In a week that has seen total despair regarding the Bowland Eagle Owls are we now witnessing the end of a short era when these birds graced the moors of Bowland? More bird watchers from around the country came to visit the area bringing with them much needed revenue into the community just to see Hen Harriers and other moorland birds including Eagle Owls. Escaped or not the Eagle Owl is a bird which reminded people of a wild place. Not every one goes abroad to watch birds and here was the largest and most powerful owl in Europe that everyone could watch, learn about and admire.
Let’s not get it wrong we have learnt a lot about these truly magnificent birds and their effect on other wildlife. Last years camera work showed at one stage 97% of the food predated by eagle owls was rabbits. Rabbit populations explode due to ‘tunnel trapping’ carried out by the shooting estates to controll the numbers of Stoats, Weasels and Polecats which prey on them. Rabbits cause £200 million worth of damage a year to farming, horticulture and private gardens throughout the UK. This increase in Rabbits allows other birds of prey to increase like we have seen with the Buzzard when not persecuted. Other food taken by the Eagle Owl included Rats, Voles, Hedgehog, Gulls, Woodcock, Pheasant and even Red Grouse. No remains of Black Grouse were found at Geltsdale even with the population booming.
Have Eagle Owls had any effect on breeding Hen Harriers? Well going by the pair at Geltsdale the answer would be NO, as still no harriers grace these moors even with Eagle Owls well gone. Given the status of the Hen Harrier on Bowland this year the answer would be another NO given the fact that it is felt that at least one adult Eagle Owl once again may have been destroyed!
Most of the Spanish Eagle Owls are all found around Rabbit colonies, so here in Britain the birds could have taken off if they had not touched the sacred game bird, the Red Grouse! Given that Birds of Prey are not tolerated on Red Grouse moors because they take Red Grouse, the answer to the decline if not extinction in Britain of the Eagle Owl is almost complete. Had our dear MP, Mr. Benyon given the Eagle Owl cull the go a head, he knew he would have been wasting the tax payers money as his trusted friends the gamekeepers were willing to do the job for free.
Only one bright spot appears on the horizon and that was confirmed last night with the local elections. Would a new Labour party do anything for this lost cause of the uplands ever producing the Birds of Prey as they should do! There will certainly be no favours done by this present government as they live in the hands of these Red Grouse moor owners even reducing the tax they should pay back to the general public. Will the Short eared Owl go the same way as the Eagle Owl as so many Red Grouse Moors remove this bird as well even if they are carrying a European passport!