Hawk and Owl losing trust

The Hawk and Owl Trust has failed dismally to explain their position as far as I am concerned. This statement appeared on the Hawk and Owl website which I now intend to analyse:

Philip Merricks, Chairman Hawk and Owl Trust
20 Jan 2015

You will be aware that the RSPB formally announced last year that, although they supported a Hen Harrier brood management scheme in principle, they would not support it in practice until forty pairs of Hen Harriers had become established on the moors of Northern England.

This was a good idea as it would have required grouse moor managers to demonstrate that they had stopped persecuting Hen Harriers. But, to get to forty pairs would have taken a long time and as the Hen Harrier is a colonial nesting species, this would have meant that it is likely that in time significant numbers of HHs would have nested on just a few moors and most other moors would have no nests. Which might not have been helpful in getting HHs widely established. And as one MP unhelpfully said at a meeting in the House of Commons, that postponing a brood management scheme trial until forty pairs were established, was similar to a doctor saying to his patient that he wasn’t going to give him any medicine until he was well on the road to recovery.

Hence, the Hawk and Owl Trust Board of Trustees thought long and hard about how real and realistic pressure could be put on grouse moor managers and their gamekeepers to immediately stop persecuting Hen Harriers. The Trustees came up with two immoveable conditions that would need to be agreed to before the Trust would talk to Defra:

1) All Hen Harriers fledged within a brood management scheme trial would be satellite tagged so that their movements could be tracked. And the knowledge that they were tagged (and the fear that other HHs might be) would prevent any gamekeepers from shooting them in the sky.

2) Should any Moorland Association, Game & Wildlife Trust, or National Gamekeepers Organisation member be proved to have illegally interfered with a Hen Harrier nest or to have persecuted a Hen Harrier on their grouse moors, the Hawk & Owl Trust would pull out its expertise from the brood management scheme trial.

It was well understood, appreciated and accepted by Defra and others that these two conditions meant that it would then become in the interests of grouse moor managers to ensure that Hen Harrier persecution would cease – ie that these two conditions would mean that there would be an immediate overriding reason for grouse moor interests to protect Hen Harriers.


Let’s start with the conditions:

Condition 1: fledged Hen Harriers must be tagged. This is nothing to do with a brood management trial. It can happen anyway, and it’s clearly one of the things that grouse shooters fear most – being caught at it! Only the guilty need worry but that might be quite a few people. An expansion in the number of satellite-tagged birds has already happened and through the generosity of LUSH and others is likely to continue. It is the surest way to demonstrate the scale of the problem of illegal persecution and the more Hen Harriers that are tagged the better.  It’s nothing to do with a brood management scheme.  And because Hen Harriers move around such a lot it is not the least dependent on cooperation from grouse moor managers.  This is a pretty worthless condition.

Condition 2: this is about building trust, I assume, although actually it is about building fear in the criminals’ minds rather than trust in the minds of those who love the Hen Harrier.  The RSPB’s suggestion, of no brood management scheme coming into place until there are 40 pairs of Hen Harrier in England is a much better way to build trust because it depends on the majority behaving well and a tangible gain of Hen Harriers on the ground. Since more Hen Harriers is what everyone says they want, then let’s see them before the criminals get to operate a brood management scheme (even though the agreement for the brood management scheme to come into operation could be in place from the start).  40 pairs seems characteristically over-understanding by the RSPB. If I were the grouse shooting industry I’d grab it while it is still on the table.

Now let’s go back to the biology of the situation:

Philip Merricks says that to get to 40 pairs would take a long time. I think he is wrong, but if he is right then that’s just too bad, isn’t it?

We know that when Hen Harriers were protected at Langholm in the Joint Raptor Study that they reached 20 females in six years. That’s not very long at all, and we are talking about the whole of the north of England, not one grouse moor in southern Scotland.  Get real!  This is not much to ask and the Hawk and Owl Trust is supposed to be a raptor conservation organisation not a spokesperson for intransigent landowners.

If it takes a long time to get to 40 pairs then that will be because illegal persecution has not reduced very much and we will know that the grouse moor managers are not the least bit serious about sticking to the law. Forty pairs is a good threshold, though rather low, and if reached will demonstrate good faith from the industry harbouring the criminals.  That tangible indication of a willingness to change is the least we should expect.

This next bit really does show that the Hawk and Owl Trust is thinking more of land owners, maybe thanks to its land owner chair, than about Hen Harriers. Apparently there is a problem that the Hen Harriers might not distribute themselves evenly enough for the grouse moor managers and there might be too many of them in one place.  Well, tough!

Let’s see shall we?

If there were 36 extra pairs of Hen Harrier in England then my bet would be that quite a few would be on United Utilities land in Bowland, some would be on National Trust land in the Peak District National Park, some would be on the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale and the rest would probably be spread through Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire. Forty pairs is not very many once spread over the whole of northern England but it appears that the Hawk and Owl Trust thinks that might be a bit too much for grouse moor managers to cope with. Call yourself a conservation organisation? Whose side are you on? It seems that you are bending over backwards to placate the grouse moor managers.  This is awful.

Now let’s just imagine that lots of Hen Harriers did all turn up on a few grouse moors (but we certainly won’t know until we try it) – so what?!  If all 40 arrived on one of the 147 grouse moors in England then about 146 grouse moor owners would be laughing their heads off.  I’m sure they’d have a whip round for him and offer him a few day’s grouse shooting because they love the Hen Harrier so much. This would actually be a stunning success – if it happened. More Hen Harriers, less criminality, more trust and only one grouse moor disadvantaged – what could be better than that for all concerned apart from one grouse moor? You’d have a 1 in 147 chance of being unlucky – any grouse moor manager should be thrilled at those odds.

But if, as is rather more likely, the Hen Harriers went to Bowland, nature  reserves and spread themselves thinly over the remaining grouse moors then no-one could complain about that either. There would be more for the 60+ million of us who aren’t going grouse shooting next year to watch and enjoy, and no grouse moor would have anything but a minor inconvenience from Hen Harrier predation – and even that could easily be allayed with diversionary feeding.  Another good result.

If grouse moor managers want to be treated seriously then they should man-up and agree the RSPB suggestion. The fact that the RSPB will be criticised by some of its supporters should give the grouse moor managers some vicarious (see what I did there?) satisfaction but they are never, ever going to get a better offer. And what the Hawk and Owl Trust is doing arguing the grouse moor managers’ case I really don’t know.

If HOT wants to retain some respect (both ours and self-respect) then I suggest they start back-tracking fast. This blog and the one before it give HOT (and Defra) some clues on how to move forward.

Coupling the brood management scheme suggested here (which is basically, as I understand it, what the RSPB has asked for all this year) and coupling it to the introduction of vicarious liability for all wildlife crimes, would be a perfectly sensible package where nobody gets exactly what they want.  The RSPB (and NERF and, in its former guise before the landowner takeover, the Hawk and Owl Trust) has already given all the ground that it should. The RSPB is standing on the halfway line whilst the grouse shooting industry is standing on their own goal line. Time to step forward lads.

Or, we can just blow the whistle on the whole sorry industry, right now.






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71 Replies to “Hawk and Owl losing trust”

  1. Interesting, and reasonable although NERF would want a higher than 40 pair start point, 70 is the preferred figure. If reasonably spread this should have no real impact on the grouse industry. To call harriers colonial is misleading and a gross over simplification of the complex issue of why they settle where they do, based on one site, Langholm.
    Last night I heard who some of Philip Merricks friends are here in the north. If not all, quite few would be good candidates for Mark's series "the raptor haters"
    What a surprise!

      1. Andrew - that's incredibly ungenerous of you and GWCT (I assume you are at work!). You are representing, it seems, the criminals who ought to be locked up for what they have done to hen harriers. Any slack that you are cut, at all, by real nature conservationists ought to be welcomed with great gratitude.

          1. Andrew - tell your rich grouse moor owner backers to stop breaking the law then. The more you and GWCT argue in this way, Andrew, the more people will turn against any brood management scheme - keep going if you like.

          2. No. The plan is to prevent harriers increasing to a density that interferes with highly intensive, unsustainable driven grouse moor management.

            Continue to deny this simple fact, which we all understand Andrew, reveals just how disingenuous the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust is prepared to be these days. You no longer impress anybody.

            Fight for your position with honesty. Prove we can do business with your organisation.

      2. Another misleading statement by the science-based Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

        Brood meddling is a plan to ensure any hen harrier population, freed of persecution, cannot recover to a level that compromises the ability of intensive driven grouse moors to deliver extraordinary densities of red grouse to your fee-paying members.

          1. Andrew - so, what is the number of hen Harriers that the GWCT would like to see, and would be happy to see in the future after any potential brood management scheme has been in place for many years? What is the ultimate aim? How many?

            Hint: the current science says that 330+ pairs could live in the uplands of England and that their numbers are constrained by wildlife crime.

          2. Mark, you keep repeating this 'the science says' figure of 300 plus.

            In case you hadn't noticed, 'the science says' that the planet should have warmed three degrees, the economy should still be growing and We should all have HIV or vCJD by now.

            The difference between computer models and real world observations is commonplace, and it's not always down to some nefarious conspiracy.

            To be honest, I am left wondering if deep down you're just afraid of seeing the brood management plan succeed as it might burst your bubble!

          3. Kie - then you haven't read the last few blogs. A good proportion of the real conservation community, including the RSPB, including the NERF, and, for what it's worth, including me, would sign up to a brood management scheme today, if it has the demonstration of good faith that Hen Harrier numbers increase to a higher number before brood meddling (I like that description - I'm going to use it more often from now on) takes place.

            What would be the level of Hen Harriers that you would like to see after a brood meddling scheme has been running successfully for a few years in England?

          4. Andrew - are you in favour of the brood management plan being published for public consultation, so we can all see what its purpose is, how it would be undertaken - an the presumably persuasive supporting case?

          5. I'll ask you again, Andrew, do you agree that the brood management plan should be published for consultation - so we can see the details?

          6. So by removing hen harrier chicks from suitable habitat while those left are illegally killed, and when those chicks that are reared are released then fly back to the best habitat on grouse moors from where ever they are released from they are also illegally killed, this will mean more hen harriers!?

            Seems when it comes to hen harriers GWCT maths is about as good as their science....

          7. Yes mark we've all seen the game of agreeing to something with a list of caveats that you know the others will not agree to because really you had no intention in the first place, see Dave Cameron and his completley honest and sincere desire to include the Green Party in the TV debates.

            If you honestly don't think the gamekeepers will play ball, then why the reluctance to call their bluff and agree to the trial?

          8. Kie -we've all seen the ploy of agreeing to do something in principle but baulking at the detail - why are the criminals so reluctant?

            This is calling the gamekeepers' (actually, the grouse managers' and owners') bluff - more HH are promised, deliver them and you can have brood meddling. that is calling their bluff.

            How many HH are we promised? How many would you give us kie? You didn't answer that question.

          9. How is it calling the evil grouse moor managers bluff if they get to go on doing what they were anyway? Oh, I forgot, if they carry on its going to be banned isn't it? Yes, that approach seems to have killed hunting with hounds stone dead...

            You ask how many I would offer you? The answer, as Andrew pointed out clearly, is more than you've got at the moment. What's wrong with that Mark? Baby steps, each journey starts with the first footstep, why not go with the flow and see where it leads you?

            Unless, as I said, you were afraid of it being a success?

          10. Kie - no, we see evasive answers like that and are put off the whole idea. You, Andrew Gilruth and Rob Yorke are doing a great job of chilling the already lukewarm enthusiasm for brood meddling. That's quite an achievement. You have people meeting you half way and you slag them off. Well done.

          11. "You have people meeting you half way and you slag them off. Well done."

            Hahahahahahaha, brilliant one Mark, utterly brilliant!

            "Hello pot, this is kettle, colour check, over"

          12. "Mark, you keep repeating this 'the science says' figure of 300 plus.

            In case you hadn't noticed, 'the science says' that the planet should have warmed three degrees, the economy should still be growing and We should all have HIV or vCJD by now.

            The difference between computer models and real world observations is commonplace, and it's not always down to some nefarious conspiracy."

            Kie - this is just sophistry. It may well be that the model is out to some extent but no-one seriously doubts that there should be many, many more pairs of hen harriers breeding in the English uplands than there are. The difference between the numbers we currently have and the theoretical 330 pairs is not down to some fault in the model as you appear to suggest but really is due to a nefarious conspiracy.

          13. It's quite revealing how many dislikes you get when you suggest that the brood management scheme aught to be subject to public consultation! Are there people reading this blog with something to hide?!

            Let's see how many dislikes (rather than answers) this comment gets!

  2. I'm still struggling to get my head around the almost suicidal staements coming from the H&OT. I spoke to a couple of guys on their stand at Birdfair 2014 and this seems to be the opposite of what they were saying, maybe the new chair has had an enormous influence? But equally I'm not convinced by the RSPB's stance either, once 40 pairs were reached the shooting fraternity would say that that's it, they've done what was asked and it was time for a control of numbers. We just can't trust them at any level where predators are concerned, even during this period I'm sure that Hen Harriers would still be being killed on some estates. A ban on Driven Grouse Shooting is still the only answer, not just for Hen Harriers but for the sake of all other wildlife that live, or at least try to live, on these killing fields.

  3. The HOT are starting to sound more like bird collectors rather than a conservation organisation.

    The only thing that Brood Management does for hen harriers is undermine their protection and the protected status of every other rare species in the country.

  4. On Tuesday I posted quite a long critique of the HOTs position (or at least the version of their position articulated by Philip) on their blog and Facebook page, and very quickly received a promise of a reply. I've heard nothing since.

    Personally, I'd urge people not to resign their HOT membership quite yet. Let's give the wider organisation the benefit of the doubt, for a few days, and see if they have reconsidered their position.

    Regarding satellite tracking: to claim that tagging birds will somehow prevent gamekeepers from shooting harriers is patently false and naive. As I've said elsewhere, a) satellite data would need to be downloaded in real time (which presumably isn't cheap) and b) you'd need to have a network of folks out in the moors ready and waiting to get to the last spot where data were transmitted. It's no good analysing data a few hours after they are transmitted as by then any game keeper will have retrieved any satellite tag and corpse and disposed of the evidence.

    And of course this evidence is a prerequisite for giving effect to Condition 2! So where's the disincentive to kill if the likelihood of being caught remains so low? Or am I missing something? Can any readers with better knowledge of satellite tracking technology clarify the feasibility of what HOT is suggesting?

    And, again as I've asked HOT previously, will they have at hand personal data so they'll know if someone proven to be guilty of killing a hen harrier is a current member of GWCT etc?

    As to the legitimacy of brood meddling at some point in the future, I'd say maybe if a) it is proven that the moor in question is being managed sustainably, i.e. that it is in favourable condition, and b) if alternatives, such as diversionary feeding, have been tried at that specific site and have failed, and c) if the economic costs of the problem on a particular site are nationally significant (they'd need to be in order to justify reducing the biodiversity value of nationally [indeed internationally!] important wildlife sites.

    The only tenable position for HOT now is to demand that full details of their brood meddling scheme are published for public consultation. This must include the full, ecological case, and evidence as to the legality of what they are championing.

    If they fail to demand this consultation, I'd urge people to consider resigning their HOT membership.

  5. I am against the idea of brood management for hen harriers, as I feel it gives too much to the shooting industry. Why else would the Moorland Association and GWCT be endorsing it if it did not favour their members?

    We have reached this stage, because of the relentless illegal persecution of birds of prey and hen harriers in particular. So why are we willing to concede so much, when the shooting industry has done nothing to show that it is willing to change. Just look at some of their recent comments about the gamekeeper who was sent to prison for committing a wildlife crime - in short, the law should be changed so birds of prey can be killed legally!

    Brood management is interfering with wild nature for private profit and if it does go ahead, to start with 40 hen harriers is far too low, none is a joke. In addition, tagging will not guarantee protection for the birds.

    In terms of funding, the shooting estates should also pay for it, but I would be amazed if they do, as this scheme will considerably eat into their profits. At best they will make a small contribution and the tax payer will foot the bulk of it. Otherwise, why change? Killing hen harriers is much cheaper.

    The saddest thing about HOT's involvement is that it will dilute the momentum that is building around the hen harrier and how our uplands are used. This issue is bigger than one species and includes land degradation, pollution, mountain hares and all the many thousands of animals that are killed everyday to give shooters record amounts of red grouse to shoot. And let's not forget that it's our money that is paying for this - well over £17 million in 2012-13.

    1. Apus touches upon the cost of support to such estates from the public purse. This aspect of the 'debate' should be analysed and set against the received public benefit test?

      A review of public funding through the various agri-welfare schemes to such businesses needs review & dare I suggest reform? Look at the way it was (ab)used by a Defra agency in the Walshaw case?

  6. It seems to me that although, in some situations, brood management can be used to boost numbers of a species, the purpose here is to keep a lid on HH numbers, or at least densities. The "problem" is not Hen harriers. The problem is grouse shooting and all the wildlife destruction and environmental degradation it entails.

    1. Actually I'd say the wider problem is the pervasive culture across swathes of the land management community which regards most prey species as "resources", "game" or "stock" and most predatory species as "vermin" or "pests". This is a tragically anthropocentric and anachronistic worldview which needs chucking in the stinkpit of history.

      1. "Swathes of the land management community" - Like the RSPB, who have few qualms about controlling foxes, corvids and deer? Hell, not long back even mark openly discussed the possibility of controlling eagle owls...

        1. Kie - would you be happy to see the details of the brood meddling scheme published for public consultation?

          1. More than happy to see hem published for public consumption, why wouldn't I be? I donst know what value 'public consultation' would be mind, it supposed to be about science isn't it, you need to consult with scientists, not The great uneducated masses (after all, they vote for UKIP don't they, that shows what their opinions are worth)

          2. Kie - I didn't write public 'consumption' - I said 'consultation'. They're not the same thing!

            You don't agree with Andrew Gilruth and GWCT then.

            It's revealing that you consider that only 'scientists' have a right to be consulted (not legal professionals, the general public, etc, then).

            Presumably you anticipate that the brood meddling plan will contain nothing but science? I'll believe that when I see it!

            And I also assume non-scientists like Andrew Gilruth have no right to offer a view during consultation? How odd that would be.

          3. Of course science is the most important factor, it's the very basis of evidence based policy, be it drugs, medicine or wildlife management.

          4. I quite agree, Kie, that the brood meddling plan should be back up by sound science - but you say that only scientists should be consulted on its content. That excludes quite a few stakeholders (including game keepers, many staff from GWCT etc). But that aside, I'm pleased we agree on the need for public consultation and for the brood meddling plan to be fully supported by science. I very much look forward to seeing it.

      2. Well put, John.
        It is completely disrespectful to refer to our fellow creatures by these terms.
        Oh, I forgot, they're put here for the use of human beings.
        What a good job is it we all act with such a sense of responsibility.

  7. It is a sad day when the (possibly) "good guys" start arguing amongst themselves over this issue when the people representing the wildlife criminals seem to have the minimum that they could have hoped for handed to them on a plate. I find it very strange that the HOT position was not widely known before revealed on this blog, and I don't understand how that could have come about. These wildlife organisations need to get themselves sorted out, just as the criminal's representatives undoubtedly have. I'm sure most of the "good guys", myself included, only want the criminals to stop being criminals before we give any rewards for criminal acts to their representatives.
    I would much prefer that we try to get those estates and shooting enterprises that are not happy to be associated with criminality to be able to show their annoyance at the present state of affairs by giving them some scheme to join, whilst not having to directly go against the will of their representatives.
    I see the vicarious liability legislation in Scotland, which seems that it may have some successes, to be a good opportunity for this to happen. I am sure that there are farmers who allow shooting on their land, some syndicates who were concerned that an idiot in their membership could make them liable for a prison sentence, and some major estates would like to have a way out of their predicament.
    I believe the RSPB are the ideal vehicle for this, and could easily make up a set of documents and procedures to be available as a whole to any relevant parties who asked for them which once completed would provide assurance that they would be VL compliant. Those applying might have additionally have access to RSPB volunteers who would assist in tailoring them to the particular requirements if requested, if they agreed to provide completed documentation to the RSPB and be registered, publicly or privately. Parties who were willing to cooperate further with the RSPB could be on a different register, in return for providing such information as bags, both game and vermin, counts, confirmation of known historical raptor nesting locations and other information of use to researchers who could use the information to publish anonymised papers and maintain records. These people, if they wished, could be on a public register of RSPB friendly entities who could thereby perhaps be able to charge more for their shoots and might find a ready market for enhanced priced game in the high street via registered RSPB friendly game dealers. The best practice procedures would cover such topics as
    Methods for prevention of raptor predation in pheasant pens.
    Procedures to follow on trapping of a pine marten or possible wildcat.
    Procedures to follow on hen harrier settling in the breeding season.
    I see that the first move would need to come from the likes of friendly estates, whereby the RSPB could not be accused of trying to bypass the presently blocked negotiations.
    As the RSPB are required to be neutral on shooting, I don't see that the membership would have many complaints, even when the RSPB start supporting to things such as brood relocation or even local small culls of buzzards when requested by registered RSPB friendly estates, whom t would be known were already following best practice.
    Perhaps this is a dream, but is it not possible? I'd love RSPB Aberdeen to have a few people contacting them about this non-existent scheme, and we could stop our present arguments.

  8. Mark
    The more this fires up - the more this has nothing to do with harriers or even more important, any idea of how we manage some of our upland areas for the benefit of the widest range of biodiversity alongside human livelihoods.

    Comments like these hardly demonstrate a finesse in attempting to find a way forward (or perhaps it's not in someone's interest to?):

    '....there might be too many of them in one place. Well, tough!'
    '.....to get to 40 pairs would take a long time.......but if he is right then that’s just too bad, isn’t it?'
    'the criminals get to operate a brood management scheme'
    'resign from the Hawk & Owl Trust'

    The number of mentions of grouse moor owners or 'criminals' (around 17) almost outweighs mention of wildlife - this would all seem to corroborate this paper (go on, worth a read of all 4 pages) https://www.scribd.com/doc/251707471/Tilting-at-wildlife-reconsidering-human-wildlife-conflict

    The reason why I post this? I live in meadow pipit covered Welsh hills but with damn little else on them. The odd merlin, plenty of crows eating Monbiot ravaged sheep and a handful of joyful skylark.
    But if Buckinghamshire can have a stack of red kites, Mull some sea eagles, why not some hen harriers here please?

    My visit to Langholm was an eye opener - grouse, golden plover, short eared owls, buzzards, harriers (obviously stacks with the amount of div feeding!), curlews etc.
    Why not at least try the pilot - it's not about giving into moorland owners, it's giving them a chance to show that they can be trusted to try and make it work. No one else has a vested interest to do so.

    Or just ban it all and give us barren, empty hills - happy to show them to you or anyone, come on this hike in March to walk & talk: http://www.crickhowellfestival.com/p/272/walk-03-the-ffawddog-ridge-walk


    1. Rob - the problem at the moment, no-one denies, is criminal behaviour. Let's see whether the criminals can demonstrate good faith by accepting a threshold. The RSPB suggested 40 pairs before brood management could kick in. NERF 's statement suggests 70. I'd sign up quickly before the whole idea becomes unacceptable. The reaction of the grouse shooting industry on this matter will help to determine how the public treats them on burning of blanket bog, mountain hares, peatland loss, water quality, lead ammunition and a host of other problem issues surrounding grouse shooting.

      1. Rob it's obvioius that you are a passionate person who loves his wildlife. I live on the edge of the Peak District and have spent many hours walking and volunteering in the area. I'm 48 years and the only Hen Harrier I have seen in this country was while driving on the M1. You ask to show a little faith in the landowners. They have had decades to show that they have our wildlifes interests at heart and failed miserably. They do not give a damn. If it wasn't for the current storm of publicity that has informed so many people about the wrongs of Grouse Moor Management then nobody would be talking about BM or any of the other issues that surround this outdated 'sport'. The time has come to put a stop to it before we lose many of our predators for good. £600 fines and suspended sentences will never work as they punish the wrong people, landowners and estate managers need to be held to account and be hit hard so it actually has some impact.

    2. Rob, you may well be correct. But people have posted some very important questions about what brood management actually means. There is simply no detail for any of us to consider. Do you feel it's reasonable to ask for the details - a reasoned case in support of brood management - to be put into the public domain for public consultation? We can then all take stock once it's clear what is actually proposed.

    3. "Why not some hen harriers here please?"

      Two guesses.

      1) Too many sheep (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01896.x/pdf).

      2) Failure of recruitment - where do you expect your hen harriers to come from? My understanding is that males, particularly youngsters, range widely, but females less so and they may indeed only move a few miles in their lives. With nearly no HH left in England we are not a great source of breeding females and without these any transient males are not going to settle on your lovely Welsh hills.

      1. Don't you be protheletising sheep populations as being the problem, it will have Mark in tears because his computer model of 300 birds didn't figure variables like wool and lamb prices or LFA grants into its calculation. It's all the evil gamekeepers fault don'tcha know!

          1. More than you've got at the moment!

            Is that a bad thing?

            Or will you refuse to come to the table unless we promise you at least 331?

          2. kie - the RSPB has been at the table all year and hasn't been promised any according to their Conservation Director's blog. You can try as hard as you like to wriggle but a a plan to save the Hen Harrier through brood meddling that doesn't say how many HH it will save is not really worth calling a plan is it?

            Do you sell pigs in pokes for a living, perchance?

          3. Then call their bluff and agree to it

            The worst that can happen is you prove that brood management does not work.

            Why the reluctance?

          4. kie - well, it's obviously not up to me, but if it were I would expect a bit more in return for dealing with the criminals.

            Brood management can work for the grouse moor owner, perhaps a criminal grouse moor owner, and doesn't have to work for the Hen Harrier. If I were in the room, I wouldn't leave it without the Hen Harrier getting a better deal.

            We have no idea who you are, but if your evasive replies represent in any way the grouse shooting industry then you are showing that that industry cannot bring itself to offer any sort of a commitment to more Hen Harriers. But we don't know who you are. But you'll notice that Andrew Gilruth didn't offer a commitment either. And Rob Yorke avoids answering that question too. Oh yes, and the Hawk and Owl Trust seems to have taken a vow of silence very recently.

            No-one strongly promoting a brood management scheme will a) accept that it can be agreed now but can only kick in on the ground when there are more HH and b) will tell us how many HH is the endpoint of the brood meddling scheme. That says an awful lot.

            Sold any pigs in pokes today then? Not to me thanks.

          5. Ah, still trying to play the ad hominem argument that unless you know who I am it diminishes my point, rather than actually try to tackle the point or the veracity of the argument being made.

            Since you have raised that a few times now, I guess it must be really riling you not to know.


          6. kie - it's not an ad hominem remark, it's a 'we don't know who, if anyone, you are speaking for' remark. After all, Andrew Gilruth has gone very quiet and left you to be the voice for brood meddling. Clearly nobody keen to front it up.

        1. "Nobody... will tell us how many HH is the endpoint of the brood meddling scheme. That says an awful lot."

          Ok Mark, how many would you be happy to accept as the end point?

          50? A hundred?

          You and I both know that even if we had 331 of them, you would still be calling for the end of grouse shooting, because for you it never had anything to do with the Harriers in the first place!

          1. Kie - yet again you don't tell me or anyone else, and there are many more than me who would like to know, the answer to the question' how many HH is the endpoint of the brood meddling scheme?'.

            I would be delighted with 100 HH pairs and would be happy to see brood meddling kick in at 50 pairs if it were the right scheme. That's a clear answer I think. Are you promising that? You haven't said whether you are, and you haven't said who you are so we don't know whether your word is worth very much.

            You are completely wrong - it was only about HH in the first place but you are right to have noticed that the environmental damage done by driven grouse shooting is far wider than that. Grouse shooting should have had the nous to 'solve' the HH issue years ago to reduce the flak. As I wrote in a previous blog this week (and have done for much of this year) there are other issues that grouse shooting needs to face and solve. Yes Peregrines, Golden Eagles and other raptors. But also burning of blanket bogs where grouse shooting has taken as intransigent position as it is over HH. And then there are all those Mountain Hares. But what about the EMBER report and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, flood risk and aquatic biodiversity? It is a long enough list and those issues don't get solved by brood meddling of HH, do they?

          2. What if its 50 pairs on grouse moors and 200 pairs on non-grouse moors? Our harriers are known for their strong affinity to heather moorlands... but this relationship is not prominent in other parts of its range. So what if they do well outside the grouse moors?

            Just stop the killing there is no need to use interference to solve the problems caused by interference. .... the harrier population rise quickly...then it will drop naturally when the golden eagles move back onto English grouse moors

  9. This whole change of position from the HOT is just odd. And if they are so sure of their position why not come out publicly for a year? How many new members decision on joining (and current renewing) would have been affected if they knew?

    1. Problem is, HOT does not have a Director and it looks like the press officer (Lin Murray) has been left to 'direct' HOT under the overpowering influence of a new Chair who has very different views on the previous Chair. I have noticed that HOT say the right words at times but as far as I am aware, they have shifted their primary goals to reserves management. Did experts advise HOT on BM? Why is HOT making such decisions without asking experts and its members? Surely the minutes of this Trustee meeting are a public document - it would be interesting to find out exactly what was discussed. HOT should have nothing to hide.

      1. Hi SG. I'm afraid you afford me far greater status than is the case. I spend my time as joint manager of a nature reserve, seeking funding for the many research and habitat management projects that make up a large part of the Trusts work, supporting the education outreach work that is also fundamental to HOT and trying to find the time to keep up to date with the social media/press aspects. I also made the tea last night for our visitors who came to see a fabulous talk by the wonderful Moss Taylor! Oh, and I managed to fit in a spot of Long Eared Owl surveying too. so do forgive me if I haven't responded the minute a blog is posted. Signal is a bit weak in the middle of a wood at 9pm at night!

        Seriously though, HOT spends 76p of every £1 we receive on conservation projects, reflecting our priorities. Consequently, we do not have the funds to employ a CEO/Director/dedicated PR Dept/fundraising dept etc etc. If you look at our structure, we have a nominated Trustee for every reserve and major project area, who report back to the board of Trustees quarterly. The nominated Trustees with reserve and project area responsibility work on the ground with the staff of the Trust (like me) on a daily basis. To suggest that I am directing the Trust is simply just not the case.

        Please don't stray from the main points under scrutiny here. The priority is birds of prey and the food chains and habitats they depend on and the relentless persecution that I see, first hand, on a daily basis nothing else. We have nothing to hide. Please continue to read our statements. We are doing our best to answer all questions as quickly, fully and honestly as we can. Let the debate unfold based on cool headed reasoning. This is how we will find a way forward not by provocative personal statements.

        1. Good to hear about your great efforts, Lin. Keep it up. I very much hope that the Trust will not lose members during the current debate, and I personally doubt it will. But I am a little surprised that, after years of detailed thinking, as Phil put it, the Trust doesn't really seem to have convincing answers to some pretty basic questions. I posed some questions on Tuesday; Phil has attempted to answer several, but some of his points are very unconvincing.

          Some key questions I'd like the Trust to answer include:

          - Philip states that 'addressing raptor persecution is a pre-requisite of our talking to Defra and landowners. Until this issue is addressed in a satisfactory manner, any form of management of Hen Harrier is impossible.' So, to be clear, you are saying that any (further) Trust discussion about a trial of brood management will not take place until raptor persecution is addressed, correct?

          And, once illegal persecution of raptors has been resolved......

          - Will you agree only to participate in any brood management scheme after the full details are published for public consultation, including both the scientific and legal evidence base, and when I say legal evidence, I refer to protected site as well as species legislation, i.e the need to conduct an Appropriate Assessment.

          - Do you agree that any brood management scheme at a particular site can only proceed once alternatives - notably diversionary feeding - have been tried and have failed to mitigate impacts of harriers upon the grouse surplice?

          - Given that your Trust has the benefit of a well-informed scientific advisory committee, could you please tell us what satellite technology will enable one to a) alert the Trust to a hen harrier killing event in real time, thus b) enabling a rapid response by a presumably very close-by law enforcement team to apprehend the culprit and evidence before both vanish? [nb I appreciate that the Trust contends that such interventions would not be required due to the deterrent effect of satellite tagging. But such an effect has not worked to date: increasing numbers of harriers have been tagged and have vanished under mysterious circumstances. A genuine deterrent effect requires a high likelihood of being caught]

          Many thanks,


  10. I just find the whole debate bizarre. Here we have a protected species, persecuted to the extent its almost extinct as a breeding bird in England, and yet they are still proposing brood management as a "requirement" for stopping illegally killing harriers. Its like giving serious consideration to a mugger who says "give me £500 every day and I'll stop holding people up at knife point".

    1. Spot on, Claire. The whole idea is so half-baked it's fit for nothing! I fail to understand why any thinking person would even consider it, particularly in view of what's been happening over the past twenty years in respect of hen harriers on grouse moors.

    2. Claire - you've summed it up perfectly.
      I know many people want to try to find compromises and common ground wherever possible, and in some situations that is a noble aim.
      However, in this case, for me there is not much to 'debate', unless you think it is a good idea to debate legalising mugging and burglary.

  11. So we accept brood meddling and driven red grouse shooting continues to dominate our uplands, perverting its ecology and contributing to climate change, perturbed only slightly by an occasional inconvenient HH at industry approved densities. How depressing.

    Our national parks are not worthy of the name. The IUCN defines a National Park as follows: "large, natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities." I wish!

    Our "National Parks" come closer to what the IUCN would recognise as "Protected Landscapes", defined as "A protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant, ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values." Welcome to the North York Moors Protected Landscape. Hasn't really got the same ring to it somehow...

  12. Pingback: Hen Harriers
  13. Having now read all of the above. Claire and Sandra have the the most penetrative and perceptive understanding and I'm right with them. Now, where's that petition?

    A threshold for hh will lead to a threshold for golden eagle, buzzard, goshawk, crivvens short-eared owls have been shot on moors, will there be brood meddling for SEO?

    BM is a red herring. I'm right up for arguing for doing away with driven grouse moors. Lets generate debate about what we want in place and how that public benefit will be paid for.

    1. Steve - that's your 100th comment here. Thank you. Most have been critical of me. Few have shown any interest in birds at all. You are obviously making progress.


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