licensed by the way?

      I didn't use the 'argument' that the majority was behind me, I said that I thought I remembered polling (in other words hard data) that showed that the majority of people in coastal Suffolk welcomed wt eagles. Presumably you think that is relevant, and maybe even important?

      Since non-native introductions are on of the four major causes of species extinctions whereas native reintroductions are not - then i don't think there is any smokescreen. who cares - every conservation agency in the world and many people would be a good starting point to define that group, don't you think?

  25. Dear Mr Avery,

    After yesterday's blog on good science I thought that the blog might be getting out of my depth, it seems not!

    Yours Sincerely,

    Relieved and exasperated at the lack of science (or sense)in that letter!

  26. Hi

    I am a fan of reintroduction of this superb bird back to the skies of eastern England. Once the Fens were 1500 square miles the largest wet land in europe there is huge archeological evidence of these birds on the fens Ut is two or three wing flaps to be in the broads and the Suffolk coast go to avheightbof 500 feet and you can see sizewell from Lakenheath Airfield There is huge evidence of these birds in historical records place names etc into Middle Ages and beyond Tge fact these stunning birds were persecuted to extinction doesn't mean they were not present and for convenience you can't eradicate their memory. They could and would survive on The Suffolk coast as occasional migrants show. You have to say industrialisation of farmland has done more to eradicate wildlife than any natural predator Sparrowhawks and kestrels done vest cornflowers corn cockles or bees the massive decline in the biodiversity is down to industrial farming, no not individual farmers but society and farming. As you drive in the east Anglian countryside where I have lived and worked all my life and just see crows wood pigeons and the 30 odd million pheasants that are released shows the denuding of the countryside is nothing to Do with birds of prey. Shame on the letter writer and shame on this gradual destruction of the countryside. Bask in the privilege of seeing birds of prey and the knowledge that you can never have more predators than prey and get up and do something about our wildlife and that includes white tailed eagles in East Anglian sikes. I welcome bizarre and off the wall letters like that it makes me realise that send will prevail Keep up the great work Mark

    1. Hi Richard.

      You state that there is huge evidence for White-tailed Eagles in England, but have you seen huge evidence for them breeding in East Anglia? If so, is any of it on the internet so that I can have a look?
      Having looked at the Natural England page on the subject:
      It mentions one independent paper. I have got this paper, 'The older history of the white-tailed eagle in Britain' by Derek Yalden (British Birds 2007). In terms of places with 'eagle' in the name, there is one dot for Suffolk in Figure 1 (although I can't see it in the table above it). Similarly there is one example of WTE remains for Suffolk and one Eagle sp. in Norfolk.

      I am not disputing that White-tailed Eagles bred in other parts of England hundreds of years ago, just that I have not seen convincing evidence that they did so near the area that the re-introduction focused on.

      Of general interest, if WT Eagles last bred in England in 1780, how many other birds have been lost as breeding species in that period, and should we seek to re-introduce all of them? If not, what makes W-T Eagles so special?


      1. Hi James I said huge evidence in easten England archeological and historical evidence bones skulls etc in roman middens and medieval pits all over the fens As I said 1500 Square miles of fen in the fens natural area. Look also at east Anglian village names fens and marsh names through history Add the 1500 square miles of the fens to the 14/15 century peat diggings of the original broads area and the Suffolk coastland wetlands and then look at what exists int the smaller wetlands of europe then let alone now! and I rest my case it is unsound to suggest these birds weren't present and breeding Records of WTE in London in medieval times adds to evidence I am sure by 1780's they were so persecuted that the already false assumption that they are western or Scottish birds would have been established. Stork are the only wetland bird as yet infound in fenland however Dalmation Pelican has been found as late as Roman times in the fens.

  27. People – not other animals - have caused, directly or indirectly, the significant decline of many UK species. However, it is foolish to ignore the fact that some predator species can push rare prey species over the edge, perhaps causing local extinction in the UK. We can (and do, although some conservation organisations keep it quiet) selectively control some predator species for conservation reasons i.e. shoot crow and fox. However, other predators cannot be controlled as they are protected and/or endangered themselves. The following conflicts spring to mind and there must be many more:

    • Barn owls/kestrels/peregrines and little terns
    • Badgers and stone curlews
    • Pine martens and capercaillies
    • Eagle owls and hen harriers

    Why don’t you explore the murky grey areas more, a world not just divided into ‘raptor lovers’ and ‘raptor haters’?

    1. Harebelly - I think all have been explored in my blogging 'career' and no doubt will be again - but not right now as I'm off to bed! Thank you for your comment.

    2. I must say I find the letter very sad and disapointing but before I comment further.Lets look and the conflicts.
      Kestrels/ Barn Owls etc Litle Terns yes but remember that Little Terns populations are way below natural levels because of our pechant for crowded beaches in the summer.
      Badgers/ Stone Curlews may be Stone Curlew populations previously reduced by farming as are Capercaillie.
      Harriers/ Eagle owls untrue there is no evidence that the very few hen harriers ( one adult, one chick, caused one nest desertion) taken by ONE pair of eagle owls has had any impact at a population level even the tiny population of harriers concerned.

      The letter itself is in some ways an inditement of us all we have failed to get across the proper way food chains work, nature by and large keeps its own balance, without a long term surfeit of prey there are NO predators.
      Other commentators have already dealt with why our countryside is biodiversity poor US.
      WTE in East Anglia, sorry John they almost certainly bred thats what logic and archeaology tell us and if science says the habitat can support it then we are nearly duty bound to bring it back. Not so sure about it in the Lakes if Golden Eaglke productivity was poor due to a lack of carrion ( Yes I have read Dave Walkers excellent book) what will the WTE live on. One assumes in the farmlands of East Anglia they will live on mainy trash ( rabbit, pheasant, redlegged partridge etc)

  28. Okay Mark fine but the question on this blog was why do people get so upset by your release program's. I'm sorry that you can't seem to grasp the reason why but I've done my best to explain it to you. You talk about consensus in one part of your argument then dismiss people's rights in the rest of your case and I just can't understand how you justify that.

    I repeat what I said previously, release what you like (or what you can lobby Defra for licence wise) on your own land but accept that damage or financial loss suffered by affected parties may be down to you but the courts would decide if a case was ever brought. Frankly I'd welcome a case against the RSPB on this as it might teach them to respect and have regard for other people's rights. I'm sorry to be so adamant on this subject as I am a RSPB member and I support a lot of what they do but they are blind to this whole issue.

    1. Julian, I'm intrigued as to exactly what infingement WTE would possibly impose upon you that would justify you wanting to seek damages for financial? I'm also interested in what happens if a species recovers naturally due to less persecution - would you still consider sufferance whereby you would look to someone to blame for a balance of nature?

  29. This lack of ecological understanding by so many is very frustrating and it is seen wherever there is a predator 'interfering' with someone's financial investment. Not only is it wrong, often it's wilful misuse of ecological principles. A little (but not enough) knowledge as they say, is a dangerous thing.
    Fascinated to see that the italics extends to the comment box. Have you tried ? I've never seen it happen before. 🙂

  30. A rather silly and ill-informed letter, I suspect you have probably received many of these over the years, however it is some of the comments, particularly those made by Julian, that I find really infuriating.

    It never ceases to amaze me how certain sections of the farming and landowning community hold a complete disregard for the wider rural economy, particularly tourism.
    Dennis does make a fair point regarding the potential impact upon free range poultry units. I presume this was considered in the feasibility study and that there is some useful data on how they impact on free range poultry units in the Netherlands ?

    In principle I wouldn't have a problem with local farming businesses being compensated for legitimate losses in certain situations, but where do we draw the line ?

    Are rural tourism businesses entitled to compensation from the farming industry for the decline in farmland biodiversity and for the impacts of diffuse pollution from agriculture in our surface and bathing waters ? Surely less wildlife, impoverished habitats and polluted water reduce the attraction of the countryside to tourists.
    What about the 2001 FMD outbreak ? This cost the UK tourist industry an estimated £3.2 billion, I speak from experience on this as a part owner of a holiday cottage based on the edge of Dartmoor, we lost what equated to nearly six months of revenue.
    As this was disease that was imported to the UK by the UK pig farming industry, should the pig industry be made pay out compensation ? This is a can of very expensive worms that the farming industry would be better off not opening.

    1. "As this was disease that was imported to the UK by the UK pig farming industry ..."

      You might think that, others think it was the Ministry of Ducks

  31. Julian, I have to take issue with one of your statements as it seems to be blinkered/biased, you mention people suing the NGO's for any loss to livestock/property etc, which kind of seems a valid point, I think it could be something the RSPB looks at for any future release projects, it could be something that prevents hostilty, compensation for the loss of livestock. I for one would like to see how such a legal case would procede through the British legal system, and if it did prove succesful I for one would then like to see NGO's sue Landowners,gamekeepers and anyone else who takes it upon themselves to destroy/trap/poison birds such as Golden Eagles and Hen Harriers.
    However your point about bird release scheme falls flat on it's face if you were ever to visit Jersey(I often do as my mum lives there), as most know Jesrsey is infamous for people avoiding tax, some of these wealthy tax dodgers came to the island with Pheasants, not realising that in 2000 laws were introduced to prevent the release of partridges and pheasants. These pheasants were released with the view of setting up a game shoot, not realising that shooting of birds on the island is illegal and can only be done under a liscense, which is both costly and very time consuming, did these individuals round up the pheasants, NO, they left them to roam free. They now roam around the island damaging the vaulable potatoe crop, it took the arrival (France I believe) of a wintering Marsh Harriers that has helped out the farmers on the island. In fact I was stood with one farmer as a Harrier flew over with a juvenile pheasant in it's talon and he remarked "Thank God for them Harriers", it made me smile as it's not what I've come to hear from some individuals in this country.
    My point: If the RSPB or another NGO was to release a bird it's done under strict guidance, unlike the individuals who released the Pheasants on the island and then left them to almost ruin a small but valuable source of income.

  32. Joe W,most of your comments reasonably fair but one I think completely wrong.Foot and Mouth in 2001 was imported in food and not by the agriculture industry.
    I realise as you say with compensation where do we stop but it has to be fair to East Anglia landowners to be treated to compensation as other areas with WTE.
    I would be a supporter of WTE but am very dubious of these polls suggesting about 83% in favour of WTE in East Anglia,my reaction is what % if they were asked to fund the introduction of WTE into East Anglia.If they want them then let them pay for it,after all they will reap the benefits from tourism and as individual if I want something I pay for it.

    1. Hi Dennis, I thought it was due to a pig famer in Northumberland? They were able to trace it back to this particular farm due to the fact the infected pig ended up at a pig market and subsequently traced back to the farm.

  33. Gosh, maybe Jonathan should have turned on the caps lock too, there seems to be a lot of shouting here. The answer is obvious - we should persuade the eagles to reintroduce themselves to East Anglia (I know Mark's impatient but he probably has eagle-whispering powers) and then we could sue the EU for compensation when the chicken and pheasant population is decimated as surely it would be. Or threaten to leave.

    Or perhaps we should take encouragement from the Czech eagles? The dark secret there is that the Czech people have finally realised that carp is not the tastiest fish in the world and have largely given up eating it except on Christmas Eve. So what else to to with the Třeboňské rybníky except encourage the eagles to eat the fish and wait for the tourists to arrive. Clever stuff, and so much better than the originally proposed carp-burning power station.

  34. So could we sue the NGA because my enjoyment of the countryside is severely diminished by the lack of Polecats, Pine Martens, 'British' Wildcats, Sea Eagles, Red Kites, Hen Harriers in my local area!
    Still think there are better areas than East Anglia for Sea Eagle re-introduction though, mostly the west coast.

  35. As in Cumbria, a similar proportion of people asked in Norfolk whether they'd like WTE re-introduced said yes but sadly the project was kiboshed by a small number of prominent landowners with good access to newly elected MPs and ministers.

    As far as I am concerned, you only need to travel to Denmark and Holland to see the habitats that WTEs occupy there to be convinced that the East Anglian coast is an entirely suitable location for a re-introduction.

    My only misgivings were that English Nature put too little weight on the conservation reasons for the re-introduction and too much on the tourism benefits. It therefore came across as a bit of a gimmick rather than a serious conservation project.

    I really hope the Cumbrian project gets off the ground and of course the evidence for past occurrence is much much stronger. Also very good documentary evidence for them being in Devon so maybe Cowboy will see them over his farm!

  36. Douglas hi , not quite sure of what you were getting at but I sort of agree I think. My point was not about the detail of what damage would be caused if any but really about the principle that releases have consequences and those effected have a right to redress. Granted its a minefield of complications but it has and will continue to be a very contentious issue.

  37. Julian, my point kind of got lost to be honest and was trying to draw comparison between release schemes backed by NGO's and release schemes done by individuals who's only interest is profit and what ends up in the pot. Firstly living in Northants I got to witness a release scheme (Red Kites). Now first sites were researched for suitablity, right habitat, a sustainable food source etc. Then it was researched were the birds should be sourced from ( I believe it was Spain and Scandanavia), then the NGO responsible went to landowners and local communities to discuss the plans and answer any questions, once that was done the liscence was applied for, and I'm sure further questions and demands were made by the relevant government organisation, after release, birds were then monitored, and as in another comment the nests were inspected to see what was being eaten, nesting material etc.
    Now you talk about the "principles" of such releases but you forget to consider the damage done by the release of pheasants into the countryside, which to be knowledge don't have to meet the strict criteria that NGO's have to meet to re-introduce species that were wiped out by "man". But also you seem to suggest in your comments that certain NGO's will lobby for releases despite public opposition for them in the areas of planned release, rubbish, their would be point on releasing a species where there is strong opposition as we all know the species would be killed off by those who oppose the release.

  38. Hi Douglas you are quite right but as always I believe the Foot and Mouth virus comes in on meat of some type and that clot of a farmer did not boil the swill properly,then worse he hid the fact that he had the disease and almost certainly sold stock thus spreading it into several areas.
    Think every outbreak of F and M has been traced to imported meat.

  39. I've had to respond to numerous letters similar to this one. One of the funniest was from a gentleman who, aside from the usual rant about songbirds, alerted us to the perils of wandering into an eagle colony. Having had a nasty experience with some arctic terns on a Scottish holiday, he could only wonder at how much more damage the massive eagle might inflict. What if an unsuspecting member of the public wandered too close and, in defence of their nests, the eagles attacked en masse?

    1. Mark - it has generated a lot of comments, that's true! I didn't really think it would - but this blog's readership continues to surprise me.

  40. Please note that I [and presumably many others] have been MORE supportive of the RSPB and indeed I joined when it started to take more interest in protecting the raptors. And, much as I love 'my' garden birds, as well as song-birds, water-fowl, etc, etc, sea-eagles seen unexpectedly are never to be forgotten. All that I had previously experienced was a sad, stuffed example in a local museum, where it has been since the 19th century. I will do whatever I can to protect the right of these beautiful birds to live here. There are examples found not only in prehistoric Scotland, but also in Roman contexts - in the English lowlands. These birds were always in a very small minority in the UK, but 'We' eradicated them totally. Or rather, it was the hatred and small-mindedness of 'humanity' which persecuted them [and other creatures] out of existence here. Just so, hatred and small-mindedness have caused rampant evil throughout human history. Sadly, some people seem unwilling to learn lessons from history and are indeed happy to eradicate history from the UK's national curriculum! Thank God that the Norwegians have helped WTEs to repatriate here, where they belong. And thank God that the British public increasingly values ALL its wildlife.

  41. PS. Having read a comment above about letter-writers fearing colonies of eagles [sic!], perhaps I should have written not of eagles comprising 'a very small minority', but 'minuscule numbers.' Foolishly, I had thought that people who take time to write in supporting, or objecting about, birds would know at least a little of what they are talking about. How to open closed minds is a question that needs answers throughout contemporary society.

  42. Can we just pop these stupid idiots in a boat, set the rudder and just push it off. They really are a waste of everyones time.

    And along this river we are over run with pheasants-they are everywhere. The nearest shoot is about 10 mile up river.

    From the train window I counted at least 50 which are not on shoot grounds and have seen about 20 in one place-what is a cluster of pheasants called anyway?

    I saw one buzzard and a lone Kestrel in the same distance.


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