Skydancer – a new way forward for hen harriers and grouse shooting?

[singlepic id=291 w=118 h=118 float=left]The Skydancer project may just be getting started but as many of us know, the need to conserve and protect hen harriers in England is nothing new. Though their diet mainly comprises meadow pipits and field voles, hen harriers will occasionally take red grouse and it is recognised that in certain situations, when hen harriers are numerous, this has the potential to impact on the “shootable surplus” or the number of grouse available to shoot in the autumn. The resulting perceived conflict between hen harriers and driven grouse shooting has been the focus of intense debate and research for over 30 years now and efforts to devise practical solutions through projects such as the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project are ongoing.

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8 comments to Skydancer – a new way forward for hen harriers and grouse shooting?

  • nirofo

    Quote:
    “The United Utilities estate in Bowland is a great example of this – where hen harriers are doing well and driven shooting continues successfully”.

    Where did this information come from and why wasn’t it passed on to everyone else. I was under the impression that the Hen Harriers on Bowland had their worst breeding season for years last year!!!

    Quote 2:
    “Jude’s already keeping you posted about the brilliant on-the-ground conservation work that’s happening on the United Utilities Estate in Bowland”.

    What brilliant conservation work is this that he’s referring to??? I was under the impression that the Raptors on Bowland estates had their worst breeding success for years last year, maybe the conservation work doesn’t include Raptors!!!

    Editor’s comment. Last year peregrines on the United Utilities estate had one of the worst years with only two productive sites out of seven territories. Pairs of successful hen harrier were down to just four. A Crown Court Judge (Judge Mckay) once commented at Liverpool that dealing with United Utilities management was like trying to knit scottish mist.

  • Falcoscot

    Extract from Langholm Moor Demonstration Project keepers diary November 2011 :-

    “Perhaps some of the grouse losses are linked to an increase in peregrine sightings this winter, despite their nesting success on and around Langholm being down this year.”

    Is “Perhaps” a scientific term, anyone ?

    Editor’s Comment, there is another way of looking at this comment, it shows just how a gamekeeper’s mind works and thinks.

  • Falcoscot

    That’s how I was looking at it and that shouldn’t be the attitude of a keeper working on this kind of public funded project that has been set up to look scientifically at the issues of Harriers living in harmony with grouse shooting.

  • People have to remember that the Headkeeper on Langholm is not a scientist and is only writing his own general updates/views on what is happening/going on each month on his moor.

    I personally find his updates both informative and interesting.

  • Falcoscot

    Hi Mike, don’t you think a keeper who is working on a project that is supposed to be developing a method to prevent conflict between Harriers and grouse should be a little more careful about making assumption on grouse losses ?

    To start a diary by saying “People who have lived and worked the estate all their lives are saying they have never known it so wet” and then point a finger at raptors for grouse losses surely must say something to most people reading those comments. I know if I was his employer, or SNH, I would be asking questions about that diary entry.

    • Hi Falcoscot, I’m afraid we will just have to differ on this point you refer to.

      However, more importantly what really concerns me greatly about this project is that despite throwing vast sums of money, manpower and diversionary feeding into the equation, not a single grouse has been shot since this projects launch in September 2007.

      What is your take on this Falcoscot?

  • Falcoscot

    My take on this Mike is that the project was never fully reviewed prior to funding, something SNH overlooked before going ahead with it. A complaint to the Government Ombudsman related to this was upheld but as SNH had cobbled together an impact assessment when the complaint was raised nothing has been done about it when the truth is this project should have undergone a full appraisal which is what the Habitats Regulation requires.

    I dont believe there has ever been a case when long term supplementry feeding of any wildlife has shown to be beneficial to a species, you only have to talk to deer managers to understand the negative effects it can have and not only that, they have been working with one or two pairs of Harriers, what about if there were 18 pairs like there was back in the 90’s. I find it hard to believe feeding stations on a moor with 18 pairs of Harriers would not cause territorial problems between the pairs or do they plan to teach the Harriers to read so they can direct them to their individual feeding feeding station.

    As far as I’m concerning the whole thing is a publicity exercise for those involved which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for nearly a million pound of public money being wasted. Maybe the people of Langholm would have prefered the money to be spent on their Community hospital that has been under threat of closure !

    I am not anti-keepers, I have good friends who are keepers but I was quite alarmed when I read that comment on the LMDP keepers diary. This kind of project needs keepers who want to solve a problem, not keepers that are looking to blaim raptors for low grouse numbers with no evidence.

    My view is if land managers want to raise revenue from grouse shooting they should do what pheasant shooting has had to do, breed and release grouse. This can be done but I have been told moor owners want to keep their wild shooting wild…………Buccleuch Estates, a partner of the LMDP, have release thousands of Red Legged Partridge in the Lowther Hills in the past so I dont know how that can be considered keeping wild shooting wild !

    Editor’s Comment. We have been aware for many years a majority of hen harrier in the Forest of Bowland have been able to read. This is the reason the small nucleus of successful breeding pairs remain on the United Utilities side of the estate boundary where they are welcomed. Of course there other birds which continue to stray onto the adjoining estates where all too often they then disappear, but if these birds had gone to “Spec-Savers” they may have lived to tell the tale.

  • nirofo

    Quote:
    “Editor’s Comment. We have been aware for many years a majority of hen harrier in the Forest of Bowland have been able to read. This is the reason the small nucleus of successful breeding pairs remain on the United Utilities side of the estate boundary where they are welcomed. Of course there other birds which continue to stray onto the adjoining estates where all too often they then disappear, but if these birds had gone to “Spec-Savers” they may have lived to tell the tale”.

    I doubt it would have made much difference if they had gone to “Spec-Savers”, Natural England and the RSPB are supplying them with the same blinkers that they are wearing.