Oh…and by the way…

Photo: Kositoes via wikimedia commons
Photo: Kositoes via wikimedia commons


More on this later, and often,  I guess.

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28 Replies to “Oh…and by the way…”

  1. Thank goodness the Hen Harrier has you to help with its survival as a English breeding bird.Well done.

    1. Dennis - thank you but it has you too. And it has every other ordinary person who thinks that protected wildlife should be protected!

      This e-petition will succeed or fail depending on how well you and i, and all our supporters, do in spreading the word.

      I bet you have lots of friends Dennis - please spread the word to them. thank you.

    1. Diapensia - do you get the impression your voice counts? Don't worry, it yo-yos a bit, but the only way is up! thank you for signing. Please tell your friends about it too. Particularly spread the word to thsoe who don't realise that protected birds are being wiped out in the English uplands.. Thank you.

  2. Signed. I shall circulate among work colleagues and wait for the ticking off! Wonder if the dislikes are the same people that vote for UKIP or UKIP light parties. More regulation just wouldn't do. Keep up the pressure, one of the most important UK conservation issues by far.

  3. Mark, yes I want more hen harriers but I feel this petition is entirely the wrong approach. The very keepers that are making habitat and undertaking predator control - that hen harriers need to thrive - should be made redundant? Great plan. Why not support Defra and its Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan?

    1. Andrew - thank you but as an employee of the GWCT, in work hours, you would say that wouldn't you? Your argument about Hen harriers needing keepers is laughably ridiculous but it is possible that you actually believe it. Next week there will be some myth-busting on this blog - you'll love it.

      Defra don't have a plan and even if they did it certainly isn't 'joint'. Show me the plan, please.

      1. Mark - many thanks. Looking forward to your myth-buster.

        Obviously you are free to be highly selective but I am a bit surprised you are asking me to ignore the evidence published, only last year, in the Journal of Applied Ecology (50: 1397-1405) http://www.gwct.org.uk/research/scientific-publications/2013/baines2013/

    2. Sorry Andrew it was just another of those papers to justify the status quo and pull the wool over the eyes of the ignorant, in other words it looks from here like batting for the law breakers . The Defra plan if it relies as reports suggest on brood management and supplimentary feeding will not attract much conservationist support. The problems easy to solve accept as a minimum what the MA s own grouse density figures show could be there without damage to the number harvestable,--------- a minimum of two pairs per 5000 acres of grouse moor. With current populations of harriers ( plus grouse moor peregrines and short eared owls) and continuing widespread persecution there can be no meaningful talking anymore. The police don't compromise with criminals why should we?
      Petition signed as I did with both Chrissie's and John's

    1. MK - you are well out of date - 902 now! I assume you are one of them!? Isn't it nice to be part of a movement?

      1. Mark - I'm always well out of date, you know that! I can't wait to read the Defra response to this one...

  4. Very true Mark,it is very difficult to get large numbers to sign these type of petitions.
    I think however you are so well respected amongst wildlife people that it has a chance.I think back to one i seem to remember along similar lines when you were at RSPB and think over 200,000 signed that.
    Whatever number is achieved i think it will do lots of good by just keeping the Hen Harrier problem in peoples mind.
    Just booked a holiday on Mull,last time we were there what a thrill to have a male Hen Harrier flying down a valley by the side of me,something hardly anyone would ever forget something like that and of course it should not be difficult to see them in England.

  5. Signed. It's a long road but common sense will eventually prevail and we will win. :o)

  6. It is not clear why you have chosen this moment to launch your petition. My own view is that things are at long last looking more promising. I know of two pairs nesting on grouse moors in England and another 6 a few miles north of the border. There may well be others I don't know of.

    Furthermore there is a draft plan which could revolutionise the species prospects awaiting agreement by all the relevant parties, which is I believe not that different from the one you promulgated in the Field just after you left the rspb.
    If I didn't know you better I might suspect that you already know what's in the plan and are involved in a pre-emptive strike.

    The other stuff in the petition is a bit misleading to say the least.
    Grouse shooting does not cause flooding, floods are caused by extreme weather events and may be made worse by hill drainage. Most of the drainage was the result of planting forests or misguided government funded attempts to increase agricultural productivity in the uplands. Most grouse moors have been busily blocking drains for at least a decade.

    Water draining off or through peat will always be coloured or as you put it, 'discoloured'. Anything that disturbs the peat can make the colour more intense but whatever happens it will never look like the Test and will need treatment before the typical consumer thinks it is fit to drink, the disappearance of grouse shooting would not make a significant of difference. Lots of things intensify water colour that are nothing to do with grouse, for example trampling by stock, wildfires, forestry activity.

    The degradation of peat bogs can hardly be laid entirely or even largely at the door of grouse shooting. Huge sums of public money have been invested in destroying peat bogs, either in the misplaced belief that it would produced a fertile paradise for farming or to ensure that as much of upland Britain was covered in exotic conifers as was humanly possible. It is ironic that the grouse moors, who have probably kept more peatland in a functioning or recoverable state than any other land use should now be singled out for a kicking, when no one ever mentions the catastrophic state of much of what has replaced it elsewhere.
    It does appear that Hen Harriers prefer keepered grouse moors to other apparently similar ground, when we put keepers on the ground on Pale Moor in Wales two of the species that responded best were Merlins and Hen Harriers. My own opinion, which I doubt will be valued much by your readers, is that fox control is very important, not simply because they predate the nests but because Hen Harriers avoid places with high fox populations. Foxes lie out above ground in heather, earths are rare in moisture rich peat, and a bird that spends hours quartering the ground spotting voles and pipits would hardly be unaware of foxes snoozing in the heather. This might explain why Geltsdale is rejected by the Harriers who pass through on their way to a grouse moor just over the border.

    1. Two pairs Ian where there should be a minimum of 330 and the neighbours professional wildlife criminals sorry keepers virtually living on the boundary and its not for the good of the birds. Out in the field nothing has changed is the problem and I doubt neither you nor the MA can deliver an end to persecution or even a significant reduction. If your two pairs are the ones I know about and I suspect they are, as they appear to be the only ones its hardly intensive driven grouse shooting there is it.

  7. Just checked......1111!

    Hope it continues to grow at this rate!

    Well done Mark.

  8. Typical of Government accounting? 1,110 when we posted the appeal to our readers.

    Let's hope the 'movement' makes environmentally lethargic politicians sit up and take notice?

  9. I wasn't going to sign the petition because I'm not sure that a ban on driven grouse shooting should 'really' be the way forward. Shooting has a place, it just needs to occupy that place with greater respect and responsibility.

    However the scale of denial that is exhibited on here by some, every time any aspect of modern grouse moor management is questioned, the milquetoast response that the powerful interests who underpin the shooting industry will force Defra into making, give me no confidence that any real progress will be achieved through consensus.

    Are we to accept a token handful of pairs in England that the industry and Defra may accept as the price that has to be paid to keep the RSPB and we, ordinary birders and conservationists, quiet? The Hen Harrier should be a regular breeder across most of the north pennines, with a population of scores of pairs. That it isn't is an indictment of our current approaches to protection and indeed enforcement of the law.

    I will wait to see if details of this plan appear in the next month, and what they say. If not or if the plan does not appear to foretell significant change in the way the industry operates I will sign the petition and encourage others to do so too.

  10. Mark 1421,fantastic.
    wonder if I say you are b***** great it will attract several dislikes,worth the risk.

  11. I do not see any logic behind this at all.

    The petition is basically saying "some gamekeepers persecute raptors so let's just ban all grouse shooting".

    Most gamekeepers have got nothing to do with illegal raptor persecution at all. There is no evidence that all or even a majority of gamekeepers are involved in illegal killing of raptors like hen harriers.

    No one is denying that there is a problem but blaming the entire gamekeeping community for the actions of a minority is every bit as stupid as blaming the entire British public for crime because criminals are present in society. Stupid generalisations do not help anyone, and would not be tolerated in most other debates.

    The petition says that "grouse shooters have failed to put their own house in order". What exactly are they supposed to do about a stubborn criminal minority that is difficult to detect? The difficulties around enforcing the laws and finding the keepers responsible are well known, so why put all the blame on the law abiding majority of gamekeepers?

    Why should driven grouse shooting be banned because of a few who break the law on raptor protection? How exactly can the actions of a minority justify punishing the law abiding majority?

    1. Reece, if it was just a small minority, there would still be a population. The fact that habitat suitable for scores of pairs holds few or no pairs confirms the problem is not limited to a rogue few. The denial is all yours.

  12. Mark, Your petition is only one small step in the right direction which we must win, however even if driver grouse shooting is banned, and that's a big if even under a labour government, I have serious doubts it would solve the lack of hen harrier on our uplands. In recent years here in the north west where numbers of red grouse are in decline on some estates, tens of thousands of red legged partridge and pheasant are annually introduced onto these moorlands to compensate. It is significant that even though driven grouse shooting has ceased on these moorlands the hen harrier, peregrine, goshawk, buzzard and short-eared owl are still persecuted.

    1. Terry - thanks. I was amazed (I really was) when travelling across Bowland a while ago to see so many Pheasants. Pheasants absolutely everywhere.

  13. Mark, this season has been extraordinary here in the Forest of Bowland. For the first time since the late 1990's not a single eagle owl territory has been found occupied. The cause for this situation is debatable following last year's 4 failed nests.

    Since 2010 peregrines numbers in Bowland have been declining drastically, down from eighteen pairs to just a handful of breeding pairs remaining last year; this year from my own observations the season appears much worst.

    You are correct regarding Bowland's moorlands being saturated with both pheasant and partridge, never seen so many un-shot game after the season had closed, its like the flood gates have been open with pheasants running about all over the place even at the very apex of the moorlands in their droves, why so many birds I do not know.

    Even though this year seems to be witnessing a vole plague in Bowland, I have only observed a single short-eared owl and only one occupied peregrine territory outside estates owned by United Utilities. On the brighter side bearing in mind this year is the 50th anniversary of Bowland's AONB of which the Hen Harrier is the logo, I am delighted to tell you I have witnessed personally 3 occupied Harrier territories and a fourth occupied site suspected.


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