Raptor Persecution on red grouse moors: A feudal system of raptor management in the 21st Century.

A box of stuffed HH shot in Bowland (1 of 1)

The 3 stuffed Hen Harriers inside this display cabinet were obtained from the Forest of Bowland. The Harriers were initially photographed by  the licensed award winning photographer Dennis Green from a hide.  After being killed the Harriers were  stuffed then displayed throughout the photographer’s home as trophies.  The photographer’s licensed activities went unnoticed for several years until eventually when police raided his premises 99  illegally killed stuffed birds, including additional Hen Harriers and Short-eared owls, were discovered in his garage and inside his home, enough material to fill two transit vans. None of Green’s co-conspirators were ever charged with killing any of the exhibits recovered by the police.

Read here the full account of  Dennis Green’s conviction resulting in a prison sentence.

I know what is happening to our so  called ‘protected raptors’ in the Forest of Bowland and on other red grouse moorland in northern England, so does the RSPB and everyone else associated with the conservation of these threatened birds. The problem is no one other than the North West Raptor Group has had the courage to speak out about their demise resulting from systematic persecution. The situation is so transparent its heart breaking to have to sit back and watch these losses continue year after year. There is no other explanation for the abandonment of 17 Bowland peregrine territories since 2010, or the disappearance of the 7 harriers from the Forest of Bowland and an additional the single male harrier from the northern Pennines in just 9 months. The game shooting brigade have for a number of years relied upon a strategy of total denial, covering up the realities of what has been taking place on moorland they manage for red grouse shooting. In the case of the 5 missing male hen harriers it is ridiculous to even consider natural causes for such multiple disappearances from two relative small moorland regions of England. Throughout the breeding cycle all male raptors are motivated by a strong innate biological urge to return to their nests with food to feed their mate. This behaviour ensures the success of their eggs and chicks.  In the case of the 5 missing male hen harriers, these multiple losses point to one reasonable conclusion, they are dead. Dr Derek Ratcliffe is correct, these birds have been lost at the hands of persecutors not the weather, not lack of food, or by  predation by other animals. There is an old Navy saying that sums up the way game managers are handling the whole persecution issue. It goes like this, don’t urinate up my back and then tell me it’s raining.

The RSPB know what has happened to all the 5 missing male hen harriers; indeed they may already have their suspicions of who was responsible for this unacceptable outrage. I also know the cause for the demise of the 39 Bowland hen harrier nests in the early 1970’s and once more in the early 1990’s. Members of the North West Raptor Group discovered countless destroyed hen harrier nests throughout the Forest of Bowland containing smashed eggs, dead hen harrier chicks with their heads cut off then left left in their nests by the perpetrators. These losses were on top of the dozens of missing adult hen harrier from the nests that had been destroyed.  I shall never be able to erase from my memory one black day when I discovered two hen harrier nests positioned just 400 metres apart in the Forest of Bowland. Each nests contained 3 mutilated chicks which had been trodden underfoot with a heavy boot until their flesh had been pulverised; there are some sick bastards around in this remote region of west Lancashire. The number of adult hen harriers which simply disappeared presumed shot in those early days must have been in the 100’s, but now we will never know the true losses.

I recall two interviews which the BBC carried  with Dr Derek Ratcliffe, English Nature’s former Chief Scientist, and a second interview with the Duke of Westminster regarding the collapse of the Forest of Bowland hen harrier population in the mid 1980’s and again in 1992 and 1993. When the producer of this documentary asked Dr Ratcliffe what in his expert opinion could be the cause for the disappearance of so many Hen harriers and their eggs, Dr.Ratcliffe replied ” he could only think of one reason, persecution.” You can watch both of these important video clips below, and we should all bear in mind what what Dr Ratcliffe said all those years age  about the reason for hen harrier disappearances are as true today as they were then.

 

 

I really think the RSPB have got a problem of their own making, it appears they do not want to upset the shooting estate owners for some curious reason. I often wonder what powerful influences are pulling the political strings behind the scenes in this important moorland region designated as an SSSI and SPA? Publicity is the enemy of the persecutor in my view.

Watch the video below where the BBC are interviewing His Grace The Duke of Westminster at his Forest of Bowland home at Abbeystead about the disappearance of hen harriers and their eggs  in 1992 and 1993.

 

 

In 1974 I was invited by Richard Porter head of the RSPB’s species protection to visit Sandy and brief him all about the illegal persecution of both peregrine and hen harrier taking place throughout Bowland. I thought I did a good job and I could tell Richard was taking an interest in the criminal activities I was telling him about. However, when I was about the get into my car in the Sandy car park, Richard told me I should not worry too much as the RSPB would have the problem of persecution resolved in 5 years. As things turned out historically, Richard’s claim turned out to have been one of the most optimistic statements I have every had the misfortune to listen too. Here we are forty one years on and the position relating to the persecution of so called ‘protected birds of prey’ throughout this moorland region is now much worst than it was all those decades ago. Unless there are fundamental changes in enforcement and detection in the very near future there is a distinct possibility  that we will lose the hen harrier completely and possibly most of the peregrines as well from Bowland.

Hen Harrier chicks dead in nest

The mutilated remains of several dead hen harriers, their heads and wings torn from their bodies and left in their nests as a symbol of a feudal system of raptor management in the Forest of Bowland in 1985 

This is a terrible situation. Especially so when Peregrine are doing well where their territories are away from grouse and pheasant shoots.

Have a look at the Hen Harrier tracking data from 2007 – 2014 released by Natural England in October last year via the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hen-harrier-satellite-tracking-programme-results-published

If the four birds tagged in Bowland last year are included, we have a total number of Hen Harrier sat tagged of 51 birds. At the time of the NE report ONLY 7 birds (including 2 of the 4 2014 Bowland birds) could be confirmed as alive. 44 sat tagged birds are confirmed dead or missing.

The data for Bowland is astonishing – only 2 tagged birds from last year are alive plus a possible bird from 2007. All the others are missing / found dead.

And we must remember that these are only the Hen Harriers which were fitted with satellite tags. The majority of untagged birds will have met a similar fate.

We are very good at telling other countries how to look after their wildlife; we should take a long hard look in the mirror and start taking the drastic action required to protect our own vulnerable species. We should start where we know that nature and climate change are not to blame. These raptors are persecuted illegally by humans. These people should be caught and prosecuted.

I would like to end on an optimistic note, but sadly that is not possible. The loss of the two satellite tagged hen harriers (Sky and Hope) in Bowland last September which I believe were shot and their tags destroyed, together with the curious disappearance of 5 male hen harriers this spring from nests in Bowland and the Pennines has laid down the gauntlet for more of the same to come. There is simply no mechanism to prevent these criminal activities happening time after time; removing licenses from experienced raptor workers who had made a difference up until 2010 simply plays into the hands of the persecutors making it that much easier for them to get away with the crimes they commit. I see little advantage in the short term of producing more hen harrier chicks in Bowland, or upon any red grouse moor for that matter in northern England, if the end result only produces missing hen harriers. Brood management is a complete dead duck and would only serve to make a bad situation much worse by providing more birds to be used as target practice.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Lancashire Constabulary for their continued support, in particular Lorraine Ellwood, Lancashire Crime Officer , PC Andy Massingham and PC Carl Chew who have each consistently provided their help, advice and support for the work I have been involved with here in the Forest of Bowland promoting the conservation of raptors. Thank you to you all, I trust the advice I have passed on to each of you will assist the objectives that the police are trying to achieve under very difficult circumstances. Finally, a big thank you to United Utilities for their consistent support for the Hen Harrier and Raptor Politics for publishing my personal views.

Related Articles.

RSPB publish last known locations of the two missing satellite Tagged hen harriers ‘Skye’ & ‘Hope’. 

Peregrine ‘holocaust’ looms on northern England’s upland – A final solution.

Video Version: Peregrine holocaust looms on England’s Uplands.

 

Terry R.Pickford

North West Raptor Protection Group

 

8 comments to Raptor Persecution on red grouse moors: A feudal system of raptor management in the 21st Century.

  • jonny

    So again Terry you have had the gutts to say what is true! Based on fact.The truth will hurt, it has me all these years following you and what you have done and tried to do. I respect your point and the fact it has been forty years in the making. what an amazing fact of disapointment and let down to all who should realy care! What is going on that a modern way of thinking, living should be stopped by poeple so blind to US and everyone outside their horrid world of existance. And what a vulger place it is!! I was saddend by your suming up but your right! Why should we condem birds to die when we and i so wish the genral public could see, just want to watch them fly free. And be free. All we have to stop this killing and by the very least keep the pressure on. let me thank Terry for what he has said over the years and said it straight. Lets run with this, not agree or disagree lets do it. It needs stopping and now!! Please.

  • Julie Wright

    A great article as Jonny said, telling it how it is. There is something evil in the The Forest of Bowland what should be a rich wildlife area in most regions is a barren landscape devoid of all the beautiful birds & animals that should thrive there. I’ve walked these moors and it saddens me to think that in the 21st century The Forest of Bowland is like stepping back in time where they still burn witches at the stake and persecute birds of prey, foxes, stoats, weasels and don’t recognise that they are not helping the ecosystem by killing all the birds of prey. I would imagine the Forest of Bowland needs all the help it can get I would hope the RSPB after being attacked again by Who Forgot The Birds will step up and speak out, this persecution has been going on for years, everyone is tip toeing around worried that they are going to upset someone, talking has been tried for years, it’s time for action. Talking isn’t going to save the Hen Harrier or the Peregrine it needs people on the ground, I’m glad Terry decided to speak out where others won’t, do they think a contract will be taken out against them ? Is there someone powerful in the Forest of Bowland who has the clout and money to keep mouths shut? Do we still live in the 14th Century or are people going to grow some and start fighting.

    • Northern Diver

      Exactly our feelings. I have ancestors from Bowland for 9 generations but they (unfortunately) were tenants not landowners. The big landowners have all the power. Thank goodness for United Utilities at least.

  • Tim Sarney

    This is a terrible situation. Especially so when Peregrine are doing well when their territories are away from grouse and pheasant shoots.

    Have a look at the Hen Harrier tracking data from 2007 – 2014 released by Natural England in October last year via the link below:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hen-harrier-satellite-tracking-programme-results-published

    If the four birds tagged in Bowland last year are included, we have a total number of Hen Harrier sat tagged of 51 birds. At the time of the NE report ONLY 7 birds (including 2 of the 4 2014 Bowland birds) could be confirmed as alive. 44 sat tagged birds are confirmed dead or missing.

    The data for Bowland is astonishing – only 2 tagged birds from last year are alive plus a possible bird from 2007. All the others are missing / found dead.

    And we must remember that these are only the Hen Harriers which were sat tagged. The majority of untagged birds will have met a similar fate.

    We are very good at telling other countries how to look after their wildlife; we should take a long hard look in the mirror and start taking the drastic action required to protect our own vulnerable species. We should start where we know that nature and climate change are not to blame. These raptors are persecuted illegally by humans. These people should be caught and prosecuted.

  • jeff

    Fascinating interview clips; I take it they’re from “Silence of the hills”? Is the full video available anywhere on t’internet?

    Editor’s Comment. We are working on uploading full version. The film is not available so far on the internet. Interestingly the film was suppressed following representations by one estate owner, and was only broadcast once at 8 am

  • Ed

    If only I had the answers. It all seems crystal clear what is going on, yet nobody seems to want to listen. North West Raptor Group have over the decades collected enough information to surely end this massive decline of birds of prey on private shooting estates. Unfortunately year after year it is the same story which saddens me!
    All I can say is keep fighting for the cause and maybe one day your information might reach someone who will have some influence over the situation.

    Editor’s Comment. Yes Ed they do have the information, but Natural England withheld their licenses in 2010 for telling the truth about what was taking place, Terry’s article says it all. Between 2010 and 2015 peregrine numbers in Bowland have plummeted, now only two active pairs this year remain as far as we know, both being protected after the group published the detail of both nests on Raptor Politics. Curious though, Natural England say they won’t reissue their permits because this would cause disturbance to nest sites and duplicated nests visits. This is just crazy, there are no nests left to visit or disturb, after most of the falcons have been destroyed disappearing from former terrottories throughout Bowland. What planet are Natural England on?

  • Trapit

    In the late nineties,as the first Langholm report was being published, I was at a local Pheasant shoot talking to the head-keeper of a moor that historically had held the record for the number of Grouse shot in a single day.Trapit, he said, why have all the birdwatchers turned against us so much? Well ***** I said,you have killed too much stuff,all over the north of England it’s got too intense.

    I went on to say that if the keepers in various districts could work together,to share the burden of these winged vermin, and allow a good spread of the birds, there would not be such an outcry.However my words of wisdom carried little weight.The increased outsourcing of grouse management to well known companies,assisted by drugs to even out population fluctuations, has encouraged this situation with the promise of better returns for the considerable investment that moor owners and tenants have always made. Incidentally,I think it was in this same conversation that I gave my opinion that removing population fluctuations would only lead to problems,as it has.

    The problem with my suggestion to***** was,and still is understandably,the perceptions of a keepers neighbours and the wider grouse community. The influence of the new management regimes has had some effect,probably quite profoundly,in hardening attitudes to raptors,especially harriers. However,in my opinion this was not helped by the RSPB’s rubbishing of the first report.I am not a grouse keeper,but it wound me up no end.

    A well managed moor,(especially with fluctuations lessened through medication),of say a couple of thousand acres,should support a pair of harriers without too much detriment.Larger moors maybe another pair or two. Any increase could easily be dealt with and burnt on the back of the Rayburn,a marvellous invention for getting rid of evidence.If keepers all over the North employed this method as soon as birds appeared on their ground, the situation would begin to show some improvement.As long as the young were allowed to fledge from a particular moor, whatever happened afterwards should still leave birds to spread out the following springs. Some of these could even begin to take up territory on the many thousands of acres of moorland where there is no significant shooting influence,thereby assisting the process.

    However,assuming that the worse has happened to the “UU three”,and it’s not lack of prey or global warming,it is clear that nobody is yet willing to risk the ridicule and ostracisation of their fellow professionals,or more importantly landowners tenants and the society they move in.

    I will try to defend,and promote the benefits of shooting and gamekeepers to my last breath.The recent actions of individuals in Bowland,however,tempt me to say that whatever the sport of grouse shooting has coming to it, you deserve it many times over .

  • Brian Leecy

    And here we are today in 2015,and this BLATANT DESTRUCTION of our BIRDS of PREY still go,s on LIKE BUSINESS AS USUAL !!! Those Untouchables !! doing exactly as they wish destroying everything they see fit in their Shamefull Pursuit.WithTheir BL___Y Victorian Idiologies of Detroying everthing with HOOKED BILL TOOTH AND CLAW,They are so Fixated on Those LARGE BAGS of Red Grouse that they can’t even see how they are DESTROYING THEIR OWN LAND !!! A walk up to Walshaw Moor in recent Years makes the Heart Bleed,Absolutely Manicured like a Patchwork Quilt by BURNING OFF, DIGGING OUT THE VITAL PEAT BEDS !! I once again Thank Terry Pickford and the North West Raptor Protection Group who brought all this out from behind those closed doors .If there is anything Positive to take from all this ,is we Ordinary People Finally have a chance to change it all, We have had enough ! Dr Mark Averys Petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting is gathering momentum and hopefully will reach 100,000 to be considered for Debate by Parliament .