Brood meddling update

Hen Harrier brood. Photo: Gordon Yates

1. Legal challenge: there is a saying that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and I’m beginning to feel that quite strongly. The RSPB and I, separately, were granted the right to appeal the original judgment over the lawfulness of brood-meddling of Hen Harrier nests in autumn 2019 – yes, 2019. Our appeal was scheduled for March 2020 (but was rescheduled for January 2021 after one of the three Appeal Court judges was taken ill). We have been waiting for a judgment since then and now probably will not get one until the autumn, October.

This is very, very slow and I can only apologise to all those who have supported, morally or financially (or both), the original case and the appeal. It is dragging on interminably and no reasons are forthcoming from the courts for this very long delay.

2. This year: But meanwhile, I am told by Natural England that two nests were brood-meddled in England this year. Here are the details though I have restricted the location details to counties.

Intervention nest 1: Four chicks were taken from a nest near WWWWWWWW, North Yorkshire on 2 June 2021. There was a non-intervention nest at a distance of approximately 700m. The four chicks were successfully reared in captivity and released on 15 July 2021 at a site near XXXXXXXXXXX, North Yorkshire approximately 24km 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. Natural England approved an amendment to the Hen Harrier Brood Management Trial Monitoring and Evaluation Plan to allow for one male hen harrier to be released untagged under the licence. This is because this bird was too small to be fitted with the Microwave Telemetry 9.5g satellite tag in the possession of the licence holder (the tag, harness and BTO leg ring would exceed the ≤3% tag/bodyweight ratio regulation and is not permitted under the BTO permit). No other appropriate alternative was available and therefore it was decided to be in the best interests of the bird to be released without a tag. Natural England is satisfied that the loss of that data point will not undermine this research. This is because all other brood managed birds to date have been tagged.

Intervention nest 2: Four chicks were taken from a nest near YYYYYYYYYYY, Lancashire on 11 June 2021. There was a non-intervention nest at a distance of approximately 2.6km. One egg was also taken and tested, but was found to have been an early failure or was unviable. The four chicks were successfully reared in captivity and released on 24 July 2021 at a site near ZZZZZZZZZZZ, Cumbria approximately 47km from the intervention nest. Neither the intervention
nest nor the release site were within an SPA.

So, just two nests again. And again, against the protocol for the trial, only chicks were taken, not eggs.

It will be interesting to see what the number of nests really is this year, and how many really are on grouse moors, after the Moorland Association put out their spoiler press release which doesn’t seem to be endorsed by either Natural England or the RSPB (but nor is it denied). I wonder whether the poor young Duke of Westminster has piles of Hen Harriers nesting on his land this year – he has been very unlucky with his Hen Harrier numbers for so long now.

3. It’s Hen Harrier Day today! Join Wild Justice for 90 minutes of art, discussion, facts, and music about the uplands in general and Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles in particular. Here’s the link and the broadcast starts at 10am.


14 Replies to “Brood meddling update”

  1. I don’t think they will take eggs, harder to keep live during transport and estates will be wary of pairs recycling and laying another clutch. Which of course cannot under the rules be meddled. Perhaps the judges will reach a decision before this so called trial is concluded. It seems to have escaped the notice of the MA and its supporters that this in experiment with a finite life. One wonders if post experiment there will be a roll out with estates rather than the tax payer covering the cost or will the tax payer always pick up grouse shootings tab.
    At least things are moving in the right direction with pressure on water companies, National Trust and the like to get rid of DGS tenancies and of course burning.
    The MA may be trumpet blowing but we should keep reminding them their members get no credit for obeying the law for a change and whilst an improvement Hen Harriers are still at less then 10% of the population we expect. their hypocrisy is mind blowing but par for the course.
    Oh and when will they stop killing Peregrines?

  2. Great Hen Harrier day Mark. The ten issues all “hit the nails on their heads” and everyone came over very well with what they had to say. Well done to all for all the hard work that the day must have taken to prepare.
    I thought Chris Packham’s plea for both sides to be more conciliatory was good but it is hard to be conciliatory to shooters who are regularly breaking the law and perpetrating great wild animal cruelties. Additionally it is hard to be polite to shooters who are deliberately damaging, degrading and destroying our peatlands and are in effect supported by a very rotten government in Westminster that does nothing of any significance to halt this destruction.

    1. I think it is also hard to be conciliatory to shooting when their trolls and supporters are so dismissive or appallingly rude about those of us with a different point of view. Three times recently on FB their supporters have called me a liar or worse the temptation is of course to be equally unpleasant, although I resisted. It is a war of words (or in some cases deeds ask Bob Berzins and others, many of us have been threatened) and the factually correct information is on our side of the fence. We are slowly winning but that doesn’t stop the insults, lies, utter rubbish, heads in the sand or shear nastiness spouted by the grouse cabal and their fellow travellers .

      1. Hi Paul, knowing very well the folk on the other side of the argument and still being friends with a few, I often favour the concept of conciliation. Here the ultimate problem to me is that it is one thing to summon the patience to talk at length to your average angry shooting man who starts bleating on the forums / social media. (And actually it isn’t hard to get some of them to see the bigger picture).
        It is quite another thing to engage with those at the centre of the problem. We all know it is the ‘top end’ of driven shooting (headed by maybe 50 or so of the best grouse moors and a sprinkling of big commercial pheasant / redleg shoots) that is causing a hugely disproportionate amount of damage to nature for the benefit of a tiny exclusive and so-called elite group of people.
        And I bet we are both of the same mind – these buggers will never change their views by way of discussion, and they will only ever see gestures of conciliation as a sign of weakness – the same as when they are running their business and investment empires, etc.

        1. I agree wholly with you, I can remember attending the Hen Harrier forum/discussions for 6 years for NERF. It was essentially banging your head on a wall, the arguments changed but the absolute refusal to compromise one iota by them did not.

  3. As you rightly say Mark, justice delayed is justice denied. While one would normally expect this gross delay is down to the judiciary, one has to be suspicious that the dead hand of DEFRA and the Westminster Government may be behind this quite unreasonable delay.
    As for the brood meddling itself, well, one can only say what a farce.
    All that effort by Natural England and the Westminster Government just to avoid better and much stronger measures to bring the criminals associated with the the shooters to justice. Let’s hope Scotland does the right thing by coming up with much tougher controls over those who like to kill our wildlife for fun.

  4. When will people stop using, or at least qualify, “killing wildlife for fun”? As all three Wild Justice members agreed ‘one for the pot’ is totally acceptable (viz: Bird Fair debate with Charlie Jacobi). I fall into that category and everything I take gets eaten. I do not shoot driven game as it doesn’t fulfil the criteria of venery. It is either killed or escapes unharmed. Research my tag to understand why.

    1. Austringer, most of us have no problem with shooting for the pot. It’s the shooting of large numbers of birds for fun, often with the carcasses then dumped, that we object to; that’s what requires wildlife crime to be a viable business and that’s where all the adverse ecological and environmental impacts are generated. The sooner shooting puts its house in order the sooner your sort of shooting for the pot will be safe. It is the commercial intensive shooting industry that wrongly claims we want to ban all shooting, not us. This is a campaign about DRIVEN grouse shooting for a reason.

    2. Hi Austringer. I think it is quite important to highlight the fact that shooting is ‘killing wildlife for fun”. To my mind, the fact that people enjoy doing it does not, in itself, make shooting wrong but it is perfectly reasonable to ask how much environmental damage we should tolerate in the name of other people’s fun. No-one is shooting game out of necessity – like some 19th century peasant poaching to keep his family from starving – and in this light it becomes very hard to justify the environmental impacts of industrialised game management, still less the criminality associated with management of some shoots.

      If you practice the kind of shooting you advocate with low take, consumption of what you kill and no requirement for intensive game farming then as JBC points out in his response, the campaign is not directed at you.

      1. Jonathan. Just to say, I do not shoot. If you had read my post and researched my tag you would realise why game taken by me (actually by my hawk) is either killed or escapes unharmed. Whilst this is my chosen field sport and one from which I gain quiet satisfaction, I believe it to be one of the most natural ways of killing wild food for the table – always lead free!

        1. Fair enough. I don’t think that changes anything about the point I was making though, does it?

  5. “North Pennine Moors SPA” indeed, hahaha. That’s a great one-liner gag that always gives me a chuckle! Harriers, etc in that grandly designated area only get any protection at all when one or two organisations and the weather-hardy raptor volunteer types have binoculars on them 24/7.

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