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).
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.