The lack of birds of prey, due to high levels of illegal persecution, in many upland so-called protected areas (AONBs and National Parks) is a disgrace that is becoming clearer and clearer to the public at large.
And this report on the state of affairs for the Nidderdale AONB is another welcome step forward in publicising the issue.
The incidence of raptor persecution in this small upland area with many grouse moors is not secret. When I stayed in another AONB, the Forest of Bowland, back in July I was told by a local that she liked Red Kites but knew that she wouldn’t see them in her neighbourhood because they all get bumped off in Nidderdale. When wildlife crime becomes that commonplace a story then it really is an open secret.
To be fair, the Nidderdale AONB Management Plan 2019-24 contains the following sentiment;
…many of Nidderdale’s internationally designated moorland sites are defined by the Government’s conservation advisers as in need of modified management. Aims in the Plan commit the AONB to working with the industry to promote best-practice while at the same time working with industry representatives, the police and others to put an end to the illegal persecution of birds of preyhttps://nidderdaleaonb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Nidderdale-AONB-2019-2024-Management-Plan-Web.pdf
So this raptor report should be seen in the context of an AONB which is leading the way in saying the right things on this subject.
Quotes from this report include:
The issue of wildlife crime, in particular bird of prey persecution, features prominently in comments submitted to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and was raised as a key issue in the 2019 Nidderdale AONB Management Plan 2019-2024 public consultation.
Although there is no comprehensive monitoring programme for buzzard in the AONB, available records suggest that while widespread in the AONB as a non-breeding species, the breeding population is lower than would be expected given the available habitat.
Red kite currently breeds in the very south of the AONB. Persecution incidents in the Washburn Valley and Upper Nidderdale appear to be preventing the expansion of the breeding population into these areas.
Despite large areas of potentially suitable breeding habitat, there were no successful hen harrier breeding attempts in Nidderdale between 2005 and 20181. Nidderdale is also an important area for wintering hen harrier, with a number of known roost sites. Ofthe 59 hen harriers that were satellite tagged by Natural England across northern England and Scotland between 2017 and 2017, seven (12%) are classified as ‘missing fate unknown’ in Nidderdale AONB, or close to its boundary. A further bird classified as ‘recovered – persecuted’ was recovered from within the AONB. A recent research paper by Murgatroyd et al. (2019) looked at the patterns of disappearances of satellite tagged hen harriers and concluded ‘that hen harriers in Britain suffer elevated levels of mortality on grouse moors, which is most likely the result of illegal killing’. They found that this pattern was apparent in protected areas in northern England, including Nidderdale AONB.
… traditional territories on areas not managed for grouse, including at Coldstones Quarry, regularly occupied and successfully fledging young. In contrast there has not been a known successful peregrine nesting attempt on any of the traditional grouse moor sites since 1998. There is no natural explanation for this difference.
There are a small number of successful breeding records of merlin reported in the north of the AONB each year, but again there appear to be large areas of potentially suitable habitats that are not occupied. The populations of all three species [merlin, goshawk, short-eared owl] are judged to be well below the natural carrying capacity of the area.https://nidderdaleaonb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BoP-in-NiddAONB-Evidence-Report-FINAL-Sept-2019.pdf
Realisation is growing of the need for change, partly because locals see their area being mentioned often as a wildlife crime hotspot – which it is – and can only see downsides to that reputation.
the report does have a couple of useful maps but this one, frpom Raptor Persecution UK, would have brought home the message even more strongly.
But very well done to the Nidderdale AONB for saying the right things on this subject.
What will the Glover report say on this subject – it will be a poor show if it remains silent.