Geltsdale Reserve – Northern Pennines

[singlepic id=280w=314 h=235 float=left]Geltsdale is one of the best reserve in upland Britain where there has been a massive expansion in numbers of Black Grouse compared to a decline of 66% on other Red Grouse moorlands in England. This tells a very important story.

There are no game keepers on Geltsdale, apart from those that trespass; there are however lots of Stoats, Weasels, Polecats and Rabbits throughout the reserve. The two big red grouse shoots which are located adjacent to Geltsdale regularly expect to shoot 3000 brace of Red Grouse every year [12000 birds a year!!].

There are no longer breeding Hen Harriers on these moorland areas, where as in the  recent past there used to be 8 breeding pairs. There are no longer any breeding Peregrine Falcons on this land when previously there used to be 4 breeding pairs. There are no Ravens on this land even though there is a location aptly named ‘Raven Clough’. These days migrating raptors visiting this northern Pennine region suspiciously seem to vanish into thin air on a sustained and regular basis.

This year the nesting pair of Geltsdale Eagle Owls are now reported to have gone missing. This revelation should not come as any surprise to any one. Significantly regional gamekeepers only discovered a nesting pair of eagle owls had been established on the Geltsdale reserve last season after an owl had been flushed on one nearby shooting estate, while a second had been observed being mobbed by a buzzard.  The last sighting of one owl occured on 14th December. A gamekeeper from a neighbouring shooting estate was observed at 7.30 pm last week sitting in heather just above one of the last locations where a single eagle owl had been recorded.

How much of our ‘tax money’ [£100,000s!] has been spent on just two of the region’s shooting estates surrounding Geltsdale under High Level Stewardship (HLS)?

Regarding the forestry sell off, the public must voice their anger and opposition and come out in arms to stop these estates from taking public money to fund their own sporting interests at the expense of hard pressed tax payers. Perhaps this is one wasteful aspect of government spending our conservative leadership should be reviewing to save money.[singlepic id=279w=500 h=375 float=centre]

Article by John Miles, Geltsdale, Northern Pennines.

13 comments to Geltsdale Reserve – Northern Pennines

  • Harrier Man

    The neighbouring estate keepers around Geltsdale are ruthless they come onto the reserve regularly, intimidate staff and volunteers. John i have first hand accounts of this going back many years its no wonder harriers and other raptors disapear down the north pennines sink.

    • Skydancer

      The real issue here is that no one is able or willing to tackle the problems which have existed at Geltsdale now for well over a decade. It is well known that it is the near by shooting estates and their gamekeepers who dictate those species which are acceptable at Geltsdale and those which most definitely are not. As John says the disappearance of the eagle owls should be no surprise to anyone, least off all the RSPB.

  • If anything has happened to the Eagle Owls on Geltsdale it is the fault of the RSPB, they are responsible for their care and welfare, this is a nature reserve, keepers should not be allowed onto it, they are trespassing and the RSPB know that they are doing so but seem too frightened to speak out.

    Last year Mark Avery told me that local gamekeepers were showing an unhealthy interest in the pair of Eagle Owls on Geltsdale and that there was concern, not enough though it would seem.

    I am convinced that the RSPB only spoke out and said that they would not support a cull of these owls because they were losing members hand over fist, this is their main concern, no members no money, I am pleased that like many others I did not rush to rejoin this organisation on the strength of their so called support of the Eagle Owls and like many others I feel that their support could be withdrawn at any time to suit themselves, I find the whole situation disgraceful.

    Like many others I have noticed that Mark Avery has been very quiet of late, but then he is deserting what may well become a sinking ship so perhaps he has lost interest already.

    We need to find out what, if anything has happened to these owls, they should be calling now and if so they should have been heard by someone, this whole situation stinks to me, it would appear that once again the RSPB have failed to protect these owls just as they failed to do last year when they left the chicks on Bowland to starve to death in the second nest, choosing to blame the Lancashire Police, who will they blame this time.

    I sincerely hope this pair of owls have moved to somewhere more hospitable away from the people who wish them harm, but my heart tells me to expect the worst.

  • As a member of the RSPB, I am worried about what is happening to Raptors in this country, Just where is the protection for these glorious birds, it really seems that people in general are not concerned, There was talk of Sea Eagles being introduced to the Suffolk coast, but signs went up everywhere, asking folk to say No!to them, this world is not just for humans although many think it is. It is impoprtant that we protect our wildlife for future generations, or it will be a Dinasaur situation.

    • Admin

      Hi Paula, we thank you for taking the time to add a comment in relation to this very important matter. We need more comments of this kind particularly from the fairer sex.

      The difficulty we are facing not only at Geltsdale, no action is being undertaken to address the problems that exist on England’s grouse moors. Raptors that predate on grouse and other game birds are not welcome within these regions for obvious reasons.

      Until organisations with responsibility for protecting these birds decide to take proactive action very little will change. Only a few years ago Geltsdale held a reasonable number of successful breeding pairs of hen harrier, peregrine together with a small number of ravens. Now the area remains void of these magnificent creatures due to human greed and ignorance.

      One comment relating to this post refers to Geltsdale as a sink hole for raptors, this sums’ up the position very well on 99% of moorlands used for grouse shooting today in England; an activity by the way the tax payer subsidises.

      If we are ever to bring about constructive change the public must now begin to voice their utter disgust at what has been going on for many years. The more forceful our concerns the better our chances are that someone may begin to listen.

    • falco subbuteo

      Great post Paula, the large percentage or RSPB members have no idea of what is really happening to birds of prey on grouse moors, and the worst part about it is that the RSPB know exactly all about the persecution and who is doing it, but as long as their membership numbers dont dramatically fall they will do nothing.


    What a crying shame this is, that still to this very day because they may own the land they feel they can go about as they please.

    I wanted to throw myself full time into direct raptor conservation so applied for one of the Hen Harrier watch positions advertised recently by the RSPB on the Geltsdale reserve. Had no response but one of the main tasks was monitoring the Hen Harrier which reading this sounds like a fruitless task and another task was building relationships with locally landowners, and now that sounds less than pleasurable.

    I pulled my RSPB membership over a few reasons all related to RSPB and raptors. Some how we need to over come these old school views on land ownership and shooting rights.

  • John Miles

    What a shame you did not get a chance to come to Geltsdale. If you know about raptors and other wildlife you will have still enjoyed the experience even if the harriers were not allowed to breed.

  • Seb

    I also contacted the RSPB about the Harrier job and received no reply.


    Just received a reply. Sadly won’t be going an further with my application, and I quite fancied 5 months working in the wilds surrounded by great countryside and potential raptors.

  • I have still had no reply from Mark Avery with regard to my question about the disappearance of the pair of Eagle Owls on Geltsdale, The RSPB’s continued silence on this matter is a sign that we should fear the worst,Mark Avery was very annoyed when I mentioned it on his Facebook page and told me that as I always think the worst he doesn’t know why he bothers, well to be quite honest Mark I don’t think any of you do really bother, I am fed up with your attitude but I will not give up on the Eagle Owls like you seem to have done.

  • Sinclair C Dunnett

    John Miles’ article (above) tells me that:
    “…[shooting clients]…regularly expect to shoot 3000 brace of Red Grouse every year [12000 birds a year!!]…”.
    3,000 x 2=6,000, not 12,000. I realise that many, if not most people, who contribute to fora like the above are almost illiterate, but didn’t realise thay might be innumerate too.
    When I first led wildlife tours to Orkney in 1975 one saw hen harrier almost without looking for them. Now it’s much more of a struggle to find them.
    During the same period on Islay (and Jura) harrier increased considerably in numbers to the point that, on my last wildife tour there a couple of years ago, we almost stopped bothering to look at harrier.
    Strangely, there is little historical and almost no contemporary game preservation in Orkney; Islay and Jura have keepers/stalkers in most corners. RSPB representation is probably about equal in Orkney/Islay, though RSPB staff are little seen on Jura.
    So using keepers as the whipping boys (or occasionally girls) for lack of raptors in a particular area is just too simplistic.

  • Mike Price

    Or at least it would be if gamekeepers didn’t keep getting caught killing raptors all over the moorland in the UK.