Not so glorious… and what about BanGS?

By Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s the Glorious 12th!  Woohoo!

And this year is the first year since the 1960s, according to the RSPB, that hen harriers have not nested successfully anywhere in England.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Conservation Director said last week: “We are only a few days away from ‘the Glorious 12th’ – the traditional August start of the grouse shooting season. My challenge to those who run grouse moors is simple: respect the law and allow hen harriers and other birds of prey to flourish again.

Maybe it’s a bit late to issue challenges to people who obviously don’t give a damn.  Or rather, who do give a damn but are on the other side – they are the enemy of the hen harrier.  It is those who run grouse moors (not every single individual obviously) who are responsible for the lack of hen harriers in our country – asking them to raise their game is like asking  the Australian cricket team not to mind failing to regain the Ashes.

Maybe the members of the Moorland Association are even now convening a crisis meeting to determine how they can play a full part in bringing the hen harrier back to their moors.  Or maybe not…  Why not ‘like’ my comment on the Moorland Association Facebook page to wish them a happy ‘Glorious 12th’.

They are a caring bunch when it comes to non-raptors.  In their newsletter they have been patting themselves on the back over ‘Giving Nature a Home’ on their grouse moors.  Grouse moors are good for ring ousels and the Moorland Association want you to know that.

There are some ring ousels who wouldn’t argue with that – they can’t argue because they are dead!

Young ring ousel
Young ring ousel

I was shocked by the images of these two dead ring ousels caught (accidentally) in traps set for ‘vermin’ on grouse moors – one of them in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the other in southern Scotland.

This young bird was photographed on a grouse moor in southern Scotland earlier this year.




Adult ring ousel
Adult ring ousel




This adult in the trap was photographed in 2009 at a grouse moor in the east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.








This is a dipper (from southern Scotland) and I am told that quite a few dippers have been caught in similar traps.


And common sandpipers…

…and red squirrels.





If you are on Twitter then today why not use #henharrier today.

If you are on Facebook then why not change your cover photo to a hen harrier today? You could use the image at the top of this post – please acknowledge Andreas Trepte.

And maybe you  think with all this going on that it would be a good idea if grouse moors were licensed – if so sign up here.

But maybe you think that even that is a bit weak and that banning grouse shooting should be the aim now – what do you think?  It’s not a rhetorical question – I’d really like to know and I’m sure this issue will be discussed at the Bird Fair.

Obviously, a campaign to ban grouse shooting will be called BanGS! – not that I’ve put any thought into it, of course.


42 Replies to “Not so glorious… and what about BanGS?”

  1. With the news that the Hen Harrier is on the brink of extinction in Britain, maybe today should be ‘The Inglorious Twelfth’ and time to launch an anti-grouse shooting campaign Mark. There’s clearly very little impetus for change with regards those that manage grouse moors for shooting. They’ve had their chance.

    The trouble is, this is the realm of the rich and subsequently those that can influence government. The fact that our Wildlife Minister, Richard Benyon, has shooting interests says it all really.

    I am not an anti. I shot from the age of seven for thirty years, but last year I sold my guns. I think it is now the time to preserve. We’ve had it our way for too long.

    1. Ed – thank you and I am not an anti either – at least I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the fact that there is so much illegal raptor killing. End of tether – end of line!

  2. Just changed my cover photo on Facebook to a hen harrier (a female I got a shot of when helping to ring her 3 chicks in Sutherland at the start of this month).

  3. According to a local newspaper, The Darlington and Stockton Times, George Winn-Darley, the owner of Spaunton Moor, Kirkbymoorside said that the Ring Ouzel nests (Moorland Association newsletter) were surrounded by rings of traps to protect them from predators. How over-intensive?

  4. There are suggestions that this will be the year of the Red Grouse – Record bags all round. Even when many of the chicks are too small to shoot!! Do they go down as a 1/4 of a brace!!

  5. I note you left out the Countryside Alliance, apparently according to this bird loving conservation organisation (!!??) the RSPB’s facts and figures are inaccurate and the Hen Harrier does not face extinction and according to Shooting Times it’s just another PR stunt by the RSPB to help feed mouths?
    As much as I am going through a negative phase with the RSPB I think I know whom I’d rather believe…..
    Sadly I’m not doing what you have recommended Mark instead I’m emailing my MP to seek some answers.
    On another topic and slightly off topic I saw a 4×4 with a sticker on it, an image with a spent shotgun cartridge with the words “Save Our Shot” out plops this 70+ man…about right I thought old and stuck long forgotten world.

  6. Hi Mark,

    Very disapointed by Martin,s remarks about issueig a challenge. The RSPB recently changed its logo. Maybe it should consider dropping the word “Protection” to from its name if its prepared to stand by and let this persecution continue.

  7. You know I’m with you on this one Mark, hopefully the Guardian have published today my response to the tripe in Saturdays’ paper from Adrian Blackmore of the CA. If these people all have their heads in the sand or up their own a—s, as he so obviously has, then the problem is unsolvable via discussion. Six years of discussions via the Environment Council just gave them time to virtually complete extermination, indeed one keeper actually expressed that view, without any concrete change. It is time driven grouse shooting was either banned completely or very very strictly controlled via licence. THe NT’s High Peak plans rolled out by NE on all SSSI and SPA designated moors would be a start, rather than the piss poor management agreements they currently sign off (Walshaw is just one of many!).
    How can NE/DEFRA look people in the eye when the Bowland and North Pennine SPAs have the key predators they are designated for missing?
    The problems of persecution have actually got worse rather than better over the last ten years. I was very tempted in yesterdays wind to go to the local moor where Bowland Betty died with a box of matches, fortunately common sense prevailed, we need to keep to the moral high ground as our mutual friend John Armitage would say.
    It is not just the harrier that has in all practical senses gone, so have successful moorland nesting Peregrines, indeed most territories in the Pennines are now vacant, Short-eared Owls are almost gone as are moor edge Goshawks. The only bastion against this onslaught are a few WCO police officers, RSPB investigations and thinly spread spare time raptor workers, the statutory body NE are nearly a waste of space, hanging on to that tracking data that proves the case against.
    Incidentally the trap in the photo of the dead adult Ring Ouzel is illegal the ends of the cage are open without restricted access.
    The inglorious twelfth indeed!

  8. Animal X is legally protected, but is hunted illegally by people who derive an income from it which supports their local economy. Substitute X for a tiger/rhino/elephant thousands of miles away and even Richard Benyon thinks this is wrong. Substitute X for a hen harrier and the issue becomes inexplicably blurred.

    I think BanGS needs to be explicitly a ban on driven grouse shooting. It’s a ridiculous pastime anyway and should be replaced with walked up grouse shooting. This wouldn’t require the vast “shootable surplus” of a moor managed exclusively for driven birds. Gamekeepers would still therefore find employment and the local economy could still benefit from incoming “sportsmen”, while our uplands might see some return of their missing raptors.

    Failing this a licensing system dependent on breeding hen harriers.

  9. GO for it, Mark. It’s all a complete outrage. It will be a long, long struggle against the power and the money, but common sense, science, the facts and majority opinion will surely win in the end. Come on RSPB – “My challenge to those who run grouse moors is simple: respect the law and allow hen harriers and other birds of prey to flourish again” – or what?? I’m a member, I want more fight!

  10. The Guardian has not published my letter perhaps Mark will allow it to be seen here below (Slightly edited).

    Adrian Blackmore (CA) claims there is no evidence of persecution. So the
    Hen Harrier known as “Bowland Betty” was not found a little over a
    year ago on a Yorkshire grouse moor having bled to death
    from a broken leg inflicted by gunshot?
    Why is it that Hen Harriers nesting on grouse moors are over thirty,
    yes thirty times, more likely to”disappear” during the breeding season
    than those on non-grouse moor? It is almost unknown for breeding males
    to desert a single sitting female elsewhere why is it routine, including this year, on grouse moors?
    Harriers in Bowland produced enough young each year for nearly thirty
    years for the population to expand, yet it didn’t, has this anything to do with the fact that this population largely wintered on grouse moors? The
    problem for harriers is winter survival are these two facts perhaps
    Aberdeen University showed, using the Moorland Associations own grouse
    density figures that every 5000 acres of grouse moor could support two
    pairs of harriers without damage, one might ask where are these
    Most people accept that English moorland could and should support over 300 pairs of Hen Harriers, what level of mortality is preventing this from happening, just where are these birds?
    Perhaps it’s true that 2013 was a poor harrier breeding year, but that fails to explain why the population is so tiny compared to what it should be.
    Low population is not limited to Hen Harriers, successful grouse moor nesting Peregrines are now as rare as hen’s teeth in contrast to thriving populations elsewhere. Short-eared Owls and moorland edge Goshawks are like the harrier almost gone, there is no natural explanation for this.
    We keep being told how wonderful the moors are for rare wildlife or is this just rare wildlife that doesn’t eat grouse?
    Driven grouse shooting is reliant on widespread criminality, why is it allowed to continue and not brought to book?
    Paul V Irving
    Northern England Raptor Forum

    1. “We keep being told how wonderful the moors are for rare wildlife…”

      Indeed they are – sadly the grouse industry is intent on making much of it rarer still.

  11. Poll just out – “Should the Slaughter of Grouse be allowed to continue?” Nothing to do with you Mark obviously or you’d have mentioned it and provided a link? Or did someone take your idea?? Not sure a simple vote yes or no without consideration of the wider implications for the future of the moors is ideal, even if nothing’s going to change any time soon! Still, perhaps a useful measure of the anger felt towards illegal HH slaughter, and on that basis I’ve voted!

  12. Like Ed Hutchings I am not an anti. I have in the past shot the odd pheasant or two and I still keep a gun which I use to shoot the occasional rabbit or woodpigeon for the pot.

    I had always believed, completely naively as it transpires, that those decent people (as there are some) within the Grouse shooting industry would be able to regulate the moorland owners and keepers that persecute hen harriers and other raptors. However it has become apparent that Grouse shooting as an industry is immune to the concept of self-flagellation and has shown that it is totally incapable of self- regulation.
    In the face of the overwhelming evidence of systematic raptor persecution, I have to reluctantly concede that the banning of driven Grouse shooting is now the only way forward. I say reluctantly because I am a libertarian, I was against the hunting ban for instance, although the CA did a good job of nearly changing my mind.

    The Grouse shooters will only have themselves to blame when, not if, driven Grouse shooting is banned and I suspect this will happen sooner than many people think providing the nature conservation NGO’s are prepared to take their gloves-off and stop being so terribly nice and polite about this issue. I like Martin Harper, he talks a lot of sense, but on this issue his words do seem to have a Chamberlainesque ring to them.

  13. Cannot see anything being implemented.There is no will by Politicians to do anything,indeed they are almost encouraging it by their indifference and friendlyness with the owners of these shoots.
    Any measures to stop raptor persecution on Grouse moors would be almost impossible to police anyway.
    Find Martin Harpers comment almost offensive as although I tried to get rspb to back the e-petition on V L and suggested a flyer in the bird mag nothing was done by rspb at all and instead of with their publicity that petition should have achieved probably 200,000 signatures it ended up around 10,000.V L might not have been the answer but for sure it would have sent a message if a large number had signed.
    The only way I could see anything working is if each shoot had to be licensed and to get the license that shoot had to have two broods of H H chicks fledge for every 5,000 acres unless of course they could prove extenuating circumstances.

  14. Well Mark, having done a live radio interview this morning on the ‘glorious’ 12th with one of BASC’s recent recruits, Duncan Thomas, he assured listeners that this years failures were down to natural fluctuations and predation by apex predators like eagle owls. I’m not sure what has predated this years harriers, it sure isn’t eagle owls and I’m doubting you will find lots of apex predators on many an intensive driven moor to snaffle them. As for fluctuations, cant wait for a boom year, surely we are due one given that the magic 300 is some what an impossible mile stone.

    Despite giving praise for legal and extensive practices, like a small minority out there, you just get the impression that some folks either don’t get it or don’t want to get it. Someone is routinely killing raptors in our uplands, yet there are vague and blank expressions all round in this particular community. Even Natural England gets it, just look at its report that this blog mentioned last December ( for a bit of clarification into some of the causes: illegal persecution and tagged birds vanishing in the Bermuda harrier triangle of northern England’s intensive grouse moors.

    Despite laudable claims of the benefits to jobs and the economy and all the biodiversity supported (grouse plus calluna vulgaris excluded I’m guessing?), we have reached a situation where we have no harriers in England and massive holes in coverage for peregrine, buzzard and other raptors that should thrive in the uplands of England. Grouse numbers going up, raptors going down and the increasing intensity of management of some of these areas is now giving cause to question some of the sustainability around this practice by some. Some of the rot needs probing, and I think the spectacular way harriers have crashed might be the spotlight to do that. We need answers not denial.

    1. Dave , dear Duncan Thomas was an apologist for them in uniform (oddly always gave me the creeps) and now he is out of one. There are no apex predators on English grouse moors (apart from criminals in edwardian fancy dress). Whilst I know what happened in both cases I’m not sure I’m at liberty to elaborate, but it had nothing to do with predation.

      1. Paul, that comment has really made me smile. Apologist he may be but ecologist he certainly isn’t. Keep up the good work.

  15. I would suggest we also need a high profile prosecution which would really make a difference. We are obviously not going to get that from Natural England so come on RSPB it is down to you. Let’s have a massive effort to ensure these pompous shooters cannot continue to stick the proverbial two fingers up to the rest of us.

  16. I’ve just returned from the glorious Isle of Eigg and been fortunate to see throughout the week male, female and young hen harriers. At the same time I’ve been reading ‘Fighting for Birds’ (which has re-galvanised me so cheers Mark) and have to agree the time for moorland managers, keepers and owners to continue persecuting raptors is up. Whilst we have this coalition with the most vested interest group of MP’s I can ever remember there is simply no hope that anything will be done, certainly nothing meaningful.
    I know the question has been asked by NE staff (front-line staff and others despair too) – how can the moorland SPA’s notified for hen harriers be in favourable condition? Sadly the political pressure is too powerful to say the moors are unfavourable.
    Back in 1932 mass trespass up Kinder Scout was the catalyst for greater access. It took nearly 70 years to get something equating to ‘real’ access. Hen harriers haven’t got that long but I am of the opinion the only way to get change is a mass trespass on August 12th in 2014 on a well managed grouse more protesting at this slaughter. There are thousands of birders, over a million RSPB members so surely if they really care they can make a direct statement. Imagine a 1000 protesters over the moors at the time of the shoot. As the recent fracking protests have shown if you want publicity, this is a dam good way to get it.
    Agree, write to MP’s etc but quite frankly last time I did that I had a withering response.

  17. Grouse are nearly extinct in Wales no keepers here, No Harriers, No ground nesting birds of any description. Who do we blame for that? Much of upland Wales is a green desert.

    1. Discounting all the perseuction of hen harriers in England, then it is correct to say that hen harriers are not persecuted in England. Likewise, if you choose to ignore the 57 nesting female hen harriers in Wales (2010 national survey results), then you might try and suggest that a lack of harriers away from grouse moors is further evidence that we cannot blame the gamekeepers. With such a remarkable knack of ingoring evidence, have you ever considered a job with the CA?

  18. RE the above comment from Denis Ames, I also contacted the RSPB regarding the e-petition and suggested a link on their website. Not even a reply.
    Of course these harriers (and goshawks, se owls, etc) are not necessarily birds of moorland (see mainland Europe) but the moors became their last refuge after they were exterminated by lowland gamekeepers. Not only are grouse moors persecuting these raptors, they are preventing them from recolonising the lowlands as they surely
    would if left alone. I hear suggestions of a possible introduction of hen harriers to lowland UK. A pointless exercise unless persecution can be stopped, in which case anyway these birds will be able to return naturally. One only has to look at the failure of the red kite reintroduction in East Scotland ( and I predict the sea eagle one too) to see why.
    There is a lot of strong feeling about this persecution in this country. However there is little outlet for this anger except in rhetoric (guilty here too). I long ago gave up writing to my MP, defra, Natural England etc, etc. What is lacking is leadership and I think many are looking to the RSPB to provide this leadership and to REALLY champion the fight.

    1. Anthony – it is certainly down to either the RSPB or maybe the Hawk and Owl Trust to take the lead on this. Unless we rise up and do it ourselves?

  19. I wonder how harrier friendly the new M&S line is (

    I’m hoping that they employ the same high standards when selecting grouse for their stores as they do when considering all other animal welfare issues of suppliers. Frankly however I think they may find it hard to find stockists that don’t burn their deep peat, have breeding birds of prey and don’t fill their game full of lead and all manner of other nasty worming drugs. I certainly won’t be eating this stuff, I think M&S need to be questioned over the sustainability of this stuff.

  20. Now things are winding down in Afghanistan and Waziristan, the SAS must be at a loose end and the moors must surely make for fertile training ground. Perhaps give the SAS an enforcement remit in the badlands of Northumberland and Yorkshire and it might make even the hardiest gamekeeper think twice about shooting hen harriers. Desperate times…

    1. One of the best naturalists I have ever known was a chap who spent nearly 20 years in the armed forces. His love of nature developed, and his outstanding field skills were honed, in the countryside of Northern Ireland in the late 70’s and 80’s. Whilst undertaking covert surveillance operations he would frequently spend days and sometimes weeks on end, holed up in ditches, hedgerows and copses. He once admitted to me that on more than one occasion he found himself getting a bit too distracted by the local wildlife, which obviously wasn’t very sensible given the health risks attached to his job.
      There must be quite a few people with similar skills and training who retire from the armed forces, that would be ideal for covert surveillance operations on grouse moors. I wonder if the RSPB has ever considered recruiting some of these people ? Perhaps they already have. I would certainly be prepared to write out a cheque, if I knew it would contribute directly to this type of work.

      On another note, I came across this article posted on the website of a firm of solicitor’s, offering advice to gamekeepers should they find themselves accused of persecuting birds of prey. Obviously everyone has the right to a fair trail but the tone of this article simply beggars belief.

        1. I should probably point out that Peak District Raptor Monitoring group and the raptor politics site article are not related (2 different raptor groups, working in 2 different areas).

  21. The response from M&S – made me smile

    Thank you for emailing Steve Rowe to share your concerns about the introduction of grouse into some of our stores. As a member of his personal team, I’m replying on his behalf.
    We have the highest standards of animal welfare and only source from suppliers we know and trust. Our game range is sourced from well-managed estates across the UK stretching from Nottinghamshire to the Scottish borders, with the majority of product coming from Yorkshire and Northumberland.
    Game is one of the most animal welfare friendly meats you can eat as it is totally free range – the birds live totally in the wild and in their natural habitats. It is also a very sustainable option and good estate management and conservation intended for game shooting actually stops deforestation, and encourages the protection of the countryside.
    There are no breeding pairs of hen harriers on the grouse moors we take from and there are severe penalties for anyone that interferes with Hen Harriers – this is actively enforced not just for Hen Harriers but all species of raptors.
    I appreciate you taking the time to get in touch with us to raise your concerns about the sale of grouse in our stores. I hope my email has helped to reassure you of how seriously we take our commitments to the environment and ethical sourcing.
    Kind regards
    Mike Rogers
    Executive Office
    Your M&S Customer Service

    I have asked further questions as to why there are no Hen Harriers on the moors and how they will police the actions of gamekeepers on these moors to ensure that no harm comes to BoP?

  22. I have read the above reply from M and S with interest-I have not received one. It is surprising that on such “well-managed estates” there are NO hen harriers. They should be queuing up to breed, shouldn’t they.
    “Free range”? No medicated grit for these lucky birds then, no nasty worming drugs for them then. I bet. And what’s a bit of lead between friends?
    Applying “good estate management……..actually stops deforestation and encourages the protection of the countryside” to grouse moors baffles me. This is not the case at all.
    And as for the statement that severe penalties for raptor persecution are actively enforced………….

  23. Presenter Mike Dilger – who spent many of his school holidays at his grandmother’s in Gregg House Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield – will present the show from his favourite city.Presenter Mike Dilger – who spent many of his school holidays at his grandmother’s in Gregg House Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield – will present the show from his favourite city.

Comments are closed.