‘Operation Bowland Raptor Rescue –Launching Spring 2013

Raptor conservation and protection throughout Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland is currently a complete shambles. Since Natural England declined to give disturbance licences for peregrines to the North West Raptor Group who have covered this region for the past 45 years, hen harrier have disappeared, and many historic peregrine territories have been found to be abandoned.

The reasons for the loss of licenses keep changing, but in reality licences were withheld after group revelations caused embarrassment to Natural England together with their partners after inappropriate behaviour and a number of licence infringements had been reported to Natural England by the group. The group were also sanctioned for their alleged failure to work with a small number of licensed individuals who had been reported for their poor field practices and licence infringements, including a failure to coordinate nest visits, a licence requirement. Another possible reason for the licence ban voiced recently by the BTO talks about duplicating field work. Strange when you consider the first reoccupied peregrine nest after the end of the second world war was found in 1974 by a group members when there was no other field workers around; so just who is duplicating what you might ask? Strange this should be raised when a BTO peregrine ringer is being asked to travel into the Bowland region from Yorkshire to ring at the same peregrine nests which up until the ban had been covered by one group member without any duplication.

It is worth noting that Natural England has continued to provide licences to the group for peregrines in Cumbria, and for a variety of other birds – some much rarer than peregrines – in Lancashire. In so doing, Natural England in effect confirm that members of the North West Raptor Group are fit people to carry out monitoring and that the sole reason for withholding licences for the Bowland area was to prevent them from reporting what is happening there. Importantly, the BTO still feel able to issue to one group member an annual bird ringing permit which included approval to ring many schedule 1 species including peregrine, but without the disturbance licence from Natural England the permit is useless.

Raptor Politics has been advised that, beginning in 2013, the North West Raptor Group will launch “Operation Bowland Raptor Rescue” in a concerted effort to restore raptor equilibrium back to the Forest of Bowland. The group are now asking new recruits to join a small experienced task force with the sole intention of monitoring peregrine nests and reporting to the public any nest failures along with incidents of persecution, which normally the public would never hear about.

The first phase of this land mark project will begin with those territories located on the United Utilities estates. Currently, the small number of approved licensed field workers who have been issued with licenses via the RSPB allowing them to visit protected nests throughout the Forest of Bowland are restricted in what they are able to say publicly having been forced to accept and sign the conditions of a confidentiality agreement. This is the main reason so many nest failures along with persecution incidents never see the light of day.

Applicants  with an interest in protecting and watching raptors who also feel they have the motivation together with some spare time are invited to contact the initiative coordinator via the ‘Contact Us’ link on this site. Interested applicants should include, name, address, e-mail and details of experience if any and why they would like to be selected to join this important initiative?  All suitable applicants will be contacted and as soon as possible.

10 comments to ‘Operation Bowland Raptor Rescue –Launching Spring 2013

  • The raptor situation on Bowland is a shambles with little thought for the birds and very little news, good or bad, making it’s way into the public’s eye, good luck to all those who participate in this venture at least they are doing it for all of the right reasons instead of, like some people, trying to boost their already overblown egos. Natural England should think very carefully about how they treat people who have dedicated their entire adult lives to protecting birds of prey on Bowland. People reading this should also be aware it was the North West Raptor Group who first alerted the RSPB to the widespread raptor persecution taking place on Bowland all those years ago. Why is Natural England treating these dedicated and experienced individuals in such an unacceptable way, when their expertise should be used not wasted.

    I wish you all every success with this venture and hope it is not too late, the people sworn to protect the raptors up there should be getting very worried.

  • Paul Tresto

    We cannot place the future of our Bowland raptors in the hands on Natural England and their licensees when they continue to ignore the local expertise within the NWRG. The current system adopted by Natural England is not working, this is proven by the continuing decline in the two main raptor species NE are claiming to protect and enhance – and have been spending thousands of pounds of our money on projects which appear to have failed miserably. We need a system of monitoring and protection in place which is not headed by a Minister with significant grouse and pheasant shooting interests (look at his latest rejection of the call to ban Carbofuran – http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/fury-at-minister-richard-benyons-astounding-refusal-to-ban-deadly-bird-poison-8215803.html). It is shocking that Natural England is being taken to the European Commission by the RSPB over their failure to take action to the crimes committed at the Walshaw Moor Estate in West Yorkshire. Natural England recently did a complete U Turn at South Heysham where they withdrew their objection (to the predicted high mortality rate of Pink Footed Geese) to a wind farm which has now been approved. The RSPB maintained their objection but the planners ignored it as NE had withdrawn their objection and accepted the high kill rate. It would appear that Natural England is heading in the direction of not being fit for purpose – is this due to serious pressure from above? NE staff at working level are generally very committed to protecting and enhancing biodiversity but this mandate appears to be becoming secondary to other influences.
    I fully support Operation Bowland Raptor Rescue and hope that NWRG can succeed where Natural England have failed.

  • otters

    I have just returned from a holiday on the Isle of Mull. It is a raptor paradise – White tailed sea eagles and golden eagles attracting visitors and bringing approx £5 million in tourism to local business each year. All along the roads there are Buzzards sitting on fenceposts and the sightings of owls, hen harrier etc are all reported in visitors books and to watching visitors. All over the island there are guides and wildlife tours – people clearly making money from protecting wildlife. Guess what? There is no grouse shooting on Mull!

    Clearly there are questions to answer here – the wind farm application that is mentioned above by Paul Tresco is just one example of European Habitat directives being broken by Councils. There appears to be a complete failure to protect wildlife and protected species on many levels.

    While I fully support Operation Bowland Raptor Rescue I am concerned that nothing is being done to protect raptors and the needless killing is taking on such epic proportions that gene pools are dwindling. This does not bode well for any species.

    I believe the key is working with gamekeepers, hunting groups and farmers, supporting them to support raptors on their land. Until we establish vast safe areas for raptors the situation is going to get worse.

  • thomas carroll

    How often was the National Wildlife Crime Unit deployed in the Forest of Bowland to investigate Raptor persecution?

  • nirofo

    After all the flak, inuendo and accusations of incompetence levelled at NE etc, by many different individuals and groups, it will be interesting to see if any of the NWRG members will be issued with Schedule One Licenses for the Bowland area next season.

    Editor’s Comment.The news is bad, first Natural England are now insisting all licence holders must provide completed nest record cards as well as a 10 Km square for areas being visited. otherwise no licence; not going down too well with rank and file raptor workers and of course every time the NWRG provide any 10 km squares for areas they have covered for four decades, they are being told these areas are already being monitored – Blatent discrimination.

    • nirofo

      Reply to editors comment.
      This is not a new procedure, this is similar to when NNC, (now NE/SNH) were issuing licences, difference then was the completed nest record cards were usually sent to the BTO as the majority of licences were obtained through the BTO via Henry Mayer-Gross, Robert Morgan etc, in the first place. We were told by the NCC several times that all the licences for our area had already been issued, when we queried it we found they had all been issued to visiting nest recorders coming up to the north of Scotland on birding holidays, (we were the only local nest recorders working these areas). We complained to the NCC and told them we were not prepared to accept that situation and would take it further, consequently we were issued with licences for our area. An interesting requirement on the licence at that time was the need for liaison with other nest recorders, we complied with this requirement from our end but never had any response from any other nest recorders who we knew were visiting our area. It’s interesting to note that liaison still remains a one way system.

      Editor’s Comment. It is the very people who would not coordinate nest visits with the peregrine coordinator in the Forest of Bowland who are now receiving their licenses despite their failure to keep to this licence condition. Licenses are being exclusively granted to these same people by the RSPB for use on the United Utilities estate covering several raptor species, while the BTO on behalf of Natural England are providing additional licenses for their use throughout the rest of Bowland’s private estates. Under these circumstances it is very difficult to understand or accept that just two or perhaps three licensed people are able to cover efficiently Bowland’s moorlands in excess of 800 square kilometres when monitoring or visiting raptor nests.

      Perhaps even more curious, earlier this year the Shooting Times exposed the fact that two of these same individuals were in receipt of payment i.e., the free use of a landrover and fuel supplied by United Utilities. Nothing wrong with that you may think but you would be wrong. If visits are made to any schedule 1 nest under these circumstances, even with a licence but without landowner approval, such visits according to the conditions of the CRoW Act clearly breach licence conditions and would be illegal. We are now being told the landrover and fuel concession has now been removed but Natural England failed to involve or report these illegal activities to the police after a number of nests had been visited, instead turning a blind eye to what had been going on. One set of rules for some but a completely different set of rules for everyone else.

      • nirofo

        Nothing this 2 faced lot at NE do surprises me anymore, in fact it’s to be expected, it reeks of underhand practice permeating down from their lords and masters.

  • paul williams

    All bird of prey territories in Bowland will be monitored at a non-disturbance distance, that is how we have been doing it since licenses were revoked.It is also so much easier to record the “nest baggers” and how often the nest sites are over visited.Hence, no breeding Harriers.

  • Erica

    There will be further loss of nesting habitat for Peregrine falcons. Many quarry owners are now applying for wind farms on their sites chasing the cash cow of subsidy. There is an application at Back Lane quarry Nr Carnforth to be determind by Lancashire County council. Not only will this impact visually on Arnside and Silverdale AONB and Warton Cragg it will be a potential loss of breeding habitat to Peregrines as there are several quarries in the vacinity. This single application could have a significant detrimental impact on Perigrine populations in this area.

    Editor’s Comment. Erica peregrines and ravens have been regular breeders at Back Lane quarry, but it seems odd that no breeding has been recorded there for a number of seasons. Several years ago a brood of 3 ravens were found in a nest having been shot to death.

    • nirofo

      It seems to be common practice removing Schedule One species from an area as a prerequisite to a windfarm application. Many of our best deep heather braes and hillsides in the north of Scotland have been burned off down to bedrock in places, this has happened several years in a row removing any chance of our Merlins, Hen Harriers and S.E Owls ever breeding in these areas again. Subsequently several applications for windfarms are well on the way to approval for these same areas !!!

      Editor’s Comment, if his were to happen we will know who to blame.