Two AGMs – H&OT

hotoToday it is the Hawk and Owl Trust’s AGM.
On the H&OT website is their annual report which has these interesting lines in it:
For the Hawk and Owl Trust positive habitat management away from the grouse moors will be one of the actions that will hold the key to the future of the hen harrier in England.
Although this heated debate has been dominated by those that have placed potential brood management trials at the centre, we feel that this is a very, very small part of the Hen Harrier Recovery Plan and should not over shadow the far more important habitat management research and implementation work, re-introduction programmes, satellite tagging, public engagement and the positive engagement with the land owners that we will be focusing on irrespective of what happens with the brood management trials.
This is a very welcome change of tack by H&OT – let’s call it rowing back shall we?
The H&OT no longer sees brood management as the solution to the Hen Harrier conservation crisis in England, it is now ‘a very, very small part’.  I welcome this change of heart (and use of head).
I would have liked to see the statement go a little further but I wouldn’t want to rub the H&OT’s noses in anything. Let’s see how things progress over the next few months because actions speak louder than words – especially when trust has been lost.  But let’s also take these words at face value and thank H&OT for seeing sense at last.

17 Replies to “Two AGMs – H&OT”

  1. Far too kind!! Has H&OTs stance, or rather their Chairman’s stance, over the last 12 months slowed down action due to more talking and debating? But interesting that they now want recovery away from grousemoors, whilst it might be part of the mix, we still need grouse moor owners and the industry to stop persecution. Also sustainable upland management for wider public benefit shouldn’t be ignored, especially as moor owners are subsidised by the taxpayer.

  2. It feels like the Hawk and Owl Trust is effectively telling us that shifting pestilent hen harriers from moorlands managed for driven grouse shooting, to the lowlands where they can’t cause a nuisance to intensifying driven grouse shooting interests, is the way forward. No it isn’t! We need less intensive grouse moor management which allows hen harriers and other birds of prey to recover in the uplands, and natural (unaided) colonisation of lowland habitats. No one needs to shunt brood from grouse moors to the lowlands – leave them in peace!

  3. Good morning Mark

    As we have said all along the proposed brood management trials are just that – proposed and trials. Until Defra decide that they want to go ahead with this there is nothing really to discuss.

    In the meantime, rather than be obsessed with whether or not brood management will or will not go ahead, we have been working on other practical solutions to secure a long term future for the Hen Harrier. We have not changed our stance, you have just not been listening. We have been getting on with the job. We have been working on a lowland re-introduction scheme , on increasing the number of sat tags, on implementing the reams of excellent habitat management applications that have been shown to work over the last two decades, research that the Hawk and Owl Trust has often helped to fund, and planning further research work to find more answers to real conservation solutions for the hen harrier.

    We have started running our Wildlife Crime Workshops and I am delighted to report that we had 10 Norfolk Wildlife Crime Officers turn up to the first courses to train alongside the other delegates and to work on communication links and reporting techniques. One exciting development of these courses is that it has involved police middle management as well as the Wildlife Crime Officers on the ‘beat’. This is crucial if Wildlife Crime is to be given the attention it deserves. We wish to thank these officers for their support. We have another 6 courses planned around the country so if anyone is interested get in touch.

    We have taken this route because something needed to be done. For the last 20 years at least, nothing has been achieved. In fact in recent years the adversiarial confrontation from both sides has got worse. Firstly, we challenge any of your readers to go out into the streets where they live and ask 10 random people if they know what a hen harrier is… unfortunately we guestimate that 9/10 won’t know, let alone the issues that surround it. So the conservation movement (including the Hawk and Owl Trust) has failed to educate the public on the plight of the hen harrier. Secondly, the stake holders involved in the issue, landowners, conservationists, gamekeepers etc are more polarised that they have ever been. Thirdly, and most importantly, we have less hen harriers than we have ever had. For the sake of the Hen Harrier this cannot be allowed to continue.

    The Hawk and Owl Trust is actively working to find that solution.

    Thank you for the opportunity to respond and for recognising that we do have the hen harrier at the centre of our strategy.

    1. ‘We have been working on a lowland re-introduction scheme’
      so they can be shot when they gravitate to the larder of the intensively driven grouse moor. Oh i forgot the UK Hen Harriers in the Uk have been brain-washed and have something wrong with their DNA.

    2. Removing hen harriers to appease intensive driven grouse shooting interests simply isn’t going to happen, Lin – trialling something that is patently not sustainable in the long-term is silly – well done H&OT for wasting everyone’s time on this silly brood removal nonsense. But I’m pleased to hear that H&OT has finally woken up to the fact that ‘something needs to be done’ by H&OT. It’s good that you’ve suddenly started to run wildlife crime workshops, after all this time. It’s good to hear that you’re joining the other wildlife organisations, such as RSPB, who’ve been working on this issue for a while.

    3. Cold you point me in the direction of the ‘reams of excellent habitat management applications that have been shown to work over the last two decades’ please, as I couldn’t find any reference to it on your website. Many thanks.

    4. Thank you for at least now admitting what the HOT is interested in achieving, namely a re-introduction scheme of HH to lowland England/UK using young birds rescued from our moorlands before criminals have a chance to kill them!

      This is the message I took from Philip Merricks’ radio interview but I had to ‘read between the lines’. Why didn’t HOT simply come out and say what their particular angle was? Why have you lead people to believe that you were interested in solving the illegal killing of HH on grouse moors when in reality you have effectively abandoned them now. The only use you now have for upland HH is as a source of progeny for your lowland introduction programme; something which plenty of upland gamekeepers will be happy to comply with as a means of getting them off their moors. Suffice it to say I have nothing but contempt for the way you have gone about your business in this regard.

      What does it matter if only 10% of people know what a hen harrier is! Do you thing more people know what a snipe or golden plover is?

      Your excitement over having police middle management attend your meetings/training sessions displays your niaivity. Middle and indeed senior police management have been involved in conservation matters for years (eg PAWS in Scotland) but with the best will in the world, no rank is going to find time to patrol the hills at 3am when nests are stood upon or sat tagged birds killed.

      HOT entered this arena as the self proclaimed saviour of our upland hen harriers and have ended up a total waste of time.

  4. For as long as anyone can remember Hen Harriers in the UK have been birds of upland heather. In England only a very small proportion of that habitat is not grouse moor. As a result of illegality the number of Hen Harriers nesting in England over the last forty years has varied between 0 and 20% of the carrying capacity ( circa 330 pairs), in most years its been nearer 3%, a shockingly low figure for a bird proteced for over 60 years.
    Now we have talk from HOT at least of “lowland re-introduction”, where will the donor birds come from and which populations in the UK are in a healthy enough state to contribute? Certainly not that in England brood management or not. Also where are these areas of suitable habitat, what evidence is there that Hen Harriers once bred there and that the habitat remains suitable after such long periods of absence?
    Sadly given the outbursts from Merricks this sounds unfeasable tokenism—- we’ll have a few birds away from the conflict areas of grouse moor ( provenly the harriers prime habitat in the UK).
    Satellite tags are surely funded by Lush, RSPB and Natural England. What habitat changes are being made for the benefit of a substantial Hen Harrier population and where because of the nature of the bird these need to be at the large landscape scale or are of little point?

    We have had research infinitum for the hen harrier and that research shows that the real and only issue is persecution on grouse moors. That is the REAL issue anything else is tinkering at the edges.
    Hen Harriers when given the opportunity to breed unmolested by nest damagers or hunting male killers demonstrate that they are perfectly capable of rearing more than enough young for the population to grow at the natural rate of c13% per annum that would not only repopulate the uplands in reasonable time but also recolonise any suitable lowland.
    I suspect HOT have as yet a long way to go to regain any respect and trust over hen harrier issues.

    1. Lin Murray is on record here
      as saying there is something deficient with UK Hen Harrier DNA which is supposedly why they refuse to breed in the lowlands. From what i gather this is an excuse to introduce birds from the lowland continent in the hope they breed in the lowlands in the UK. It seems completely mad. I doubt there is an evidence to show there is anything deficient in UK Hen Harriers. Presumably they have mostly descended from the remnant population in Orkney during the near extinction elsewhere but is there any evidence to suggest that there is something ‘compromised’ with their DNA? I would be very surprised if birds from continental Europe haven’t already interbred with UK birds.
      I also wonder if there is any evidence to suggest that birds reared from the continental lowlands will stay in the lowlands when there is an abundance of food ripe for the plucking on driven grouse moors. Hen Harriers are highly mobile and i just can’t see why they should stay in the lowlands. I can see the opposite happening, that when the uplands have a high density of Hen harriers then they will start to breed in lowland areas.
      HoT seem to be treating our Hen Harriers as some kind of laboratory animal for their hair brained experiments when all we need to do is stop the criminals by banning driven grouse shooting.

  5. Lin Murray: no statement on the criminals killing Hen Harriers on grouse moors: surely the key element in the recolonizing of northern England moorlands? Not many Hen Harriers nesting in Norfolk, and they are only at risk there when Harry is at Sandringham.

    I wonder how many members and how much income the Hawk & Owl Trust, with their ongoing appeasement / ignoring of criminality by the shooting fraternity, has lost over the last year or two and whether it will feature in their AGM?

  6. From HOT to WHO? in less than 3 years. That took some doing Mr Merricks, and I’m sure you will deservedly get all the credit for it.

  7. Did any reader of this blog attend the HOT AGM? Were there many there? Did hen harrier brood management get discussed? Is the membership holding up? Or are they getting enough new money from the shooting/landowning fraternity not to be be bothered?

    Is there any chance of the charity leadership being changed? Philip Merricks still seems to be on “the dark side”. Is Colonel Robin Rees-Webb (ex-Game Fair organiser) still Vice-Chairman? A lot of questions, I know, but I’d love some answers. The Trustees seem to be very quiet.

    1. A friend informs me that Hen Harrier Brood Management trial was discussed at H&OT weekend by Philip Merricks talked, who answered questions as well. Philip very much emphasised that this was a trial and the attending H&OT members (<30?) seemed sure it was a good idea. There was no mention of a Hen Harrier reintroduction scheme. There did not appear to be new members attending the weekend – it was the usual attendees.

  8. A bit of DNA tweaking will do the trick. Once we’ve done it with the harriers, we could look at other species that need our help. Perhaps tweak the Lapwing’s DNA so that they change their habitat to mature Sitka spruce forest? Or give them webbed feet to swim like ducks?

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