Peak trough

The Peak District National Park is failing badly in being a refuge for protected birds of prey. Our National Parks are wildlife crime hotspots because we allow game shooting to dominate the ecology of so many of them.

After five years of ‘co-operation’, when ‘everyone’ was working collaboratively to increase bird of prey numbers, the consortium of the Peak District National Park, the Moorland Association, the RSPB, National Trust and Natural England admitted failure to meet targets.

At a time when Peregrine numbers are rising nationally, particularly in the lowlands, numbers fell in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park (from five pairs to three pairs) and nesting success did not approach the target figure in a single year of the project. This is normal for National Parks with large areas of driven grouse shooting (Peregrines – moor is fewer, 11 November 2011, Inaction speaks louder than words, 12 October 2015).

Rhodri Thomas of the Peak District National Park described the results as ‘concerning and disappointing’. I describe them as ‘entirely predictable and totally unacceptable’. How much more blatant does wildlife crime have to be than the assault on protected wildlife being routinely carried out in this and many other English National Parks?

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorlands Association, said: “We are renewing our action plan and redoubling our efforts to ensure that this brings improved results.  The partnership has also agreed that this work needs to be extended to cover other species, notably goshawk and hen harrier, and to include the South West Peak.” Oh no! If the Moorland Association redoubles its efforts then we might find these declines accelerate!

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: “Birds like peregrine and goshawk are charismatic species. It is thrilling to see them swoop at speed over moorland, it makes your heart glad to see them soaring high over the Edges – seeing these birds creates fantastic memories for people.

“We will be using the new rigour and energy recently brought to the project to seek to restore breeding success of our iconic bird of prey species in the National Park. We will be seeking a greater level of commitment from partners in the Initiative to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey.

The response of the consortium is to keep pretending that everyone is on the same side and that chatting about things will bring an end to crime. It won’t.

Quite why our money, via the Peak District National Park and Natural England, is going to continue to go into a talking shop which has failed to produce any progress at all is beyond me.  The Peak District National Park is still a wildlife crime hotspot, just as it was in the early years of this century as documented in the Peak Malpractice reports (here and here).

Defra, Natural England and the Peak District National Park have failed to make any difference at all to the success of birds of prey in this area – they are failing, badly, to work for the public good in this National Park.  There has been far too much chatting and not enough action. We will now face several more years when the National Park authorities will hide behind this continuing failed project instead of calling a spade a spade and condemning the moorland practices that exclude birds of prey from a National Park – yes, a National Park set up to protect and enhance natural beauty not to be a safe haven for wildlife crime.

It was, perhaps, his frequent exposure of the dire state of affairs in the Peak District National Park which led to Simon Barnes losing his job at The Times (The curious case of Simon Barnes’s departure from The Times, 25 June 2014Simon Barnes again, 26 June 2014) and it would be surprising if this story gets much prominence there these days.

Read too, Tim Birch’s guest blog published here for a proper sense of outrage at what happens in the Peak District.

The sooner The National Trust ends grouse shooting on its large estate in the Peak District, on and around which much of the raptor persecution appears to occur, the better (National Trust – looking good, 20 September 2013).

If grouse shooting ended in the Peak District then bird of prey numbers would thrive and more people would be thrilled and take home fantastic memories of these charismatic species. Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and you might notice that the High Peak constituency already has one of the highest numbers of signatures. Not surprising is it?



40 Replies to “Peak trough”

  1. The NT are key in this I think. It is a bone of contention locally that raptor persecution continues on their land.

  2. A high proportion of RSPB members also belong to the National Trust. Maybe the RSPB could urge those of its members who belong to both, to lobby the NT to take robust action. Maybe…

  3. The only cause of this wildlife crime is game bird shooting. Shooting should not be allowed in NP’s anyway, due to the killing of so many birds and mammals (often by cruel methods, such as snares) by gamekeepers. The ongoing breaking of the law, despite five years of efforts to stop this illegal persecution of birds of prey, makes the case to ban it in NP’s even stronger.

  4. That report (first link) is a joke.
    No mention of what they are doing except monitoring. No action plan and no mention of the causes (obviously persecution but ‘don’t mention the war’).
    No authors, no citations, not worth the e-paper it is written on.
    Plus bad for blood-pressure levels.

  5. This is conservation filibustering. It is not an intractable problem, it just needs a few organisations to stop pandering to a few minority interests, and make some decisions. We don’t need more reports, more talking, more declining wildlife, more failed initiatives. We need some bold (ish) decisions and just a little bit of action. It’s not too much to ask.

    1. Trouble is Rob, there is no pressure put on the RSPB or the NT to act in a positive manner since neither of them inform their members that this is an issue. Most members are in blissful ignorance of the truth, just the way these charities like it.
      That also goes for the lead issue!
      How to solve this conundrum is beyond me. I would suggest that if their members did know, the e-petitions for both driven grouse shooting and the use of lead shot would already have reached the required targets.

      1. Sorry to disagree Paul but the fact is by far the highest % of RSPB members either could not care less about petitions designed to help Raptors or even hate Raptors.Anyone following the RSPB forum for any length of time would make this conclusion.

  6. I am five minutes back from Peak District dog walk, where I met perfectly rational local who explained to me that the neighbourhood pair of buzzards were the reason no a rabbit, nor a songbird, nor a plover, nor anything else beyond jackdaws in sight. (Actually also saw jays, wrens, tits, chaffinches, robins etc but never mind). It is not just game bird hunting, it is absolute pig headed ignorance as well.

    1. I’m sorry to say that I encounter similar comments all the time, even where I live in the south of England. The line goes, ‘If you allow predators to survive, you can’t expect to have any wildlife.’
      But I’m not sure it’s just plain ignorance – I think it’s the result of a well-thought-out strategy by the shooting industry, promoted by relentless propaganda in some sections of the press. It’s very clever – it shifts the blame away from shooting and farming practices and casts conservationists in the role of the ill-informed villain.

      1. AlanTwo – thank you. I agree it’s a mixture of the ‘common sense’ of the ‘real countryman’ and a clever campaign.

        1. A few things.

          It says a lot about the stupidity of the layperson that they are gullible enough to take this at face value. If they stopped to think about it, if it were really the case that predators ate all their prey to the point of non-existence, how come the predators are still present?

          This ignorance (or apathy) by the average person on the street, regardless of memberships or affiliations, is sufficient in my opinion, to maintain the status quo for generations to come without a seismic shift. For sure, there is a lot more awareness now; certainly via Twitter and other social media but there comes a saturation point when it matters not one jot how much more is put out there (by either side of the argument), unless there is a seismic shift by policy makers (i.e. politicians or decision makers), the argument is not progressed.

          What may come as a huge surprise to many readers of this blog, is that there is a legal mechanism, available to National Parks since 1974 (yes, 1974) and enshrined in law since 1995 (again, yes, since 1995) that requires (as in they must) put conservation above all matters when there is an apparent (note the word ‘apparent’) conflict of interest between different activities.

          So, why then won’t the Peak District NP Authority enforce the Sandford Principle, which they are legally bound to do under the Environment Act 1995? See for an explanation and for the Act’s text).

          If this was enforced, then folk would take notice; this would be the seismic shift; and would not require 100,000 signatures on a petition, nor the RSPB or National Trust members to get activated.

          But it is not done – perhaps, via this Blog, Mark can obtain a response from the Peak District NP Authority; and for that matter, the North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District NP Authorities as to why? Am I wrong or incorrect in my interpretation/ understanding of the legislation? I assume, though may be incorrect, that the same or similar applies in Scotland.


          1. So, why then won’t the Peak District NP Authority enforce the Sandford Principle, which they are legally bound to do under the Environment Act 1995? See for an explanation and for the Act’s text).

            Richard, thank you for this. I for one had no idea that this was already enshrined in law. Had I done so I would have quoted this in my letter to Helen Ghosh of the NT.
            You talk about the ‘ignorance and/or apathy’ of the man in the street, but to that I would add busy.
            People are so busy in their lives nowadays that it is not a case of not caring but rather, paying someone else to do the caring for them.
            If somebody pays a membership fee to a charity, surely they are entitled to believe that that same charity is speaking up for them. And, BTW, informing them of these issues in newsletters etc!
            Seems to me that the larger a charity gets, the more people trust them to do the right thing and let them get on with it, hence, apparent apathy.
            It was certainly the case for me whilst working all hours, that I lacked the time to get up Mark’s nose or anybody else’s come to that.

            No, I think that anybody who has the time to do something should get involved and get up the noses of these charities and inform them that at least some members are aware and watching them.
            And yes, I agree, Mark may just be the man to get a response from the NP authorities.

          2. It is certainly worth writing to the NT about this, as suggested by Paul Fisher, but important also to recognise that the NT and the NPA are not one and the same thing. I’d suggest that we should be writing to the NPA and also (via our MPs) to the Minister to highlight this failure.

      2. Unfortunately this incessant anti raptor propaganda has been quite successful for the field sports sector. Keep saying something with phoney authority and people will believe it without bothering to turn on their brains. I’ve had a few occasions when I’ve reacted to this sort of statement by pointing out how idiotic it is for people to think that any animal can increase whilst its food supply decreases and make no bones about the fact that the field sports sector believes that raptors will affect the unnaturally high numbers of pheasant and grouse that are just there to be gun fodder and are driving the propaganda. It usually works, think RSPB need to take a similar tack and forget about being polite. In a similar vein I’ve seen three cases in local woods where someone has cut ivy from trees. Very doubtful that it’s the same individual, must be a result of crap in the press about ivy killing trees. Hell of a lot of pressure to remove ivy from trees now and it’s one of the very best wildlife plants due to ecological illiteracy and pumped up ‘drama’ of the press.

  7. Then let’s start writing to the NT. All those who read & support this blog, who are NT members, should put pen to paper (not email – too easy to forget about). Ask them how long the shooting leases run. Ask them to terminate the leases asap. Require the shooters to stop using lead ammunition, traps, burning or whatever environmentally unacceptable practices they follow. Did I say ask? No, demand! It’s our organisation anyway – about time we started using our membership to change things. Shooting is not compatible with the original purpose of the National Trust. I will write this week.

  8. Suggest we all write to ask about this issue, to the Manager, Jon Stewart, National Trust, Edale End, Hope Valley, Sheffield. S33 6RF.

  9. What we really need is someone similar to Aileen McLeod to bring in similar penalties for wildlife crimes that she is asking for in Scotland.
    How come our politicians in England are so pathetic compared to Scotland on bird crime.

  10. So how does science get used on this blog ? Well it sees that science is used where it suits and guess work is used also where it suits. The lower breading succes in areas of moorland could be down to a variety of reasons which might include wildlife crime, predication by foxes or any manner of other reasons specific to that enviroment. The view or guess that it’s to do with wildlife crime suits the thread and is just accepted. , sorry where is the “science” in that it’s just a view based on a rather limited standpoint. however the poor ignorant country man/woman mentioned at lenght is lambasted for doing exactly the same thing namely having a view based on a non scientific standpoint. Interesting when you consider both viewpoints ?

    1. Except your comparison doesn’t really pass muster does it? There is plenty of evidence of persecution of raptors in the Peak District; it’s not just a supposition. What’s more it hardly seems likely that fox predation would be a factor in the poor performance of peregrine or goshawk. On the other hand the notion that ‘If you allow predators to survive, you can’t expect to have any wildlife.’ is ecologically illiterate as demonstrated by such predator rich environments as the Serengeti.

    2. There are so many studies it is hard to pick out one. Persecution is not even mentioned in this report but still it’s the elephant in the room.
      Here are 2 recent studies
      Similar studies with same conclusions for Hen Harriers. This paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology shows that on average 55-74 female Hen Harriers are killed EACH YEAR in Scotland. England is no different, possibly worse.
      Further reading:
      If there was more than 1 Golden Eagle in England i’d post links for that too.

  11. Did you see ex-Peak Chief Exec Jim Dixon’s recent blog regarding Chris Packham?

    Central premise is that collaboration far better than antagonism in bringing people to work to better practices. And that Chris Packham should realise this and work to concensus rather than vitriol. You aren’t mentioned Mark, but fairly easy to see where Jim would put you on the spectrum on this there!

    What those promoting working towards consensus don’t acknowledge, ever, is that, despite the approach’s great aims (and we’d all love it to work), it has very little to show in terms of success. Jim certainly doesn’t show any examples of where it’s working – while there’s plenty to show that one side in this debate holds so much power that it can stomp all over such efforts.

    The end result? People who want to see progress who were keen to work with everyone as cooperatively as possible get pushed to the extremes, and are then written off. Often this is done by the very organisations that failed to get any results from the consensual approach, while those holding the real power cry with laughter.

  12. My mate who has a few birds was offered £30, 000 for three eggs from a wild peregrine. All legit. The Peak Park has perhaps 1/2 the population of England within 1 hours drive. Most of the nests I know of can be climbed to by a child. All of them have been robbed before.

    The raptor group members are mostly previous egg ‘collectors’. Why dont they spend time watching nests? Get out there, get the police on your side and do the hours. If you do, Peregrine numbers will double in a year.

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