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.https://community.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/b/investigations/posts/through-rspb-binoculars-our-summary-of-the-2020-hen-harrier-season-in-england
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.