Wandering aimlessly on a sunny Sunday Morning

It has now been over five weeks since the North West Raptor Group submitted two Freedom of Information requests to Natural England. The first request asked for clarification regarding the installation of the video camera at the abandoned hen harrier nest containing six eggs. The second Freedom of Information request submitted by the raptor group asked Natural England to supply details of all duplicate nest visits undertaken last year by their members. We would remind our readers licenses previously issued to the members of the NWRPG for use on moorland in the Forest of Bowland owned by United Utilities were revoked this year because Natural England had inferred group members had undertaken duplicate nests visits last year.

After waiting over five weeks for this detail, Natural England not surprisingly has so far been unable or unwilling to provide the information that has been requested. Normally under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, government departments are allowed 28 working days to provide the information requested. The NWRPG have now been informed twice because of unspecified complications, stalling for time, Natural England will now attempt to provide this detail by early May.

No Substitute for Experience.

On Sunday morning 17th April at 09.30am two suspected RSPB field workers were observed wandering aimlessly on a steep heather clad moorland hill side owned by United Utilities in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland. It was presumed by the two observers watching the events from the road side that both individuals were looking for the eyrie of a ground nesting pair of peregrines that successfully nested in this location last year. After about 45 minutes frustrated one of the pair walked along the fence line to the top of the hill and out of sight. The second field worker who had been observed wandering aimlessly beating the undergrowth below him with his stick as he walked unsteadily through the heather then also called it a day retreating over the hill top and out of sight.

During the whole time both field workers were being watched through binoculars walking aimlessly across the fell side in an unsuccessful search, they were totally it seems unaware that the male and female peregrine were both circling at high altitude over head having already been displaced from their nest but at a different location. Allowing this kind of inexperience resulting in unnecessary disturbance, clearly demonstrates the need to get back on board the members of the local raptor group who already knew where this years nest was located.

The moral of this story is that there is never any substitute for experience.

21 comments to Wandering aimlessly on a sunny Sunday Morning

  • Mike Price

    What amazes me most is my own experience of raptor workers, once they know you have no unethical agenda they are only to happy to help you learn how to safely monitor the birds, share information and generally learn about the birds.

    People I have spoken to on this side of the country have nothing but good things to say about Terry and the NWRPG , So I expect my experience is far from being a one off thing.

    It’s hard to imagine what benefit there is in not seeking their advice and help in a situation that clearly needs more people (experienced people) working for the benefit of these highly persecuted birds

  • skydancer

    I am informed by an RSPB associate that the NWRPG are being refused licences covering the United Utilities estate following their embarassing exposures of nest failures on the UU estate over a number of seasons. These exposures include reporting poor field practice and licence breaches by at least two other licenced holders, including duplicate and uncoordinated visits to both Peregrine and Hen Harrier nests.

  • paul williams

    Why would United Utilities take away the protection from endangered birds of prey on (grouse shooting moors?)

  • nirofo

    What do you expect from the RSPB, if somebody who knows what they are doing doesn’t show them the nest then they’re lost. I’ve observed this phenomenon many times during the various Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier and Merlin survey’s over the last few years in Scotland. One instance was with Merlins, in one area where there were known to be 6 occupied territories not one was discovered by the RSPB surveyors and that’s by no means an isolated case. This makes a laughing stock of the survey methods used and quality of personnel used to determine the true levels of Raptors in a suitable territory, so much for the accuracy and authenticity of the survey’s !!! I appreciate that people have to learn, but to send out inexperienced persons into what is probably the most politically sensitive Raptor area in the UK says something about the gall of the RSPB.


  • DEAN

    Why didn’t the “observers”on witnessing the distress to the peregrines, intervene?Surely if these were RSPB volunteers looking for the nest site the sensible thing to have done would have been to show them the new location in order to minimalise the disturbance to the birds.

    • Ann Cardwell

      The most sensible and moral approach would have been not to remove licenses from those with the experience in the first place who’s only sin was to place the interests of the birds first.

  • Mike Price

    Dean, really if after many many years of service someone removed you from your job and gave it to someone with no experience would you be happy to help them?
    I think the question you meant to ask is should schedule 1 licences be extended to people who are causing this type of disturbance, particually as there are people who are willing to do the work who are very experienced.

  • paul williams

    If you do not have a license then you stay well away from nest sites. To go near other fieldworkers might be deemed disturbance and therefore a criminal act. What you do is report bad practice,Natural England will then tell you to STOP wasteing thier time.

  • Fell Walker

    Disturbance has been done…surely 45 mins is far too long searching for peregrine nest sites at this time of their breeding cycle and any other time etc, dont you agree?. also why would you use a stick? beats me (pardon the pun) i wonder if it was a white one? also your comment for the two observers to show them the site would have only added more DISTURBANCE which is no good at all, I cant understand why they were looking for nest sites on one of the busiest days on the bowland fells…….
    and i agree with above posting no licence, no nest visits.

    • Peter Richardson

      If you consider 45 minuted far too long, what about the 120 minute disturbance observed last by two members of the North West Raptor Protection Group year at a ground nesting peregrine, which incidentally was then dismissed by Natural England. Once again distrubance caused by RSPB volunteers on the UU estate. The reasons for taking away the licenses held by experienced raptor group members is now becoming very clear to everyone, responsible members are causing far too many problems which Natural England are unwilling to deal with.

  • Talking about disturbance – When the ‘first’ census of Hen Harriers on the Isle of Man was carried out many years ago by the RSPB, the two field-workers in question used their small dog to help find many of the nests, due to around 40+ pairs on the island at that particular time ! A local, who also studied Hen Harriers watched these two dough-heads through his binoculars and was dismayed at what he observed, yet his protests were by-passed by all concerned !

    So, these people need to ask themselves is not what they are doing blatant disturbance and therefore it is they who should have their licences removed – not the members of the NWRPG !! Wise up RSPB & NE, you are sad people and a danger to have about any birds of prey nest!

  • Surely its time that the mud slinging and childish behaviour between parties has to stop. The only casualty in this whole scenario are the raptors we are all trying to protect.

    I like many respect and cheerish having a Schedule 1 licence and do nothing to harm the welfare of raptors. Over the years I’ve gone done the road of minimal disturbance i.e. really the only pieces of information that are really needed are occupation and success/failure.

    The welfare of any raptor must come first and we must rightly put a halt to people who abuse their licensed position.

    In summary can’t we possibly try to mend this ill feeling and start afresh. Get people around a table and iron out people’s differences.

    At the end of the day anyone involved in raptors has to take a very professional and adult attitude and remember that the welfare of the raptor must always come first.

    Communication between different people/groups at the end of the day has to improve to keep unnecessary disturbance to a minimum.

    • Skydancer

      Well said Mike, the first step must be to reinstate the licenses revoked from the local raptor group who in my view have done nothing to deserve the treatment they are receiving. In fact, if all licence holders act as reponsible as the members of the NWRPG appear to have done, there would be no problems at all. Lets face it if they have been working in Bowland for over 40 years they must have already proved their worth.

  • DEAN

    Fell Walker,yes I think 45 mins is too long, but to be fair I can’t see why, after reading my post you thought I didn’t!
    Mike Price,sorry Mike but I’m perfectly aware of the issues surrounding the licences.Now if you want to excuse the observers non intervention on the grounds that they were feeling sorry for themselves,be my guest,but before all hell breaks loose can I make it quite clear I’m going with Pauls explanation!
    Skydancer,I’d be astonished if any licences are issued without acceptance of the confidentiallity agreement that UU are insisting on.

  • Mike Price

    There is also an issue with how they would ensure these people are the right people to be assisting, they could be anyone and as such should be reported if they are then found to hold the correct documentation they should be asked why they failed to notice the disturbance they caused.
    I still think it would be a very big ask to expect someone who has been treated badly to offer their support in such a case.

  • Paul Risley

    Has anyone even confirmed they were RSPB field workers yet? For all we know they might have been Egger’s, Birdwatchers, Falconers, Gamekeepers, Photographers, Hill walkers or a host of other people with interests in different kinds of wildlife who were unaware of the distress they were causing, in which case as Dean initially said it would have made more sense to intervene. Totally agree with Mike Price re the mudslinging and childish behaviour needs to stop, if you cant get on with people who want the same objective as you, how on earth are you going to move forward with people who don’t!

    • Dale Cardwell

      Paul, after reading your latest comment your naivety and complete lack of practical experience in these matters really stands out. It is highly improbable they were eggers, birdwatchers, gamekeepers, falconers, or photographers. While you were providing your thoughts, why not mention Uncle Tom Cobley and all his friends too.

  • Paul Risley

    so you havent confirmed it then, thanks

  • Falco subbuteo

    They are highly unlikely to be eggers or falconers on a sunny sunday morning, and as for being birdwatchers well apparently the birds could be easily observed from the road side so they were not very good birdwatchers if that is what they were…To even suggest hillwalkers with a stick beating the heather, come on Paul wake up, these two field workers were typical RSPB volunteers, the blind leading the blind.

  • paul williams

    I have witnesed this behaviour by rspb fieldworkers along with constant clapping to disturb nesting birds before, hope that is the end of that.

  • dave

    I also agree that there’s too much mudslinging on this site and the tone of many of the interventions is really aggressive.

    What is clear is that the Conservation parties need to get together to ensure their talents are used profitably and to ensure that they all act transparently, in compliance with the law and in accordance with the tenets of good practice.

    It is time that the well-being of our raptors was teh shared priority of all conservationists.