The range of threats affecting vultures is relatively well known, and indeed has been thoroughly discussed in the Vulture multi-Species Action Plan that the VCF has been co-drafting on behalf of the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS), to be presented and adopted at the Conference of Parties later this year. Poison is still the biggest killer of vultures both in Africa, Asian and Europe, but electrocution comes a close second in many parts of the world – as we were reminded this week, when two griffons were found dead, electrocuted, at the base of an electricity pylon in Andalusia.
Rob Cooke (Natural England Director) wrote the attached leaked email 6 February 2017:
Hen harriers (HHs) are having a rough time in England. Although juvenile birds have a high natural mortality there is plenty to suggest that illegal persecution is ongoing, either through shooting or disturbance. The level of persecution is such that it is undoubtedly having an impact on the conservation status of the species in England. Amongst a diet usually dominated by meadow pipits and voles can be red grouse, which is where the problem arises. As a semi-colonial nester HHs can predate high numbers of grouse which can bring them into conflict with grouse shooting.
The first bearded vulture to hatch this year within our captive breeding network (bearded vulture EEP) came out on the early hours of the 28th January, from the first egg laid in this new breeding season by one of the breeding pairs from the bearded vulture captive breeding center in Guadalentín, managed by the Junta de Andalusia and the Fundación Gypaetus. It was named “Chaplin”, and hatched completely alone. The second chick, baptized Gila, came a few days later (8th February), from the breeding pair Lázaro and Nava, the third chick from this difficult pair – the egg was not well placed in the nest and so the staff had to help, opening a hole in the egg, and then actually manipulating the hole to facilitate the hatch (see photos) – but all went well due to the expertise of the staff at Guadalentin.
The three images below show an injured Buzzard being treated by the South Essex Wildlife Hospital. The bird was found in a very weak state by the side of a road, and at the time was assumed to have been a road traffic casualty. After veterinary staff at the hospital had x-rayed the bird , the reason it wasn’t flying was obvious. Several shot gun pellets were lodged in its body, wing and leg. Vet tom removed as many as he could once the bird was strong enough for surgery. It is recovering on a stable and does seem much stronger now. We hope to release it soon but must be sure it is able to survive in the wild.
Grey squirrels in North Yorkshire are being given contraceptives in their food in a bid to control their population. The move is being made in Wensleydale to help the red squirrels which live there thrive. The red squirrel has been in severe decline in the UK as the greys, which are not a native species, increase. It is believed that greys act as carriers of squirrel pox – which kills reds.
There were also 50 reported incidents of wildlife poisoning, including confirmed cases of 15 buzzards, four red kites and three peregrine falcons falling victim to poison baits.
Illegal persecution of birds of prey is still happening too regularly in the UK countryside, the RSPB said, and it called for tougher legislation and enforcement to allow the birds to thrive.
The corpses of 4 Peregrines, 1 adult and 3 chicks shot to death on the nest with a rifle. The perpetrators of this crime were never brought to justice.
Last year rumours persisted that at long last a pair of Eagle Owls in the Forest of Bowland successfully produced three fledged young. This was confirmed after the nesting site was featured by the One Show last year. The nesting ledge containing the three chicks was clearly visible, the camera taking the footage was located many hundreds of yards away.
Mick, a young male, fledged in Northumberland last summer. He was fitted with a satellite tag in July by a hen harrier expert from Natural England. His tag stopped transmitting on 21 December 2016 in the Thwaite area of North Yorkshire. A search of the area has been carried out but no trace of the bird or equipment has been found.
It was distressing to read about the illegal killing of raptors in East Anglia and the claim made by the RSPB that the North East of England is one of the worst areas for shooting and attacking birds of prey in our country. Well done to the RSPB for exposing these ongoing atrocities. But this begs the question why has no one, including the RSPB, spoken out about the wide scale killing of ‘protected’ raptors taking place throughout the Forest of Bowland? The collapse of an entire regional Peregrine population from this relatively small moorland region in in West Lancashire is unprecedented.
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