I’m grateful to the Chair of the Hawk and Owl Trust for some attempts to answer some queries posted here yesterday (see comment by Philip Merricks on this blog and an abridged version copied with my comments below). The Hawk and Owl Trust is, of course, under no obligation to answer questions on this blog so it is very nice of them to do so.
Defra is remaining silent, as best I can see, on this issue, leaving it to the Hawk and Owl Trust to make all the running on this highly contentious issue of brood management of Hen Harriers.
The grouse shooters have gone fairly quiet on this issue recently, choosing to leave the HAwk and Owl Trust to make the running on this scheme, it seems.
1. You say ‘Defra will pay for it.’ – in other words, the taxpayer will pay for it. Not grouse moor managers then? This is a scheme designed to ‘help’ an industry, some of whose practitioners (and practically nobody else) have reduced the status of a protected species in England close to extinction. Is this the best use of limited and falling conservation resources?
2. You say ‘The cost will not be that much.’ – but can’t tell us how much (I’m not complaining about that) which means that we can’t make up our own minds on whether it is ‘not much’ or ‘too much’. How many satellite tags would it pay for I wonder?
3. You say ‘Chicks would be removed from a HH nest at about a week old. Then taken to a heated aviary for approx two weeks (until they can thermo-regulate). Then taken out on to the moors into pens sheltered at one end and netted at the other so that they can become socially imprinted on to their release sites. Then released at approx ten weeks.
The big advantage of this method is that it is likely that four or five chicks would be raised to fledging whereas naturally, probably less that one would be, and if the nest was persecuted none would be. It seems pretty obvious as to what method of being raised the the HH chicks themselves would choose!‘ – I think Hen Harrier chicks would opt for the ‘Stop people killing us and we’ll take our chances with foxes etc ‘ option.
4. You say ‘timing would be as soon as Defra wants. Could well be this breeding season.’ – that would be very surprising given that this scheme is not out for consultation nor is it even published, except, it seems, bit by bit on this blog.
5. You say ‘To be carried out by Hawk and Owl Trust staff who have long term experience in this work with other Raptor species. The Trust’s Scientific Advisory Ctte tell us that this form of raptor translocation has never (or it might have been has very seldom) failed with all other raptor species around the world.‘ – so not put out to tender? How odd? And so the Hawk and Owl Trust intends to benefit financially from this scheme.
6. You say ‘if it succeeds and HH numbers increase considerably, we would think that was wonderful and I hope that those who were so hostile to it (and to the Hawk and Owl Trust) might say sorry.‘ – you’d have to ask those people, I’m trying to find out what is planned and am not entirely against brood management. However, it does seem to take a lot of questioning even to get a few details of what is, you hope, going to be implemented this breeding season. Remember, I am one of your members Philip! And was completely unaware of what the organisation I support financially was planning.
7. You say ‘HH numbers would certainly not be capped by us.’ – but don’t say that there is no prospect of capping. Having decided to get so closely involved in this contentious scheme you should be ensuring that other parts of the scheme will fit in with your charitable objects.
8. You say ‘See my comment in post above re Defra’s advice on this being compliant with EU and Domestic legislation.’ – I also noted that Defra have aid nothing at all on this subject and noted Alan Cranston’s comment on this blog ‘when you say ‘legal authorities’ you mean (at most) lawyers advising Defra and more probably, ‘what Defra officials say their legal advisers would say if they were to ask them’. Curiously, the courts often seem to disagree with the advice government legal advisers give to the government. Certainly to the extent that HOT would be mad not to seek it’s own legal advice.‘.
Philip keeps saying that this is a trial – but a trial for what? What is the overall plan and how many Hen Harriers are promised through the implementation of this plan?
How much will it cost? Is this the best use of money for nature conservation? For Hen Harrier conservation? The Hawk and Owl Trust hopes to be the beneficiary of this funding.
Defra would be very very brave to do anything other than publish a consultation paper on Hen Harrier conservation under these circumstances. Even that, depending on how it is worded, would be quite a brave move this close to a general election.