Topsy-turvy progress

By Donald Macauley (Flickr: Red Kite) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Donald Macauley (Flickr: Red Kite) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I was speaking in Glossop on Tuesday evening so I set off for a leisurely drive on Tuesday morning. Rather than take the fastest route I took something approximating to the shortest route, but added quite a few wiggles: the nice thing was I had plenty of time, it was a sunny day and there was no rush.

The first few miles were on familiar roads, and for the first 20 minutes or so I believe there was at least one Red Kite in sight all the time (if I had stopped to check – which I didn’t). What a great conservation success story this is.

I enjoyed talking to a packed room of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust supporters in Glossop but the subject of dead Buzzards, missing Hen Harriers and a dead Osprey came up.

The next morning I woke up in the Peak District on a sunny Wednesday that was definitely part of spring. Chaffinches, Mistle Thrushes, Great Tits, Dunnocks, Greenfinches and Nuthatches were all singing.  I went for a short walk with a friend and was struck by how similar to mid-Wales the scenery was, the local oakwoods hold Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers in summer, just like mid-Wales, but no Red Kites and precious few Ravens here.

When I was growing up (although I still am) one went into the hills to see Red Kites and Ravens. The last few Ravens I have seen were over my Northants garden, at the RSPB headquarters of The Lodge and somewhere in the Cotswolds (probably Oxfordshire).

Raven in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Photo: US NPS via wikimedia commons
Raven in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Photo: US NPS via wikimedia commons

And we could add in Peregrine Falcons too.  I’ve not seen one in the Peak District National Park – and they aren’t very thick on the ground – but I quite often see them in the Northamptonshire valley of the River Nene, sometimes perched on a church spire, and even more often in central London.

In one of our National Parks (in fact in most of them) birds of prey are rather thin on the ground, and bird of prey initiatives fail to deliver, and yet away from the grouse moors predatory birds are making progress to re-fill the massive holes in their distribution caused by pesticides and persecution.

It all seems topsy-turvy to me – our National Parks are not delivering their responsibility to protect and enhance natural beauty – instead many of them are dominated by the rich person’s hobby of grouse shooting.  And they don’t seem too bothered about it.  Very strange.

By Ken Billington (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ken Billington (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



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10 Replies to “Topsy-turvy progress”

  1. Some national parks:
    The ghettoization of the countryside under the control of death squads. (Correction: The Armed Wing Of The Conservative Party)

  2. Mistle Thrush song: a great favourite but so far this year, despite all the mild weather, I’ve not heard it in West Sussex.
    It’s definitely a bird which, when singing, should ignore the ‘less is more’ edict.

    1. I feel very lucky to hear Turdus viscivorus quite regularly around my neck of the woods; North Yorkshire. The song, often heard during poor weather conditions, makes me smile. Roll on the Stormcocks!

  3. You'll have to come out with me and a couple of friends. We can show you all the species listed in the Peak District National Park (PDNP) and a number of others except perhaps guaranteed red kites. There were a couple of hen harrier sites around Christmas time also but these birds have moved on. The wonderful thing about raptors is that there is a population in the wings, waiting to fill the void (PDNP). If only they weren't all shot, poisoned or trapped.

  4. Funnily enough just been looking at the fb page of a certain ex gamekeeper who has been making suggestions that the red kites being seen in some areas of Scotland are the result of illegal releases, stories of mysterious vans being seen! Of course his acolytes are joining in claiming red kites will finish off what buzzards started - the decimation of waders and predictably no good for the grouse. We all know red kites are predominantly scavengers, but not exclusively so. However, those knee jerk raptor haters claim we never acknowledge this, typical derogatory rubbish, in their attempt to label the kite as a new conservation villain. I live less than 30 miles from one of the Scottish red kite reintroductions that took place more than twenty years ago yet they are still very rare sights in my home town. The intervening shooting estates may just have something to do with that. Several shot and poisoned kites have been found, how many more weren't?

    1. Funny isn't it. I was in Central Europe last week and saw innumerable buzzards, kestrels etc., but there were lots of passerine flocks too. Much more of both than you see in our degraded isle. How can we better combat the constant bullshit, disregard for science and indeed anti-science that comes from these clowns?

      1. The simplest way to combat the constant whatevers that come from those clowns; acquire the facts and tell the truth about the situation. Quotes from Inglorious are a great way knock down the ignorant-minded folk.

  5. Correct! National Parks and the upland areas should be some of the best places to see a wide variety of species. I live In the lowlands of Yorkshire and see many Buzzards, Red kites and Peregrines just from my garden. Even a couple of shooting estates round here have many raptor species including the Goshawk and if they can do it others certainly can.

  6. I live and work in the Churnet Valley, just to the south of the PDNP. We have some lovely wildlife and habitats, much SSSI but otherwise undesignated. The peregrines from the Roaches (PDNP) are regulars and we have our own, plenty of raven over around the Weavers, great woodland birds. But agreeing with Mark; many walks in the PDNP result in a poorer wildlife experience than outside it, as in the Churnet. There are great places in the PDNP though.

  7. It is, isn't it ? And something that never seems to be mentioned is that surely the phenomenal spread of Buzzards can only be explained by a sea change in the attitude of many land owners and their gamekeepers - why do we never hear from them in the aggressive, tribal world of shooting politics ? I suspect its because they'd face the same sort of assault RSPB has faced from the extremist elements who are charting a sure course towards the rocks for driven grouse at least, and maybe eventually for shooting as a whole. But its worth pausing for a moment to share a fellow feeling with those shooters who can, like us, enjoy and value, and probably be thrilled by, raptors sharing their space with us.


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