How many Hen Harriers?

There’s a clash, a discrepancy, a difference between the number of Hen Harrier nests in England this year between the Natural England figures and the RSPB figures.

The discrepancy is only five nests but that is 5 nests out of 19 or 24 nests. Some physicists and chemists I know would say that level of accuracy is pretty good for biology.

I did phone the RSPB before I posted their statement to ask them about this but they haven’t yet returned my call so I, like everyone else, am left wondering, and that’s a pretty rubbish place to be.

There are numerous possibilities:

  • the RSPB has made a mistake in counting
  • Natural England has made a mistake in counting
  • both Natural England and RSPB have made mistakes in counting, but different mistakes
  • there is a difference in what counts as a ‘nest’ which sounds unlikely but is completely possible depending on how far a nesting attempt has to get before it ‘counts’
  • Natural England meant (but didn’t say) ‘successful nests’ rather than ‘nests’
  • RSPB meant (but didn’t say) ‘nesting attempts’ rather than ‘nests’.
  • all or some of the above in different combinations
  • or something else

It would be good if the parties concerned sorted this out pretty quickly. Of course, it would have been better if the parties concerned had sorted it out before telling the world and one version of the truth appearing in the newspapers (eg The Guardian). And the interested parties are many, and certainly not limited to Natural England and the RSPB, nor even Natural England and their mates theMoorland Association (with their history of muddying the waters) and GWCT (with vey little standing in Hen Harrier monitoring in England. Where are the raptor workers in this? And Forestry England? And the National Trust is mentioned in Natural England’s press release.

And, of course, if there were 24 nests this year then it is an even more successful year although the average fledging success of nests goes down a bit.

One of the troubles with how this reporting is being handled, by Natural England, is that each year they issue vague press releases which look more likely political manifestos than scientific reports. The best way to avoid that is to get everyone together and get the facts out there together. That ought to be what our statutory conservation organisation for England sees as its role, but sadly it appears not to be that way inclined.

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2 Replies to “How many Hen Harriers?”

  1. Scoring political points against your opponents is not the way forward, unity is the key, they should all come together on the issue of protecting a rare bird of prey, from extinction is what matters most.

    1. Dean - I agree. A joint sttement on how many birds, producing how many fledged young, with how many satellite taggs in which counties would have been a perfectly good press release. But the facts are cloudy and the NE press release is, by the inclusion of the Moorland Association and GWCT quotes, highly politicised.


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