The raptor haters? – Lord Tebbit.

The ‘raptor haters?’ is an occasional series of posts about those who slag off raptors.

Photo: James Robertson Photography via wikimedia commons
Photo: James Robertson Photography via wikimedia commons

Lord Tebbit was a pilot and therefore could be expected to have empathy with those with mastery of the air. He also has sound environmental transport credentials having recommended that people get on their bikes.

How sad then, to discover such an environmental champion statingPredator birds need not absolute protection, which would make them a pest in their own right, but sensibly managed culling too, or we will lose many native birds.

As usual these sentiments are mixed up with a dislike of NGOs and a strange view of the reality of ecology.

Previous candidates as raptor haters have been Simon Jenkins (but see here), Robin Page, Richard Ingrams, Magnus Linklater (see also his Guest Blog) and Sir Max Hastings.  It is also an excellent chapter (Chapter 11) in Fighting for Birds.

Do you see any common thread (I mistyped ‘threat’ here and wondered whether to leave it unchanged) emerging from these candidates? If you would like to nominate a candidate for ‘raptor haters?’ then please let me know. A female left-wing raptor hater would be particularly welcome to demonstrate how balanced this blog is and how widespread are the feelings highlighted in this occasional series of articles.

John Armitage’s e-petition on licensing grouse moors passed 8,400 signatures yesterday – please sign here. We can assume that Lord Tebbit will abstain.

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133 Replies to “The raptor haters? – Lord Tebbit.”

  1. Comments made through environmental ignorance .."...... I yearn for a day when politicians might actually have a sound grounding in experience and education about the subject they are talking about...... They will continue to be swayed by political narrow minded ness I fear BUT .... Through postings such as yours and with the growing voice of us wildlife lovers (experts) through social media change can happen.... Thanks for continuing to speak for wildlife.

    Rant over .... Apologies !

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  2. How about Clarissa Dickson-Wright for a female raptor (and all other wildlife she can't shoot and of course eat) hater? I remember she was on the One Show a few years ago after a piece on the little egret she took the opportunity tostate that the RSPB don't understand they need to carry out predator control and said sparrowhawks are causing songbird decline and needed to be controlled. The camera then cut to the wildlife presenter who had just presented the little egret piece, who said nothing to counter it! So the millions that watched the show were left with the impression she was right!

    She gets a bonus mention too for being convicted of Hare coursing but claiming she didn't know it was illegal, after spending years protesting against its ban and being a barrister!

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    1. My nomination would be Mrs Garden-Feeder erstwhile of Nowhere-in-Particular, - actually believes this shash.

      I should not stereotype people especially as I am essentially half-Scottish myself but sometimes it is worth a punt even if the person does not get what you are trying to suggest. Screen goes wibbly and we go back a few years and a relatively civil phone conversation about ruddy ducks. The caller suggests a number of points including the usual one about it being wrong for humans to 'play God'. I suppose some objections are always going to be rhetorical but I decided to chance my arm and I asked her how she felt about sparrowhawks...

      'I have nothing against them but they should all be boiled in oil.'

      BOOM! Cue: suppressed laughter.

      For the record, I never did convince her that she was being judgemental.

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  3. I'll nominate both Owen Paterson and Country Life on the basis of this quote:
    "As if on cue, a sparrowhawk streaks past the kitchen window and scatters his doves, and he nearly spills his coffee in annoyance. Pity the RSPB employee who recently invited him to look through a telescope at a sparrowhawk-‘ The answer was no, I wouldn't like to, seeing as one had just eaten my last goldfinch. People are obsessed with raptors.' "
    Yes indeed they are. Scattered his doves? Who does he think he is, the bl***in' pope??
    http://www.countrylife.co.uk/countryside/article/530848/Country-Life-interviews-Owen-Paterson.html
    (drawn to our attention on this blog some time last year).

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  4. Logic leads me to conclude that HM Queen Elizabeth II is probably a raptor hater! Obviously, no direct evidence, any more than there was surrounding her grandsons and a pair of hen harriers (although we're back to logic versus evidence) but I simply throw her name in there. Then there's probably every female Tory MP of course.

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  5. It is an interesting contradiction in the way these people think that they are often very much in favour of a laissez-faire approach to the economy believing that the market will find its own balance but when it comes to ecology they think they have to step in to 'maintain the natural balance'.

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  6. Oh dear. Another dinosaur rattling out more anti-raptor guff. Has anyone else noticed that all of these men are of retirement age? Sir Max Hastings is the youngest in the field at 68. Perhaps it is a generational thing. I imagine these gentleman grew up with skies devoid of raptors and think that is normal. My generation certainly celebrates the fact that more of these magnificent birds are doing better than they have done for centuries.

    Lord Tebbitt is also a keen shot, as well as an author of a game cookbook, but I'm sure that has absolutely nothing to do with it.

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  7. Interestingly we recently discovered that villagers adjacent to the last remaining wild population of Madagascar pochard had a pretty low opinion of all raptors regardless of species. They considered that their removal altogether would be a good thing all round. They may have counterparts in the UK!

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  8. I hadn't seen your earlier blog on Robin Page before and out of curiosity checked it out. Thoroughly amusing and love the Oliver Hardy bit. He's such a card. He wouldn't make a bad Bilbo Baggins, those hairy feet adding to his charm. Can't think of an immediate raptor hater but Michael Gove doesn't like heathland or at least the EU Regs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ-Xzw1WQrc and as hobby like heaths, does that count?

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  9. Clarissa Dickson-Wright was the reason I resigned my National Trust membership a few years back. Simon Jenkins is the reason I've never rejoined (Sorry I'm not the forgiving type)....

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  10. Here's an interesting thing to reflect on. An HLF poll showed a very clear divide between the urban elite - who went for buildings, art and anything in London - and the wider population who thought far more highly of the countryside and places they could go in it, and especially green space close to them - which is why HLF's investment in restoring faded Victorian parks must be one of its most popular programmes ever. Age and status combine in many of the people you've listed feeling they have a right to tell us what to think (maybe something in common with some NGOs I fear !) and that we should agree with them. The answer is, as mark and commenters on this blog, are doing is to simply and clearly say that we think these views are wrong.

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  11. I could add some names to the list but might be slapped in the tower for doing so. My point is that sadly you will never change the ridiculous views held by the raptor haters and I have to say they do exist amongst a vefry few birders. This is why we have to have good legal protection for these glorious birds and campaign to ensure that those who transgress feel the full weight of legislation whoever they are.

    Sadly those "countrymen" with a high profile do think they know the answer to everything and sadly some people actually believe them.

    That makes it even more important to support organisations like the RSPB and encourage them to do much more to make sure the law of the land is upheld. I am sure that they are doing a lot behind the scenes but I would like to hear them say more and I would like them to support the licensing of all estates carrying out shooting and not just grouse moors.

    It is amazing that everyone loves to hate our French neighbours and because most British go there for hildays in the heat of August when birds are dificult to locate think their people shoot and eat everything. Nothing is further from the truth and that country has enormous raptor populations with few turning their hand against them.

    We have much to be ashamed of in terms of UK Governments' record on nature conservation.

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    1. That one is interesting. My sister was in France a few years ago and she said the one thing she hated was the sound of shooting "in all the woods" so they had to restrict their walks.
      I admit I can't comment as I have almost no knowledge of France at all.

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  12. Glad to see my little offering has got at least 2 dislikes. Always good to bring the monarchy embracing/Tory neo liberal capitalists out into the open!

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  13. Mark, loving the fact that you appear to be giving this 'hate' label to anyone that has recognised that, at some stage, we will have to choose what balance of prey/predators we would like... a point you recognised in your own autobiography.

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  14. Does a call for 'sensibly managed culling' make someone a hater?

    Are the RSPB now 'Deer haters' for culling at Minsmere? Are they 'fox haters' for culling at Rothiemurchus and elsewhere? 'Goat haters' for Inversnaid?

    Mark, this type of hysterical mud slinging reaction to what is a perfectly logical and scientifically reasonable argument points towards it being you who has a 'strange view of the reality of ecology' rather than Tebbit!

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    1. kie - thank you for your comment.

      I hope the rspb has not mounted an armed guerrilla raid into Rothiemurchus from their Abernethy reserve.

      The idea that protected raptors need to be culled to prevent them from being a pest? Uh huh! And without culling we will lose many native birds? Uh huh!

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      1. Mark:

        Rothiemurchus/Abernethy, who cares, the principle is the same.

        "The idea that protected raptors need to be culled to prevent them from being a pest?"

        So lets break it down;

        i) are you entirely opposed to the *principle* of culling animals where they are in conflict with either a) conservation or b) man?

        ii) if you're not opposed to i) above, (and I'm going to leap forward and suggest you're probably not!) what makes raptors special over and above any species, or for that matter any other apex predator (e.g. foxes)

        I'm going to suggest now that your only argument against relies on good old charismatic megavertebrate syndrome rather than any scientific principle!

        Now, we can discuss at what point culling becomes the preferred option, whether all other options should be tried first, we can agree or disagree where the balance lies between acceptable levels of damage before you need to manage a species - however none of that undermines the principle that a *well managed* culling programme is a perfectly valid management tool for any species where they are in conflict, and there is no reason to oppose it *in principle* where other options fail to resolve that conflict.

        So Mark, it seems to me that all you've really achieved is to call an old man names because you disagree with him, and thats hardly big or clever is it? My kids could form a better argument than that!

        Jonathan:

        "I presume by that he means"

        Presumption is the mother of all..... however Black grouse are higher on the risk register than several raptor species! Are you saying its *impossible* for raptor species and black grouse conservation to ever come into conflict? and where they are, I would point you to the principles above!

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        1. kie - no.I'm not opposed to the principle of culling animals (see Fighting for Birds Chapter 5 for more detail). But I regard culling anything as a last resort - as a moral choice. I'm not against killing people under some circumstances but I wouldn't enter into it lightly and because I acknowledge the need for it sometimes doesn't mean that I do it all the time nor that I support really badly argued (in fact, ignorant) calls for culling.

          What are these consequences that require us to come down in favour of culling raptors? Apparently they are that native raptors will become a pest (harm our interests) AND (though the argument is so badly made that it is not clear at all) that we will 'lose' many native birds (oh yes - which ones are they then?

          You can try to dress up badly-argued prejudiced nonsense as something else but you haven't get very good material to deal with here I'm afraid.

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          1. But Mark, there are thousands of possible potential situations in which the conflict could lead to having to cull - the point is that you can't rule out a *well managed* culling programme in principle, so you can't jump up and down and call someone a 'hater' if they're making a perfectly reasonable argument. Its just a really poor approach to personalising arguments that is all too common on both sides recently, and undermines all the good work thats done in trying to find common ground.

            Its no better than the global warming lot calling people deniers and circling the wagons when they pick a (valid) fault with the data, and vice versa from the skeptics

            play the ball, not the man!

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          2. kie - it seems that you would be much better at putting forward Lord Tebbit's views than he is. Read, again what he wrote - no one forced him to write about this I assume - and then tell me if he has made any well-reasoned point at all. I'll help you - he hasn't. He sprays invective around at the RSPCA (for some reason) and the rspb (maybe because they share too many letters with the RSPCA?) and then has a go at birds of prey in particular. It is nonsense that would only find a home in the Torygraph (or on a bad day - The Times) as a bit of NGO-bashing, wildlife-bashing nonsense.

            It is commonplace to ask those who criticise the intemperate to be more temperate.

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          3. Sorry mark - with my comment above I should have thrown in a couple of examples.

            I'd already mentioned that Black grouse are more endangered than many raptor species, that is one area where conflict with raptors *could* come in the future (could, not an allegation its happening now, but a realistic possibility in the near future if things took a turn for the worse with Grouse populations)

            Red Squirrels, there's another one thats a *realistic* are for conflict - particuarly with smaller isolated red squirrel communities in for example Yorkshire, Isle of Wight, etc.

            and finally, you've got conflict with man - we could be wild here and pick a 'what if' scenario - lets say an osprey took up residence in the Pine forests to the west of Heathrow? imminent danger to flights - do we close the airport?

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          4. kie - you're struggling here. And have taken the argument a lot further than Lord Tebbit might have been able - well done. Yours is a peculiarly British point of view. We look bonkers to much of the rest of the world with this fixation over the 'problems' of raptors. They laugh, they mock, they snigger at us!

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        2. Kie, one of the things that has always struck me about the anti-raptor brigade is that they have never provided a shred of evidence for the claims they make. The Langholm Moor study has been so widely interpreted now that it is virtually useless unless we throw out all the comments on it (anti and pro raptor, BTW) and start again. Yet, it gets worse, when real figures were released for percentage losses to activities such as pheasant rearing and pigeon racing, predator losses come in at less than 10% of all losses. If I say the other 90% is essentially weather-related I guess we can go on to see why raptors get a bad rep'. Basically, no one has worked out a way of controlling the weather so it is easy to argue that controlling predators is achievable as an aim even if the result does not bear out the argument for control. If we could think of a 100% efficient deterrent to prevent sparrowhawks and peregrines taking racing pigeons, I doubt it would significantly reduce losses. Similarly, keeping predators (for buzzards also read: foxes, badgers and Mustelids) away from pheasant young would not significantly increase yields because most birds die soon after release at a point when predators become less of an issue to survival. It is really difficult to convey this but all this is NOT a conservation excuse but is based on figures supplied by each industry/activity.

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    2. Tebbit also suggested that in the absence of culling of birds of prey we would lose 'many native birds'. I presume by that he means that species of native bird (or at least whole populations thereof) will be driven to extinction. Can you suggest which these many species might be or would you agree that Tebbit's wording reflects a prejudice against birds of prey rather than a scientifically reasonable argument.

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  15. "We look bonkers to much of the rest of the world with this fixation over the 'problems' of raptors. They laugh, they mock, they snigger at us!"

    Mark, thats one thing I'll agree on - however I think you'll find that they're laughing at our peculiar fixation with raptors from a very different standpoint that you would like to think they are (hell, the Swedish have just announced an eagle cull, and the Spamericans even cull bald eagles, a national icon!)

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    1. Actually Kie the Swedes have not just announced a Golden Eagle cull, they have passed a law that would make it possible, but it is unlikely to be enacted. If it was of course as EU memebers they would quickly find themselves at the European court (as they would for the other species enabled in the same act Brown Bear, Lynx, Wolf and Wolverine). As Derek has already said the Americans do not cull Bald Eagles. Bluntly you are talking utter tosh and obviously have no real understanding of predator prey relatioships, Black Grouse and Red Squirrels will never be at risk at the population level from avian predators any more than other species. Besides which you are trying at least to argue from a scientific point of view although your premise is false, Tebbit on the other hand was showing blind ignorant prejudice. Oh and the balance of nature sets itself, the amount of prey governs the predator population and the only apex predator in the UK is us, we exterminated all the others, our ecology might be better for their return.

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      1. Paul -

        i) OK, so the cull isn't confirmed yet, but Sweden have set off down the road - you claimed they would find themselves at the European Court for culling bears and wolves, but they've done this previously - interestingly one of the reasons being put forward for an eagle cull is the fact that Puffins are more endangered...

        ii) USA issue eagle 'take' (nicely named there) licences for a variety of reasons, they have an established procedure to go through, licences have on occasion been issued for deliberate kills linked to native american religious ceremonies, accidental losses with wind farms, deliberate killing public safety and conservation reasons - so, to be clear - they have an approach which accepts the potential for *well managed* culling where necessary, rather than the blanket prohibition that is being argued for here.

        iii) "Black Grouse and Red Squirrels will never be at risk at the population level from avian predators any more than other species"

        Now, lets just be careful, that isn't what I said was it?

        I said where there was conflict with an endangered species, not that the avian predators would push them there on their own - so a population that was already on the brink of viability (through other pressures, be they disease, habitat loss, climate change) *could* be pushed over the brink by avian predation.

        Which neatly brings you back to what happened at Langholm, as Ian briefly mentioned, where avian predation arguably suppressed an already borderline sustainable grouse population - thats not to say that they were the primary cause of the problem, and its not a suggestion that culling would be the answer (and we've seen extensive research there into alternative methods of mitigation) but its certainly a recognition that raptors can be a source of significant pressure on borderline sustainable prey populations, and thus the two priorities may conflict.

        "obviously have no real understanding of predator prey relationships"

        Of course not! (penny to a pound of shit that I've got a lot more experience of it than you do ;o) )

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  16. It'll be interesting to see the reaction to the proposed cull of mute swans in the US. They are (I gather) not native. We moan about introductions here, like grey squirrels and pheasants, but looking round the world we have taken all sorts across the seas!
    Man makes a mess with most introductions, most activities, and everything we do......... Look at cane toads, whaling, overfishing, grouse moors, lead shot on wetlands, etc.
    Culling: perhaps we should look in the mirror!

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  17. Not very likely that we get too many raptors,what a pity he did not say we want more Hen Harriers,perhaps he needs to get out on his bike more.

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    1. He didn't use the word 'raptor' but instead used the term "predator birds". The quote is in bold in Mark' s post. You must have missed it when you read the article, Filbert.

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      1. I didn't miss it. He doesn't mention raptors - or birds of prey. A couple of commenters do. In the context, he might well have been thinking of raptors - but he didn't say so. Ergo ...

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        1. filbert - not only is it difficult to know why he thinks what he does, it is a little difficult to know what on earth he thinks, I agree. We must all be thankful to the Torygraph for publishing such a badly argued and unclear piece. But Lord Tebbit probably wasn't thinking about blackbirds eating earthworms given what he does say in this spluttering piece which talks about the RSPB and the depredations on small birds.

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  18. Where is the evidence that the USA cull Bald Eagles? I once tried to pick up a tail feather dropped by a Bald Eagle and was told by a state official that if I did I could be arrested. Only Native Americans were allowed to "harvest" Bald Eagle feathers. That with the strict protection measures for this species does not sound like a country that would be culling its National bird especially as it has made a spectacular recovery from the gloomy DDT days.

    Back to France there is a lot of shooting on hunting days mostly directed at Wild Boar, Brown Hares, Rabbits, Red-legged Partridges and Deer. It is also legal to hunt Skylarks and thrushes in season and some do but a minority. I have never heard of the sort of mass persecution of raptors that we experience in the UK but that is not to say some do not get shot.

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  19. I am female and left wing. You could take me 2/3rds seriously.
    It is not possible to fill in your survey with complete honesty because some of the questions leave no alternatives that in real life I would consider acceptable.

    I do like the cartoons mostly and the sketches always. I don't know why I said I didn't.

    No birds turned up for my garden bird watch. And I know negative results count, but they do not cheer.
    However, there are crossbills in my local bit of FC.

    I have hardly seen a kestrel this year and since they are my favourites I would like to know why. There were quite a few about for the kestrel survey last year. Where have they gone?

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    1. BB: "What is a "sustainable grouse population" "

      One which is capable of maintaining and feeding successful Hen harrier population

      (ie. if there aren't enough grouse naturally occurring, then there aren't any harriers)

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      1. So if a there is sustainable grouse population and a harrier population that is being maintained by it, what's your point about Langholme?

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      2. kie - wrong! The important prey for Hen Harriers are small birds (Meadow Pipits and Skylarks) and voles - read the Langholm study and the papers coming out of it. Their numbers determine HH settling densities. It is a common mistake to assume that because HH can reduce the shootable surplus of Red Grouse (as they certainly can, when there are ten times as many of them on one estate as there are now in the whole of northern England) this means that they 'depend' on them. They don't.

        And as Paul Irving has pointed out, the breeding numbers of red Grouse did not change during the term of the first Langholm study.

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        1. So Mark, if the primary food source for Harriers was small birds, at the end of the JRS, did the Harrier population rise in line with the meadow pipit and stonechat populations (predator population driven by main prey availability)

          or did the Harrier population crash?

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          1. kie - I'm quite happy to get on to that subject but let's just take a look at what you have posted here in the last day or so. I can see why you might be keen to keep on moving on as you haven't made a point stick yet.

            You claimed that unless I was totally against killing anything I should be in favour of culling raptors - this, as I pointed out, is clearly nonsense.

            You claimed that the Swedes were culling eagles - it seems they are not.

            You claimed that the US were culling eagles - it seems that you can get a license to cull individual birds under special circumstances. You do realise - do you? - that is the case in this country too? But you would have to make out a rather better case than the rant of Lord Tebbit which was where we got into this discussion.

            You then claimed that HH need Red Grouse to survive - completely wrong!

            You are welcome to comment here but your record of accuracy is rather poor, so far.

            During the JRS HH numbers soared - not in response to an increase in small bird populations, of course, but in response to 'protection' - in other words somebody, somewhere, stopped killing them. At the end of the JRS all bets were off so I have no idea whether the decline in HH numbers was due to the relaxation of 'protection' of the apparent decline in small bird numbers. There was a major change in land management which wasn't monitored I don't think vole numbers were monitored were they - I might be wrong about that though?

            Which direction are you going to head this time?

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          2. kie - I'm quite happy to get on to that subject but let's just take a look at what you have posted here in the last day or so. I can see why you might be keen to keep on moving on as you haven't made a point stick yet.

            You claimed that unless I was totally against killing anything I should be in favour of culling raptors - this, as I pointed out, is clearly nonsense.

            No, it remains sheer hypocrisy

            You claimed that the Swedes were culling eagles - it seems they are not.

            Read what I said again " Swedish have just announced an eagle cull" - which is true!

            You claimed that the US were culling eagles - it seems that you can get a license to cull individual birds under special circumstances.

            So, you agree I was right again, perfect!

            You do realise - do you? - that is the case in this country too?

            But which you are vehemently opposed to, and indeed have even opposed DEFRA researching the efficacy of (very science led formation of opinion there Mark)

            But you would have to make out a rather better case than the rant of Lord Tebbit which was where we got into this discussion.

            Hmm, he called for a 'well managed cull', hardly a rant, and much less of a rant than yours, calling anyone who suggested a cull a "hater", like in the past you threw around the "toff" word (how very 1970's Mark)

            You then claimed that HH need Red Grouse to survive - completely wrong!

            Well, they're not doing so well in Langholm since the grouse population dropped, are they?

            You are welcome to comment here but your record of accuracy is rather poor, so far.

            During the JRS HH numbers soared - not in response to an increase in small bird populations, of course, but in response to 'protection' in other words somebody, somewhere, stopped killing them. At the end of the JRS all bets were off so I have no idea whether the decline in HH numbers was due to the relaxation of 'protection' of the apparent decline in small bird numbers.

            i)Small bird numbers ROSE after the end of the study, Harriers went down, and stayed down!

            ii)"somebody, somewhere" stopped killing them or some*thing* stopped killing them (e.g. foxes and corvids - of course that would involve you having to accept that evil gamekeepers killing predators to protect grouse populations had knock on benefits for raptor populations as has been argued for years, oops, sorry, what a dilemma to put you in...)

            iii) Ah, the drop at the end of the study was down to the (absent) evil gamekeepers again, even though the moor wasn't being shot any more.. and despite the fact that even under the work of the ongoing Langholm project where the Gamekeepers are back, the Harrier populations only started recovering when they began feeding them!

            Talk about throwing round unfounded assertions to dig yourself out of a hole Mark!

            There was a major change in land management which wasn't monitored I don't think vole numbers were monitored were they - I might be wrong about that though?

            I believe they were under a separate study (Thirlgood?) However the changes in land management eg. cessation of burning have led to increased grass, (cf. meadow pipit populations) and that would be good for voles, plus the (usual 6 year) cycle in the vole population hasn't been observed with an associated cycle in the recovery of Harriers

            Which direction are you going to head this time?

            I think your own inconsistencies and charismatic megavertebrate syndrome are more of a problem, because the data doesn't support you Mark...

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          3. kie - terribly weak.

            There is a published scientific paper, in JApplEcol, which knocks on the head the idea that HH need predator control. It was published over a decade ago - please try to keep up! But then again there is the commonplace observation that all over the world HH and Northern harriers aren't dependent on tweed-clad gamekeepers for their existence. How could they be?

            HH thrive, or at least exist perfectly happily ( as far as we can gauge the happiness of an inscrutable bird) in many (in fact, most) upland parts of the UK which have low densities of gamekeepers and are almost entirely absenbt from those areas where gamekeeper numbers are moderate or high -funny that isn't it? The gamekeeper - the HH's friend? Bah humbug! And you must, you really must, know that it's humbug.

            But do keep posting your comments - they are fun.

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          4. There is a published scientific paper, in JApplEcol, which knocks on the head the idea that HH need predator control. It was published over a decade ago - please try to keep up!

            Where did I claim that they needed predator control, Straw man again! I pointed out that they thrived at Langholm under the predator control regime, this was accepted by the RSPB in the joint statement

            But then again there is the commonplace observation that all over the world HH and Northern harriers aren't dependent on tweed-clad gamekeepers for their existence. How could they be?

            Dependent for their existence? Who claimed that? Straw man again! However, since you mention it, where is the majority of the Scottish harrier population found? Grouse moors! so, like it or not, in the UK they are!

            HH thrive, or at least exist perfectly happily ( as far as we can gauge the happiness of an inscrutable bird) in many (in fact, most) upland parts of the UK which have low densities of gamekeepers and are almost entirely absenbt from those areas where gamekeeper numbers are moderate or high -funny that isn't it?

            Well, based on the claim that Voles and Meadow pipits are the main food source, then you would expect a lower Harrier population on moors with higher heather coverage and lower grass content, wouldn't you - and its accepted that due to muirburning, the heather coverage of keeper managed moorland is higher - in fact this manipulation of heather coverage and its effect on spatial density of Harriers was even put forward as a Hen Harrier conflict management possibility by Redpath! - So you've got your own answer haven't you? Harrier populations are lower in areas with Gamekeepers because they manage the moorland to increase Heather cover and decrease grasses! Game, Set and Match!

            The gamekeeper - the HH's friend? Bah humbug! And you must, you really must, know that it's humbug.

            At Ruabon, just like Langholm the number of wintering hen harriers declined (over 20 years) in parallel with red grouse numbers. and strangely, when they stop shooting and withdraw the gamekeeping, Harrier populations fall rather than recover - observed at both Langholm and Ruabon, oops! (replictability of results, what would Al Gore call that? an inconvenient truth?)

            So Mark - the DATA shoots you in the foot, I prefer to follow the data rather than blind prejudice and pseudo class war (toffs mark, really?)

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          5. kie - as I said, do keep posting your comments are great fun.

            Let's just deal with your claimed ace (Game, Set and Match) which the slow motion replay will show whizzed harmlessly out of play.

            Well, based on the claim that Voles and Meadow pipits are the main food source, then you would expect a lower Harrier population on moors with higher heather coverage and lower grass content, wouldn't you - and its accepted that due to muirburning, the heather coverage of keeper managed moorland is higher - in fact this manipulation of heather coverage and its effect on spatial density of Harriers was even put forward as a Hen Harrier conflict management possibility by Redpath! - So you've got your own answer haven't you? Harrier populations are lower in areas with Gamekeepers because they manage the moorland to increase Heather cover and decrease grasses! Game, Set and Match!

            Heather cover does tend to be higher in keepered areas, therefore we would expect HH to be less numerous (if left unmolested) in keepered areas - but we wouldn't expect them to be totally absent. In fact, we would expect about 300 hundred pairs of them on keepered and unkeepered moors in the north of England. Langholm was a keepered moor when it attracted a rather remarkable number of HH when they were 'protected'. This is all old stuff and well-supported by science. We might expect HH to be lower on keepered moors in the north of England than unkeepered ones (although I am not sure that anyone has actually shown that) but we wouldn't expect them to be absent. And we wouldn't expect them to be absent from unkeepered moors either. Why are they absent - because they are illegally killed? Where did your inaccurate meander through the data on this subject begin? With Lord Tebbit talking about a cull of predators to save the small birds! In the uplands of Britain we have a systematic, illegal and shameful cull of HH going on at the moment. Ill-informed comment from the likes of Lord Tebbit help support that type of activity by trying to make it respectable.

            And, the majority of the Scottish HH population do not live on grouse moors. Hardly any of them live on grouse moors. Hardly any HH in the UK live on grouse moors. And there is quite an old published paper which demonstrates, with data from Scotland, why not - it's because adult survival is strangely low and productivity of nesting pairs is strangely low.

            What Langholm showed was that when 'protected' HH can thrive on a driven grouse moor - but only when protected from illegal persecution. That's why there are practically no pairs of HH nesting successfully on grouse moors in the north of England, southern and eastern Scotland whilst HH are doing reasonably well elsewhere. If the law were not broken the science estimates that the UK HH population would be over 2500 pairs whereas there are fewer than 1000 pairs.

            Here's a quote for you: The UK potential population is estimated to be 2514 – 2653 pairs, whilst recent UK population estimates from national surveys are 521 pairs in 1998, and 749 pairs in 2004, plus an additional 50 - 60 pairs on the Isle of Man. Overall, estimates of potential population sizes, especially in England and Scotland, should be regarded as conservative because of the effect of illegal persecution, and potentially other factors such as predation (which could affect productivity), prey densities (voles cycle) and habitat quality (heather cover for nesting birds), in limiting the hen harrier densities observed in recent national surveys.

            Source: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/jncc441.pdf

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          6. Kie
            Your argument seems to be that unless one is opposed to all culling it is hypocritical to criticise Tebbit for his call for 'predator birds' to be culled, but that is simply not true. You have raised hypothetical examples - red squirrels, black grouse - where a conflict might arise with birds of prey and suggested that culling could be justified in these cases. Leaving aside whether or not these hypothetical situations are likely or not, this is precisely what Tebbit did not do. He said that without culling "we will lose many native birds". He doesn't give any indication what he means by "sensibly managed" but he leaves his readers with the clear message that without "predator birds" being shot from time to time by people who know better than the RSPB, we can expect the disappearance of many native birds. That is simply untrue and when I asked you to suggest what these many birds might be you did not answer the question.
            Many well intentioned but not well informed people see a sparrowhawk scattering the tits on their garden feeders and conclude there is a problem whose solution is the removal of the sparrowhawk; their views will be reinforced by Tebbit's words. For all his use of "sensibly managed" Tebbit did not give any indication of the circumstances in which he could envisage a need to cull "predator birds" but rather stated that if absolutely protected they would become a pest in their own right. That is not true and your searching around for examples where culling of birds of prey might conceivably be justified (whether accepted by other readers of this blog or not) is irrelevant to whether or not Tebbit has made an ill thought out generalisation on the need to cull "predator birds" that will lead the less well-informed and less critical of his readers into a misapprehension about the desirability of having flourishing populations of birds of prey.
            The 'toff' argument is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. I don't object to wealthy people enjoying themselves in any way they see fit as long as it is legal and not anti-social. I am opposed to the persecution of birds of prey whether by wealthy grouse shooters or working class pigeon fanciers or anyone else in between. And anyone making generalised calls for birds of prey to be culled is, in my view, simply wrong.
            (I am not quite sure where in the thread this will appear but it is a response to your overall comments rather than a specific one).

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      3. Mark - you've got a lot of use of the word 'expect' and a lot of theoretical carrying capacity, much less real critical consideration of the 'real world results' which don't match the theory - your explanation is that keepers *must* be responsible for this, even though, as you well know, Harrier populations have declined in the IOM where they're free of persecution.

        How about tackling the ultimate contradiction then - that at both Langholm and Ruabon, Hen harrier populations dropped when they stopped shooting Grouse?

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        1. kie - nonsense. There are plenty of HH where there aren't grouse moor keepers and very few HH where there are grouse keepers. Hundreds of pairs of HH are missing in the UK - almost all from those areas managed for driven grouse shooting.

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          1. That wasn't an answer, so I'll ask it again:

            "How about tackling the ultimate contradiction then - that at both Langholm and Ruabon, Hen harrier populations dropped when they stopped shooting Grouse?"

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          2. kie - it was an answer - everywhere where grouse are shot has few HH, whereas everywhere where grosue are rarely shot in the uplands have more HH. The bigger picture tells the story. See the HH conservation framework document Source: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/jncc441.pdf for starters.

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          3. So Mark, once again - its a simple and polite question, why does the data consistently show that Hen harrier populations drop when they stop shooting Grouse?

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          4. kie - the data show that wherever grouse shooting is a major land use (worldwide or within the UK) then HH numbers are depressed. And that's because driven grouse shooting is underpinned by illegal persecution of wildlife. It's shameful - don't you agree?

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          5. "data show that wherever grouse shooting is a major land use (worldwide or within the UK) then HH numbers are depressed."

            So, again, why does the data consistently show that Hen harrier populations drop when they stop shooting Grouse?

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          6. You've given two anecdotes whereas the big picture shows, I say again, that grouse moors are bereft of HH. And there is stacks of evidence to demonstrate why - HH are killed. Why are there so many fewer HH on grouse moors in Scotland and England than would be expected?

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          7. "Why are there so many fewer HH on grouse moors in Scotland and England than would be expected?"

            I've put forward a hypothesis on that, increased heather cover and decreased grass cover, due to burning and drainage, makes Grouse moors less attractive to Harriers.

            Now, lets hear your hypothesis on why Hen harrier populations drop when they stop shooting Grouse?

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          8. kie - as I said - I do hope that you keep posting comments here - they are such fun.

            You are trying to convince us that HH numbers drop when grouse shooting ceases in a world where there are practically no nesting HH on grouse moors in the whole of the country, and yet there are plenty of HH on uplands where grouse shooting is a minor land use or absent completely. What a joker you are!

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        2. "You are trying to convince us that HH numbers drop when grouse shooting ceases"

          Are you denying it Mark? Thats the data from post JRS and from Ruabon, are you denying it? You might want to take it up with Julian Hughes, RSPB who agreed it in the 2005 joint statement - or perhaps challenge the JNCC report that says the same?

          Data not assumption, facts not hyperbole, truth not prejudice - lets follow the Data, thats how Science works Mark!

          Now, once again, why does the data consistently show that Hen harrier populations drop when they stop shooting Grouse?

          You appear to be ducking this vital question!

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          1. kie - as I said - I do hope that you keep posting comments here - they are such fun.

            You are trying to convince us that HH numbers drop when grouse shooting ceases in a world where there are practically no nesting HH on grouse moors in the whole of the country, and yet there are plenty of HH on uplands where grouse shooting is a minor land use or absent completely. What a joker you are!

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          2. Mark, you'll find that the question I've asked you is fully backed up by the data, it was even listed as an unresolved question in the RSPB joint statement on the JRS.

            So stop ducking - if you don't know, say you don't know!

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          3. kie - your question isn't important. It might be interesting, but it isn't important. And I have no personal knowledge of Ruabon, And the first Langholm study ended years and years ago. You are ducking the big picture that grouse shooting can hardly be good for HH numbers if HH are absent from almost all grouse moors in the UK (many of which used to have them - including lots of SPAs in the north of England) and present on many moors not managed for grouse shooting. That's not ducking anything - it is putting your fixation into the wider context.

            Please explain the current distribution of HH in the UK using your fixation with where grouse shooting has started or stopped. Show us the great relevance of this issue and its huge explanatory power, if you can. Make sure your explanation deals with Orkney, the Western Isles, Wales and the north of England as well as the areas in Scotland where HH are absent and present.

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          4. Sure, happy to - once you've answered my unimportant question...

            why does the data consistently show that Hen harrier populations drop when they stop shooting Grouse?

            Stop ducking!

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          5. kie - you seem to be basing this on Langholm and Ruabon (is that what you mean by 'consistently' - 2 cases?). Is that right? I don't know much about Ruabon. At Langholm HH numbers dropped at the end of the JRS - was that because grouse shooting stopped or because 'raptor protection' stopped or because of something else? Rather difficult to say on the basis of one site.

            Your turn.

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          6. "kie - you seem to be basing this on Langholm and Ruabon (is that what you mean by 'consistently' - 2 cases?) Is that right?"

            Well, its two cases I've put forward with established and published data - I know of several anecdotal tales of the same, and its two more data backed cases than you've come up with to challenge my argument!

            I don't know much about Ruabon. At Langholm HH numbers dropped at the end of the JRS - was that because grouse shooting stopped or because 'raptor protection' stopped or because of something else?"

            Isn't that the question I asked you, that you're still avoiding?

            One Thing to consider - if it was, as you put it, because 'raptor protection' stopped... Then, given they stopped shooting and got rid of the gamekeepers, who conveniently started persecuting them and why? and how come the same thing seems to have happened at Ruabon?

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          7. kie - where are the Ruabon data published then please?

            We can't really know what happened at Langholm after the study ended because the study had ended. I have heard various rumours but only rumours.

            Now, your global explanation of the distribution of HH is?

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          8. We can't really know what happened at Langholm after the study ended because the study had ended. I have heard various rumours but only rumours.

            You're still dodging Mark!

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          9. Sure, like I said, You get my theory as soon as you've answered the question giving your explanation of why Grouse populations drop when shooting ceases!

            Quid pro quo, Clarice!

            I've backed my assertion up with data, you've even seemingly accepted that its true - I've given you more than enough opportunity, but you're Still dodging it... its turning into a Paxman interview this!

            Mark, again, one final time I'm going to ask the question:

            Why does the data show that Hen harrier populations drop when they stop shooting Grouse?

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          10. kie - I've answered. I've even asked where the Ruabon data are published but you haven't told me/us that.

            Now, your global explanation of the distribution of HH is? Completely absent - that's what it is.

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          11. Roberts, JL, (1998) Wintering of hen harriers Circus cyaneus on a moor in NE Wales: sex ratios, seasonality and possible links with the numbers of red grouse Lagopus l. scoticus.

            "I've answered."

            No Mark, you really haven't answered, you know damn well that you haven't, and you can't pull the wool over peoples eyes here, because everyone can see that you haven't!

            So come on, we'll give it another extra final squeeze of the pips - why does the data show that Hen harrier populations drop when they stop shooting Grouse?

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          12. kie - it would help a bit if you divulged the journal in which that paper is published.

            And I have answered, as anyone can see. You cite two sites in favour of your 'case' - whatever that case might be. One I know nothing about. The other, which I know well, there were a variety of known changes when shooting stopped - including the cessation of 'protection' of HH so it is almost impossible to know what happened.

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          13. kie - ah it's in Welsh Birds - not a 'journal' that i have at hand nor can i find it online. So I'm a bit in the dark.

            Now, your global explanation of the distribution of HH is?

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          14. "there were a variety of known changes when shooting stopped - including the cessation of 'protection' of HH so it is almost impossible to know what happened."

            'King hilarious - Thats still not an answer Mark, in fact it's the very definition of a non answer!

            Having given you SO many opportunities to come up with some sort of formulated answer, SO many opportunities to give a simple conceptual explanation of WHY the data says harrier populations fall when shooting stops, and watched you avoid doing this on SO many occasions, I'm going make a call on this:

            completely and utterly Pwned!

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  20. I'm not sure what Kie means by a sustainable grouse population either but I do know Langholm had one if you look at the data the number of breeding pairs of grouse did not decline but there was no shootable surplus------ about what you would expect in an ecologically balanced system.
    I think he is wrong about bear control in Sweden, the last wolf cull there was stopped very quickly under EU pressure ( lasted a few days). The new law there is nothing to do with ecology or protecting threatened species( even Puffins) it has come about due to pressure from the hunting and reindeer keeping lobby (seems familiar, with little or no scientific basis, again familiar).

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    1. Kie,
      this will appear in the wrong place in the thread but it may answer your question, but we need to take a step back, at Langholm when the first study or Langholm1 as it is known was ongoing and then finished.
      Langholm is a relatively small moor that had at that time had areas of poor heather cover so should have had a good population of vole and pipit predators but at the start of the study did not ( suggests a great deal of persecution). Also the moor was surrounded by white ground and within the harrier hunting range quite an amount of young forestry, Vole heaven and plenty of pipits too. So in the absence of persecution harrier numbers rose rapidly because they settled because of these two key prey items but most of the hunting area was unsuitable for nesting so they nested at very high density on the moor, the best nesting habitat. End of study, two things happened to the harriers, young forestry hosts high densities of foxes, the main natural predator of harrier nests (and females on them) thus in the keepers absence far more foxes on the moor even though they LIVE mainly in the forestry reduced the number of harrier nests and females (and grouse). There were also quite a lot of rumours at the time that keepers from elsewhere fearing the harriers would move to them helped them decline.
      With Langholm 2 the area is no longer as attractive to harriers because the forestry canopy has shut so they cannot hunt there voles and pipits will have gone from the woods anyway. We also need to consider where colonisation will come from, but harriers have declined in southern Scotland and Northern England since Langholm 1, so there will be few looking for sites to colonise. At Ruabon a site I know much less about I understand that foxes were the problem for the harriers when keepering stopped so again the density declined. Now can you explain why there are virtually no successful nesting harriers on the grouse moors of N England, S and E Scotland, given ground predator management favours their presence and keepers persecute them because a proportion of their diet when chick rearing is grouse.. Please

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      1. Paul, I would agree thoroughly with your assessment of Langholm 1 - the history of the site, with a significant sheep overgrazing problem in the decades prior to the JRS led to an unusually high proportion of grasses (as much as 50%) in comparison with other moors led to - the females were very able to nest in the deep heather patches, well protected from predators by the keeping efforts, and the males able to forage effectively further from the nest in their preferred (roughly) 50/50 mix mosaic. I would suggest that it created the 'perfect storm' for Harrier population growth. As you say the 'end of study' withdrawal of predate control leads to increased predation on the moor, possibly also a degradation of quality of the deep heather female nesting areas, and likely a lack of grouse chicks for the females to feed on in the heather area close to the nest - plus increased sheep grazing on areas that were formerly dedicated to grouse.

        In short, I would cast that the withdrawal of predator control was lethal to the Harriers, and that I believe would also be the takeaway lesson from Ruabon - and thats why I will bang on in support of gamekeeping done properly being the friend of the Harriers.

        At some point I would argue there is a balance point where too many harriers make grouse shooting no longer viable, and that is (counter intuitively perhaps) a tipping point - when the shooting stops, then in the grand scheme of things its bad for the harriers. The big picture being that the alternative land uses that let the moor pay for itself (intensive sheep farming or forestry) are worse for HH. I'm sure that many would disagree, but thats my opinion!

        Now, to your question - of course persecution goes on, but I don't accept its *the* main problem, I pointed to my hypothesis above, but to go into it further - I suspect that on English grouse moors the drier conditions with burning and drainage is less than optimal for females as it often lacks the deeper heather preferred for nesting sites - plus the scale of English grouse moor management and its interaction with surrounding land use is a problem, unlike at Langholm you don't have the nearby 'mosaic' heather and grass mix that the male birds gravitate to as preferred hunting habitat - so, you've got the 'perfect storm' the other way. bad for females, bad for males

        in (anthropomorphic) human terms it sort of works for her, the location seems initially appealing and they give it a go, but it doesn't work out, he doesn't hang around and the relationship fails - I would note for you here that the English Nature definition of persecution in their faliure statistics includes the description "Bird or birds settle in an area and build a nest then leave the area/disappear or settle elsewhere" - which I would argue fits in with my theory.

        So, I'm casting it out as a theory. I'd maintain that its more thought out than Marks "its all down to gamekeepers" in absence of proof.

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        1. Kie, I am sure you are aware that not all HH persecution as directly on the adults even though it does happen. One thing that is true of all birds but even more so with birds of prey is that they are not tolerant of disturbance at the nest. There is the great northern tradition of nest-kicking, which despite the sound of it, is not some bizarre Lancastrian, Cumbrian, Northumbrian or Yorkshire fertility custom. It is actually a subtle and cynical way of suggesting to the HHs that they take their egg laying activities elsewhere. Why, it is even possible to make the claim that the fox did it or even some wayward hikers. The problem with nest-kicking is that the eggs are sometimes trampled too but they remain anyway so the fox didn't do it. Given this has both been observed and the evidence uncovered, I would be interested in your comments.

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          1. Agree that it takes place, and that its thoroughly wrong. However to believe it takes place anywhere and everywhere, on every moor, to the extent necessary to leave us with no breeding birds would require a conspiracy worthy of 9/11'ers. essentially I am arguing that there is something bigger in play that is inherently more believable than a conspiracy, and my experience over the years including working with keepers who are passionate about not killing raptors but still get nest faliures. Leads me to the belief that habitat is the unifying factor.

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          2. Ah, but that is the gist of the entire defence when the persecution subject is broached - not all keepers are rogues! True, but if they no longer have raptors on their estate they are not likely to be kicking nests or killing adults. Unfortunately, it is not quite so simple as that and you are correct to point out that not all estates operate illegally in this way. However, they are also not allowed to relate their experiences in the public domain either, which is somewhat hypocritical as the charge you are trying to level at conservation don't you think? Perhaps you would care to suggest that a few of the keepers who have witnessed nest failure come forward on this blog and relate their experiences - they can always do so under an alias. Incidentally, phrases like 'nest failures' and 'habitat' in the context you have written could easily be rather clever euphemisms, by the way.

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          3. Ian - Thats right Ian, why not go the whole hog and tell us about the keepers who chop harriers in half and leave them at the bottom of wind turbines too... Funnily enough I was hearing the same tale told about keepers dumping dead badgers by the roadside a good twenty years ago!

            Have you considered the concept of confirmation bias?

            Regards keepers, most of them just want a quiet life - through years of exposure to 'anti's' they've learned to keep their heads down as whatever they say or do, they'll still be blamed (fully enough something I've witnessed in vivisection workers too)

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          4. Sorry Kie but remind me again where on this blog anyone said about hen harriers being chopped in half. The badgers rumour is a lot stronger than that and has nothing to do with keepers, as well you know. I am well aware of the badger story but the hen harrier conspiracy theory is a new one on me, especially the bit about being chopped in half. Although to be truthful, I would be suspicious about any such reports because most of the casualties are killed by impact. If you really think the turbine blades are like aeroplane propellers then your ignorance staggers me.

            I cannot agree that keepers want a quiet life and I think that to say a good keeper would not speak up because of this is both naive and weak. You know as well as I do that it is the same concept as 'honour amongst thieves', you don't rat on your neighbours because you have to live with them but fair dinkum that you tried to offer an explanation.

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      2. I don't agree at all with your theory Kie, I've been involved in monitoring harrier nesting attempts on grouse moors for 30 years and it may ( but only may) be true that because of a lower grass content the density of harriers on English moors if they were left unmolested would be lower than say at Langholm, in fact that is almost a given. But how do you explain the 39 pairs in Bowland in 1980? or that the subsequent decline in Bowland was not associated with habitat change but with chicks killed in the nest, eggs found pinned to nests with sticks, nesting adults disappearing from eggs or young. The only change was the keepering regime.
        If your theory was even remotely correct the clutches and broods that were reared on grouse moors would be smaller because it is less than ideal habitat. However clutch size and brood size of those that are reared compare favourably with any sites elsewhere. Hen harriers have been trying to colonise the Yorkshire and Durham Pennine grouse moors for over forty years, a few , very few nests have reared young but those that fail do so with adults disappearing, nest contents disappearing but nests left intact. So you think adults leaving is natural part way through the nesting cycle, it isn't, no other birds including hen harriers on other habitats where persecution is not a problem do it and indeed it is 30 times more likely to happen to harriers on grouse moors than in any other habitat. There is to put it bluntly no natural explanation for this, claims to the contrary are biologically ignorant. Why does this happen when the predators that might cause it are either absent entirely from English moors( Golden Eagle) or relatively scarce there (fox) I believe the Natural England reports, indeed they rather pulled the punches.
        I agree in an ideal world keepers could be the harriers friend by controlling foxes, but their pathological and unjustified hatred make it otherwise. Figures show that not only should there be 300+ harrier pairs in England ( thats the population maximum that if spread reasonably evenly would not damage grouse shootable surpluses ( works out that actually moors would be undamaged economically with 2 pairs per 5000 acres) thats without supplementary feeding. What have we got, essentially nothing. What successful Peregrine nests have we got on Pennine grouse moors, again nothing. These are indications not of unsuitability but of widespread and organised criminality, its time it was stopped. Its false to claim that without the grouse shooting the moors would be overgrazed by sheep or forested, they are almost all SSSIs so that would not be allowed. I have a colleague who is a retired police WCO and he has said on many occasions the only estates that don't kill harriers are estates that don't have harriers. The evidence is actually overwhelming that it is persecution, including private admissions by keepers themselves, so give it a rest.

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        1. Paul, sorry, I can't accept your initial challenge that habitat change cannot be a source of changes in Bowland - the number of sheep in the area (and the rest of the UK uplands) has yo-yo'ed dramatically in past three decades, with various changes in the subsidy rates, foot and mouth, huge schemes of moorland restoration, tax regimes and the way they have affected all farming and gameshooting - all going on at various times, and over a much larger area than just the female nesting habitat on the grouse moor.

          I suggests you go away and read the history large blue butterfly conservation to see just how subtle and unexpected some of the changes in habitat can be, and the counter intuitive knock on effects they can have.

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          1. Whatever you say mark. I note that you've not been able to challenge any of my claims on harrier populations consistently dropping after the cessation of shooting or come up with an explanation though...

            Frankly your argument seems to be 'in the absence of any other explanation, it must ALL be ganekeepers' which is as far from science as you cab get.

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          2. Kie - I'll save it up for a full blog.

            If stopping shooting is bad for HH why are almost all the HH in areas where there is no driven grouse shooting and hundreds of pairs of HH are missing form the areas where driven grouse shooting occurs? Your point, even if true (for which there is not much evidence it seems: Langholm (lots of other explanations are possible) and Ruabon where the data are in a slightly obscure place), doesn't appear to explain the big picture at all. Which I have pointed out to you several times but, rather understandably, you keep ducking the bigger picture.

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          3. Kie, your really believe in trying to look clever don't you but to be fair, if people do not check up on your points they will never know that the Large blue butterfly conservation story has nothing to do with the ecology of Bowland. However, I will bite on the worm you dangled over sheep farming because on this surface it is an interesting point. It is absolutely true (and you will know this from the Langholm Moor studies) that upland grouse moors require careful management and this means grazing to keep grasses and trees from overwhelming the heather. It is also true that sheep populations have fluctuated albeit that you are wrong that this has happened in cycles or for all the reasons you suggest. Sheep populations crashed during the FMD crisis in 2000-2001 and for a few years afterwards due to foot rot in sheep that were brought in. However, the numbers are back to normal now so if I am reading your point correctly, then the situation should have improved for the HH, especially in the last few years. Hmm! As Nick Knowles says on Perfection 'you know where this is going now!' but over to you Kie - has the picture improved for the HH in Bowland?

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          4. Mark:
            why are almost all the HH in areas where there is no driven grouse shooting and hundreds of pairs of HH are missing form the areas where driven grouse shooting occurs?

            If you go back and read mark, I've stated my hypothesis for that very clearly.

            Your point, even if true... (lots of other explanations are possible)

            If you want to dispute it, then dispute it properly instead of playing passive aggressive - but I've put two studies out there that so far you haven't challenged the veracity of though, nor have you come up with an alternative theory for why the harrier disappear when the shooting stops (its easy enough to say "other explanations are possible" without coming up with any, isn't it Mark?) Nor have you come up with an explanation for why the harriers aren't appearing on the estates that aren't persecuting them (law of averages even in the worst case scenario) - so, your own argument falls at the 'bigger picture' hurdle, doesn't it!

            Ian:
            if people do not check up on your points they will never know that the Large blue butterfly conservation story has nothing to do with the ecology of Bowland.

            Its got everything to do with the ecology of grazing and its knock on effects though, hasn't it Ian?

            It is also true that sheep populations have fluctuated albeit that you are wrong that this has happened in cycles or for all the reasons you suggest. Sheep populations crashed during the FMD crisis in 2000-2001 and for a few years afterwards due to foot rot in sheep that were brought in.

            I didn't allude to any 'cycles', I said it had yo-yo'd dramatically, which is demonstrably true - sheep density in the area pretty much doubled between the sixties and about '88, since then its been up and down several times, for various reasons,

            However, the numbers are back to normal now so if I am reading your point correctly, then the situation should have improved for the HH, especially in the last few years.

            No, you're not reading my point correctly then, because I didn't pass judgement on where in the sheep/grass cycle the harrier population might be highest - What I said was that you can't dismiss habitat as a driver when Paul claimed it had not changed.

            If we look, for example, at the stats for the SCaMP area, the SSSI land in the project area has gone from 17% in favourable or recovering condition to 98%. over a few years - therefore its impossible say the habitat in the area has not undergone fairly significant changes, even recently. The effect of these changes is as complex and unpredictable as taking sheep off of chalk downland covered in anthills!

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          5. kie - yawn! You have mentioned two studies - or anecdotes as we might call them and want to build a case on them but is's an unconvincing and badly argued case anyway. the fiorst anecdote is what happened at Langholm after the study ended. I haven't ignored it, and neither has Paul Irving. You are simply using a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument which has little underlying rationale. And your second anecdote is published in somewhere i don't have access to reading it. It's not online as far as I can see.

            So no-one is ignoring your argument - we are all trying to find it for you!

            You still don't explain the bigger picture. Let's make it simpler for you - why so few (practically none) HH in northern England when half decent scientific estimates are that there should be over 300 pairs? It's not, I conjecture, because people have stopped shooting grouse up North, is it?

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          6. but is's an unconvincing and badly argued case anyway. the fiorst anecdote is what happened at Langholm after the study ended. I haven't ignored it, and neither has Paul Irving.

            Well, Paul seems to suggest the same as me - that the withdrawal of predator control by keepers was bad for the harriers, whereas despite 'not ignoring it' you've not come up with an alternative theory!

            northern England when half decent scientific estimates are that there should be over 300 pairs?

            You know what they say about when the models don't match the observations don't you? That more often than not, its the model thats wrong!

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          7. Kie - utterly pathetic. At Langholm there weren't many HH while grouse shooting was happening until the place was crawling with scientists and HH were 'protected'. Once the scientists were gone then, funnily enough, HH numbers plummet again. Funny that.

            And, of course this does for the big picture - where persecution can happen on grouse moors then it does. That's why there are 300 HH missing in the north of England and many more in S and E Scotland. Where there are no keepers then there are more HH - Wales, NIreland, IoM, Orkney, Western Isles and much of mainland W Scotland. Simples!

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          8. I think that you have never been to Bowland Kie or are unwilling to accept the wisdom of the JRS, Langholm's under lying message or what has happened in the Pennines. You are struggling to find any reason for the lack of harriers that excludes the obvious, that Natural England, RSPB, NERF, SRSGs, DEFRA and many others including some in the shooting industry accept that all the circumstantial evidence points to the major and almost only reason there are no nesting harriers in England is PERSECUTION. Harrier biology copes with all the other vagaries at the population level.
            Your other arguments don't add up, you have failed to explain if grouse moors are such poor habitat why is the average clutch size on English grouse moors high, why in the few unmolested nests is the average brood size in England good, much above what is needed to maintain population. If your argument held any water both of these figures would be poor. You have failed to explain why adult disappearance on grouse moors, where there are far fewer harrier predators is up to 30 times higher than in any other harrier population -- anywhere ( males do not leave single females on nests). Also the disappearance of birds building nests or starting to lay stops completely when keepering stops explain. Why is winter survival as measured by radio and satellite tracking much lower in birds that winter on grouse moors than in birds that winter elsewhere yet you never find the body or the tag. Why is it that over the years the following has been said to me by keepers-- if they come on here (referring to a harrier brood on a nearby area) they are f------g dead. or I'll tolerate most things but I'll not have harriers on the moor.
            or an agent said in front of me to the keeper---- leave the peregrines alone but I expect you to kill every harrier you see.
            If this was not the problem there would have been no hen harrier recovery project, no hen harrier dialogue via the environment council and no about to be released DEFRA emergency recovery plan , incidentally all of these things were aimed at English grouse moors, frankly you are just another apologist for the criminals in the shooting industry. I visit Bowland and various moors in the Yorkshire Dales, I still know and talk to a number of keepers as I have for nearly forty years, the habitat may have changed slightly but it is still good for harriers, but why is it that the evidence shows that changes in harriers are quite clearly linked to changes in keepering or winter survival of birds that winter on grouse moors in my native North Yorkshire which is very low. You'll be telling me next Bowland Betty wasn't shot and that the Countryside Areliars is pro birds of prey.

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          9. If you are not alluding to the sheep population fluctuations as being a factor in HH ecology then I am at a loss to understand why you raised it in the first place. I am sorry to be blunt about this but if you are trying to dress the discussion up as a scientific debate then you cannot use a scattergun approach a la what politicians do to wrong foot hecklers. However, you are stating that the habitat is a factor and I think the sheep point was raised because you are well aware that changes are not driven by natural forces unless the management is withdrawn. Is this not a no-brainer anyway? Yet, surely a managed moor should then be good for harriers but as has been repeated over and again to you, they are demonstrably not. If you are then claiming there is a macro change within managed systems then you must be able to at least suggest what that might be or your theories stand for nothing.

            Let me first of all point out what I am sure you know already and to some extent it confirms that an unmanaged moor will eventually be unsuitable for harriers (and grouse). The climax habitat in the UK (particularly below 700m) is woodland and even at higher levels trees will become established eventually albeit in stunted form. Even if the mountain tops remain clear enough to support heather, the surface cover becomes massively reduced and suitable habitat becomes contracted beyond a level suitable for supporting prey at sufficient densities to promote breeding. If the amount of territory remains the same due to management then it is difficult to know what other factors could come into play. OK, for any given area you may have climatic factors even for a couple of seasons/years but even in small islands like the British Isles, there are micro-climates and it is rare for climate to produce a blanket effect across the country. Even as I write this from northwest England I can tell you that the weather has been nothing like as bad as in southern England and Wales over the last few days and this under quite a large, severe Atlantic storm. Therefore, I am not sure what mystery factor you are invoking - you mentioned sheep and then immediately said that was not what you meant. As Paul Irving says, I doubt you have ever been to Bowland and your knowledge about sheep populations seems to have been gleaned from a Google search based on post-FMD information.

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          10. "Yet, surely a managed moor should then be good for harriers but as has been repeated over and again to you, they are demonstrably not. "

            But thats the point - your 'surely a managed moor should then be good for harriers' is whats wrong, its a complete presumption based upon what your convention THINKS harriers want and need, whereas the fact that they are 'demonstrably not' is the whole basis of why the presumption is wrong!

            FFS, this was fully borne out by the Redpath conclusions which said managing habitat to increase heather cover was an effective way of discouraging harriers.

            I'm going to put it to you in one sentence:

            The reason for the low Harrier population on English moors is not because of persecution, but because the habitat on and surrounding English grouse moors is often not what Harriers actually need!

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          11. kie - funny then that those same hills were designated for their HH numbers (and other attributes) not that long ago under EU and UK legislation. They used to be very good for a bird which is now practically absent. And yet grouse shooting has been maintained on them. Doesn't add up does it? You are struggling - in fact you are failing - to string an argument together here.

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          12. 'I'm going to put it to you in one sentence:

            The reason for the low Harrier population on English moors is not because of persecution, but because the habitat on and surrounding English grouse moors is often not what Harriers actually need!'

            Aah, so you are saying that harriers do not actually breed on grouse moors and they never have??? Even invoking the nearby area has me puzzled because if grouse moors are as sub-optimal as you claim then why should a keeper need kick the nest of any harrier? All they need to do is ask their neighbour to join in managing for grouse habitat. This is an unbelievable exercise in nonsense and circular logic that disappears up its own breech but still, what else were we doing? 😉

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  21. Would be interested if you would tell us how many completed the survey,do not think that would break any confidences.

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  22. As an American citizen working in the UK I would like to point out a few facts about culling of Bald Eagles. It is true there are very steep penalties involving Bald Eagles, however some are culled and that's a fact.
    The Wildlife services and and the USDA have culled individuals that have come into conflict with farms and livestock also culls have carried out at proposed "windfarms" sites. But it's just not Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and shorebirds (waders) too.
    Actually whilst the New York state is enjoying an influx of Snowy Owls some have been culled near JFK airport....howver it has to be said we do have plenty more species in the US then here in the UK....I thought you guys were a nation of animal lovers?

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    1. GRIZZLY BEAR - welcome to our country of wildlife lovers! We used to be a nation of animal lovers, But then we used to be a nation of shopkeepers too.

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    2. Grizzly Bear - We are a nation of animal lovers. If you are implying that we have less species than the US because we have eradicated them, then you would be mistaken. It is more of less to do with the last ice age. Many European species didn't make it over here when we seperated from the continent. However, it is shocking to here that there are deliberate and legal culls of raptors in stateside.

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        1. Your current Hen Harrier population suggest otherwise Ed, how's the Goshawk population doing or perhaps the Goled Eagle, a quick look at the Scotland Raptor persecution websites seems to indicate other species of owl and raptors are "fair game" too.

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          1. Grizzly Bear - you asked why we have less SPECIES than in the US. I have offered you an explanation.

            If you are in fact talking about the illegal persecution of raptors in this country, then that is different and we do have a problem. What we don't have in this country is the legal culling of birds of prey. It hasn't stopped people from trying to implement it - Google Defra buzzard cull - but there has been stiff outrage and opposition to such proposals.

            The Goshawk is doing much better than it has done in a long while and it is in fact increasing. The situation of the Golden Eagle could be better, but there are well over 400 pairs in Scotland now.

            I would urge you to read more widely my friend about conservation in this country.

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  23. You could do a planet haters post for all those birders with huge carbon footprints taking long haul flights for a few ticks, or driving all over their counties from bird to bird for a yearlist at every available opportunity.

    Norman Tebbitt is an idiot. He's not the problem though.

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    1. Sigh! Please Google search CO2 emissions. Air travel accounts for less than 3%. If we banned air travel tomorrow, it would make absolutely no difference to anyone's carbon footprint. I have even pulled Mark up on this one but in areas where we need to be getting the right message across I really think it is important to be accurate and truthful.

      You could remove ecotourism I suppose, but I doubt it will ever be possible to convince average families to give up their two weeks in Lanzarote. However, we have to be honest that the savage truth is that a family creates a bigger carbon footprint cooking dinner for a year than it does flying on a Boeing 757 (and I deliberately picked an older gas guzzler). Did you also know that the school run contributes to three times the emissions created by aviation?

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      1. Ian,

        I'm afraid it's more complicated than your very simple position.

        You need to look at the effects of high altitude climatic forcing which have a much more significant effect on climate change than the pure emission level alone.

        Similarly the IPCC consider aviation industry impact on climate change to be between 2-4 times the level of direct emissions

        Aviation is also growing faster than any other source of greenhouse gasses.

        So, in my opinion, it is something that we as conservationists should address. Your points on our carbon footprint are also part of my argument. We need to consume less in general. Of course it is extremely hard to do, but if we don't try we're in for massive problems.

        Complaining about gamekeepers and Hen Harriers is essentially rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. And if you're waiving your hand at air travel and playing down its significance, then that renders our other actions even more futile.

        It's a cold hard fact: we need to change the way we live. That's it. It's that simple.

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        1. Steve, it may be a simple position but one that is difficult to demonstrate to be wrong. I am all for reducing carbon footprints but I really deplore the 'aviation is an easy target so we'll have a pop at it' attitude. If you want to be honest about this area then surely it makes more sense to look at agriculture and industry, which account for 90% of CO2 emissions. By the way, much as I am interested in aviation and wildlife on an equal footing I have no ulterior motive for defending it. Indeed, there is a stronger argument for looking at General Aviation and at activities like belting round the sky in a Spitfire over Wanaka or Old Warden and asking how necessary it is. Hmm! Not such a simple argument after all when you think about it. 🙂

          Having said that, I fully agree with the larger point you are trying to make but we need to be clear about what we are saying on this one. Put it this way, if you want to make a group of birders feel guilty for heading off to Eilat or a working family heading off to Benidorm for a well-earned break then surely it does not work when their 13yo daughter does a Google search and finds that industry and agriculture are driving CO2 emissions more than a Monarch Airbus A321. OK, it is a different point altogether that we need to educate everyone into understand that they are the driving forces by the demands in agriculture and industry but that is what I mean about being honest and upfront instead of taking on an easy target. If you take the discussion further into the subject of this blog then you would have to believe that keepers and estate owners do not fly (the latter probably have their own or use a friend's Learjet) for them to hold the moral high ground on carbon footprints.

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          1. You have totally avoided my point that you were factually wrong about the impact of air travel on climate change.

            Read what the IPCC say if you don't like hearing it from me. It is about much more than the direct emissions. Stratospheric effects are extremely important as they are disproportionately large.

            Yes, as I also said, other changes need to be made. But not flying to the other side of the world to watch birds is surely a good start for people at the forefront of the conservation movement to take? And consuming less, not buying food from overseas and a hundred other things we can do, but few of us bother to do, preferring to blame everyone else for the way they damage the environment

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          2. Steve, I don't think this subject is about winning points but it is about keeping things in context. Kie is being slaughtered on here for deflection shooting.

            I say again, in the context of this blog your point was basically that birders (and I assume this also means other conservationists) should get their house straight first. Well if Mark will forgive me and using your IPCC point, why fly to a conference in Belgium a few months after making the 'aviation-bad' point? Did Mark think that this was the lesser of evils given that surface transport is perfectly possible (and I am not excusing myself either, I made two journeys to Jersey to see a girlfriend a decade ago where I flew rather than make the 18 hour/two calendar day surface trip)? Indeed, NGO execs commonly make the point that any employees making business trips should do so wherever possible on public transport. Steve, the gist of why I think your point was erroneously made here (not generally) is because you were comparing birders to people involved in game rearing. I am not aware of many birders who fly in Gulfstream Vs with a dozen seats. Nope, they fly economy crammed into a 300+ seat B777 or A330 (soon to be B787 and A350) all of which have more economical engines than the GV and are the airline equivalent of public transport. However, it does not end here and I have already mentioned the Spitfire tazzing around over Wanaka or Old Warden, should we not start with a ban of all warbird activity as being totally unnecessary? Of course this must surely include Vulcan Back To The Skies and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight too. Well, that would be a start too.

            As for not buying food produced overseas, well yes. Although having just worked in a supermarket chain over the Xmas period I can tell you that you would be hard pressed to do this effectively. It is not just the supermarkets either because even food on open markets will inevitably have come in from abroad too. Without adequate advisory information (and be honest, we are not going to get it) it would be almost if not actually impossible to have a healthy diet with produce from the UK alone. However, I will make it absolutely clear - I am not saying DON'T TRY but we have to accept there really is not enough information out there for even those of us in the know, let alone the layperson.

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          3. Steve, I have had a chance to digest the IPCC papers (or at least some of them - thanks) and I see where you are coming from with your points. To be honest, I still think there are areas of doubt but I am far from being a climate change sceptic and I don't want to be seen as such so I am not going to discuss where I see some issues here but I promise I will if Mark ever revisits this topic on here. Needless to say, I once discussed with Mark where I saw a serious error having been made in the development of aviation and it happened 50 years ago when the turboprop was largely ignored at the expense of jets. I am still sceptical that people will accept a step back especially given the way airlines are selling things but the possibilities have not gone away if people are prepared to accept slower travel and at lower altitudes (flying around weather more frequently too). Earlier turboprops were barely greener than early jets but they were developed in a less consumer-driven environment and they became greener quicker. Sadly, they are only used in the regional market, which pretty much sums up airline attitudes to the need for speed (pun intended) and there is not a single long range transport in service in the civilian field (and none proposed, even the civilian versions of the C-130 Hercules were not popular) today.

            In fact, I forgot a point that I should have remembered when I made my previous post - of course we know that supersonic travel disappeared with Concorde but it is not dead and the horrendous thought is that it is likely to re-appear in the business jet market (see my previous comment), possibly within the next five years. Once again, no offence intended but I just think the aviation-bad argument has to many uncomfortable complications to be used in wider discussions. Anyway over to you Mark, it looks like there are a lot more knowledgeable people on here than when this came up last.

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  24. Sorry Ed when i said species numbers I actually meant number of birds in that taxa, for example the number of Golden Eagles in the USA is greater then that of the UK etc, that was my fault for not making things clear.
    I really do I hope the UK doesn't adopt a cull policy, there are a lot of misguided fools in this country that believe some truly silly things, I was talking to one man who claimed Red Kites were responsible for the low numbers of birds visiting his feeders!!! Really!
    I don't read too much about conservation in this country even though I've worked here for 10 years now, you're right but I put it down to the fact that conservation in this country seems a bit muddled and not united at the moment, for example I was hearing the RSPB stating that dredging the Somerset levels wasn't a good idea only to hear on the Channel 4 news a rspb man "Mark Robbins" agreeing with a farmer that dredging should start immediately.
    I agree Goshawks are doing ok'ish here in the UK but a large percentage of those birds are escapee's/ex-falconers birds so how would the Goshawk be doing if it wasn't for those escapee's.

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    1. I would expect the US to have more Golden Eagles than Britain. There is far greater landmass and suitable habitat. There may be up to ten times more Golden Eagles in North America than the whole of Europe.

      I very much doubt culls will be implemented. A lot of people have worked very hard to get birds of prey where they are and there would be a tidal wave of opposition. The Hen Harrier situation is going from bad to worse but, for the majority of British raptors, things have certainly improved. There is still a lot of ignorance about, but I think a lot of that has to do with our dislike of the unfamiliar. Many people in this country didn't grow up with skies full of Buzzards and Red Kites (see my above post). This was mostly down to centuries of persecution due to driven game shooting and, alas, this is still perpetuated by a few bad apples, mostly within the grouse shooting community.

      I agree with you that conservation in this country is not united - we have too many NGOs and all with a different agenda. I have to take issue with you saying it is muddled though. No other country on earth is as environmentally scrutinised as ours and we have the toughest conservation laws on the planet. British expertise is employed internationally and the RSPB, for one, casts its net far and wide. That said, we do have a complete idiot in the form of the Secretary of State for Environment - a Mr Owen Paterson.

      As for the Goshawk, we can only speculate to what would have happened to them if birds hadn't escaped from captivity or were deliberately released. I imagine there would be very few. Most British Goshawks don't move far from their breeding sites. However, the establishment of conifer forests and their subsequent management by the Forestry Commission has helped this species enormously.

      Congratulations on your decade in the UK. That surely qualifies you as an Honorary Brit. Do you work in conservation?

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      1. Ed, small point of order just in case some (other 😉 ) pedant sees your post. The goshawk was almost certainly if not, actually extinct in the UK before the reintroduction/escapes. The particularly sad part of this is that we can thank falconers (one way or another) for the return but the subspecies involved is actually one that probably never reached the UK naturally.

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        1. Ian - I am well aware of that, but we can't rule out the possibility of some crossing the North Sea.

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          1. Maybe, but it is like the eagle owl story in that the birds are not particularly migratory. There is some vertical movement in winter that amounts to 120km in horizontal movement for alpine eagle owls for example but it is quite a stretch to say they would cross more than twice this distance over the North Sea. Birds that do not habitually migrate probably rarely (if ever) make sea crossings.

            The other objection where goshawks are concerned is that the initial populations arose in the west of the UK (Wales and Gloucestershire) whereas it does not seem likely that there were no suitable habitats between North Sea coasts and the areas of colonisation. Indeed, goshawks are still generally more numerous in the west and where isolated breeding has been recorded it could indicate post-breeding dispersal and/or further escapes or releases. Having said that, the record of breeding eagle owls in Herefordshire (both birds were offspring of known escapes) took place well to the southwest of where the owls were hatched and reared.

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          2. For some reason there's no reply link below your below comment (Mark?), so I'm posting it here.

            Woodpeckers and owls are not particularly migratory, but GSW and Tawny Owls have both now been found in Ireland.

            I'm not quite sure exactly what you're trying to say in your second paragraph, but Thetford Forest's Goshawks are a contender for recolonisation in my opinion. When we lived in the Gloucestershire side of the Wye Valley and then in Monmouthshire, we had birds over our house almost daily. I also had regular views of them when I worked at Symonds Yat. On some days they were more reliable than the Peregrines!

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          3. Ed, I am not making any particular point because I do not really see that there is anything to debate here. GSW and tawny owls are found in Ireland because there is a significant post-breeding dispersal but this is not a regular migration. There is no reason to believe it is any different for goshawks but you are correct, the Thetford Forest birds are contenders for continental arrivals. Personally, I do not think it is likely because it is quite a sea crossing and I saw goshawk over The Lodge when I worked there so it is more than likely that the birds have moved out from former strongholds in the west or are the result of further introductions. What I am saying is that there are alternative possibilities and it has to be admitted that the populations in the west remained fairly sedentary until the population started to increase. It makes sense that there was then enough pressure on surviving youngsters to initiate post-breeding dispersal. Whatever the case, it is an interesting story.

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          4. You have an awful lot to say for someone who doesn't see anything to debate.

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          5. Ed, with respect, attack the post not the person. Steve has pointed out where he sees me as being wrong and I have done the same with the points he has made and so far you and I were doing the same. My comments to you were merely to point out that there were alternative explanations, there is absolutely no need for you to take anything personally - this is not Bird Forum. I have been a little more blunt with Kie because he/she is not being respectful to the people who have chosen to address the points made.

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        2. Ian - I am not taking anything personally. I have made a perfectly fair point. You are being dismissive of the argument, yet continuing to debate, which is sheer hypocrisy.

          I haven't read any of your other posts on this thread and, quite frankly, I couldn't give two hoots. As for Bird Forum, I have no time for it whatsoever. This experience has reminded me why I usually avoid online forums - too many pedants and pomposity.

          I shall leave you to have the last word, as after looking at your other remarks elsewhere online, you clearly crave it.

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          1. Erm, but haven't you just had the last word...just saying like! 😉

            Ed, I really don't understand where you think I was being dismissive of your point. Indeed, I acknowledged it early on and I have also made clear that the points I made were my opinions and not based on direct data about goshawks and to be blunt now that it is there for all to see, you have not at any point acknowledged that my points could be correct and it was demonstrably you who introduced the first personal comment into this particular discussion. If you want a last word then this is it - yes, I think it is perfectly possible that goshawks have arrived from the continent but...[recycle discussion]

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  25. I attended a talk on moths at the weekend. One of the questions asked was whether or not the reintroduction of red kites in the Derwent Valley outside Gateshead was implicated in the decline of garden tiger moths! The question was answered with a firm 'no' but it shows how deluded some people can be with respect to the impacts of birds of prey on other species. Misguided comments by people such as Lord Tebbitt can reinforce these delusions.

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  26. The proposed bans on Chinese Lanterns refer to uncontrollable incendiary devices released for entertainment and not to garden plants of the genera Abutilon, Dichrostachys or Physalis.

    Why is my browser showing the lower part of this page in grey on black?

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  27. Kie you have failed badly if Grouse moor is poor harrier habitat, even taking into account what Redpath claimed and he said reduce not eliminate. Half of the grouse moors that have had harriers in the last 25 years are sheep free.
    90+ % of harrier nesting attempts in England over the last 40 years ( at peak approx 50 pairs) have been on grouse moor fact, if it was such poor habitat they would have gone elsewhere, they don't nest in habitats that won't support them and the brood.

    Grouse moor nesting harriers lay on average large clutches, an indicator of good habitat.
    Grouse moor harriers when unmolested ( rare) rear above avergae sized broods and certainly more than enough to maintain population.

    Grouse moor harriers are up to 30 times more likely to disappear during breeding than hariers anywhere else, yet grouse moors have far fewer predators and males do not desert females, certainly not single females on eggs or with young.
    When grouse shooting ceases harrier pairs that are nest building or laying cease to disappear unless there are obvious signs of predation, yet this regularly happens with no such signs when land is keepered.

    in 40+ years I've only ever known 4 keepers I KNOW would not persecute, one is long dead and the other three were sacked for not persecuting.

    NE, DEFRA, RSPB,NERF SRSG, BASC, GWCT all accept that the problem is persecution why don't you?
    When you can answer satisfactorily ALL the above pints come back.

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  28. I’ve come to this one late, I’m afraid. I’m not going to be an apologist for Norman Tebbit’s choice of words; nor do I share the extreme stance that Kie represents in denying the role or impact of persecution in the uplands.

    But in fairness to Kie, in the course of your protracted debate with him, Mark, you were dismissive about his observation that harriers can benefit from predator control and that in the particular case of Langholm, after the keepers were withdrawn, the decline in harrier numbers might have been attributable to an increase in predation. In fact, it was pretty conclusively established by Baines et al in the Journal of Applied Ecology last year: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12154/abstract

    Indeed the paper’s conclusions even led the RSPB to acknowledge, “It is clear that the favourable management of grouse moors is a key aspect of conserving the hen harrier..."

    Which is why, I guess, the RSPB may at last be tending towards a recognition that the solution to the grouse/hen harrier conflict will necessarily involve some kind of managed intervention. The majority of senior raptor ecologists have acknowledged that for a long time.

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    1. Lazywell - of course HH could do well on managed grouse moors. If they couldn't then there would be nothing to worry about the current lack of them? In fact, managed grouse moors in the north of England were designated under EU directives because they were good for HH - what a pity that there aren't any there now!!

      It is clear that favourable management of grouse moors is key to having something like the number of HH we deserve to have and it is equally clear that persecution is the aspect of management that needs to change - that's something that senior raptor ecologists have acknowledged for a long time.

      Positions such as that of kie are untenable and do nothing to increase the trust on which any managed solution might have to rely.

      Are shooting organisations preparing their public statement admitting that illegal persecution is the factor that deprives the UK public of hundreds of pairs of a protected bird? If there is no persecution then there is no need for a managed 'intervention'.

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