Update on 2020 Hen Harrier brood meddling (2)

Hen Harrier nest. Photo: Ian Newton

This is information that I was sent last week by Natural England about this year’s activities in Hen Harrier brood-meddling. I have disclosed here less detailed information about the nest and release localities than I was given, as that seems wise.

Intervention nest 1

Four chicks were taken from a nest in North Yorkshire on 2 June 2020. There was a non-intervention nest at a distance of approximately 785m.The four chicks were successfully reared in captivity and released at another site in North Yorkshire approximately 21.2km from the intervention nest. The intervention nest and release site were both within North Pennine Moors SPA and each located on a grouse moor/heather moorland landscape.

Intervention nest 2

Five chicks were taken from a nest in the Yorkshire Dales on 6 June 2020. There were non-intervention nests at distances of approximately 399m and 412m. Four of the five chicks were successfully reared in captivity. One male chick did not survive. A post mortem has been undertaken. It is suspected that the juvenile died as a result of very poor weather. The release site was in Cumbria approximately 30.8km from the intervention nest. Neither the intervention nest nor the release site were within an SPA.

Notice that all the birds were taken as chicks, nine chicks, despite the Scientific Advisory Group giving the project a slap on the wrists last year for taking chicks instead of eggs.

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13 Replies to “Update on 2020 Hen Harrier brood meddling (2)”

  1. Really useful if you could give a simple explanation, (there may be one buried in the history on our website!?) about what harm brood meddling does? I assume hen harrier chicks, raised without parents in a different place, struggle to live well when introduced, by themselves, somewhere they do not know. Do hen harriers and other birds teach their young how to feed, what to eat, what to avoid? So young raised as orphans are at a huge disadvantage? Thanks.

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    1. Brood meddling doesn't do direct harm.
      It is is being used as a way of allowing birds to be killed illegally elsewhere. It doesn't solve the problem, the illegal killing of Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Goshawks and Red Kites on driven grouse moors. Buzzards are shot like pigeons. As Chris Packham says it is a sop to the grouse shooting fraternity.

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    2. Brood meddling is an appeasement policy by NE for the Grouse lobby. The trigger distance equates to a density 30 times lower than normal natural carrying capacity, at which there "may" be a marginal discernible difference to the number of grouse available to shoot. It seems as though Harrier settling and breeding densities are governed by Meadow Pipit and field vole density in suitable habitat. There are also topographic and vegetation choices made that are not as I understand fully quantified ( why there are honey pot harrier sites like the two areas meddled this year and one of them was also meddled last year). ) Appeasement is always wrong and interfering with normal natural breeding of a partly social bird may have behavioural implications at these sites.
      Young harriers are not taught to hunt or fly by their parents but as they learn in a natural situation their agility is honed by food passes from parents. They do not hunt for themselves until they are independent.
      As harriers are incredibly mobile it doesn't matter that they are released away from the nest as long as it is good hunting habitat and the best way to judge that is it has nesting harriers, so they might be better off where they came from. That was the original part of the plan but seems to have been cast aside.
      In answer to other questions these BM'd nests are from known favoured nesting sites, where carrying capacity will never be reached so colonisation is not normal. Better they were left with their parents ethically. This scheme will not do what it claims-- increase the harrier population, it might if they took eggs and the pair laid again but of course the grouse lobby don't want that they want the scheme to limit the number of harriers on their killing fields not increase them. The whole scheme is ethically and morally wrong.

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  2. Mark, do NE confirm that all the chicks were satellite tagged and, if so, do they mention which type of satellite tags were used?

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  3. Whatever Natural England say about the details, the fundamental principle of brood meddling is very wrong. Our hen harriers, mountain hares and other wildlife are being slaughtered on Driven Grouse moors. The moorland itself is also being severely degraded and mismanaged all in the name of killing lots of our wildlife for fun.
    What Natural England are doing is just no answer to rectifying this awful situation. They are once again pandering to the shooters and not taking steps to protect our wildlife as they should be.
    The whole exercise is a rotten disgrace. Driven Grouse Shooting with all its killing. associated criminality, mismanagement of our uplands and environmental destruction should be totally prohibited.
    Why won’t this Government do this? Because it has so many vested interests in these thoroughly rotten activities.

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  4. Are we allowed to know whether the birds were tagged and if so, are they the same tags as used last year?

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  5. Presumably site 2 was also on a grouse moor? What about the release site? I don't suppose they told you what happened to the parents of the removed chicks or the 'non-intervention' nests?

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  6. I agree with all the above, but the thing that always puzzles me is the mindset of the fieldworkers and folk that helped raise them. They must know that this is just a desperate sham and they will all be shot just about as quickly as if they had fledged naturally. They have bought them some time of not being shot initially while still in the nest, that is all.

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  7. Everyone is just giving into the grouse shooters .the law states these birds are schedule 1 why haven't natural England told these people in no uncertain terms that if any of the chicks from these nests this year are found shot or poisoned and tags removed that they will be heavily fined . This is what is needed to put this sport into disrepute and the government also need to wake up to what's going on and stop it

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    1. Fortunately John, inconvenient though it is in this case we are all considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, even bastards that kill harriers. To do that we need sufficient evidence to get individual potential culprits in court. This has sadly proved almost impossible to do and it is quite likely that will remain the case. Nor of course are current penalty level remotely sufficient if we were to see them found guilty in court.

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