In 2009 the resident gamekeeper took up new duties in Scotland. The following spring a pair of peregrines took up residence successfully rearing 2 chicks. The site has been abandoned
The abandonment of all known peregrine nesting territories (18-20 pairs) established in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland is now complete. Despite earlier claims to the contrary that one Peregrine nesting site remained occupied, an RSPB officer last week confirmed to bird watchers the last known Bowland territory in the Croasdale valley had now also been found deserted. Read article, unidentified individual seen causing 2 hrs disturbance. Followed by this season’s (2016) failure to locate any nesting Hen Harriers in the Forest of Bowland on estates owned by United Utilities Plc, or on any of the additional private estates in this region, we have taken the decision to republish part of an article written by Terry Pickford which tells a sad story of the on-going disappearance of countless protected birds of prey from this region of west Lancashire resulting in the loss of Biodiversity within this important moorland Ecosystem. Not because those responsible for such illegal slaughter are trophy hunters, but because where Red Grouse are commercially shot for sport, Hen Harriers and Peregrine Falcons have been systematically annihilated by professional individuals who regard these avian predators as a threat to the Red Grouse stocks they are employed to manage and protect. By making this appalling information public both within the UK and to those that follow Raptor Politics from abroad, more people throughout the world will begin to realise the extent of the raptor persecution currently taking place on grouse moors, not only in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland, but upon most of England’s northern uplands where Red Grouse are shot as a part of a multi million pound commercial sporting enterprise.
We appear to have exhausted all viable options that can prevent the Hen Harrier becoming just a historic symbol of England’s uplands rather than a living and important part of these moorland ecosystems. The Majority of game shooting owners together with their gamekeepers have now clearly demonstrated their unwillingness to accept the Hen Harrier or Peregrine onto moorland they manage for Red Grouse shooting. The disappearance in September 2014 of the two recently fledged Bowland Hen Harriers ‘Sky’ and ‘Hope’ was not a tragic accident; the two state of the art satellite tracking tags fitted to each Hen Harrier did not simply malfunction at almost the same time on two different shooting estates, nor were these birds predated by Peregrines as one gamekeeper so pathetically suggested. There have been few if any realistic or sensible explanations for the disappearance of both of these Harriers, other than the obvious cause previously reported by Raptor Politics, both Harriers having been shot and their satellite tags removed before being destroyed.
Forest of Bowland: An illegally snared Badger, left to die an agonising death over many days
The missing tags fitted to both Harrier are a vital clue here as to what really happened shortly after ‘Skye’ and ‘Hope’ had successfully fledged in June 2014. If one or both Harriers had succumbed due to natural causes, not only would their tags have been recovered intact, their bodies would also have been found. The ongoing killing of protected raptors on grouse moors, the destruction of nests, eggs and young throughout these remote moorland habitats is a crime almost impossible to prevent. Without a programme of proactive and decisive action appropriately funded by government and supported by much stronger penalties, possibly a licensing scheme as proposed by the RSPB that would deter rather than encourage such killings, the current position will continue with blatant impunity and more of England’s upland heather ecosystem and the biodiversity within them destroyed. The current Westminster Government will of course never sanction such helpful changes as they would upset their financial supporters and those MP’s who either own estates or themselves take an active part in driven grouse shooting.
In 2015 England witnessed the introduction of a very carefully thought out strategy designed to destroy Hen Harriers away from their nests. This efficient and deadly tactic providing little or no chance of those responsible ever being apprehended let alone being brought to court to face justice. I believe most of us last year, including the RSPB, were taken completely off guard and surprised by the loss of the 4 male Hen Harriers from the 3 nests in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland. Unbelievably, the same tactic was the used for a second time when a 5th male Hen Harrier disappeared from an active nest in the northern Pennines. No sensible person can be left in doubt these incidents each carried out on moorland where Red Grouse are shot were related to one single purpose, the elimination of Hen Harriers from both of these important Hen Harrier regions.
Forest of Bowland: A dead Rat captured in tunnel trap. Trap should have been checked by gamekeeper each 24 hours. This rat had been left to rot in trap just like the Badger for many days.
Following the death of the Earl of Sefton in 1972, the Abbeystead estates he owned in the Forest of Bowland fell into mismanagement. In the early 1980’s the estate including a number of additional important grouse moors passed to their present owner the Duke of Westminster. In the years between the Earl of Sefton’s death and the subsequent sale of the estate to the Duke of Westminster, numbers of Hen Harriers found breeding upon the estate by members of the NWRG at Abbeystead, Tarnbrook, Littledale and Marshaw increased to at least twelve breeding pairs, additional occupied nests were certainly missed. The main reason for such a population explosion was a result of an almost total lack of moorland management by estate gamekeepers during this short period; many estate staff were made redundant, others deciding it was easier to sit at home and get paid without doing much work.
Within five years, following the new owner’s arrival at Abbeystead the estate was completely turned around producing much higher efficiencies in grouse numbers. A new management structure was put into place to sort the mess out and many new and highly experience younger moorland gamekeepers were employed to bring the grouse shooting back up to a viable and commercial level. It came as no surprise when Hen Harriers together with several pairs of Peregrines very quickly began to disappear, until finally they had been lost completely. This season (2016) there have been unconfirmed rumours that a single pair of Hen Harrier may have nested on moorland owned by the Duke of Westminster at or close to Marshaw. Sadly the 7 historic Peregrine territories that once existed on the Duke of Westminster’s estate holdings in the Forest of Bowland completes the overall picture of the collapse of Bowland’s former ecosystem and biodiversity that once existed but may now never be allowed to return.
Forest of Bowland: Raven Scars, Site one of many abandoned Peregrine nesting territories located in the Forest of Bowland