OK, Hawk and Owl Trust – where are you?

hotoA recap: the Hawk and Owl Trust has, unbeknownst to most of its members, become very keen on Hen Harrier ‘brood management’ (known to many as brood meddling). This move has positioned the H&OT very strangely in one of the most contentious debates in UK conservation.  Rare Bird Alert held an online poll which showed a large majority of respondents were against the H&OT position, and the President of the H&OT, Chris Packham, resigned his position over ‘policy differences’ thought to be not a million miles away from differences over this particular policy. But not to worry, grouse moor owners are flocking to support the H&OT in their droves – well, Philip Astor tweeted that he had joined the H&OT in any event.

A couple of weeks ago the H&OT trustees were meeting and the departure of their President and the storm of controversy in which their chair, Philip Merricks, had placed the organisation must (surely?) have been the main items for discussion.

But the outside world, and the H&OT membership. remain in the dark about whether those discussions led to any change in policy. Is Philip Merricks now about to attempt to impersonate the grand Old Duke of York and get his 10,000 men down in the placid valleys again? Or are they staying encamped on a turbulent hilltop?


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65 Replies to “OK, Hawk and Owl Trust – where are you?”

  1. Is brood management/meddling always necessarily bad in principle?

    Nature normally produces an abundance so can there in some circumstances be applications for it , for example taking surplus individuals (ie above carrying capacity of the area) from one place to another where they are absent?

    We do 'meddle' with nature in all sorts of ways - some good - many bad so leaving aside the vexed issue of hen harriers I am wondering if there is ever a place for it - for example in increasing the range of endangered species?

    1. Yes, there are circumstances in which brood management is justified and it is sometimes used as a tool in conservation. With very rare species, for example it is sometimes used as a means of increasing population size where there is a high risk of nest failure at natural nests - the madagascar pochard is an example of a species where such an approach has been used to rescue a nearly extinct species.
      In the case of the hen harrier, brood management is not necessary to save the harrier but rather to remove harriers from grouse moors to alleviate predation on grouse chicks in order to have a large shootable surplus come August. The reason people oppose it is that it is not what is required for hen harrier populations to start to recover, that there is little reason to be confident that the young harrier released back into the wild from managed broods would not be quickly shot and that there is an alternative less invasive method (diversionary feeding) of reducing the impact hen harriers on grouse numbers where this is a problem.
      The RSPB and others have indicated that, in principle, brood management could be agreed to once hen harrier populations have reached a certain level. Since the species is already virtually extinct a a breeding bird in England and can therefore pose negligible harm to the interests of grouse hunters that seems a reasonable position to take; why does anyone need to start brood management now?
      The position that brood management may be agreed to in the future implies acceptance that grouse shooting will continue in future. For those committed to the permanent banning of grouse shooting, brood management of hen harriers will presumably be a permanent irrelevance.

  2. I resigned as a HOT member shortly before Chris Packham resigned as President, so presumably there are only 9,998 men left now. As I see it, the only way forward for the Trust is either to pass a vote of no confidence in the Chairman of Trustees (Philip Merricks) and remove him from his position, or for the membership to have a similar vote in the entire Board of Trustees and replace the lot of them on the basis that they were quite willing to follow where Merricks led. In either case it will take some time for HOT to recover any credibility as a bona fide conservation group, though the process might be quicker in the second course of action than the first. At the moment their credibility seems to be roughly on a par with people like BASC and the CLA. There might even be an influx of new members from the shooting community bent on keeping it that way.

  3. I am not a member of the Hawk and Owl Trust but if I were I would want and expect to have an extrordinary AGM of all its members called to consider and vote on the issues here, especially with the resignation of the President. In any democratic organisation I would expect this AGM to be called by the Chairman and Trustees on such a controversial issue as this which goes to the hart of the organisation. I am assuming the Hawk and Owl Trust is a democratic organisation.

    1. Would be interesting to see a copy of HoT's governing document to see whether provision is made for an EGM if enough members demand one.

  4. Brood management (for Hen Harriers at least) is a smokescreen. A classic case of kicking the argument into the long grass. Let's be quite blunt about it, several hundred more HH aren't going to make much difference to grouse ANYWHERE because they eat a wide range of food. This is a political and social issue about a small group of people staunchly opposed to changing 'their way of life'. ie killing things when and where it suits them. Their intransigence that is THE PROBLEM.

    1. well maybe in respect to HH but THE PROBLEM let's face it is we are completely #####ing the planet up. We all know this and it is getting worse and worse. It's everywhere - most people just don't give a ####. Look on any roadside verge - so many of them are strewn with litter that isn't a small group of people it's a very large group of people and there are so many more examples. was it 800million tonnes of plastic into the oceans a year? It is all very sad and very frightening. The change we need to make is massive and time is running out.

      1. Well said Giles.

        The complacency and ignorance of people seems infinite. I've been trying to get people to see the ecological reality of where our modern western 'lifestyle' is leading down to for about 30 years now, but it's not an easy or a popular message for people to hear. The majority are hooked on consumerism and prefer to bow to Authority telling them to continue with Business-as-Usual, everything will be all right dears ...

        Keep up the struggle!

  5. The fact that Philip M was praised for his predator control in a 2013 speach by Owen Pater$on (in the same breath as praising GWCT) says enough to me about the kind of conservation circles he is moving in...

  6. As I have received so many emails and messages today from Hawk and Owl Trust members urging me to respond to your latest blog, I am persuaded to do so.
    The full Board of Trustees (only one of whom has any interest in shooting) met ten days ago at which the Hen Harrier issue was fully and openly discussed. All Trustees contributed fully to the discussion and all ten Trustees were unanimous and united that the Trust's current approach was the best way forward to ensure a secure future for Hen Harriers on Northern moors.
    The Trustees noted the adversarial campaign being carried out on your blog and the the response from equally adversarial articles taking an opposing position to yourself which have been published in several mainstream national newspapers. It was felt that there would be no winners from such adversarial campaigns. And that there would be just one loser - the Hen Harrier itself.
    The Trustees noted that since the start of your campaign, those joining the Trust were outnumbering those resigning by a factor of ten to one. The Trustees noted that a number of eminent and nationally known conservationists had recently joined the Trust quoting the debate on your blog as their reason for doing do.
    The Trustees noted the Rare Bird Alert poll. There was regret that the poll had taken place before the facts about the brood management scheme trial had been made public. The personal views of the organiser of the poll (Brian Egan) and his clear dislike of moorland interests as set out in a strong comment on your blog on 5th Feb were noted.
    It was noted that amongst the very many comments on your blog it was difficult to uncover sound conservation reasons against a brood management scheme trial. Though there were very indeed many ideological ones.
    To conclude - the Hawk and Owl Trust believes that what is needed for the Hen Harrier is a conservation solution. And not a perpetuation and deepening of the adversarial and counter-productive positions.
    The Trust is a solution provider. Which aims to break the current impasse in order to bring about a wholesale change in attitudes and actions of moorland interests and moorland managers for the long term and genuine conservation benefit of Hen Harriers.

    Sorry, no more comments from the Trust for the time being.

      1. Persuaded to respond to members?! Are you being serious Philip Merricks? Are you really this arrogant? It is HOT's duty to communicate with its members and to ask ALL members to vote on such a serious matter. Also, it is your duty to release a statement on Chris Packham's sad, but understandable, departure. Chris is a very intelligent, respected & scientifically trained conservationist - your alarm bells should be ringing loudly after resignation. RBA's poll was an open way for people to vote. HOT's 2014 AGM invite did not advertise a Hen Harrier (brood management) vote - if it had, I know many more members would have attended. If you feel that the RBA's poll was premature, then why did you ask the <30 attending HOT members to vote at your 2014 'before the facts about the brood management scheme trial had been made public'. Mark Avery has not started a campaign against HOT - he has simply exposed what is going on behind closed doors in HOT. I know that a lot of people really appreciate Mark's work on this and he should be congratulated. Thank you Mark and I look forward to meeting you at the BAWC conference next month. I expect HOT will ask its members to vote during its 2015 AGM, at which point, your membership will be suitably dominated by the grouse shooting community. It is a shame that these 'eminent and nationally known conservationists' do not have the courage to reveal that they have recently joined HOT, presumably they do not want to publicly support Hen Harrier brood management? I have many eminent conservationist friends, a few of them were HOT members before recent events. None support HOT. Mark, you understand the workings of NGOs - have HOT breached their position as an NGO during recent events?

    1. So no answers to any of the many legitimate questions that have been asked on this blog and in other places then Philip? I know you'll ignore this like the many other questions, but what are the conservation arguments in favour of this scheme? You are yet to make a convincing case, while rubbishing the arguments of those opposed as "ideological". I assume your ex-president is included in that!
      I hope the financial rewards are worth the destruction of HOT as a credible conservation organisation. When are you merging with BACS?

    2. Phillip
      Thanks for the update.
      Regarding your comment "There was regret that the poll had taken place before the facts about the brood management scheme trial had been made public."
      How could we put them forward and how has the HOT come to the current position if the facts are not out there. You have been asked on numerous occasions key questions about the trial and failed to come up with any answers.
      We asked our followers if they would support your current position given the current information available and it was a resounding NO. Despite my own personal views of the shooting, driven grouse, and other moorland management issues the poll very clearly gave people the opportunity to vote either way.
      This is not about adversarial positions, it is about one small group of people ILLEGALLY wiping our a part of our natural heritage. If they stop the ILLEGAL killing everyone can sit down and work together.
      A very sad day indeed.

    3. Agreed a conservation solution is needed, but I fail to see how acquiescing to the grouse shooting fraternity's desire to reduce the number of hen harriers on moorland constitutes such a solution or how it is going to bring about "a wholesale change in attitudes and actions of moorland interests and moorland managers".

    4. I don't know all the detail and hadn't realised it was only a trial but I can see Philip's point about adversarial politics not always being the best way forward. There clearly is a small group of criminals up to no good but that isn't the entire grouse shooting fraternity. Things do have to change but sometimes adversarial politics just ends up with trench warfare with the generals promising their troops - just one more push and victory is at hand.

      Even the idea of 'ending wildlife crime' is while a laudable aim, slightly absurd. We are never going to end any crime completely and if we tried to have a society so ruthlessly strict that we did then it would bring all sorts of other problems and restrict the freedom of non criminals in completely unacceptable ways. That doesn't mean to say we should support crime but that we have to be realistic. What we have to aim for IMO is to reduce crime as far as possible while also maintaining a free society.

      I think we should remember that while there are obviously aspects of grouse shooting that are bad for the ecology their are aspects of all human activity that are bad for the ecology and we can't just ban everything. It's easy to see the hills as a potential untouched wilderness - an ecological utopia while the lowlands become more and more urbanised but at the end of the day our entire isle will always be deeply affected by human activity in one form or another.

    5. There is a lot of talk around at the moment about wether you can put a price on nature, you obviously can. I can't believe that a so called conservation organisation can even contemplate getting involved with, what is as some one has already stated, a smokescreen. It doesn't tackle any of the issues at all, the Hen Harriers preferred breeding habitat is, unfortunately, Grouse Moors and they will never be welcomed by the greedy landowners that have the shameful audacity to claim that they care for our wildlife. HOT have now linked themselves with the moor owners and shall now be taken off many peoples list of possible organisations to support. The birdfair should be interesting this year, I feel a protest coming on!!! What a shame!

      1. But that comment is not from Lin Murray. how do I know? because she always puts at least one exclamation mark (usually several) in her posts!!!!

        1. This comment came from our Wildlife Ranger on the 7,000 acres of ex- grouse shooting moor that we manage for wildlife on the North York Moors. Why wouldn't he be pleased to see wild grouse and short eared owls? All part of the on going conservation management and research that is nothing to do with shooting, nothing what so ever, but everything to do with 'working for wild birds of prey and their habitats'. It's all about birds of prey.

          Look Rolo, no exclamation marks. Getting personal at myself or Philip just takes this debate even further away from where is should be - putting hen harriers first.

          1. Lin - thanks.

            By the way, the phone number on your website for your main office keeps putting me through to Sculthorpe. Which number should I use to resign please?

          2. Well done Lin, give yourself a pat on the back. Bit rich you mentioning 'the debate' though, its the first bit of input I have seen from you on the subject on this blog (unless I have missed it of course)

          3. I see you manage the ex-grouse moor with "traditional moorland management techniques".... does that mean that despite all of the ecological evidence that this brings biological impoverishment, the HOT are still actually managing the moor as a grouse moor?
            Don't you know that our highest densities of birds of prey are found on un-managed moorlands? If you want more birds of prey...stop wrecking the habitat!!

          4. Any danger you might reply to the questions I emailed you Lin (at your request!), or was that just a stalling tactic 'til you worked out how to use the mute button on Twitter?

          5. You both added a personal element by 'hijacking' the Hawk and Owl Trust in favour of the grouse shooting community.

          6. Can I take you blocking me on Twitter as a sign that you have no intention of answering any of my questions then Lin?

    6. Has Lin Murray reprimanded you (Philip Merricks) for talking too much? Lin is desperately trying to keep up the public image of the Hawk and Owl Trust via Twitter. Does the Hawk and Owl Trust realise that by ignoring concerned members' comments, they are further dwindling any remaining credibility? At least they have started Tweeting to include their new members' interests:

      Hawk and Owl Trust @Hawkandowluk · Feb 11
      Plenty of Grouse in evidence on the High Moor today along with a Short-eared Owl.

      1. But that comment is not from Lin Murray. how do I know? because she always puts at least one exclamation mark (usually several) in her posts!!!!

    7. Apologies Phillip I forget to include this suggestion in my reply last night.

      You imply that there was information available to us that we should have included with the poll but didn't. Clearly the HOT must have this information in order to have come to the decision to support a brood management trial.

      We thought we had linked to all the relevant information which was available publicly i.e. the HOT website. However if you can provide us with that additional information, we would be very happy to run another poll. Clearly you feel with this knowledge people would feel differently about the HOT's position and therefore you would surely be very keen to run such a poll?

      Our readers are a very well educated group of keen naturalists and we are sure if there were sound ecological and ethical reasons for a BM trial they would be very willing to consider all the evidence and possibly change their views. This is after all what seems to have happened at the HOT, the only difference being that we don't seem to have the facts, information and evidence that you keep stressing we should all read before making our minds up.

      Look forward to hearing what you think about the new poll.

    8. Hmm! Not very encouraging when you label opposition in such a way just because it differs from your own opinion really, is it though? The fact remains that you are now attacking the RBA poll because it was cast without know thing the true facts. Smoke and mirrors though because we STILL do not know what is happening:
      1. When the trial will start?
      2. What will it comprise?
      3. Who is funding the work?
      4. What is the exit strategy?
      5. When will trials end and BM begin in earnest?
      6. Will the results of the trials be published? And where?

      Incidentally, as a charitable organisation please beware when quoting membership figures as per 10 members gained per every one lost. It does not take a lot of effort to challenge figures like that and it if as some people suspect, your members are being gained from people with any certain bias then it leaves your position even more vulnerable.

      Finally, to attack Brian Egan's agenda is irrelevant if there is no attempt to allay fears over this scheme. I personally find it baffling that with all the opportunities given to the H&OT here, on its own website and on Facebook, that there has not been a single attempt to flesh things out except trotting out some version of the H&OT's mission statement. With respect Philip, is it any wonder that people are becoming suspicious?

      1. I have just thought of a further explanation for the membership figures quoted that may explain a few things. Philip claims a few leading conservationists have joined H&OT but there is a very good reason for this and it is linked to Mark's blog. Quite simply, once awareness of BM was exposed, it makes sense that more than a few people will be keeping an eye on developments. At the moment the current situation is that no information about what is (precisely) proposed has been released to the public domain so we must conclude this will be forthcoming soon if trails are going to start in spring. I am wracking my brain to think how an NGO could possibly get away with acting like this. I know something for sure, there seems to be much here that is being purposefully avoided and that in itself is suspicious. Especially when Press Officers start blocking people on social media???

    9. Actually Philip there are very good conservation reasons why brood meddling is not needed now and may never be necessary, its called just four pairs and diversionary feeding. As to BM on the basis of the six point plan the density that triggers it is far too low ( by 30 times) , persecution of harriers is still rife and until you went for this the game industry was under severe pressure to START to move towards compromise for the first time. What you have done is let them off the hook for an unnecessary smoke screen that offers Hen Harriers little. I believe you have demonstrated a poor grasp of how the grouse industry operate or the realities hen harriers face, have shown an arrogant disregard for those who at least understand the situation, harrier biology and what is necessary. Many of us have asked questions of you as to what BM means in actuality yet answers we have none. You are treating both your members and other interested parties with complete disregard, it may come back to haunt you. There can be compromise of course but not until the criminals cease their criminality and of that there is no sign at all.
      Thirty pieces of silver anyone?

  7. Philip forgot to mention about the board of trustees sitting round a huge table counting out the big piles of cash that now flow into their coffers via the shooting community. I can just picture it now 'get out the finest bone china old chap lets toast our good work' I bet they wipe the downtrodden members off their shoes with a fifty pound note. Nothing that has been said or will be said will change the mind of this horrible little man and his disciples. shame on you.

    1. Think you might be letting your class issues invade a reasoned comment here. What's more frightening is the amount of likes to dislikes your comment has attracted (16/1 at the time of writing).

      1. No its not a class issue, the issue is that if there was no money in it for the HOT they would walk away from BM

        1. I know it's not a class issue but rhetoric such as "get out the finest bone china chaps" does give the impression of a certain class.

      2. Martin, I am not sure where Rolo mentioned class in the post? There is a strong suggestion that someone has indeed, waved a wad of cash in H&OT's face but as yet, there has been no clarification on where this has come from. If this money is being provided by game estates, shooting supporters or their backers, then surely that argues for a subjective interest. I think there is a strong suspicion that the money could be coming from such sources but it need not be the case and Rolo's post reflects simply that it is unlikely that funding has come from scientific sources given opposition from NERF and the RSPB. Apart from the evasion in Philip's replies, this is a very important element to this entire debate (I prefer to call it a debate at this stage despite the H&OT's desire to label alternative views as opposition).

        1. He didn't mention class, but certainly implied it.

          I hope it's not the case that HOT has been 'bought' though.

  8. Hawk & Owl Trust have lost all credibility. Where's the detail on the work you're apparently doing to end persecution, Phillip? The prerequisite to brood meddling, remember? The REAL issue?

  9. No questions answered at all.I wonder who the eminent conservationists are? Maybe they can make themselves known?

  10. Phillip...don't bother trying to defend the HOT with indignation, its not going to influence many round hear. The folk who frequent this site mainly have strong ecological backgrounds- many are professionals.
    There has been a universal appeal for some insight into the rationale behind the HOT decision..... however.... tumbleweed. Did you know that tumbleweed is an introduced species which causes ecological and financial problems?
    You see tumbleweed...is a plant and I don't think you care about plants... if you do you could explain how hen harrier brood management is going to help botanical biodiversity on our moorlands.
    Your "answers" are always full of hot air and that's another issue! How will hen harrier brood management contribute to a reduction in green house gasses/ and global warming?
    I await another flood of non-information.
    Did I say flood? What will hen harrier brood management do for flood management?

    You just have no conservation reasons for promoting brood management for a species that does not need it. That only leaves political and financial reasons.

  11. Interesting that exposing the facts is regarded as an adversarial campaign. Congratulations to Mr Merricks on the official launch of the new look Hawk, Owl & Game Trust.

  12. Philip - surely the biggest conservation reason against a brood meddling trial (which has been mentioned on this blog) is that in 2014 there were only 4 breeding pairs of HH in England. As this number is far too low, where do you plan to do your trial? Will it be in Scotland?

    I've also got two more questions. I see that HOT burn heather at their Flyingdales reserve, is that a clever thing to do when it is so damaging for the environment? I know that it was a former grouse moor, but you don't have to keep the management like one. It looks bleak and depressing - a landscape devoid of trees and scrub and natural processes. No doubt made worse by the sheep grazing that goes on too.

    I'm also interested to know if HOT carry out predator control on their reserves, like you do at Elmley?

  13. I think a certain amount of reality has been lost in this debate. Of course we would like to see more hen harriers breed on English grouse moors but would brood management or 24 hour a day watches on these nests really make any difference. I'm afraid the answer to that question is a resounding no.
    Hen harriers are not tolerated by the criminal element that manage grouse moors. Whether England had 4 nests or 40 nests the result would be the same. The sub adult and adult birds would be killed after fledging and dispersal either on the same or another moor.
    The problem is that we have a sporting pastime that is dependent on criminality and the people who have the inclination and hard cash to shoot driven grouse have enormous power and influence.
    We don't try to combat burglary, rape or assaults by giving the criminals a quota. Can you imagine the longevity of a parliamentarian's career if he or she came up with the idea of allowing 6 or 8 of these crimes in each town before they were acted upon.
    The answer is in detection, prosecution and sentencing of these crimes not in giving into these criminals and allowing them to dictate the law in our uplands.

    1. "The problem is that we have a sporting pastime that is dependent on criminality"..... No it isn't. It chooses to be through greed of which the most obvious victim is the HH, but there are many more.

  14. A sad day indeed when a conservation body loses all credibility. The Hawk & Owl Trust will, for evermore in my mind, be associated with two words - Sold Out.

    At a time when our hen harriers needed a solid show of solidarity from conservationists you, H&OT, chose to sell your soul.

  15. How many of those new members are game keepers or land owners? No wonder BM is the way forward.

    If that is their stance I really hope for HoT that brood management works Otherwise HoT will have a lot of (hen harriers) blood on their hands!

  16. Change in attitudes and actions, that will never happen, because the shooting fraternity class Birds of Prey as vermin! Why do you think the Forest of Bowland is the Bermuda Triangle for birds of prey, the Owls are gone, the Gos Hawks are gone and the Peregrines are nearly all gone! Let alone the Hen Harrier! A leopard doesn't change his spots. Maybe the Duke of Westminster will join H&OT, there is now a position for President, especially as he owns most of the shooting estates in Bowland.


    News leaked form the recent meeting of the Board of Trustees alleges that they agreed to change the name of the organisation with immediate effect.

    Expect an announcement very soon to launch the new bright and shiny anti-conserservation NGO ....

    Hawk and Owl DISTrust


  18. A very simple question for Philip Merricks. How many members of the HOT Board of Trustees (excluding those whose position relates to their management of individual HOT reserves) have connections with 'country sports', i.e. pastimes that involve the killing or harming of animals?

  19. All my thoughts and feelings on this issue have been eloquently articulated by others on this blog. All I would like to add is "well done Phillip Mericks." You have successfully dragged a well respected and highly credible NGO into the gutter. One of our most eminent conservationists felt he had no choice but to resign his presidency and 44 year membership and your persistent arrogance and ignorance on this matter has now driven from your membership another of our most influential conservationists in the shape of Mark Avery.

    Good luck with your new found friends in the uplands but please stop proporting to be a raptor conservation trust or preferably do the decent thing and walk away, leaving HOT to try to salvage it's reputation from the rubble you've left it in.

  20. Apparently "ideals" are are wrong basis for forming beliefs according to PM. I'm not sure many would agree with that position outside of HOT. Pragmatism is a fine and neccessary thing but it has to be grounded in fact and with a realistic possibility of success. The whole premise of brood management seems to be founded on the basis that the shooting community, or rather it's criminal element, will agree not to do something they have flatly denied doing for donkeys years. As they clain it is not their responsibility presumably they cannot speak or commit for the criminal element, so nothing changes. Catch 22 here I thing. The geolocator carrying fledglings will still disappear (along with the carcasses and geolocators!!!) and all we will hear will be denials.
    If there is evedence to support brood management HOT are very slow in putting it forward. Wonder why. So we are still missing:

    Details of any scheme/trial
    Overseeing of any scheme
    Financing of any scheme
    Duration of any scheme
    Enforcing of commitments on participating parties
    Penalties for non-compliance
    Criteria for judging success or failure
    So PM please enlighten us and then put all of the above and more to your members for their comment/approval and Rare Bird Alert can hold another poll with an "enlightened" electorate. Other relevant conservation organisations will be able to comment and input.
    Blind arrogance is not helping to inform debate and convert others to the HOT point of view.

  21. I understand that Philip Merricks will telephone me to discuss this matter. In anticipation of that telephone call and of whatever explanations I may get from Philip Merricks, I have not yet cancelled my Hawk and Owl Trust membership. It seems to me however that the Hawk and Owl Trust fails to see (or at least to acknowledge) the bigger picture round raptor conservation/land management/21st as opposed to 19th century attitudes etc. Progress on that important agenda is at risk of being undermined by the organisation's apparent enthusiastic espousal of a hen harrier brood management trial.

  22. Most Hen Harrier supporters seem to think that various campaigns may make a difference.
    Although they all seem to have good intentions all will probably have no effect.
    Wherever was the RSPB when in my opinion we desperately needed Vicarious Liability to have a chance of being law in England.
    I cannot see how criminal acts on Grouse moors are ever going to be seen by Police.
    The only thing that could help Hen Harriers is to have more severe deterrents on the owners or those in charge of these estates so that the punishment when caught would stop the crime in most instances.

  23. I'm terribly sad and annoyed to see HOT allowing themselves to be used as a poison to damage the conservation and raptor protection movement. And HOT you do have a toxin stench. I doubt that Brood Management has much chance of happening but still if it damages raptor protection I doubt that anyone backing it really cares if it does. It is the poisoning they are most interested in achieving.

  24. I have one question, which no one seems capable of, or refuses to answer.
    Landowners are investing money into Grouse shoot moors - and I'm not a shooter or landowner , or member of HOT- and I doubt they will continue to do so if driven grouse shooting is banned. So my question is:-
    If driven Grouse shooting is banned, what happens to the moors that are managed for that very purpose, and which HH find so attractive. I don't think many HH's nest in large conifer woods, golf courses or housing/industrial estates.
    No one is saying that we should brush illegal killing of any species under the carpet, and if some of you paid a bit more attention to what HOT are saying instead of castigating them, you would see that if ONE person is found guilty of any illegal act towards HH or any other raptor, then the landowners would have no one to work with. BM could be the saviour of the HH, and I know it is far from ideal, but at least they're trying to do something.
    Delete HH, inert Dodo

    1. Phil - the uplands would be much the same https://markavery.info/2014/06/06/arguments-pause-signing-epetition/

    2. I think the problem is mainly that the H&OT have not released any information on how BM is to be carried out and that includes the vague references to a trial mentioned by Philip Merricks. I have mentioned this in a few posts but it is worth repeating that we need to know what kind of exit strategy is in place. If BM is to take place with English HHs or if young are relocated from Scottish nests then this presents some quite severe questions. Imagine if you will that all or some English HH nests are manipulated - what safeguards will be in place if the young remaining in the nests fail to survive (and I will be generous over the potential cause)? We already know that HH young have been destroyed despite being tagged in monitoring schemes elsewhere so I am not sure what has changed. The basic maths seems to break down if there are potentially less young fledged in the wild. As yet, we have not been told if BM will take place merely at English HH nests or whether Scottish birds will used as a source. There is an objection to this of course, in that relocating birds in this way is not a fail-safe, as was noted with red kites. When birds were released from sedentary populations they were less likely to migrate and disperse. Unfortunately, the nature of HH numbers is such that I am not sure that we have the luxury of playing with numbers.

      Interestingly Phil, you mentioned habitat preference and I am wondering if there is a strong element of hope that captive-raised HHs will settle away from where the natural nests are at threat. Again, there is so little information from the H&OT that there is no way of knowing whether this is a potential aim of any trial. Incidentally, I severely doubt that HHs could be relocated in this way but wandering birds are still likely to be shot IMHO and perhaps this is a more acutre way to approach the problem.

  25. You put up a good arguement Peter, and I applaud you for that. I am a bird ringer, and I "specialise" in Owls and raptors, and for the last four years have been wing tagging Marsh Harriers in Norfolk. I have absolutely no idea on the dispersal of young HH's away from the nest, but in the last four years not one of the young tagged MH's have returned to their natal area. Dispersal has been totally random, with birds seen all over GB, plus Eire, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Senegal, so what I'm stumbling towards is perhaps HH young have a totally random dispersal, and may never return to their natal area. So to relocate them away from their natal area could have no affect on them whatsoever - I don't know.
    It is a very serious issue, that no one can deny, and I for one don't have the answer. I feel that Mark Avery is perhaps suffering from tunnel vision and believes that if you stop shooting then the problem will be resolved. I doubt that will ever help the answer, and I don't think the upland moors will remain the same if shooting is banned. I think that vicarious liability, which would have to be strenuously enforced, may help. Stiffer penalties for those found guilty of any wildlife crime must be a must. Shooting estates must be educated to the benefits of eco-tourism, which they could charge for, and be more open to the members of the public.
    HOT are in an unenviable position, but are trying to do something, and have stuck their head above the parapet. They are taking a lot of flack, but maybe they should be given a chance? No HH's bred in England last year, successfully I believe. I would love to see them flying free, as I do MH's in Norfolk, and we all need to act together before it's to late. Raptors and Owls are shot/poisoned/stamped on every year, as I know only to well from my local gamekeeper Alan Lambert who got a derisary 10 week suspended sentance for killing 10 Buzzards. Lets all try and work together before it's to late

    1. VL has made absolutely no difference in Scotland where raptors are still persecuted with impunity. Maybe the £17m paid to Moors for the laughably titled 'environmental stewardship' could be used to ensure that raptors are able to breed in our uplands without being murdered to satisfy the interests of an antiquated pastime.

    2. Phil, I am not sure I understand your reasoning here and this gives me a lot of concern. MHs are less specific in their habitat preferences and because they prefer the kind of areas generally managed by people outside of shooting circles, they are not seen as a threat. HHs are much more habitat specific particularly in the breeding season and directly (at least, theoretically [we know the real truth because the figures are already out there from the shooting industry itself]) impact in game shooting interests. This shows the hazards of trying to compare similar species.

      We are yet to see any actual flesh on H&OT's scheme but I am guessing it is intended to draw off red kite and osprey (re)introduction information. This means that your idea about dispersal is not so far from an uncomfortable truth because if true, it would mean extinction of English HHs. As I said in a previous post, the numbers are way too low to play with and there is no exit strategy and whilst it seems laudable on the surface to preserve some young, the reality is that it will lead to breeding extinction within quite a short space of time. I suppose that elimination of a problem will certainly lead to an end to persecution if there is nothing left to persecute but it is not a victimless crime. It is not actually that difficult to see troubles for the H&OT either but when the dust settles, it will be seen as a nine-day wonder with H&OT no longer on the scene. To use a football parallel, it is like taking one for the team even at the risk of a second yellow card.

      1. Seems as though HH like to stay together. 2 Langholm harriers having moved away from the snow are now back on Langholm. See Cat Barlow's latest fascinating blog post:



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