Forest of Bowland, Eagle Owl Disaster – 3 nests found deserted on the United Utilities Estate.

On May 5th 2013 we published details of an abandoned eagle owl nest containing 4 deserted eggs found on the United Utilities estates in the Forest of Bowland, see here for details. The abandoned nest was found by Terry Pickford and Kevin Moore – two members of the North West Raptor Group. On the 8th May 2013, we published a second story describing an alleged conversation about the discovery of eagle owls nest  in the Forest of Bowland overheard by a customer in a Dunsop Bridge Cafe.


The first Bowland Eagle Owl nest found abandoned in May 2013 on United Utilities estates Forest of Bowland

We can now confirm the existence of two additional eagle owl nests in the Forest of Bowland this season, both nests established once again on moorland owned by United Utilities Plc. The first of these nests, being monitored by RSPB voluntary wardens, was also found abandoned, but instead of eggs, the nest contained the corpses of several dead owlets. We have been unable to establish the reason for the deaths of the owlets found, or if one or both of the adult eagle owls are now missing. We do know all the dead chicks were covertly removed from the nest scrape to prevent them being photographed and displayed on the Raptor Politics web site. In June 2010 an identical incident occurred at the same nesting territory. The corpses of 2 eagle owl chicks were discovered by two members of the North West Raptor Group starved to death in the nestscrape after one of the adult owls (possibly the female) curiously disappeared. (Roumor suggests this owl may have been shot). Click here to read the complete account of the 2010 incident.

Below Kevin Moore, a member of the NWRG, holding a third owlet which was found clinging to life within the 2010 nest. Kevin together with the rest of his colleagues in the group played a major role in saving the life of the third owlet which had been left in the nest to die.


A third larger owlet, a female, was found alive in the 2010 territory, but only just. Throughout the following two weeks each evening as it was getting dark, members of the North West Raptor Group made the long trip to the site, bringing food to feed the owlet to keep it alive. This whole operation was kept secret for fear of alerting United Utilities or the RSPB who may have attempted to bring a halt to what was going on. The larger owlet quickly responded to being fed by hand and began to gain weight and by this time the youngster could fly. Two weeks after the feeding initiative had started, visiting the nest for perhaps the last time bringing a rabbit together with a pheasant picked up dead on the road, the owlet was no where to be seen. Although the territory was rechecked on several more evenings thereafter and an exhaustive search undertaken, the missing owlet was sadly never located. We would like to believe the owlet survived thanks to the dedicated assistance provided by members of the North West Raptor Group.  

Dead Eagle Owl

One of two owlets allowed to starve on the United Utilities estates June 2010

Below is a photo of this seasons deserted eagle owl nest scrape where a number of dead owlets were found and then removed last week. If you compare this nest scrape with the two scrapes located by the North West Raptor Group you can plainly see the scrape has been cleared of all nesting material, feathers, pellets and general nesting detritus to mask a nesting attempt had ever been made. Clearly someone has gone to a lot of trouble to hide this failure; the question we should all be asking is why? We must extend our thanks to both Sabden Boggert and the Whistleblower for notifying us of this second eagle owl nest failure. We would be interested to learn if this latest grim discovery has  been reported to the Wildlife Crime Officer?


The remains of a now sterile nest, cleansed to hide the gruesome details of what was found and then removed to hide someones embarrassment.

The story doesn’t end here, we’re now able to report the failure of a third eagle owl nest found abandoned containing a full clutch of 4 eggs, once again established on moorland owned and managed by United Utilities Plc. The third nest was located on Sunday 2nd June by two members of the North West Raptor Group. The raptor workers were checking possible alternative nesting sites for peregrine falcons when they discovered a well worn path leading directly into the abandoned eagle owl nest. This latest find has now been reported to the Wildlife Crime Officer for Lancashire by the North West Raptor Group and a log number provided.


The second abandoned Eagle Owl nest containing 4 eggs found 2 June by the North West Raptor Group this year on estates owned by United Utilities.

Finding  a single abandoned eagle owl nest could perhaps be put down to natural factors, however the knowledge that there have now been three deserted eagle owl nests all found on the United Utilities estate this season leads one to suspect the reason they’ve been abandoned is not down to coincidence.

You can view the youtube video taken at the nest where Terry Pickford makes his feelings plain.

United Utilities should now take full responsibility and explain why so many raptor nesting sites upon their Bowland Estates are being found deserted, the majority of these disappearances since the company persuaded Natural England to revoke licenses issued to the NWRG preventing group members from monitoring nest sites on their estates and eslewhere in the Forest of Bowland.

According to information provided to Raptor Politics, only a single peregrine nest remains in tact on the United Utilities Bowland estate this season. Initial indications are suggesting for the first time in 25 years, there have been no successful peregrine breeding attempts this season on any private estate in Bowland. Unless this downward trend is reversed the Bowland peregrine is likely to follow the hen harrier into extinction. This alarming situation is still being authenticated by the North West Raptor Group.

As soon as the on-going assessment of known peregrine nesting territories being undertaken on each Bowland estate has been completed, Raptor Politics intends to make the information public. We are confident the detail will indicate how raptor numbers throughout the Forest of Bowland have deteriated alarmingly after Natural England revoked some, but not all, licenses held by members of the NWRG since 2009.

We can now say with conviction why licences allowing the North West Raptor Group to monitor and protect raptor nests in the Forest of Bowland were revoked by Natural England. The reporting of multiple raptor nest failures, together with the disappearance of adult birds, paricularly peregrines and eagle owls by the North West Raptor Group proved embarressing to Natural England, the RSPB and United Utilities. The last straw came when the membership of the NWRG refused to sign a confidentiality clause prohibiting group members making any public disclosure or publication in the media of these important findings, a number of these incidents the result of criminal activity.





22 comments to Forest of Bowland, Eagle Owl Disaster – 3 nests found deserted on the United Utilities Estate.

  • David Rimmer

    This is a disgrace, is there no accountability in Bowland? What are the RSPB doing, sitting at their desks all day counting down the days to their retirement?

    • skydancer

      David, the RSPB are obviously terrified of the landowners in Bowland, that is why they allow these estate owners to do exactly what they wish and that is why there are no raptors on Bowland’s private estates today. How can they say they are a bird protection charity when they allow this disgraceful behaviour to continue under their noses by not standing up to those responsible. Well done to the NWRG, without your voice we would be non the wiser.

  • This is heartbreaking and totally disgraceful, after campaigning for these owls two years ago helped by over three thousand supporters how could we have believed that we had won a victory and that they would be left alone?

    How very wrong we were as no raptor are welcome on Bowland and how very angry and sad are we all that these beautiful birds are being disturbed by the very people who said that they were there for them? Where are all the so called high profile people that boasted about what they had done for the Bowland Eagle Owls? They are very quiet now and are doing nothing, why am I not surprised? Money speaks louder than anything else it would seem.
    United Utilities should hang their heads in shame, so much for being, or not as this has proved beyond all doubt, a GREEN COMPANY. It is obvious that they have no scruples when raptors are involved, we are back in the dark ages it would seem.

    My heart has been on Bowland ever since I started the Eagle Owl campaign and spending those few glorious days in the Eagle Owls domain filled me with hope and joy, now I feel nothing but sadness for the owls and anger at the people who will not leave them to live a safe and natural life.

    United Utilities you have a wonderful and beautiful place on Bowland which raptors could enhance,and much credit would go to you but no you chose to follow the path of least resistance and put money before life.

    My love for the Eagle Owls on Bowland, for who you have no compassion or regard, will keep me and my supporters strong, I will not give up on them even if you have and I have no regard for you and the people you employ to supposedly care for raptors on your estates, the people who do care and made such a difference to the raptor population on Bowland have been treated as disgracefully as the Eagle Owls because they spoke the truth, since they no longer monitor raptors on Bowland the raptors have all but gone, it is time to expose you and all the people who persecute these birds as it brings shame to our country.

  • thomas carroll

    David, United Utilities use RSPB/Natural England voluntary field workers in the Forest of Bowland.They are the licensed custodians of the Birds of Prey in that area. However, they are sworn to a confidentiality clause that does not allow them to divulge information about the persecution that is rife on all of the Forest of Bowland Estates.To the North West Raptor Group members….Hold your heads up high….You have all proved a point.

    • bubo bubo

      I am inclined to agree with Thomas Carroll, the North West Raptor Group are the only ones who have had the courage to stand up for what they believe in, without their honesty we would all be under the impression that everything is fine in the Forest of Bowland, if only the RSPB/UU wardens had the same integrity.

  • Adam Riding

    A very sad state of affairs in Bowland. At what point in time are the custodians of Bowland going to say…enough is enough, My children and my childrens children want to see what I have seen.

  • Dean Powell

    I will now withdraw my membership from the RSPB

    • This is something ALL bird lovers should do immediately.
      We need a completely new approach to bird protection in the UK, a new society headed by those who are guided by scientific facts rather than emotional claptrap.

      Editor’s Comment, Doug could not agree more with the logic of what you have suggested. However, there are four problems; if constructive and radical solutions are not implemented very soon, there will simply be no raptors left on England’s uplands to protect. The hen harrier has now become extinct as a breeding species in England. We are hearing only a single occupied peregrine territory remains in the whole of Bowland. In former years there were between 18 and 20 occupied territories most years dispersed across the whole of Bowland. The north Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales are also close behind with very few raptors to speak about. The second problem, where would the experienced man power and financial recourses come from to support such an ambitious initiative? Who would be responsible for over-seeing such an ambitious project, and importantly would the estates allow access?

  • Dan

    The statement about hen harriers been extinct in england is false. There is a nest on a grouse moor in northumberland, witch unless I’m mistaken is in england.

    Editor’s Comment, Hi Dan lets just hope this nest survives, thanks for the update, much appreciated.

    • tweedler

      Oh well everything is fine then, we have one hen harrier nest in England, not much reason to celebrate.

  • che

    1 nesting Hen Harrier in England, Well done Natural England on a great achievement…For the rich,for the grouse, forever.So, what exactly did you spend public money on ?

  • paul williams

    I feared there would be darker days ahead regarding the Forest of Bowlands Raptor population .. ( My premonitions served me well) I have stated before, there is a (Major Raptor cleansing operation afoot).I am given to understand it is now in Full Swing. Will you ( The Licensed Guardians) be happy when there is nothing left to watch, will you be happy when our beautiful moorlands have been left silent of the many calls of the Peregrine Falcon, and the chattering of the Hen Harrier….I a pointing my finger at you…( The licensed Guardians)… Your silence will be heard….but not in this life!!!

    Paul Williams, Member North West Raptor Group

  • thomas carroll

    When the moorland Raptors become silent, we will hear the silence….A legacy left by its guardians.

  • Dan Martin

    I recently cancelled my RSPB membership that had been going over 25 years. To be fair they called me to find out why?
    I mentioned Titchwell bunkers, Ruddy Ducks and then raptors in my part of the world (Peak District) and Bowland.
    There was lots to talk about re Titchwell and Ruddys but not surprisingly the guy didnt want to talk about raptor persecution. He also denied the presence of EO at all. When I cited this as my main reason for withdrawing support he backed down…..”its up to you” he said.
    I dont believe the RSPB do want to save EO or raptors in general.

  • skydancer

    Dan , the rspb are terrified of the landowners, none of them will say anything about raptors ,especially on grouse moors .

  • paul williams

    I have heard on the grapevine RSPB Leighton Moss are taking bookings for the Hen Harrier safari in Bowland….Gulp!

    Editor’s Comment. Difficult to believe when according to the RSPB’s own Bowland blog there are no breeding hen harriers in Bowland this year. What are they going to use, cardboard cut outs on poles?

    • tweedler

      If they want to show them Eagle Owls, someone knows where there are 3 dead chicks, they could show them to the public,and say this is what happens to Birds of Prey in Bowland,

  • Nuthatch

    I am disgusted by this and have withdrawn my RSPB membership as a consequence!
    I think so many people would stop giving them money if they realised what is really going on and we all need to come together to raise awareness!

  • bubo bubo

    Why is the hen harrier still associated with the Forest of Bowland? Everywhere you go in Bowland,in shops,cafes etc,there are leaflets about the wildlife of Bowland – showing the hen harrier on the front, even the road signs use the logo of a hen harrier. There is no obvious connection between the hen harrier and the Forest of Bowland now, apart from the fact that harriers once use to breed once upon a time in the area. The County Council should stop using the hen harrier Logo for advertising purposes because the harrier is now only a symbol of persecution, shot out to conserve game birds. Lancashire County Council should seriously consider replacing the Bowland harrier Logo for something more representative for the area, I would suggest a picture of a gamekeeper with a gun grasping a dead hen harrier in one hand would be more suitable.

  • Daniel Bean

    I think the same persecution policy employed by Scotland urgently needs to be implemented by the RSPB in England; where whoever kills or injures a raptor on the estate,be it the gamekeeper or landowner, the landowner (who employs the potentially responsible gamekeeper) is charged the penalty. Since Scotland has employed this uncompromising method of legislation, persecution has dropped significantly there.

    In the past, I would suggest to save them confrontation with gamekeepers and landowners, the RSPB used to blame the Eagle Owls for the demise of the more delicate Hen Harriers (despite the fact in regions such as that in Scandinavia where both species also coexist, neither population particularly affects the other), it is easier to point fingers at defenseless Eagle Owls than thoughtless and aggressive gamekeepers and land owners. They would be right to suggest that a small, fragile Hen Harrier population (ie 17 pairs maximum. Which is in itself is a national disgrace, not to be celebrated.) could be harmed by Eagle Owls defending their territory. However a healthy population of say 300 pairs (the RSPB’s own estimate of the Hen Harrier potential of England) would not be affected by Eagle Owls overall. Therefore on that basis the RSPB were misguided because if the Eagle owls had been responsible for the Hen Harrier’s demise, that would only be because the Harrier population was allowed to crash to an unsustainable low nationally, by means of illegal persecution.

    Surely now, the RSPB has to admit that the disastrous fall in the number of raptors generally cannot be ascribed to Eagle Owls alone, as ALL the raptor species including the Eagle owls are in jeopardy.

    In blaming Eagle owls for the potential demise of the Hen Harrier and other smaller raptors, the RSPB has weakened its cause, biased assumptions have their consequences. Now we can only hope the RSPB will co-operate with NWRG, United Utilities and Natural England with the same intention-to save ALL raptors of Bowland.

    I find it hard to understand why the RSPB in Scotland have been so successful in implementing laws which protect raptors in this way, but unable to implement it in England. One has to wonder about vested interests and political weight being brought to bear on the RSPB, if this is the case, it is very sad. I wrote to Downing street 8 years ago concerned about the Eagle Owl being made the scapegoat for raptor depletion in this country, and being only 11 at the time was fobbed off not only by a Downing Street secretary, but also by the BTO, which was more disheartening. Where do we go from here? The RSPB need to get some more claws or beaks or both!

  • Jack

    This country needs a wake up call! Moaning about grey squirrels, rabbits running all over the place, rats everywhere, yet we persecute the one group of animals which help! These fat, pompous land owners need to be brought into line and tougher laws laid against them for committing such heinous crimes! Its all about power, class and money. Land owners are custodians, they do not have the right to obliterate species as they see fit. Its high time we took this to parliament and forced those suits to act on the publics behalf, isn’t that what a democratic government is supposed to do?! as for UU, they are most definitely getting cash back-handers to say and do nothing! As for the RSPB, they are a money grabbing joke only interested in protecting wildfowl and finches!

  • paul williams

    And their well paid jobsworth.