RSPB spills the beans on Natural England Hen Harrier cover up

Last week Natural England released the ‘results’ of ‘their’ monitoring of Hen Harriers in England in 2020. Their press release was a bit confused and a bit in error and was packed out with quotes from Natural England’s mates in the shooting industry about what a great thing brood meddling of Hen Harrier nests is, even though the rest of the release gave no information on the brood meddled nests.

Today RSPB have their say. Why the long delay? Because it is clear that RSPB has been asking Natural England to be honest and open about events and Natural England has refused. The RSPB spills the beans on an incident at a brood-meddled nest on the Yorkshire/Cumbria border at Whernside (which is why Natural England have often referred to nests being in the ‘Yorkshire Dales’ rather than being upfront about their counties). Read the whole RSPB blog (although some of the points they make were made here and on Raptor Persecution UK over a week ago) but here are two long, pertinent and interesting quotes;

We understand that a Natural England fieldworker was monitoring a hen harrier nest on moorland near Whernside, Cumbria, when he saw a man wearing camouflage carrying a firearm and a live bird of prey, believed to be an eagle owl about 300m from the hen harrier nesting area. He tethered the bird and sat a short distance away with his gun. In the circumstances there seems little doubt the intention was to draw in raptors, presumably the hen harriers, to shoot them. The use of a tethered live bird as a decoy to kill or take a wild bird is in itself illegal, but a method that seems to be increasingly used for targeting raptors. This was no doubt a highly stressful situation, we understand the fieldworker took some video footage and made himself visible. This eventually had the desired effect, and the suspect, realising he was under observation, left. It was reported to the police but due to evidential issues around establishing the identity of the suspect, it was not possible to take the matter forward to court.

Considering the lack of transparency around incidents at brood management sites, the RSPB has this last week spent a considerable period of time encouraging Natural England to go public, which they have declined to do. As the police investigation was closed over a month ago, we are surprised that this information about a serious raptor persecution incident, which is clearly of significant public interest given its location and wider context, has not been openly reported.

Well done RSPB!

That puts the quotes about the value of brood meddling which Natural England included in their press release into sharp relief. Why did Natural England do this?

It also makes it entirely clear why the RSPB was not quoted in the Natural England/DEFRA/Moorland Association/GWCT press release – the RSPB knew that it was only a very partial account of events.

What does Natural England think it is doing? Did Tony Juniper know the facts behind this case when he was quoted in the Natural England/DEFRA/Moorland Association/GWCT press release? If so, Tony, you were complicit in misleading the public through omission, and not coming clean despite RSPB pressure this week. If you didn’t know, then do you have confidence in Natural England staff who kept you in the dark?

Again, well done RSPB.

There is more to say about this – tomorrow.

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36 Replies to “RSPB spills the beans on Natural England Hen Harrier cover up”

    1. This is just pathetic! A non need story more like a fairy tale than any basis in reality.
      Let’s look at the facts shall we
      1. The police said no crime to answers
      2. No proof who the person was
      3. No proof anything to do with grouse shooting,
      4. Tethers a raptor but at 300 yd’s a professional with binoculars can’t identify the species
      5. Has a gun but despite permission having to been given to be on the land no one knows who they are.
      6. No shots were fired
      I have some questions for the observer
      1. How much did you pay the actor
      2, what anti countryside groups and clubs are you affiliated to
      3. What experience have you in identifying raptors
      Thereafter just for the record it’s only the RSPB and anti countryside followers who seem to think every keeper dressed in camouflage gear! They don’t.
      Truth is you know nothing can prove nothing but are prepared to speculate if it brings on money!
      Well I must dash as my dragon is saddled and off to chase a few unicorns tonight!

      1. Ross – thank you for your first cvomment here, you must, please, come back soon and often to give us all a laugh.

        1. “anti countryside followers”? What exactly is a countryside follower, and how can one be anti them?

          This clown’s already has his marching orders from RPUK as a result of his bullshit.

        2. Please continue with your posts and hate speech as every time another realises that what you say can’t be true.
          Reminds me of your mate Packhams comments regards extinction rebellion when he stated they were the best thing to happen for decades! There now being classed as terrorists I believe?

          1. Ross – I will continue with my posts. If you want to continue here with your comments then please point out the hate speech from me on this particular blog post – just list the incidences. If you can’t then your ability top post comments here may be constrained a bit.

          2. Wrong again. Not even this government is classing ER as “terrorists”. Such fantasies exist only in the heads of idiots like you. Do you really think that your lies are going to be treated any differently here than blogs from which you’re banned?

          3. Classifying Extinction rebellion as Terrorists is really only what people anxious to crush protests against the people trashing the planet would do. Surely you don’t think they are terrorists? because if you don’t you’d have to agree with Chris Packham.

            You are right The poor maligned driven grouse shooting industry is totally innocent of trapping birds mammals and amphibians, shooting protected birds of prey and damaging peat and causing flooding and pollution by burning moors. Gamekeepers are kind hearted conservationists who are the victims of set ups by actors to give them a bad name.

            I can’t understand why those mega rich conservation organisations are telling such hateful lies against your poor powerless friends.

            Perhaps you would know?

      2. What laughable drivel you write and obviously think. Do you wear blinkers, special spectacles supplied by YFTB or Countryside Areliars. Please note it is an offence to shoot anything over a live decoy, so to attempt to so do is also a crime.
        Oh and the police did not say there was no crime to answer.

      3. As the video is not going to be used as evidence when do we get to view it?
        Is there a link if it has already been posted?

  1. Let me echo Mark and say great stuff RSPB. What an absolute disgrace Natural England are, quite despicable. It just shows how they are acting in complete concert with the shooting industry. Therefore what they do and say regarding raptor persecution can be virtually disregarded.
    As I have said before the senior personnel of Natural England should resign. Certainly in my former industrial company if this type of incident occurred the director in whose department such an incident like this occurred would be out of office within a few days.

    1. Well done Alan, my thoughts exactly, Natural England are a disgrace and no good, as for the other idiot!

  2. Enough already. A complete ban on driven game shooting is the target we should be aiming at. It might take years, but we can ultimately get the public behind us on this.

  3. I still really want to believe that Tony Juniper is an unwilling and unknowing passenger in this slow motion train wreck. The rot in NE long predates him and even the Tony Juniper we thought we were getting probably could not have cut it out all by himself.

    But he might at least have visibly tried.

    The fact is there’s only so long that TJs past can cover for his present. Time and again the incongruity between the two is exposed. Time and again he has been given the benefit of the doubt. Are NE in a better place (in the context of their raison d’etre and statutory remit) than they were when he took the helm? That really ought to be an easy question to answer by now but it really isn’t.

    Thus it is time to ask the question as to why, if he’s still the person he was, and whose actions and writings I and countless others have formerly admired, he has not either resigned, spoken out or otherwise sent a signal that he’s still in this for the right reasons.

    Over to you Tony. I’d really value an unfettered and undoctored explanation of what good you actually think you are doing at the helm of NE. Do you think Defra will let you write one? Your name still carries a cachet and it coated NE in a brief veneer of renewed respectability when you took the chair. But increasingly it seems that all this has done is allow outrages to continue to be perpetuated while you remain zipper-lipped or (worse) put your name to scripted blandishments.

  4. I am wondering if RHD is playing a role in all this. I was visiting a friend in Scotland last week and was shocked to discover that rabbits are virtually extinct in that particular area. Young rabbits form a large part of Hen Harrier’s diets and an absence of this food source would cause the Harriers to seek alternatives, which would make grouse moor managers etc… even more likely to want to exterminate these beautiful predators.

    1. Nigel – thank you for yur first comment here. Could be a factor but the grouse moor managers’ loathing of the Hen Harrier goes back a lot further than RHD. See the quote from a 1958 book on grouse shooting on p45 of my book Inglorious, for example.

      1. 1958 very current! Virtually no birds of prey . I see daily Buzzards , 4 wheeling now , sparrowhawks , regularly kestrels , Redkites and my favourite Peregrines. I was a member of the RSPB and my children the YOC but I resigned because of their extreme views . Example the farmer in Wales who fed Redkites and Ravens and the RSPB slating him before he was responsible for them spreading virtually everywhere. Rogue gamekeepers exist but are rare and should be stopped but not all painted with the same brush. After the Welsh farmers success the RSPB soon changed their mind and built hides on his land !! Hen Harriers are increasing in spite of not because of these clowns.
        Cannot uou find some quotes from the 19th or 18th centuries!

        1. Bryan – ahhh! Another new commenter with an axe to grind. Welcome!

          I mentioned 1958 in the context of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. There are plenty of other more recent examples. You should read my book, Inglorious.

          I’m sure the RSPB miss you like mad. Thank you for your comment.

    2. I spent an awful lot of six breeding seasons watching Han Harriers and hen Harrier nests and in all that time saw one young rabbit taken to a nest and another possible rabbit taken to another nest. The grouse cabal have hated harriers since C19th at least.

  5. Surely now is the time to be more proactive. Rather than coming across these incidents by chance there should be surveillance carried out on known suspects. There must be a few among us who are retired police or military with this capability.

  6. They must feel they are so untouchable that that they walk around with an Eagle Owl 300m from a HH nest, knowing that there is a very high chance that the nest is being monitored.
    They really don’t give a feck about the law. And i think that the press release demonstrates that they have very little to fear. Natural England has got their backs. Obviously i don’t mean that NE are actively involved in the crime but they are creating an atmosphere which subtly or not is supporting them.

  7. Two things stand out for me . One is that Tony Juniper was appointed to head NE. I don’t know him except by name but I will misquote what Noam Chomsky once said to Andrew Marr; he would not have been appointed if he was not willing to fit in. The original NE press released signed off by him only included comments by the shooting industry and was, maybe, disingeuous? Here the RSPB blow the whistle.
    The second point, which may show up my lack of knowledge is why does nobody name the estates where these observed crimes take place? The oxygen of publicity can be a great helper, or is it that the UK’s libel laws are too onerous?

    1. If you follow all the links closely about Hen Harriers it is not that difficult to work out which estate this was.
      Keepers with big owls is not a new phenomenon but is certainly much commoner than it was, although I knew a keeper that had a EEO in 1995. I even know of one with a Snowy Owl, although I’m not sure he still has it. It goes without saying shooting anything attracted by a live decoy is an offence but then large elements of those who shoot or manage shooting seem to think the law doesn’t apply to them.

  8. We are spending millions trying to protect harriers . Would it be better to reward estates for having them on their land make them worth more than the grouse .They are ground nesting bird they need just as much protection from foxes stoats crows as the grouse better to make keepers want to protect them as much as the grouse offer £10,000 a pair.

    1. Peter – thank you for your first comment here.

      I’d like to be paid for sticking to speed limits instead of being fined or gaoled for breaking them. Hen Harriers need grouse moors like they need a hole in the head – see Scotland where most UK Hen Harriers live and hardly any of them are on grouse moors. What did the Hen Harrier do before men in tweed came along? Answer – it thrived.

  9. I have just emailed my MP again, (Mel Stride) as he has not yet replied to my e-action/personal email regarding Hen Harrier persecution/grouse moors. I referred to this blog post about the eagle owl lure, because I am aware of Mark Avery’s credentials and long-standing reputation for factual reporting on such matters. I have no idea who Ross McMahon is, though he appears to be a rather rude and bombastic individual.

  10. Absolutely in correct hogwash .
    Read what the known data science has to say about the comoarison between keepered moors and those that are not keepered .yes keepered managed vermin conrtol saves lives .
    Check it out .

    1. Simon – list the papers you want us to read just in case there are any new ones please. You can do that can’t you?

    2. I am afraid you are wrong about everything! As Mark Avery says above, hen harriers don’t need grouse moors. most of their nests on moorlands are in places where grouse shooting is not practised. The factor limiting hh populations, and everybody knows this is persecution by gamekeepers. Those same gamekeepers also kill every other bop they can shoot or trap, even raptors that are no danger to grouse at all. They also kill animals that raptors feed on: hares and rabbits, and anything that ends up in the thousands of traps many illegal and many used illegally that pepper grouse moors, many of them in national parks. And they also use poison, burn, stamp on or mechanically destroy nests and nesting sites. You might also like to describe what contribution gamekeepers make to the virtual extermination of wildcats in Scotland and how creatures, many of them uncommon, like ring ousels, dippers red squirrels end up killed by these guardians of the countrside..

  11. Strange how hen harriers which prey on grouse chicks are decreasing, while buzzards (and kites) which are predators of pheasant poults, are increasing exponentially! So: upland keepers bad, lowland keepers good? Pull the other one! If anything is causing low harrier numbers it is the idiots who run around saying there should be no predator control (although its an open secret that the RSPB regularly controls predators when it suits the RSPB)

    1. Charles – thank you for your first comment here. I thought we were supposed to think that Hen Harrier numbers are booming? try to stick to your party line, please. Who has said there should be no predator control? Not me, not the RSPB – who did you have in ‘mind’ exactly?

    2. Here we go again with the old “exponential” codswallop, and the tired distortions regarding lethal control undertaken by the RSPB (which annually publishes accounts of such measures). It’s so predictable that those with no moral, legal, scientific, or intellectual argument resort so readily to falsehood.
      The question remains however, who do these nitwits think they’re fooling?

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