What gamekeepers fail to mention about spring heather burning.


This scenic view of heather moorland in the Forest of Bowland was once the home of both Peregrine and at least two pairs of Hen Harriers.

The complete disappearance of Hen Harriers and Peregrines from Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland was always a distinct distinct possibility. Sadly this season for the first time in living memory this unthinkable scenario became a reality despite the efforts of the RSPB. Conserving raptors, in particular Peregrine, Hen Harrier and Short-eared owl on remote moorland where Red Grouse are shot commercially has always been an almost impossible task, the result of too few experienced licensed field workers to counter widespread persecution taking place in these remote areas. This issue was reinforced in 2014 when a new and deadly Hen Harrier killing strategy was introduced on grouse moors in Northern England resulting in two recently fledged satellite tagged Hen Harriers, Sky and Hope, disappearing from separate shooting estates just weeks after leaving their natal territories. One year later 5 male Hen Harriers disappeared without trace after leaving their respective mate to incubate their clutches of eggs; 4 male Harriers lost in the Forest of Bowland, and a 5th male Harrier lost from the RSPB Nature Reserve at Geltsdale in the Northern Pennines. Resulting from these unusual disappearances, collateral damage indirectly resulted in the failure to hatch of at least twenty five eggs after each female deserted their nests to search for food.

In 2009, twenty five Bowland Peregrine territories were examined by licensed members of the NWRG. Seventeen territories were found occupied, 6 of these sites failed following the disappearance of eggs and chicks. A total of eleven territories were productive fledging twenty four young. This result was considered by the NWRG to have been a very poor breeding season for the Peregrine. Two female nestlings vanished from a ground nest containing a brood of 4 chicks just two days after the former Wildlife Crime Officer for Lancashire (currently employed by BASC as their Director, Northern England ) had invited two gamekeepers, who were unaware of the nests existence, to witness the ringing of the 4 chicks. It was perhaps coincidental that the two larger female chicks disappeared so quickly. In 2010 Natural England, (the government’s advisor on the natural environment) withheld group licences which had permitted members to monitor Peregrines in this special moorland region of Lancashire for over thirty five years; because of politics and a total lack of experienced licensed field workers both the Peregrine and Hen Harrier are now extinct as a breeding species in the Forest of Bowland for the first time in living memory. These appalling statistics highlight why Driven Grouse Shooting must be and will be banned eventually.

The videos below were each captured in April this year (2016) and portray the same area of moorland depicted in the image at the top of the page. The burning occurred at the precise period prospecting bird of prey would be attempting to settle down within their territories to breed, no chance of that after this targeted disturbance.






The Popular Handbook of British Birds explains the Peregrine falcon occurs chiefly in open, more or less treeless country. In the breeding-season it frequents the vicinity of coastal or inland cliffs, moors and mountain-sides. This historic description of breeding habitats may have been accurate until the end of the 20th century but today – resulting from widespread raptor persecution on moorland where driven red grouse are shot – this situation has changed.  Peregrines have become a very rare migrant, almost entirely disappearing as a regular breeding species throughout England’s northern uplands where they continue to receive short shrift.

Many reading these words both within the UK and abroad will be shocked to learn there are now more nesting pairs of Peregrines inside London than in the whole of the Northern Pennines, the Yorkshire Dales, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Forest of Bowland, the Durham uplands and Derbyshire’s Dark Peak.  If you have any doubts, please examine the appalling details enclosed below which tells its own tragic story.


Fact-Peregrine are disappearing from England’s northern uplands because of persecution

  1. In the Northern Pennines historical territories once frequented by the Peregrine have been reduced by persecution from 15 breeding pairs to just 4.
  2. Throughout Derbyshire’s Dark Peak of the 11 territorial sites it appears only three territories remain productive on a regular basis.
  3. The North Yorkshire Moors. 2 historic territories no longer occupied, the area has potential for at least another 6 territories but being restricted by persecution.
  4. The Yorkshire Dales, Of the 13 historical upland territories that once existed, possibly only 2 sites remain.
  5. The Durham Uplands, 12 historic territories located on red grouse moors, possibly only a single site remains active following extensive persecution. (territories located away from grouse moors are more successful in Durham)
  6. Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland has witnessed an unprecedented Peregrine population crash with not one successful territory recorded this year. In the last 5 years approx 18 Peregrine territories have been found abandoned, resulting in the disappearance of at least thirty  adult falcons that once occupied these sites.

Totals:  Of the 77 historic peregrine territories which existed on red grouse moors in the 6 regions above, only 10 pairs remain that we are aware of.






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