Sunday’s North of England Raptor Forum meeting was excellent. There’s something considerably comforting about being surrounded by glum northerners with accents.
All the talks were good (even the one I missed by chatting outside, I was told) and it would take the length of the day for me to tell all of you all about all of them.
But here are some highlights:
- Alan Charles – Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner – I wish I had one like him where I live. Very enthusiastic and committed about tackling wildlife crime. And it’s clear that that is partly because it was the second most common subject on which he was contacted when being elected. Did you contact your candidates for Police Commissioner? I know I didn’t, even though I meant to do so. But the same applies to MPs and all public servants. This is a democracy – your voice counts – if you use it.
- Jon Stewart – National Trust general manager for the Peak District – an excellent restatement of the NT’s High Peak vision which went down very well with the audience. Our only doubt is whether the NT will get on and implement their vision, which I share, quickly or with glacial slowness. Please put your foot on the accelerator.
- Trevor Grimshaw (South Peak Raptor Study Group) & Mike Price (Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group) – the gist of the message from these two local raptor workers and their colleagues is ‘White Peak good, Dark Peak bad’ in terms of raptor numbers and raptor persecution. The grouse moors are in the Dark Peak – just a coincidence of course. There were hopes expressed that things might be slowly getting better but a dose of realism was that all the species for which targets were set under the raptor initiative will almost certainly miss their targets (and no-one even attempted to set targets for Hen Harrier).
- Andrew Dixon – this was amazing! I don’t know who this guy is, but he has a Welsh accent and a pile of data from Peregrine Falcons that have been satellite tagged from the Arctic, in Europe and Asia, to their wintering grounds. Interesting stuff and very well delivered. And good to hear him say that tagging cannot possibly do the birds any good, and may do some harm (which, obviously researchers try to minimise) and that the balance is between the harm to individuals and the alue to the population. This always needs to be stressed. (Click here)
Ron Downing – a delightful talk on Merlins in Angus.
- Mark Thomas – RSPB Investigations – the story behind tagging Montagu’s Harriers and how some of them disappear in Norfolk under mysterious circumstances. Learning from the Dutch is often a good idea and that has paid off in this work. I wonder how many Montys get shot each year? Let’s get those satellite tags out there.
- David Walker – this talk was fascinating. It was about Golden Eagles but it was about life really. The take home message was that we don’t really know as much about birds as we think we do. Some of the methods and assumptions behind establishing Golden Eagle numbers are a bit dodgy, it seems. And this guy should know – I may buy his book because he grabbed my attention. I would have loved to have talked to him more about it. I’m sure he knows what he is talking about. What I am not sure about is how much his points affect the value of national Golden Eagle surveys -and there is another one coming up. It would be good if every survey were accurate – it gave you the right result. But it is more important really, that the surveys are repeatable – they give you comparable results. I’m more interested in whether Golden Eagle numbers are going up or going down, or staying the same, rather than whether there are 423 (or whatever) pairs in the country. It was the end of the day, and his talk was distractingly interesting, so it was difficult to think through which bits of potential error or bias would affect the survey results in each way.
And then we had a chat about life the universe and everything.
It was a really good conference. I don’t live in the north of England and I don’t study raptors. But I loved it. I had some great chats and if we had had more time I would have had many more. It was well worth the conference fee and the long-ish return journey to Bakewell – I didn’t see any tarts (or puddings) just a bunch of inspiring taciturn northerners.