Some more information on brood meddling

You may remember that c10 days ago I published some information received from Natural England about brood meddling (see here).

There was some information missing from that response which has now been supplied in the form of this interesting email from Prof Ken Norris to the rest of the scientific steering group;

Note that this mail was dated 10 June so things may have changed since then.

Interesting that no grouse moors had come forward at that time to act as willing hosts for this landmark conservation project and that Jemima Parry-Jones was concerned for the birds’ safety – that wasn’t a great start was it?

Also, despite Prof Norris’s inclination to be open about what the group is doing and has done, the only information emerging into the public domain is as a result of information requests to Natural England that take the usual age to be answered.

We know from the information previously released that the birds were released c14km from their natal nest and within the North Pennines Special Protection Area. That certainly narrows it down quite a lot.

The red arrow indicates the approximate area of the natal nest and the grey hexagon the approximate 14km radius which is the distance away from the natal nest that NE have said the chicks were released. The blue areas indicate the SPAs. Somewhere close to that grey line, give or take a kilometre or two, and within the polygons with a dark blue border, is where the chicks were released.

I’d wager a good few quid that the broodmeddled Hen Harriers were released in this area…,-1.9191393,6876m/data=!3m1!1e3

…which is the area between Castle Bolton and Grinton and is full of grouse moors (as is obvious from the characteristic patterns of burned patches of heather in the image). If you were looking for a military firing range then there is one on the eastern side of the road between Leyburn and Grinton but my understanding is tht NE and the Moorland Association eventually did find a moorland owner to host these valuable birds. By now the birds could be anywhere, and might be happily roaming the grouse moors of northern England as they are tracked by the Moorland Association with Amanda Anderson frantically phoning around the estates to ask them to be especially careful not to shoot any Hen Harriers with satellite tags just now.

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15 Replies to “Some more information on brood meddling”

  1. Interesting, I have been led to believe that the birds were indeed released where Mark suggests rather than on the military ranges at Bellerby. These military ranges are outside the North Pennine SPA and as I understand it the licence for brood meddling stated that birds must be released within the SPA they originated from.
    The idea that one Amanda Anderson is contacting moorland owners as satellite fixes tell her which grouse moors are hosting these youngsters in order to foreworn that said birds should be allowed to fly free rather than being blasted from the sky (as usual) is a most interesting one. If this were the case for the entire 5 year trial of BM then the mortality rate (or disappearance rate) of these youngsters, and any that join them, is going to be so much better than those in the already published NE data set or those still being tagged by RSPB. Comparisons would be made and very searching questions asked. Yet if the BM youngsters share a similar " disappearance" rate then BM fails, as it is to reduce persecution that it is being trialled. I myself suspect that whilst MA have paid for the tags the data is going to NE not MA, at least I hope so. Whatever we think of NE they are much more trustworthy custodians of this data than " the smiling face of raptor persecution" (as I heard Amanda Anderson described by a blunt northern WCO on Hen harrier day) or indeed Moorland Association itself.
    I think we are in a win-win here, much as I thoroughly disapprove of BM. If the persecution continues the trial fails, ( as does the whole Hen harrier recovery plan) if it doesn't we get more Hen Harriers. Once the trial is over surely BM will be paid for by the beneficiaries, grouse moor owners and can you imagine the practical difficulties of more than a very few broods being involved. The rearing and feeding practicalities as well as the finding and policing of release sites. For if it is to work at all then moor owners are really going to have to bite the bullet as it were and accept birds for release otherwise again the whole scheme falls.

    1. Paul - the actual ranges (the thin strips of land where the ammunition is supposed to stop!) are outside the SPA but the Danger Area, Stainton Moor and large parts of Bellerby Moor are inside the SPA. hen Harriers have to get used to ducking 'bullets' - maybbe the thought was to train them...

      1. Thanks Mark, I had thought the SPA boundary follows the YDNP boundary in which case only Ellerton Moor was in, and that is all viewable from the road.

  2. I'd have thought a military range would be about the safest place for these doomed birds to be released - live firing seems to be about the only thing that really scares off wildlife criminals. But, as you point out, they'll soon wander and - BANG - that'll be it.

    I have to say I'm a bit confused - I though the idea was to release them far away from the 'tiny minority of rotten eggs' , in southern England - of course, it was obvious they'd join a roost with moorland birds and fly north in the spring but at least in theory they'd have a chance.

    The other thing I'm bemused by is the academics who have got involved in the scientific steering group. I know academics can be worldly and naïve, but surely even the dimmest professor would have noticed that this is a deeply dodgy project unlikely to enhance their professional reputation. What's behind it ? Existing (arm twisting) Defra finance or hopes for the future ? Not one I'd bet on myself - would you, Mark ?

    1. You're conflating BM with the southern (re) introduction scheme I think Rod, they are entirely separate projects. Currently the southern scheme seems stalled, in part by all accounts by the lack of co-operation of potential donor countries. I wonder why?
      I fail to understand how anyone outside NE with any scientific integrity has got involved with either, they are both scientifically "pigs in a poke" or plainly "a bucket of sh*t"

  3. Is this for real? That they hadn't grouse moors signed up for release from the start? If not, why not?

    I thought this scheme was a PR exercise to 'evidence' how good conservationists upland grouse estates were? So, public funds are expended when there is no arrangement in place for release on 'high quality habitat'?

    That academics are naive/gullible to get tangled up in this is perhaps intriguing? I struggle to see how they will gain any credibility from involvement in an ill conceived 'plan'.

    But as Mark says we could be in for a win win here ....

    1. I think the most telling piece of information is that Swinton Estate, where we believe the nest was located that these youngsters were removed from allegedly absolutely refused to have them back.

    2. 'Is this for real? That they hadn't grouse moors signed up for release from the start? If not, why not?'

      I am also utterly gob-smacked.
      First of all at the incompetence of a scheme that starts such a complicated project without a release site being arranged at the same time as the removal of the nest. The brood persecution estate should be obliged to also host the released fledglings. It is staggering that this hasn't been insisted on and shows how desperate they are to trial this at any cost.
      How on earth can they expect this scheme to work if they can't even get the very first participants to accept the young.
      I have commented on this many times but only because i feel the 'scientists' behind this seem to be thick in the head. What is supposed to happen next year and the year after that as the young are supposed to settle to breed and have more young. Who the hell is going to have them on their land.
      The fact that this is not addressed only means one thing. They expect the young to get shot. It is a scheme based on criminality and ending in criminality.
      Who needs black rods and Norman French, madness is the norm.

      1. Nimby and Prasad - I guess they were all hoping that if there was a nest it would be somewhere far from them so they wouldn't have to offer!

        1. The estates have been offered a good deal and took it.
          No nesting harriers. (I wonder if anyone looked closely to see what happened to the adults?)
          Good publicity
          No young
          Accolades from shooting lobby
          Poster boys for the scheme. Get you knighthood here chaps.
          Don't know how gullible the police are but i hope this isn't seen as some kind of good behaviour smokescreen which might lessen suspicion of any future raptor crime as for example what happened to the adults and what might happen in the following breeding seasons.

          The estates are doing what i would expect, it is the ones behind this scheme that are almost as bad as the killers by enabling the continuation of crime.

  4. Response to a question from Luke Pollard MP yesterday concerning DGS on UK military land:

    "Grouse shooting is permitted on the Defence Estate only when a licence has been granted by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. Grouse shooting licences have been issued at RAF Fylingdales and at Warcop and Catterick training areas, in the last 12 months."

  5. 'and might be happily roaming the grouse moors of northern England as they are tracked by the Moorland Association with Amanda Anderson frantically phoning around the estates to ask them to be especially careful not to shoot any Hen Harriers with satellite tags just now'
    Sometimes your sense of irony Mark, is scary as hell.


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