Will the Hen Harrier be allowed to return to England’s uplands in 2014?

The RSPB  have once again asked the public in the uplands of north east England, to keep their eyes open for hen harriers, England’s most threatened bird of prey.  Now in its seventh year, the charity has relaunched its Hen Harrier Hotline in the hope of discovering where these birds are potentially breeding.

Hen Harrier

The uplands could have at least 320 pairs of breeding hen harriers but last year not a single chick was raised in the whole of England.

Amanda Miller, Conservation Manager for the RSPB in Northern England, said: “This lack of breeding success is not through lack of effort.

“The male is famous for his spectacular courtship display known as ‘skydancing’ in which he tries to attract a female with a series of high altitude swoops and somersaults. It’s like nature’s equivalent of the Red Arrows.”

The main reason hen harriers have reached this crisis point is that the species suffers from illegal persecution.

In addition to their diet of small birds and mammals, hen harriers sometimes eat grouse, which brings them into conflict with the grouse shooting community. Sadly some game managers feel they must kill or disturb harriers to protect their stock.

Amanda continued: “The English hen harrier is on the edge of extinction as a breeding bird.”

The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate).

Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk. Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.

32 comments to Will the Hen Harrier be allowed to return to England’s uplands in 2014?

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

    Amanda, why don’t you tell our readers why hen harriers in England are on the verge of extinction and what you intend to do about this appalling situation?

  • paul williams

    Amanda, I have already seen Hen Harriers this year….one had been tagged.

    • nirofo

      Sorry I missed this post earlier Paul, you did say you saw Hen Harriers didn’t you, (more than one)? I hope you made copious field notes to prove to the rarities committee,(and Amanda)that you did actually see them and it wasn’t just wishful thinking now that the nesting season is approaching!

  • Skydancer

    As it was a beautiful spring like day today,I decided to travel down to the Forest of Bowland where I hoped I would see a Hen Harrier back on its breeding ground. I already knew the best spot would be in the Croasedale Valley above Slaidburn. No sooner had I entered the open valley walking along the Salter track I was horrified to see smoke spreading across the moor crossing from the left hand side in front of the Croasdale quarry, where last year I came to watch the nesting peregrines. I stood and watched in amazement not able to understand why anyone should intentionally burn heather at this time of year within a territory where quite possibly hen harriers may have already been prospecting for suitable place to make their nest, this activity in my opinion was reckless and intentional. I also feel the landowner (United Utilities) should have been more responsible and should not have allowed anyone to burn heather at this time of year so close to an occupied peregrine nest. One thing I am certain of, there will be no harrier in this valley now. It is also important to point out, the smoke I saw clouding the quarry may have been a significant disturbance factor to any nesting peregrines at this time of year. Where was the RSPB warden who is paid to prevent disturbance to nesting birds of this kind?

    • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

      Skydancer, in reply to your question, we are advised when the heather was being burnt this morning, the RSPB warden was already sitting in the Dunsop Bridge cafe having lunch, allegedly.

  • bubo bubo

    Amanda we don’t want to hear that “the hen harrier is nature’s equivalent of the red arrows” I think birdwatchers will find this patronising,what we want to know is exactly what it is you intend to do about it with your members money,you could start by saying the vast majority of game managers are killing the hen harrier to preserve their grouse stocks,because that is the truth.

  • nirofo

    Ah, the smell of burning heather, it must be March or April or May again, or to those in the know, “THE NESTING SEASON”? I love the pungent aroma of burning Hen Harrier and Merlin nest sites, occasionally there’s the faint but familiar tang of burnt out Short-eared Owl in the background, but only years of experience can discern that. I suppose I’m probably quite experienced by now, having observed it first hand for many years on the bonnie braes and heather banks in northern Scotland. Alas it’s almost a thing of the past in my area now, the bonnie braes have been burnt out so many times by well intentioned crofters, gamekeepers and windfarm entrapaneurs that it’s just a distant memory now. All the Harriers, Merlins and SEO’s etc, have long since abandoned the braes to seek more favourable climes in Bowland and other infamous Red Grouse moors !!!

  • paul williams

    The stench of burning feathers….over to you Amanda….

  • paul williams

    A lack of ” CONCERN ” being shown for Peregrine Falcons.

    • nirofo

      Ah but, didn’t you know the Peregrines are now doing reasonably well in their urban environments, blissfully keeping the over populated pigeon stocks in control totally unaware and without fear of persecution from gamekeepers. Now that the Peregrine and most other Raptor populations in the rural areas of the UK are just a fragment of what they should be, thanks to the herculean persecution efforts of the gamekeepers, it makes you wonder just what a keepers job will be like for future generations, (if it still exists of course). What with Hen Harriers all but wiped out and the moorland breeding habitat for many other forms of birdlife almost destroyed it makes you think, will the Red Grouse be able to survive when it’s the only species left in the monocultured wilderness prepared for it at such a huge cost to wildlife and the environment.

      Editor’s Comment. I think we must ask why Natural England are so determined to prevent experienced raptor workers, members of the North West Raptor Protection Group, from protecting peregrines and hen harriers in the Forest of Bowland? Oh sorry we almost forgot, since NE with held group licenses allowing members to carry out this work, hen harriers became extinct, and since 2010 when licenses were revoked the peregrine has been reduced from an average of 18 breeding pairs to just a single successful pair last year. On the other hand nesting pairs of peregrines that breed a few miles away in territories surrounding the moorlands of the Forest of Bowland continue to thrive, doing exceptionally well without any help or protection from the anyone – why such a contrast, especially when we consider the RSPB have a full time presence in the Forest of Bowland?

      According to an RSPB letter published recently in the Lancashire Life Magazine, the writer claims the reason for the loss of so many peregrines in Bowland since 2010 could have been caused by the weather, a shortage of food or perhaps due to persecution. This statement is misleading, as the same weather pasterns effect nesting peregrines a few miles outside the circumference of the Bowland boundary, and food availability inside Bowland is far more abundant because of the ten of thousands of partridge, pheasants and red grouse which breed and are released each year. The only limiting factor to raptors inside the Forest of Bowland we would argue compared to outside this moorland region are gamekeepers.

  • John Rhead

    Oh, the poetry of it all. Red Arrows, indeed. It’s all so predictably depressing. Words, words, words when what is needed is action, action, action.

    Editor’s Comment. John politics and relationships with estates will always come before the interests of so called ‘protected’ raptors on England’s moorlands. Reporting incidents of persecution is not what Natural England and their partners wish to hear. Instead these organisations are hiding the reality of the Bowland killing fields under the carpet. That is why licenses for use in the Forest of Bowland by the NWRPG were with held, to prevent these detail reaching the ears of the public. If you have any doubt consider this, why is Natural England so determined to conceal the locations where the bulk of the satellite tagged hen harriers went missing, presumed shot, becoming public? Simple answer, because if they released this damaging data, the estate owners would be embarrassed, possibly resulting in many criminal investigations being undertaken. In the normal world hiding such criminal activity would be viewed as conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

  • skydancer

    The rspb with all their member’s money have stood by and watched the disappearance of all but a hand full of raptors in Bowland. How dare they use members money to promote themselves using glossy TV adverts claiming they are “giving nature a home”, what utter nonsense. Birdwatchers visit the Bowland Forest to see the Birds of Prey not tens of thousands of game birds, which in some of the valleys now a days are all anyone can see. I also understand one syndicate shoot on the United Utilities estate did not shoot at all last season, leaving thousands upon thousands of pheasants wandering aimlessly all over the moors.

  • John Rhead

    Dear Editor,
    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I obviously do not have a depth of knowledge on the Bowland situation but your explanation rings true. As an acquaintance from a national conservation body once explained to me “I used to be paid for knowing my own patch, now I’m paid to pretend I know about my own patch.”
    Every now and then the doors of an N.G.O open and a new batch of little green boys and girls pour forth into the countryside. Complete with badge, fancy title and a day or two of brainwashing they descend on a despairing public and dispense their particular brand of arrogance. Forgive them, they know not what they do. Sadly, their commanders know only too well. They are an integral component in the conservation smoke screen to which fewer and fewer of us subscribe.

  • Daniel Marsden

    Hmmmmm, 40+ pairs successfully rearing young, year upon year, prior to the sale of Abbeystead estate to the duke of Westminster in 1980?

    2002 (yes 22 years later) saw the concept of Natural England’s Hen Harrier recovery project, “to target conservation action and monitor the numbers of breeding hen harriers in England” as breading numbers had dropped catastrophically (between 6 – 10 attempts in Bowland that year)

    And where are we now, over a decade after its conception the number of Hen Harriers breeding within England has reached, wait, what, 0???

    Year pardon my ignorance but about the only thing I’d show you is the door. Whilst Natural England are busy compiling reports the Hen Harrier has been busy becoming extinct.

    Your ideology isn’t just patronising, its ludicrous. As an amateur conservationist I applaud any scientific work which enables us to understand the ‘lives’ of species we all strive to see prosper. However the term, ‘fiddling whilst Rome burns’ or ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’ springs to mind.

    With your proven poor track record I wouldn’t share with you the time of day let alone vital information in relation to the breeding success of this chronically rare breeding moorland raptor. Its best and only chance is to hope that somehow it manages to find some part of remote moorland, unseen by prying eyes and is left alone to breed. However, I shall not hold my breath. Farewell to the Sky dancer!

  • kevin moore

    Well the Red Arrows were not displaying over the Forest of Bowland today but there were squadrons of Grouse and pheasants on display everywhere. The sky was silent, not a raptor to be seen anywhere, reminded me of Rachel Carsen’s book, The Silent Spring, this is the reality of the Forest of Bowland domain in the 21 st century.

  • John Rhead

    Daniel has it, especially with regard to information.

  • Daniel Marsden

    Has it what John?

  • I personally think,the time has come for politicians,local MP’s,councillors,land owners,farmers and all the registered charities connected with nature,wildlife and birds to get together and form some constructive,positive methods of preserving the Hen Harrier,before the Hen Harrier becomes extinct in mainland Britain.Your not telling me,the number of grouse and pheasant that escape or get away from being shot when released for a shoot,cannot be spared to provide food for the Hen Harrier.I join these registered charities on the understanding everything is being done and preserving and protecting our wildlife and birds and IT IS NOT!Ruddy Duck cull,Badger Cull people are already suggesting culls on Gulls,Crows and Fox’s.Are we not suppose to be preserving,protecting and promoting what wildlife,birdlife and SSSI that we have left for our future generations?

    Editor’s Comment, Mark all the moorland that make up the Forest of Bowland are designated as both SSSi’s and importantly, SPA. Yet Natural England are allowing estates to destroy much of the heather to suit the needs of Red Grouse, when they should be preserving the heather for Merlin, Hen Harrier, Short-eared owl and of course peregrine. Its a complete disgrace as we see all these species in Bowland being wiped out almost to a bird without either the RSPB or Natural England raising as much as a wisper.

  • John Rhead

    Daniel,
    You hit the nail smack bang on the head, in every respect.

  • John Rhead

    My data supported an entire SPA for HH. Has it made a blind bit of difference? In my opinion, sweet F.A !! Have SNH shown the slightest interest? Don’t take my word, ask them for the ‘latest’ condition reports on Scottish SPA’s for HH? Use the Freedom of Information Act.
    England is not alone when it comes to a genuine interest in HH.

  • Daniel Marsden

    Apologies John I misread your comment.

    Sadly I’ve lost all faith and hope with governing bodies such as Natural England. They are far too concerned with having a ‘public’ voice that is aired in different media avenues and portrays them in a concerned and dedicated manner.
    When the proof of the matter is they could not possibly be further away from making a tangible, real difference.

    The problem, unfortunately, lies with money and hence politics. Bodies such as NE who are government funded and charities such as the RSPB who rely heavily on public and private donations are just that, funded and reliant.

    They use the guise of conservation as their driving factor, but sadly that is simply a bi product they hope to achieve from the corporate machine they have created which requires cash at all costs to keep going forward – there are no deadlines so as long as an active approach ‘appears’ to be being taken they can keep ‘milking’ that ‘cash cow’.

    Your amateur ornithologist/conservationists/groups find him/her self/them in the field driven by 2 major factors. That is a love and a passion for the subject that captivates their very being. Money, quite simply, does not enter the equation.

    Often however, with far more insight, knowledge, field craft and skills than any member of the corporate machine could dream of. And hence why these people and groups not only have a far more in-depth and detailed understanding of areas and indeed species but also why you are going to hear nothing but fact and informed analysis on these specific matters.

    I’ve not had any personal dealings with SNH John, so I can only offer you my sincerest condolences if they are anything like Natural England. Despite all your best efforts and time involved you would have more support and action from a brick wall than either of these two organisations. Even the extinction of the Hen Harrier from England’s uplands isn’t enough for NE to stop talking and start acting.

    Hence why this article is not only ludicrous its condescending. Hen Harrier Hotline? Do us all a favour Amanda, do you really think anyone who could actually identify a Hen Harrier would call you with the details? I for one, certainly will not because I have enough common sense to keep my mouth firmly shut.

  • John Rhead

    Daniel,
    I can only agree with every single point you make. It’s about time more people, who slavishly donate information to these bodies, woke up. The information does not benefit species it merely fills in gaping holes in their data banks and goes a long way to making them look credible in the eyes of the public.

    The problem is that HH is not ICONIC (God, I hate that word)) it is no more than an organism attempting to live in it’s chosen habitat. When allowed to, people have lived alongside them for centuries. They are best ignored and appreciated for what they are. If this happened, they wouldn’t be rare, protected or ICONIC!! Lets hope people in England really are keeping harrier sites to themselves. It’s the best prescription as far as HH are concerned.

    Incidentally, Scotland has the equally condescending “Heads up for Harriers” A smokescreen, if ever there was one!

    Finally, I have been involved in HH conservation for 35 years and I have not read a more sensible summary of this birds predicament than Daniel’s. Hope that doesn’t sound patronising because it certainly isn’t intended to be so. I just never thought I’d read such common sense.

    Editor’s Comment. For anyone who doesn’t already know, Daniel is the secretary of the North West Raptor Protection Group. He is also a second generation raptor conservationist, following in his father’s footsteps since he was 14 years old.

    Daniel had his Bowland licence withheld by Natural England in 2010 after he and a friend had reported an uncoordinated visit by an RSPB warden to a peregrine falcon ground nest containing 4 eggs. It is important to stress after locating the nest just four days earlier, Daniel advised the RSPB warden of the discovery asking him not to visit the site until the eggs had hatched. The following weekend as Daniel passed the territory on the road he observed someone disturbing the peregrines. He rang the species coordinator asking if anyone had contacted him that day to coordinate a second visit, the answer was no.

    After alerting the police Daniel set off up the moor to establish who or what was disturbing the screaming peregrines. He was astonished to find the same RSPB warden he had asked not to visit the site sitting opposite the nest with his grandson having their lunch. When asked how long the birds had been screaming the warden said about one hour. At that point the police were contacted for a second time and asked to stand down, causing some unnecessary embarrassment. Daniel asked the warden to vacate the site to allow the nesting falcons to return to incubate their eggs. Several weeks later when the nest was rechecked Daniel found that the RSPB warden had left his gloves by the nest.

    Shortly after reporting this licence breach to Natural England and the RSPB Daniel’s licence along with the rest of the membership of the NWRPG had their licenses withheld for use in Bowland. We now know that the removal of these licenses then permitted the annihilation of almost the total population of Bowland peregrines to take place under the noses of the RSPB and Natural England.

  • John Rhead

    I didn’t know, thanks for the information. The rest of your story beggars belief.

  • nirofo

    It’s a pity that the rest of the UK birding world doesn’t know about this farcical state of affairs, generated for no other reason than peevish spite by the RSPB and jumped on by Natural England as an opportunity to assist their headlong rush to pander to the shooting estates at all costs.

    How the RSPB can justify the damage they’ve done for the protection of Raptors on Bowland makes you wonder just what else they’re capable of elsewhere. They are either so thick skinned that nothing gets through to them, or they’re so naive that they shouldn’t be left in charge of anything more than a raffle stall at the bird fair, (not the Hopetoun one I might add.

    Editor’s Comment. The catastrophe that has been allowed to take place in the Forest of Bowland was the result of poor field practices, short sighted and inappropriate judgement. There is no doubt withholding licenses from the local raptor group was a monumental error compounding the unacceptable situation which we are left with today.

    The actions of Natural England and the RSPB protecting a few irresponsible and childish individuals who could not keep away from nests was a mistake which we are now all paying for. In addition, concealing the criminal destruction of Bowland’s raptors to hide embarrassment has now ended up as a monumental disgrace and disaster. There can never be any excuse for covering up criminal activity simply because the situation couldn’t be resolved.

    We know that after the NWRPG had reported inappropriate poor field practices they had witnessed, the RSPB had words with at least two of their part time employees but took no action, deciding instead to carry on supporting these individuals despite any damage they may have been causing to breeding birds or their nests.

    Irrespective of any wrong doing, what we are left with has now become an unprecedented national disaster; the hen harriers are gone and only one successful pair of peregrines last year. This situation will continue to decline in our view, because the RSPB simply do not have the experience, skill or resources to counter the threat to Bowland’s raptors resulting from persecution, which for some curious reason they do not even recognise.

    Despite what the RSPB are now claiming, that there is no link between the removal of licenses and the loss of peregrines in Bowland, the evidence could not be more transparent, since 2010 the region’s eighteen peregrine territories have been destroyed.

  • John Rhead

    Nifro, Are you sure the rest of the UK birding world doesn’t know. My experiences suggest that many people scatter like snow off a dyke when controversy rears its head.

  • John Rhead

    Dear Editor, I think, I should share my own experiences of the RSPB machine. So as not to be accused of blowing my own trumpet, I will start by quoting an SNH scientist “John…you have one of the best populations in the UK and it is largely thanks to you that we have an SPA there.” By providing local expertise and a location to house the viewing screens my wife, her colleagues and I also hugely facilitated the harrier-camera for a number of years.

    All went cordially until RSPB were invited to join the project. From here on you might begin to see some similarities with the Bowland situation. We were eventually furnished with a pretty, Information Officer, with little or no knowledge of hen harriers. The same individual also became the Wildlife Festival Co-ordinator and briefly Mountain Festival Co-ordinator. Needless to say at least one of the posts were remunerated at a level I had never experienced in 30 years as an HH field worker. Priorities???

    I was then informed by RSPB and SNH that they would like to extend the contract of this individual and make her “The Hen Harrier Officer” Naturally, I politely told both organisations to go and “boil their heids” and eventually this individual became the RSPB Information Officer; funded by SNH and RSPB, in order to (and I quote) “explain the SPA” to tourists and residents.

    That this individual had no involvement in the SPA and knew little about HH was apparently neither here nor there! At the same time there was no funding for HH monitoring on the SPA because all funds were being “directed to frontline conservation” (pers com, SNH Chairman) Such as an RSPB Information Officer ??? Priorities???

    Fortunately, the community eventually informed both RSPB and SNH that their Wildlife Festival and its highly paid facilitator was no longer sustainable and they and their plans headed off into the distance. Fortunately, we see little if anything of RSPB’s (not ours) Chief Conservation Officer these days and I, for one, feel all the better for that. Even, their conservation effort is not missed as it amounted very little, anyway.

    Judging by the Bowland fiasco we had a narrow escape. We were fortunate that those familiar with bird politics could see the intended outcome, a mile off. For future reference I suggest that the sudden appearance of a pretty face in an RSPB jumper, is the time to raise the draw-bridge.

    I appreciate that your situation is more complicated but the similarities are there. I know none of those involved in Bowland but as the late Derek Ratcliffe appears supportive of your efforts I am convinced that this ugly situation is totally unwarranted and does conservation no favours.

  • Daniel Marsden

    John, may I personally thank you for taking your time to share yours and your communities personal experiences of the RSPB and SNH.

    I am only very sorry that it should be under these damn right disgusting and deplorable circumstances that a common ground is stumbled upon. It has a terribly familiar and resounding sound to it.

    Sadly however these situations are far from a limited experience across the country and indeed the times.
    The RSPB would do well to remember that they would have no foothold whatsoever within the Forest of Bowland had it not been for efforts from people such as my father, Terry Pickford, Paul Stott and their colleagues that made up the NWRPG, many many years ago. Bringing the killing fields of the area into the spotlight – In hindsight maybe a very poor decision – But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    Many of these individuals that represent NE and RSPB were not even born when people like your self and my colleagues worked in the field gathering data and most importantly, protecting these highly persecuted predators.

    We wish not for personal recognition, nobody in the field who has true conservation at heart would ever desire such a thing. What we do wish for is the continued prosperity of the fauna and flora we passionately strive to protect and conserve.

    Sadly the corporate machines are governed by money and landowners meaning conservation efforts will never be at the forefront of their cause or aims.

    Drawing upon your comment in relation to the late Derek Ratcliffe John, my colleagues and indeed my father and Terry Pickford who dealt with him directly know only too well, that the sorry fiasco’s that repeatedly occur at the hands of the RSPB, and more specifically NE now, would never be allowed air time let alone to be put into practice if Dr Ratcliffe was alive today.

    Times are changing and not for the better I am afraid. The Hen Harrier has little, to no chance whatsoever in the Forest of Bowland (its main, historical, strong hold within England) whilst ill conceived schemes such as the hen harrier recovery project and hen harrier hotlines are all that bodies such as NE and RSPB have to offer to cover their backs.

    Coupled with that, the only experienced raptor group in the area with the historical knowledge and expertises, data and field craft to advise, locate and pro-actively monitor breeding sites, have been alienated.

    Because of the pitiful way the whole situation in the Forest of Bowland has been mishandled by NE and RSPB, as stated I would not share with them the time of day let alone critical information in relation to the breeding success or otherwise of protected species.

    John, may I personally, and on behalf of the North West Raptor Protection Group, wish you well and a very successful season for your breeding Harriers and all other fauna and flora in your area.
    With the RSPB now out of the picture they without doubt, your efforts stand a much better chance of succeeding.

    All the best.

    Daniel Marsden, North West Raptor Protection Group

  • skydancer

    The RSPB in Bowland have got the people in place that they want, people that will not as the saying goes “rock the boat”,they will not highlight any persecution that they find or know of, thanks to this website for telling us the real truth of what is really happening in Bowland.

  • John Rhead

    Daniel,
    Much appreciated but like you I wish it was completely unnecessary. There has to be a better way than excluding expertise and dedication.
    Sadly, these days RSPB seem to prefer compliance and subservience. More worryingly, the happenings in Forest of Bowland seem to have been ignored by those who should be most supportive.
    I speak out because I can. That my data enabled an HH SPA cannot be disputed even by RSPB, who were barely involved and as in Bowland, had less than a toe hold. Indeed, I would not even sell my information but allowed SNH to use it with my permission and my agreement. My involvement was not appreciated by certain sections of the community and I was made to pay for it by (amongst other things)a petition to the Scottish Parliament that questioned both my abilities and integrity. Fortunately, it was discredited by more scrupulous elements in the community. That I did not just sell or give my information to SNH was because I was neither on the side of SNH or the landowners, only the harriers.
    Sadly, it is now highly probable that while HH populations like Bowlands are allowed to disappear ours cannot thrive in isolation. RSPB should be a force for good but too often their motives seem highly questionable. I am sure that but for local opposition we would now have our very own version of Amanda (nice though she may be) She would have an impressive title and RSPB would be dictating who got licences and who didn’t.
    It is pathetic and extremely sad what has happened in the Forest of Bowland, the input of people like yourself should be treasured. I suspect, but don’t know, that your problem with RSPB is that you are not under their control and much prefer their own, who most definitely are. I wonder if RSPB and SNH, have an integrity phone line for staff. Or perhaps they have gagging clauses in their contracts. It might be illuminating to find out.
    Sadly, NE and SNH are a product of their political masters and at present HH appear low on their agenda’s. Lets face it SPA’s were a European concoction and not the product of British government. Anyway, keep up the fight, you guys will still be around when the circus moves out of town. Once the rattling can’s cease to bare fruit they will look for pastures new. I just hope its not too late for the Bowland HH. As Mr. Cameron says, we’re all in it together.

  • tweedler

    Do the RSPB sit at the side of the track up Langden Valley and watch everyone who walks up there at weekends??? I was bemused and found it very odd behaviour.

  • nirofo

    A few years ago I pulled into a layby on a remote single track road to watch a Redshank which was leading it’s 3 chicks across the road towards a wet boggy area to feed, a couple of minutes later a car screamed to a halt by the side of me, 2 noisy wallies jumped out of the car loudly proclaiming they were from the RSPB and demanded to know why I was disturbing the Osprey which was nesting about 400 yards away in full view of the road. It didn’t seem to bother them that the Redshank had leapt into the air in alarm at the commotion they were causing and the chicks had disappeared into the long grass in the ditch. What did bother them however was the fact that I had a Schedule One licence for the Osprey nest and they didn’t. When I pointed out to them it was they who were disturbing the birds without a licence and they should leave the area quietly, they said they would make sure that my licence would be revoked, I don’t think they realised they were on a public road with laybys!!!

    This was just one of several similar occurrences over the years ???

    Editor’s Comment. No matter how badly a small number of RSPB staff conduct themselves, they will always receive support from senior RSPB staff. Take for example the two Bowland raptor workers who were wrongly accused by an RSPB warden of disturbing a nesting pair of peregrine last year. During the police interview the two DCI inspectors undertaking the interview, accepted that it was more likely the RSPB warden himself had caused the disturbance. When the two raptor workers wrote to the RSPB pointing out the way their warden had behaved, the RSPB chief executive replied by saying their warden had acted appropriately. We do not believe making malicious and false accusations are in any way appropriate.

    Editor’s Comment. It is becoming very obvious that although the RSPB are unable or unwilling to protect persecuted raptors on red grouse moors, or say anything about the wide-scale losses taking place throughout these regions, they give the impression they own the birds and no one else has a right to protect them.

  • bubo bubo

    A number of years ago several members of the North West Raptor Protection Group were watching a pair of Peregrine Falcons in the Hareden Valley from the public footpath, (Forest of Bowland). The adult pair were dropping dead prey items from the sky to encourage their three fledged young to chase and catch each item as they fell towards the ground. This was indeed fantastic behaviour many bird watchers never see in a lifetime.

    Unbeknown to anyone in the party there was also an RSPB warden in the area too, watching the members of the group going about their legitimate activities. On their way out of the valley members of the NWRPG were confronted and stopped by a police road block together with the RSPB warden who for some curious reason had called the officers. Seemingly the warden had wrongly told the police group members had been disturbed the peregrines they had been watching. The police then proceeded to search the group vehicle before asking for any explanation. After informing the officers the 3 peregrine chicks had already fledged from their nest several week before and that the group members were making their observations of natural behaviour from a public track, the police apologised leaving the RSPB very embarrassed. Before departing the police were requested to search the RSPB vehicle which they did. Nothing incriminating was found in either of the two vehicles.

    This incident, together with other similar incidents which have taken place in the Forest of Bowland orchestrated by the RSPB since, shows how their staff are continuing to use their power and influence with the police to intimidate law abiding citizens who’s only aims are to protect and conserve threatened birds of prey. But we suppose the society would only say their staff were acting appropriately under the circumstances. I wonder what would have happened if the shoe had been on the other foot? Would the police then have reacted in the same way, or would they have given a caution for making a malicious and false allegation for wasting police time?