Stop meddling! says Henry


Henry used to be quite a fan of the Hawk and Owl Trust but when he heard they were siding with grouse shooters, and were in favour of meddling with any chicks he might produce, Henry went a bit cold on them.  He wasn’t the only one.

Henry says that the Hawk and Owl Trust are having an event at their chair’s place next weekend. Maybe they will all get together and revise their views on mucking about with the few Hen Harrier nests that we have in England.

One person who won’t be attending is the Hawk and Owl Trust’s former President, Chris Packham. Chris resigned, with a lot of regret he tells me, over policy differences over this brood meddling proposal. As far as I can see, there is no mention of this rather important event in the H&OT’s Spring/Summer magazine. How odd?

But this can’t be because the H&OT magazine was produced before Chris resigned because his name has disappeared from the list of officers etc on page 3 of the magazine. It’s a little odd that an organisation can lose its president under such circumstances and not mention it to its members in its magazine, don’t you think?

Henry’s search for a girlfriend isn’t going too well. He wishes there were a lot more ringtails around.

‘Stop meddling with my species!’ says Henry.



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47 Replies to “Stop meddling! says Henry”

  1. Henry - Have you noticed that there is no mention of the recent 'disappearance' of three of your male relatives in Bowland on the Hawk and Owl Trust's website or twitter feed?

  2. Poor Henry, just an arable field with precious little hedgerow let alone moor for him to explore?

    Maybe someone attending will ask about 'missing members' be they feathered or famous?

    Perhaps HOT are adopting the adage "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak out and remove all doubt"?

  3. Sculthorpe is one of the oddest 'reserves' I've visited. Not quite as artificial as the WWT ones but decidedly odd.

    Won't go again, especially in light of recent statements..

    1. I have to admit that I quite like Sculthorpe Moor. Lots of volunteers have committed a lot of time in developing and managing the site and it has a nice feel to it. The only thing I would change is the number of bird feeders that have been put out all through the reserve. Can't help but wonder if all the feeding has ultimately led to the demise of the willow tits that used to be found there.

    2. To many faceless people making sweeping statements for me. Who the hell is Henry Hen Harrier anyway? Another faceless nonentity

  4. Considering recent tragic events the silence from HOT is deafening. Perhaps the silence indicates a rethink, but then if Chris Packham felt the need to resign that might be a hope too far.
    Take heart Henry there are still plenty of us fighting the cause!

    1. Paul,for those of us wishing to support 2015 Hen Harrier day or whatever is planned it would be marvellous to have the information(assuming I am not the only one in the dark).

      1. I would watch this space Dennis, nothing has yet been finalised as I understand it except the date although I'm led to believe it will most likely be at a Peak District site.

          1. Dennis, the date will be the 9th August as shooting will be underway on the 12th. It's all about getting a photo of yourself in a Butt (shooting Butt). If you can't make the 9th then, if I understand it correctly, there will be a website for everyone to upload their pictures onto. This should mean that even more people can get involved and register their protest at the persecution of our raptors.

  5. Thanks Mark

    What a pity that Henry didn't stroll away from our neighbours arable field and say hello to the team at the Sculthorpe reserve who are sited just a few yards away. If he had, they could have introduced him to some of his distant cousins, namely two pairs of breeding Marsh Harriers. And to all of the other wildlife at this fantastic reserve.

    Henry would be very welcome at the Hawk and Owl Trust's open day at Elmley Nature Nature Reserve. If he were to come, he would have the opporunity of meeting up with more of his extended family (Last year 10 pairs of Marsh Harriers on the NNR and 6 pairs on the reserve boundary). As well as a large assemblage of other raptors and other wildlife. Despite Henry's MH cousins snacking on the delicious wader chicks, the Elmley NNR team have managed to fledge just under 1800 lapwing chicks from just under 2200 adult pairs over the last five years. So harriers and waders can increase. If both are looked after. Though as Henry will be well aware these brave little Lapwing will mob him ceaselessly and might put him off his aim. (Have a look at the Elmley Reserve Flickr site where there are some fantastic photos of Lapwing mobbing MHs posted by one of the 160 volunteers who put their Elmley photos on Fickr)

    Re the tragic events at Bowland. If (and my wife who has been a magistrate for twenty years says that I have to say if) this, as at he moment seems likely, is due to illegal killings then it is truly appalling. It is of course completely and utterly condemned by all in the Hawk and Owl Trust. As has always been the case. And always will be.

    One question to ask Henry is that if he were lucky enough to find a friendly ringtail and settle down for a domestic life on a Northern grouse moor, would he prefer his chicks to take their chance on these seemingly hostile (for all sorts of different reasons) moors? Or would he prefer for his chicks to be taken away for safe rearing and then released as a full brood of sub adults on secure site? That is the question that a scientifically based Brood Management trial (NB trial) would hope to answer.

    1. Hello Philip

      It's good to hear from you. One important tactic for tackling human-wildlife conflict is transparency, a willingness to debate, in public, with diverse stakeholders. A good way to make the situation worse is silence - even better would be to continue your planning in secret.

      I'm afraid the loss of the Bowland Three potentially illustrates a lack of critical good will on the part of your game management partners. You'd think the game management industry would call a cease fire, to bolster your position, and add credibility to your claim that hen harrier brood removal will halt persecution of hen harriers.

      Trouble is, Philip, that hen harriers are vanishing without a trace - without evidence as to their fate. What possible incentive is there to stop illegal killing if the cause of such disappearances cannot realistically be pinpointed?

      Please don't say that satellite tagging is the solution: the technology and lack of resources means that it will not be possible to deploy the necessary number of investigators across England to respond instantly when a tagged harrier vanishes - you'd need a veritable army dispersed across the country!

      I don't think it's particularly scientific to ask, but I guess a hen harrier pair would rather they were left alone to raise their brood in peace. I think a falconry organisation might feel that birds of prey are happy in captivity; nature conservation organisations might prefer to the birds left well alone, in their natural habitat, free from the risk of being shot or having their broods stolen by falconers.


    2. Philip - Henry found that everyone had gone home when he arrived.

      And he tells me that, as he understands it, he and his conspecifics have had full legal protection in the UK for over 60 years. Why then is anyone suggesting that someone comes and takes his chicks away (if he ever finds a ringtail) to make life easier for people who want to shoot Red Grouse? I couldn't really explain that to him. I have a feeling that Henry may not be very keen on grouse shooting. He can't understand the point of it and he can't understand why some of the people who do it are allowed to break the law so blatantly. He's a simple bird is Henry.

    3. Philip - and your reticence to tell your members about the resignation of your President, Chris Packham, on this issue was because...?

  6. Firstly it is good that you accept that illegality almost certainly took place Philip. The figures speak for themselves disappearance rate of breeding harriers( usually the male)on grouse moors 60-70%. On other habitats 1-2%. However as discussed before diversionary feeding solves the problem for grouse moors, brood meddling was IMO originally introduced to the discussions at the Environment council as a delaying tactic and it is far from proved to be needed. Actually what we need is a cessation of illegality for which there is no real need. Langholm that the dark side constantly quote is notand never will be a typical grouse moor.
    I note you say brood meddled youngsters will be released at a secure site, two things immediately spring to mind. One it is then translocation NOT just brood meddling. Two it would seem without a proven cessation of persecution pointless considering how much young harriers wander or are you proposing taking birds from northern England to elsewhere? If so that is another step far too far, they belong on grouse moors and they should not be killed, you are pandering to the needs of a criminal fraternity. Until that changes many many raptor enthusiasts and raptor workers will treat you (and HOT) with the contempt you undoubtedly deserve. We can see MH elsewhere.

  7. What a strange comment about Sculthorpe Moor from Martin WW. Quite contrary to all the excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and comments made in their visitor book!
    Shame the photographer didn't have Henry stand beside the sign on the opposite side of the road - too much hedgerow that side I guess.

  8. Philip - how much lethal predator control (species and numbers please) has been carried out at Elmley over the last five years to produce all of those lapwing chicks?

  9. Mark.
    I think you will find that they are not Siding with grouse shooters but trying to establish a method whereby the Hen Harriers are given more of a chance to increase their numbers and at the same time continuing the long battle to educate both landowners and shooters as to the value of these birds and the unnecessary killing or poisoning of them. It seems that Henry is a costume copy of a cuddly toy given by a well-known organisation as an incentive and I wonder whether there is some underlying or sour grapes reason for it being used. The photograph is rather childish and I assume taken in a rather cowardly fashion due to it being taken at the entrance just off the main road. Maybe Henry wasn't brave enough to venture any further !

    Either your remark regarding the field and lack of hedges is through ignorance in that you have not visited the reserve. In which case I will tell you now that the field is not part of the reserve, it is at the entrance to the reserve and is an arable field owned by a local famer. The reserve does not begin until you reach the bottom of the track. As for the mention of no Moorland, I don't quite see the pointing of saying that unless of course your Geographic knowledge is so appalling that you don't realise that given its Location their is never going to be any Moorland. All in all your comments seem pretty petty and ignorant.

    Martin WW
    I'm not quite sure where you come up with the ideas that Sculthorpe is an odd reserve. It has been built up over many years mainly by a very dedicated team of volunteers who have transformed what was an overgrown area of fen and alder Carr. It lies in the Wensum valley and is typical of the natural habitat you can find along many parts of the Wensum. I wonder what you think of a certain reserve in Suffolk that was carrot fields. Is that odd too ?

    My final words are that just like politicians, all the wildlife organisations have good ideas and it really is a great shame that the good ideas cannot be put into a pot and used to benefit wildlife without the need for ridicule and unnecessary remarks.

    1. That's because brood management or meddling as many of us call it is totally inappropriate currently as the Hen Harriers of England are barely hanging on at all. We may be down to just one nest where there should and could be 330 pairs.
      IF and its a very bog if the grouse shooters played the game and left them alone ( All their problems about predation can be solved with diversionary feeding: Moorland Association grouse densities have shown that grouse moors can support 2 pairs of harriers per 5000 acres without affecting the number of grouse going over the guns without brood meddling or DF.) there was a possiblity that conservationists would consider brood meddling once the harrier population was healthy, self sustaining and persecution free, say 75-90 pairs. As it is HOT has agreed to trial BM as part of the DEFRA unagreed unpublished plan for harriers which includes a proposal to brood meddle once harriers reach a density which equates to pairs 10km apart, this is a density thirty times lower than the above figures show can be supported without damage. If that is not capitulation and appeasement of the criminal fraternity (Grouse Shooting) that has driven our harriers to this sorry state and it seems are still "disappearing" them I don't know what is. Good idea it certainly is not.
      Henry is a good PR artifice to get the message across that there are so many places on or associated with grouse moors that are very very bad for harriers and raptors in general.
      I have never visited Sculthorpe so I cannot comment nor will I be visiting as long as HOT supports the current proposals for BM.

  10. Anyone else find it slightly ironic that HOT have a 'non-intervention policy' for their Norwich peregrine project ( yet they think brood management of hen harriers is appropriate?

    1. Rob
      I would like to point out that the intervention in Norwich was for the birds well being and only that. The birds were "rescued" as they were on the ground and there was a great risk that they could be attacked by domestic animals or even picked up by members of the public. I will also add that they and the adult birds were at risk of (and actually did ) becoming very agitated by photographers taking the opportunity to get close up shots. Would you rather see a bird in distress or even killed instead of it being returned to a place of safety I ask.

    2. Rob
      I would like to point out that the birds in question, were "rescued" and returned to a place of safety as they were at risk from domestic animals and the chance that a member of public could try to pick one up. I would also point out that they also at risk of ( and did so ) becoming agitated and distressed by photographers attempting to get close up shots of them. Would you rather see one of these superb birds in distress or even killed I ask.

      1. I agree that intervention might be needed in the circumstances you describe but the non-intervention policy applies only to the birds when they are the nesting platform which is why I thought it ironic given HOT's position on hen harrier brood management. Here is the policy repeated in full:

        The Norwich Cathedral peregrines are wild birds and it is the Hawk and Owl Trust’s policy that we will not intervene with chicks or adults whilst they are on the platform. Wild peregrines lay an average of 4 eggs but on occasion not all of the chicks survive. Factors such as adverse weather, sickness, inexperienced parents and lack of food can all lead to one or more of the chicks failing to survive. The chicks will have leg rings put on by a ringer with a licence to visit the platform to ring the chicks before they fledge. Peregrines are protected from disturbance by law whilst nesting.

    3. Yes it is ironic. Have you also noticed they never come back once the facts about harriers are laid out. Either they think their plans are indefensible, unlikely surely, or they hope we might go away and be quiet.
      The first nest to be subjected to BM in an SPA for harriers and they'll find just how noisy we can really be!

  11. Philip Merricks - the new Nick Clegg - "I know my membership wholeheartedly disagree with what I'm doing, and it's against everything they signed up to, but I know what's best and I'm doing it for the good of the country." And the rest is history.

  12. Sorry to have to correct Mole but his comments are a bit wide of the mark. As it has become apparent that new members who have recently joined the Hawk and Owl Trust are outnumbering those who have recently resigned by a factor of 6 to 1.

    Those who have recently joined the Trust include some very senior and highly credible individuals from the world of conservation. Reasons given for joining the Trust include - that the current approach to secure the future for Hen Harriers on grouse moors is not working and something else has to be tried - that some of those opposed to a BMS trial appear to motivated mostly by securing a ban on grouse shooting - that they think it is counterproductive for those who want more HHs to vitriolically criticise a conservation organisation that want exactly he same thing but have come up with a different way of getting there - that they admire the Trust for being conservation outcome focused - and lastly that they dislike cyber bullying and feels that it demeans the conservation movement.

    The other point to make to Mole is that the ten Trustee of the Hawk and Owl Trust, who come from a wide range of conservation interests, thought long and hard about the issue of a BMS trial, discussed it at great length and decided unanimously that this approach was the way forward that was most likely to deliver a genuine and secure conservation outcome for the Hen Harriers on Northern moors. They noted that the the opposition to this approach on some social media sites was focused largely on ideological rather than conservation reasons.

    1. Philip - and the Hawk and Owl Trust's reticence to mention the resignation of their President on the same issue was because...?

  13. Because we are a polite and considerate bunch and felt that it would not be kind to Chris to broadcast that the ten Trustees took a completely different and unanimously different view to him.

    1. Philip - ha ha! I thought it might be that the loss of a well-respected and popular public figure, closely associated with hen harrier conservation, and a long-standing member and supporter of the H&OT might be rather embarrassing to you personally and the Trust generally.

  14. Sorry Mark, that is not the case. If a President who is an campaigner, has a different opinion to the unanimous and considered decision of the ten Trustees, who believe that conservation of Hen Harriers is more likely to be achieved by constructive conservation than adversarial campaigning then then a resignation, though sad , cannot be unexpected.

    1. Philip - neither unexpected nor comfortable, which is why, many suspect, H&OT failed to mention it to the membership in their magazine. It's all a bit embarrassing isn't it?

  15. For Chris or for the Trust? I suspect that the Editor didn't mention it because no one wants to embarrass him.

    1. Philip - that'll be why the editor also didn't mention the poll which said so comprehensively that the outside world thought you had this wrong - the rest of the conservation world would be so embarrassed to be out of step with you? I expect it was the fear of embarrassing himself that meant that Chris tweeted his resignation to his 100+k Twitter followers too?

      My money would be on the H&OT being too embarrassed to mention it, rather than 'you' wanting to spare Chris's blushes. It is odd that a charity doesn't mention the resignation of its President over policy differences.

  16. Philip

    I'll repeat three questions in the forlorn hope that you might just answer them.....:

    1) given that three adult male hen harriers vanished while away from the nest, how do you expect satellite tagging of their brood would have prevented their demise? Sure, the chicks could have been tagged before fledging, but the adults were killed long before there were any chicks available to tag. So we can assume that any untagged adults feeding away from their nest will remain vulnerable and could be lost before there are chicks for you to remove?

    2) Given that you state that if any further hen harriers vanish, you will withdraw support for hen harrier brood management, can you confirm that you have done so?

    3) Should persecution cease, do you agree that the brood management proposal should be the subject of public consultation, and will you confirm that your organisation will not pursue the proposal in secret?

    Thanks for your time.


  17. A online poll that was organised and promoted by a guy who was aiming to get grouse shooting banned does not exactly engender confidence in its objectivity.

    Yes we certainly did, as you say, want to spare Chris' blushes. It would have been more than embarrassing for Chris if some of the things that he wrote in his texts and emails to the Trust and I had been made public.

    1. Philip - that's a rather nasty thing to say. And totally irrelevant too. H&OT did not tell its members, through its magazine, of the resignation of its President over policy differences. Rather strange behaviour for a membership organisation.

      I think you may find that the H&OT retweeted the poll to promote it. So I was told anyway.

  18. No Mark. In fact exactly the opposite. The Trust didn't mention it because it didn't want to embarrass Chris.

    1. Philip - yes you said that. It's not very convincing is it? You couldn't find a gracious way of thanking Chris for all he's done for H&OT over the years? You just stopped mentioning his existence. Not very classy really was it? But it was to spare your ex-President any distress. Not to spare yourselves the embarrassment of having to admit why a respected conservationist (#2 on BBC Wildlife's Power List) decided he couldn't stay with your organisation.

  19. I have spelt out the reason clearly enough in my comments above. If you choose not to accept it, then that is your choice.

    At the moment I am sitting at a wildlife conference in London. The speaker has just said that the mind is like a parachute - it works best when it is open. I rather like that.

    So I had better go now and concentrate on other things.

  20. Mark

    No 14 on BBC's Power List? Nice but not really important, you say, with disingenuous modesty. And only 12 places behind Chris Packham? Wow, a little more flattery here and you'll climb up the popularity stakes into single figures. Remember, though, he is now a media sleb and you a mere polarising campaigner bent on self promotion and the division of conservationists into your supporters and those who (dare to) oppose your views, even question meekly whether there may not be another way.

    Keep up your present campaign of personal vilification of H&OT officers and trustees and snide disinformation on their landowning allegiance to the grouse moors and shooting syndicates, plus all the emotive OTT crap about BM - it's a trial, Mark, yet to be put to the test - and you'll succeed in one respect: bullying bluster and prejudice against 'them' will buy you and your claque of class-hatred 'ussers' a few hollow cheers. It will do nothing to help the rest of us find a viable, balanced and pragmatic answer to the plight of hen harriers where it matters, on the ground.

    Decades of persecution, mostly unchecked by the law in policing, application or forensic proof - whatever the bounty on offer, have failed to stem the abuse. BM is a last resort, Mark, not a first port of call. Don't cynically call it meddling, all too soon there will be no birds left to meddle with and if you get your way there'll be nothing but the self-righteous posturing and antagonistic hot air of you and your extremist disciples screaming, "we woz right, we woz right, power to the people", as they step defiantly over the metaphorical remains of England's last hen harrier.

    I know it's pretty obvious your personal agenda has little or nothing to do with reaching a solution that involves dialogue with all parties to this problem but, please, do bear in mind the consequences of war-war rather than jaw-jaw. Set aside your ego, if you can, and ask whether you'd like to be remembered as the avian rights campaigner who failed in his fight against the toffs but went to the wall protesting he had none the less won, with not a harrier in sight to gainsay his conviction. Is it so hard for you not to be adversarial, divisive, negative? Think hubris, eh?

    As a humble and fond user of HOT's Sculthorpe Moor Reserve, I must add that the sneaked-in pic of Henry beside its main road sign (taken without permission natch) when nobody was looking or, just maybe, pre 8am and post 6pm (unlikely), has produced the sought-for responses (presumably) worthy of its misleading and inaccurate pov and accompanying texts. I found it silly, childish, only mildly offensive, and therefore entirely in keeping with the image of Dr Mark Avery your blogsite projects. I shall not revisit your domain.

    1. Wow, Michael! Well done for slagging off a good number of people who have spent some not inconsiderable time monitoring hen harriers, only to see them vanish while spending years in dialogue with game managers, some decent, some not so descent. Negotiating brood management in secret, then resenting when is becomes public, is no way to win people round.

  21. Philip Merricks, the new Nick Clegg, proving my point entirely by digging in in the firm belief that he's doing the right thing for the right reasons. And the old guard of Trustees in strong support only serving to highlight the fact that they represent a bygone era of 'conservation' where nature is to be conquered and tamed. As to new recruits? I'm sure they are being recruited - shooting is a popular past time for many.


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