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.