Surprise, what do we have?! Not a solution but more talks and discussion by which time hen harriers upon England’s uplands could already be extinct. The term, disgusting, does not even begin to quantify this appalling and unacceptable situation.
A deep sense of sadness followed by rage is the emotions that came into my mind upon first reading this sorry article. Why has it taken the loss loss of all but a single breeding pair of hen harriers to motivate England’s so called conservation organisations into action, after all they all knew what was taking place under their very noses? These very same organisations have been well aware of what has been happening on England’s red grouse moorlands, but due to politics chose to sit on their back-sides and say and do nothing, that is until its almost too late. Disgraceful is an understatement.
I would also like to ask why during the last 30 years the Bowland RSPB team, together with Natural England, have been in total denial of the reasons so many hen harriers have disappeared from the Forest of Bowland, these losses include hundreds of fledglings know to have migrated into other regions of our uplands where a black hole awaited their arrival. The first RSPB regional officer with responsibilities for Bowland John Armitage, when asked to explain why so many hen harriers were being lost on his watch from Bowland during a BBC television interview simply replied the RSPB did not know as the evidence was not available. Curiously when the camera had stopped recording he admitted to an astonished programme director estate gamekeepers were the cause but could not say so on camera.
It is no coincidence England’s core population of hen harriers have been restricted to moorland owned by United Utilities throughout the last 3 decades, however even on Bowland’s largest estate breeding hen harriers have vanished year after year with a high percentage of nest failures recorded over the years. We now learn from Mark Avery’s blog that 119 hen harriers have been radio tagged on England’s uplands, a majority in Bowland, certainly most on the UU estate. It is difficult to understand therefore why Natural England are unwilling to tell the public only one of these tagged birds was still alive and being tracked at the beginning of this year. Just as important as far as I am concerned, why are Natural England not prepared to tell anyone what has happened to the other 118 tagged hen harriers?
The biggest scandal of all has been a failure of anyone involved at the sharp end of the hen harrier recovery project so far to speak out about this unacceptable situation. Individuals who because of personal concerns are prepared to place politics before principle, these are the people I blame most for the hen harrier’s current plight. When ever a pair of breeding hen harrier disappear, or when a nest was found abandoned and chicks recovered dead or eggs smashed, the cry from these spineless raptor warriors has been it’s all down to natural causes. Why not simply tell the truth if you had nothing to hide?
The biggest waste of time, energy and importantly tax payer’s money, this side of the year 2000 has been without any doubt Natural England’s ‘Hen Harrier Recovery Project’. What a cataclysmic sorry state of affairs and white elephant that turned out to be, resulting in breeding pairs of English hen harrier driven down from teens to just one recognised breeding pair before these people and organisations were forced to speak out.
The wrong man in my opinion was picked to undertake the Hen Harrier Recovery Project from the start; certainly not sufficient experience and always too willing to express his thanks to estate gamekeepers for the hard work they have undertaken protecting harriers on the moorlands where they work. We must never forget it was the former Chief Executive of Natural England, Dr Hellen Philips and the Secretary for State for the Environment Fisheries and Food, Mr Richard Benyon who expressed their mutual gratitude to estate gamekeepers for maintaining the healthy biodiversity of England’s countryside. I must conclude in view of the predicament our grouse predating birds of prey are facing, protected or not, these platitudes did not apply to them.
I have always held a suspicion that behind the scenes someone from within Natural England was pulling the strings in order to pacify the shooting lobby or am I being too cynical perhaps? However as the long awaited hen harrier based PhD report is about to be published, on this occasion I am prepared to give the benefit of doubt as we may yet all be surprise by what conclusions are provided by Steve Murphy’s research, provided of course an independent peer review has been undertaken prior to final publication.
Danial Marsden, Chairman North West Raptor Group