What a year for violent crimes directed against “protected” Birds of Prey. We have seen Golden Eagles, Peregrines and now Buzzards all captured in pole traps. Of course no Hen Harriers have been killed as no harriers have been found dead, even those fitted with satellite transmitters do not get found! [Try E bay for cheap transmitters! ] Now we learn of further outrages from Scotland where it has been reported 3 golden eagles have been found poisoned in the last three weeks.
There should be no surprises either to learn we have a government supporting land owners who destroy SSSI’s on Red Grouse moors; see Mark Avery Blog, Wuthering Moors. (http://markavery.info/2012/07/01/wuthering-moors-20/#comments.)
With such close, friendly and cozy relationships which clearly exist between the Secretary of the Moorland Association and Mr. Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries, god help those birds of prey that remain upon England’s uplands.
Recently these two gentlemen found the time during a dinner engagement to discuss the position of the hen harrier and the possibility of obtaining derogations to cover the entire proposed process. Now that their hen harrier concerns have been over-taken by this year’s disappointing events in England, what threats to their mutual shooting interests will the two gentlemen talk about next we might ask? With only one successful pair of harriers remaining in England, will the Secretary of the Moorland Association seek the eradication of this pair, ensuring at last this problem is resolved before moving onto the next species?
We have had flash flooding causing £millions of damage after draining these same moors. We have had shooting estates pushing for a cull of Buzzards. Now they want to kill Cormorants and Goosander or anything that might have a beak that looks that it might be hooked and we are only into July!
What can we expect next is a question that many of you will be asking? Well back to the weather. If there is one Red Grouse chick out there still alive then they must have missed the amazing rain which has fallen most of the spring and throughout most of the present summer. Already Bowland is claiming both Merlin and Short eared Owl chicks have died in the nest caused by the cold and wet conditions. For a second consecutive season Bowland peregrines have suffered particularly badly with over 50% of territories failing to produce a single chick this year. Of particular worry has been the fact that following last seasons catastrophic failure of 74% of peregrine territories in Bowland, five territorial sites were found abandoned once again this season. Barn Owls have suffered around the country as flooding has removed food from their normal feeding areas, even adults are suffering in some areas.
If in deed the weather has had an effect on the ‘glorious 12th’ then you can already say that things will be bad in 2013 for Birds of Prey as adult stocks of Red Grouse will be at a premium and need to be conserved for the next breeding year. Look at the latest Langholm report [http://www.langholmproject.com/keepersdiary.html ]. As the keepers continually destroy habitat on the moorland SSSI, trying to create more heather for Red Grouse they are amazed that Red Grouse are then preyed on by raptors as the alternate food is not available. Not everything can feed on voles as they seem to think! Try Peregrine for instance. When was the last picture of a vole brought into the nest by a peregrine to feed its chicks!
Sadly the Vicarious Liability – E petition has come to a halt because of a lack of support. Can’t see many people signing it at the game fair in the coming weeks or even the bird fair at Rutland in August, that is to say if these events will go ahead given the weather. The Scottish game fair only lasted 1 day with 2 days cancelled. No chance of talking about the Buzzard taking the Osprey chick then for those assembled. Given the state of the rivers, perhaps the chick would have died any way of starvation. Much better to be taken straight out!
So where are the game keepers that do every thing by the law? I know one lad who was actually a birder. He had real problems with his neighbouring keepers. They hated the idea of him having both Buzzard and Goshawk on his beat but he produced the game for his employer, and that at the end of the day is all that matters. By this he received his ‘back hands’ and the job was a good one.
Several colleges around the country train game keepers for the future. How many of these young lads will go through life not braking the law? That is if the law is actually still in place in the future! How many Bird of Prey enthusiasts will still be active in the future if there so little to go and see on such large sections of the British Countryside? How many will need a license to walk across areas like Bowland or Derbyshire to actually study Birds of Prey? One thing is certain, no conservationist who remains active will in the short term require a hen harrier disturbance licence; how can you disturb a species that no longer exists? A point NaturalEnglandshould keep in mind.
With so much negativity about it’s nice to report that theHebrideshas had one of the best breeding seasons for Birds of Prey ever due to very good weather and no red grouse moors.