Do as we say – not as we do …

Word on the street is that Natural England are concerned about the duplication of peregrine nest visits  in the Bowland area last year, and are considering modifying conditions of licenses held by the local raptor group this year in ways that, if the rumours are true, run counter to reason and logic.

Peregrine coordinator for Lancashire, Terry Pickford, is aware of two particular incidents worth relating – one where a raptor worker visited a nest just four days after it was found without coordinating the visit with him. Had the worker contacted Mr Pickford before visiting the nest then the answer would have been ‘’No’.  Subsequently the raptor worker claimed he had contacted Mr Pickford to coordinate the visit, but telephone and e-mail records don’t support this.

The second incident concerns a visit made to the same nest by an individual from outside Lancashire just a few hours after Mr. Pickford had visited the site to establish how many chicks the nest contained. This individual had already been reported several times for breaches of his licence conditions in previous seasons but no action was taken. On this occasion the ringer was not only encouraged to disregard the consultation requirements, a Natural England staff member accompanied him to the nest.

Had this duplicated and uncoordinated visit not been witnessed by others in the area, Mr Pickford wouldn’t have known. When he made enquiries, he was told by N.E. that it was more important to ring the chicks than coordinate visits as required by Natural England’s own licence conditions which all other licensees are required to follow….

Both these incidents formed part of a number of other reports of licence breaches and poor field craft sent to Natural England last year, which were subsequently rejected with ‘don’t waste our time’.

Now it seems the issue is suddenly important. One wonders how many visits were made to nests in the region by or at N.E.’s behest where the coordinator wasn’t informed.  Maybe this should be the subject of a Freedom of Information request to Natural England, and then we can really get to the bottom of what is going on!

It is certainly perverse that Natural England impose licence conditions on others which it doesn’t support or uphold when it feels it is expedient.

More on this to follow.

18 comments to Do as we say – not as we do …

  • George Day

    Nothing that Natural England do surprises me any longer, they appear totally out of touch with the realities of what takes place in Bowland. A number of years ago members of the North West Raptor Group reported in their licence returns wide scale incidents of illegal persecution directed against hen harrier and peregrine on one particular regional shooting estate. The kind of sickening incidents being uncovered included nests and eggs destroyed, peregrines shot and hen harrier chicks found with their heads ripped off. Of course these kinds of incidents no longer occur being substituted today with more subtle but no less effective forms of persecution that only an experienced field worker is able to detect. After the landowner had contacted the licensing authority to complain, not about the persecution taking place, but about the trespass by group members on his property, a restrictive covenant was included in all licenses held by group members making it a criminal offence to visit raptor nests on this single estate.

    In 2009 I resigned from the joint United Utilities raptor working group on principle because of the inappropriate way this company responded to incidents of persecution taking place on their estates. After raptor workers had consistently voiced concern at the number of incidents of nest failures, low nesting productivity at specific raptor nests year on year, the disappearances of peregrine chicks from one nest year after year, without regard shown by United Utilities for the principles of natural justice, the group was excluded from attending any future meetings in an attempt to suppress the facts. No one reading my comments should be surprised that politics takes precedence over other considerations in this area. Let me make a prediction history is about to repeat itself once again I fear.

    George Day

  • Mike Price

    Make a public request @ http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/natural_england

    Under Freedom of Information law, they have to respond. The response will either contain the information you want, or give a valid legal reason why it must be kept confidential

  • nirofo

    If you think this is unique to Bowland I can assure you it’s not !!! English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage and another well known Bird Society all think there’a one rule for them and do as I say for everyone else. It wouldn’t be so bad if they knew what they were doing most of the time, but many of them have about as much wildlife savvy as a brick wall. Co-ordination and co-operation, don’t make me laugh, it’s them first and then them first again. It’s only when they need extra help from those who know what they are doing that they let you in. One thing they are good at, they are always willing to take over and run the show when you’ve done all the hard work, you won’t be welcome then of course.

    Been there, seen it all and still wearing the T-shirt.

    nirofo.

    • Skydancer

      What Natural England appear to be doing in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland is solely targeted against the local raptor group, which incidentally was Britain’s first group of its kind in Britain established in 1967. Pioneering work undertaken by group members in the early 1970’s in Bowland first alerted the RSPB and the Government’s Licensing authority the Nature Conservancy (now Natural England) to the alarming levels of illegal raptor persecution taking place throughout this remote moorland region. There is simply no sound logic behind any move by Natural England to restrict conservation activities being carried out by the NWRG; if the unfolding political plot was not so serious it would be laughable. There is simply no other group in England working to conserve raptors with the level of expertise and knowledge that this group have achieved during the last forty four years.

      Most if not all employees working for Natural England and the RSPB who are personally involved in this unfolding disgrace were not even borne at the time the NWRG began their thankless task protecting raptors. It seems curious that in those pioneering times forty years ago, when species like peregrine were on the verge of extinction, the group’s endeavours were appreciated and not obstructed. But now after the peregrine population has reached unprecedented levels never before recorded in our country, obstacles are being put in place by the very organisations that should be more sympathetic and supportive.

      Natural England do not appear to appreciate one very important fact, experienced man power resources on the ground to counter raptor persecution in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland are just not available. Under the present government financial cut backs together with an almost total absence of experienced people, the persecution of raptors in this region will undoubtedly get much worst not better. Therefore where existing experienced and responsible raptor workers are willing and capable of undertaking this important and responsible work in their own time and at their own expense, it is vital Natural England support what is being contributed here and not destabilize this vital work with their political shenanigans; if this should happen then this would directly undermine raptors and their continued security in this important region of Lancashire.

      Last year the RSPB warden in Bowland tasked with protecting hen harriers on the United Utilities estate resigned following the puzzling deaths of 3 hen harrier chicks. After interviews had been carried out to find a replacement the appointed first choice gave back word resulting in the candidate of second choice being appoited to this responsible post. What is important here, this individual had never previously worked with hen harriers but Natural England issued a licence allowing him to visit nests of the most threatened raptor species in England without any prior experience. So the important question here, why would Natural England wish to restrict access to nests of a species which is now considered common, it just does not make any sense!!

    • admin

      @ Nirofo: That’s interesting to know.

      Are there any others of you out in the field who are getting a raw deal from these organisations, or have any reports of bad practice by them? Feel free to write in confidence either here or through the contact form.

      Let’s start a dossier!

  • che of bowland

    I fear many people from across the world reading the original article” Do as
    we Say, Not as we Do” and added comments may not fully grasp what is really
    taking place here, so I will try my best to place the detail into context.

    Natural England who are the English Government’s wildlife Advisor’s have
    been holding behind closed door meetings with representatives of at least
    one shooting estate and the local RSPB who intern work closely with United
    Utilities plc on their upland water catchments in the Forest of Bowland in
    Lancashire. United Utilities over the last two decades have provided
    significant funding to the RSPB for their support and advice. The North West
    Raptor Group have cooperated with United Utilities for the last 30 years
    monitoring and collating data on a variety of important raptor species
    breeding on company estates.

    In 2009 this relationship terminated after information provided to UU by the
    raptor group over a number of seasons clearly began to indicate particular
    nests located on moorlands owned by UU were being interfered with on a
    regular and sustained basis each year. Disappointingly this information was
    disregarded by estate management and RSPB because of a mutual need to reduce
    bad publicity. The RSPB found itself with a very difficult moral dilemma, on
    one hand if the RSPB stood up and supported the claims being made by the
    local raptor group the Society could loose substantial financial funding or
    even the loss of their UU contract.

    Ways of restricting the work undertaken to monitor and protect raptors
    undertaken by the North West Raptor Group in Bowland, in particular
    peregrine and hen harrier, was high on the behind closed doors agenda this
    week. Even though group members have monitored raptor species in the Forest
    of Bowland consistently for the last 35 years, it is feared NE intend to
    removed many nests previously monitored by the group from their licenses to
    prevent incidents of persecution being made public on the Raptor Politics
    WEB site. It seems unreasonable and illogical to claim too many duplicate visits to peregrine nests are being made when I read that Natural England have encouraging duplicate and uncoordinated visits to nests themselves! I would also like to know why one licensed individual should be permitted to disregard licence conditions when ringing nestlings when all other licensees if they followed this example would be disciplined.

    I find it puzzling to comprehend the need to restrict licenses held by the local raptor group when members of other regional raptor groups from outside Lancashire are being allowed unfettered access to these nests but which Natural England are choosing to ignore!

  • DEAN

    @ Che
    I had always assumed that UU estates were themselves not shot over,but were surrounded by shooting estates in private hands.Is that not the case?If UU does allow shooting was the local group suggesting that it was keepers who had a legitimate right to be on the land who were responsible for the persecution they found?.Again I’d understood that it was being alleged that keepers from the surrounding estates were trespassing on UU property to carry out these attacks. The reason I’m asking is that I’m trying to see why UU would go to the trouble of working alongside the RSPB and the local group,only to cover up allegations of persecution. Clearly if some of their lands are rented out to shooting syndicates I can see how that might lead to a conflict of interests.Can you help with more details.
    Thanks.

    • che of bowland

      Several large areas of moorland owned by UU are leased to independent shooting syndicates, for example -Harden (peregrine nests where eggs and chicks taken on regular basis, last year 3 hen harrier chicks found dead at nest),

      Langden (peregrine nest where eggs disappear each year, second eagle owl nest, adult female disappeared, after being rung three chicks left to starve in nest),

      Sykes Fell(Raven chicks found with heads decapitated below nest),

      Whitendale (established peregrine territory found abandoned this year),

      Brennand (peregrine sites consistantly low productivity, several chicks found either dead in nest or missing),

      Croasdale (hen harrier nest two dead young after being photographed by two licensed photographers),

      Lamb Hill (peregrine nest complete clutches of 4 eggs disappeared in 2009 & 2010), and finally

      Catlow Fell(gamekeeper caught below peregrine crag with shotgun, this territory has been unproductive throughout the last 15 years), are each areas which are all shot on a regular basis. There is no suggestion here that the persecution has been undertaken by keepers from other estates, other than at the Catlow Fell peregrine site.

      Certainly the RSPB and United Utilities are both none too pleased when incidents of persecution taking place on the UU estate are reported on RP. I can assure everyone that despite any obstacles put in place by the company or Natural England to prevent access to this or any other estate in Bowland, the truth will continue to be published in the public interest. Arrangement have now been made for each group member to see their respective MP’s, and hopfully an interview will shortly take place with a journalist. Of course full and explicit detail will be published asap on the RP web site.

  • nirofo

    It seems that this is far more political than merely bird protection, in the RSPB’s case it looks as though continuing to receive funding from UU is more important to them than protecting Raptors, no change there then, and they are determined to keep it that way regardless of any cost to the birds. “Natural England”, now aren’t they supposed to be the gang responsible for ensuring legally protected wildlife is legally protected, or am I thinking of some other public funded mob? It seems they are more concerned with protecting their own interests than the Raptors, and will go to any lengths to make sure the North West Raptor Group are kept far enough at bay. Just far enough that is, so they don’t upset the applecart by seeing and reporting what’s really happening out there at Bowland.

    As to the North West Raptor Group being refused certain Raptor licences for the Bowland area while other birders from outside the area have been granted them, I think it’s time to talk to your local MP and complain to him/her, (let N E know you intend to do this first though, you may find you get your licences after all). Myself and other members of our local Raptor group have had this happen to us in the past with Merlin licences for our own area, we were refused licences while several birders coming up on holiday from the south of England were licenced. We complained very loudly to the SNH licencing officer and received our licences in the next post. Did somebody mention liaison ???

    Seriously I think it’s time to remove the kid gloves with these people and get stuck into them, these sorts of goings on need reporting publically to the media so that everyone knows what these high profile organisations get up to with our money.

    nirofo.

    • Admin

      This is the latest information members of the NWRP have just received via the BTO from Natural England, talk about one law for one, one law for another.

      Schedule 1 Permits issued for Peregrine in Lancs are not permitted to have accredited agents. (why not when this system will still be applied outside Lancashire for all other raptor groups in Northern England?)

      Mr xxxx xxxx will not be issued with a Permit for Peregrine in Lancs for 2011 as he did not make the appropriate consultation requirements in 2010.

      In order to prevent uncoordinated visits to Hen Harrier nests in the future you(the NWRPG) will not be issued with a Hen Harrier Permit in Lancs for 2011, as the accredited agents you were responsible for in 2010 did not make the appropriate consultation (either direct or via you). We accept there may be a possibility that such Hen Harrier nest visits by your accredited agents were unintentional, and therefore prior consultation could not take place. However, we would not expect experienced field workers to unintentionally visit Hen Harrier nests and to discourage this, or prevent visits without appropriate prior consultation, your permits will not include Hen Harriers in Lancashire in 2011. (Question, how can anyone working in open moorland prevent coming across ground nesting species which you did not expect to find????? )

      The monitoring of Hen Harriers, Peregrines and Merlins on UU land are covered by RSPB and their registered volunteers and therefore no permits for these species will be issued by BTO for UU land unless RSPB confirm that they are working with the particular raptor worker. (Question-will these RSPB volunteers still be licensed to visit areas outside UU estates already being monitored by the NWRG? Now that there will be no accredited agents permitted, will members who were accredited still receive a licence, doubtful is the answer)

      All Peregrine workers in Lancs are to specify the 10km squares, other than UU land, where they wish to monitor Peregrine in 2011 – if you could please let me know accordingly

      NE and BTO will try to manage issues of raptor workers covering overlapping patches so there will no longer be a requirement for all Peregrine raptor workers in Lancs to consult with you before visiting nests.

      NE or BTO are not revoking or removing permits. Based on the information from 2010, the 2011 permits will be issued in a way that will best reduce further possibilities for duplication of nest visits in 2011. This will be reviewed annually.

      The important point which needs highlighting, the only incident of non coordinated and duplicate nest visits last year were undertaken by licensed individuals who were not members of the North West Raptor Group. For some reason the single incident concerning the BTO ringer who will now now have his 2011 permit renewed is the only recorded incident, out of several, which has been mentioned above.

  • DEAN

    @Che,
    Thanks for the info.Out of curiosity did any of the estates you mention contain any successful HH or Peregrine sites?
    @Admin
    The BTO seem to be suggesting that licences are being witheld as some members of NWRP have not complied with their “consultation requirements”.Can you explain what these requirements are?

    • che of bowland

      Only too willing to oblige, first the several locations I highlighted in Bowland are each located on the United Utilities estate, no other estates have been mentioned, is this understood?

      Of the 10 harrier breeding attempts recorded last season on the United Utilities estate, only 50% of nests were successful producing 13 fledged young.

      There were at least 8 peregrine breeding attempts on the UU estates in 2010, of which five nests produced 13 fledged young. Of the remaining three sites 4 eggs disappeared at the point of hatch from the first site; this happened in 2009 also at the same site. The second site also lost 4 eggs, the same occurred at this site in 2009. A third nest was found containing two cold eggs which had been placed outside the nest scrape, together with a single chick which disappeared. The same nest was interfered with in 2009.

      Licenses issued by Natural England and the BTO require all licensees to coordinate any nest visit they intend to undertake beforehand with the species coordinator.

      NE accepts there may be a possibility that two Hen Harrier nest which were found by members of the NWRG as they walked across CRoW access land last year were unintentional and accept prior consultation could not therefore have taken place. However NE say they would not expect experienced field workers to unintentionally visit Hen Harrier nests. This statement is totally contradictory and illogical. How can anyone be blamed for intentionally visiting any nest which was found by accident, this simply does not make sense at all.

      What NE are not telling anyone the only uncoordinated and duplicate nest visit that did take place in Bowland last year were ALL undertaken by one RSPB volunteer and one licensed visitor from outside the county, who has now had his 2011 license with held. What is significant, the RSPB volunteer who intentionally visited a peregrine nest just four days after being informed of its existence took his grandson along on the expedition and was seen by two independent witnesses having his lunch just 80 m from the nest containing 4 eggs. The police were called out after the witnesses had suspected the nest was being illegally disturbed. Several weeks later when the site was re-examined a pair of black gloves belonging to the RSPB volunteer had been left beside the nest scrape. Double standards appear to be at play here resulting in one set of rules for the RSPB and a completely different set for responsible members of the local raptor group. Clearly NE, UU and the RSPB intend to operate censorship in Bowland this is why the local raptor group are being excluded from so many nests.

      Oh! Almost forgot, anyone invited by UU to monitor birds of prey on their Bowland estate are obliged to accept a binding confidentiality clause.

  • John Miles

    As I have always said you are better off without licences as you can go where you want and monitor what you want from a distance at any time with no ones permission. I know many raptor workers who do this and never have had a licence. Often their information is worth more than the licence holder as they are acting as real naturalists and end up with more scientific information.

  • DEAN

    @Che,
    Many thanks for your detailed reply.Have the other parties ever put forward an explanation as to why they think the nests have failed?
    Presumably posting info on here constitutes a breach of confidentality.Is this what is being refered to as not fulfilling the consultation requirements,or is that a reference to the issue of liason with the species co ordinator?Finally and if you don’t mind,in your experience if any 8 Peregrine sites in one area, were not subject to man made interference,what would be the likely success rate and do you have a view on how many pairs Bowland could support?

  • George, I know how hard you worked and how much you cared for the raptors you watched over and monitored on Bowland, what a very sad and sorry state of affairs this is all turning out to be and what a sad loss to these birds now you no longer feel able to carry on.

    It appears to me that none of the people who run the RSPB and Natural England have a clue how valuable the work that you and your fellow workers have done and some still want to do is, it is their lifes work and passion and I know how devastated they are about the present turn of events, furthermore they seek no glory just the pleasure and satisfaction of knowing that they are helping these wonderful birds in one of the most glorious settings in this country, walking on Bowland certainly lifted my spirits so I can understand where the passion comes from.

    I am at a loss to see where this is all going but it seems to me that the RSPB and Natural England are running round in circles making it up as they go along to suit the situation and keep in with the very people who line their pockets and I am finding it very hard to understand where their loyalties lie especially when the first priority should be to look after the very people who know the area and have such a genuine love of the birds, instead it appears that they are blindly supporting the very people who have carried out bad practice and will continue to do so their egos being bigger than the thought of a job done with care and compassion.

    Money seems to rule instead of common sense, both the RSPB and NE have plenty so why are they being so blinkered and greedy. I hope that these raptor workers fight this turn of events with whatever help they can get surely the treatment they are getting is a violation of their rights.

    I hope you still enjoy a walk on Bowland George but you must feel very sad, I wish you many hours of joy watching the raptors flying free, I just wonder how much longer they will remain so.

  • I would like to ask the RSPB three questions,
    1. Why have you spent so much time, effort and money on the protection of birds of prey when you are taking money from the very people who are persecuting these birds ?
    2. Why are you not supporting the Raptor Workers who have watched over and monitored these birds for years and in fact done your job for you, yet continue to support others who are committing bad practice?
    3. What has happened to the pair of Eagle Owls on your reserve at Geltsdale, which have not been seen since December 14th, Mark Avery told me last year that gamekeepers from a neighboring estate were showing an unhealthy interest in them, or was this just a way of placing the blame elsewhere?
    Perhaps it suits the RSPB and Natural England to let the public believe that it is always gamekeepers who are at fault to cover their own faults.
    I await a reply with interest but won’t hold my breath.

  • falco subbuteo

    Hi chrissie, dont hold your breath waiting for a reply from the RSPB because you will not get one,
    If the RSPB staff are anything like there raptor workers in Bowland then they will all have massive egos and will not see anything wrong in them selves.

  • paul williams

    RE:- JOHN MILES, John I have monitored at a distance without any disturbance taking place many times since 1966. By doing so it has made it easier to view the poor field craft undertaken by a number of licensed individuals but Natural England together with the RSPB choose to ignore this of course because data collected by these people would otherwise not be available to them.