RSPB on the Front Line protecting Bowland’s Hen Harriers

On the 18 May an e-mail was sent by the RSPB investigations department to a member of the North West Raptor Protection Group complaining that a Raptor Politics contributor had mentioned that two pairs of Hen Harriers were breeding somewhere in the Forest of Bowland, great news at the time, or so we thought that is why we published this exciting news without the approval of the RSPB, which of course we did not need.

The RSPB went on to say “it may be worth pointing out that its not a good idea to publicise facts about schedule 1 species breeding attempts when they are underway. Its challenging enough protecting the birds without alerting those that wish them harm. I appreciate locations are not mentioned but its extra pressure we don’t need at this time.” 

We have added below the comment published on the Raptor Politics web site sent in by one of our regular followers referred to by the RSPB above in order to highlight how harmless this comment was and the double standards being practised by the RSPB.

“I have been watching 2 occupied Hen Harrier territories in bowland over the last few weeks, both nests are on the United Utilities estate, the RSPB have a hide set up at one of them for public viewing. Nice to see one of the occupied peregrine nests on the UU estate now contains chicks.”

Its acceptable for the RSPB to publish details of nesting Hen Harriers but not for anyone else it seems; what utter nonsense. We would strongly remind the RSPB, the Hen Harrier is a wild bird, and as such they do not belong to the RSPB, and we will continue to publish what we feel is appropriate not what the RSPB feels we should publish.

On 11 June the RSPB issued a Press Release providing more information about breeding Hen Harriers in the Forest of Bowland, including the name of the estate where the two pairs were breeding. You can read the details contained in the Media Release here.

The Hidden Watch

This year the RSPB established two hides at a distance of approx half a mile from one of the occupied Bowland Hen Harrier nests being monitored on a 24/7 basis. We are informed the nest sites are being monitored by CCTV which of course takes batteries, how many times is the nest visited to change these batteries?  Here is a photo of the hide taken by a second person from in front of the hide-If we can see the Harriers, they can surely see me now? Several years ago after a licensed photographic hide was positioned 100 m distance from a Hen Harrier nest at this same location, shortly after the egg had hatched both chicks were found dead in the nest and the hide quickly taken down. At least this year lessons appear to have been learned.

There are a number of additional important details which the RSPB have chosen not to make public  about their involvement with Bowland Hen Harriers. Three active Hen Harrier nests each established on the United Utilities estate were found this year not just two.  A third nesting attempt recorded on the United Utilities estate failed this year for reasons which are unknown, we presume to  publish details of a failure would have been bad press and therefore this detail was kept secret by the RSPB.

We congratulate the RSPB for protecting the Hen Harriers in the Forest of Bowland on estates owned by United Utilities this year. We also support the hard work undertaken by the RSPB and their field staff this year. We would like to think that any young harriers produced will have a long and safe future ahead, but based upon historic statistics the majority of harrier chicks fledged from Bowland disappear within 18 months along with their satellite tags.

It is important to highlight one additional important change to field protocol in Bowland this year which seems may have contributed to improved survival of Hen Harrier nests. For the first time RSPB licensed field volunteers were allegedly told not to make any visits to Hen Harrier nests this year, instead they were  instructed to undertake visual observation of nests using binoculars or telescopes only. The same two individuals were warned but no action taken about making uncoordinated nest visits in 2010 to Hen Harrier nests.

Eagle Owls-Forest of Bowland

Earlier this year we published details of the RSPB’s hand over to the World Owl Trust of responsibility for protection of Eagle Owl nests in Bowland this season. You can read the full story here. We explained to our followers that the WOT intended to enlist the help of a dedicated Elite Team to protect nests to prevent a repetition of what took place last year. As most of our followers are aware all 3 nests established on the United Utilities estate  were found abandoned after being disturbed at a critical period during the breeding cycle by those tasked with their care. Eggs contained in a fourth nest established on a private estate had disappeared together with the adult male owl by May. The female remained in the territory until September 2013 when she also vanished.

The news this year is much worst, we are advised all 3 breeding pairs of Eagle Owls holding territories in 2013 on the United Utilities estate had disappeared well before any breeding had started, perhaps in the winter of 2013/2014. Each of the three territories were found completely abandoned. At one off the abandoned sites a pair of nesting Tawny owls were recorded in residence.  At this stage we do not know why all 3 breeding pairs of EO’s should completely vanish so quickly without any trace, it is so unusual. If we receive any information we will of course let our followers know, but unless the lost pairs return this autumn it may be the end of the eagle owl in Lancashire’s Forest of  Bowland.


5 comments to RSPB on the Front Line protecting Bowland’s Hen Harriers

  • skydancer

    I think this is a case of “dont do as i do,do as i say” typical of the RSPB its ok for them to take publicity shots of themselves to show what great work they are doing,by the way someone must have been outside the hide to take the photo i thought the idea of a hide was that you sit in it hidden away from the birds so as not to disturb them,more important to get a good publicity shot though.
    I have myself experienced this behaviour by the RSPB thinking they own the birds, about six years ago on a walk up the Hareden Valley in the Forest of Bowland with my partner, we reached the top of the footpath were the shooting cabin used to be,sat at the cabin were 2 RSPB wardens watching a male Hen Harrier quartering over the moor nearly one mile away,we stopped our walk to view the Hen Harrier through binoculars and just as we were enjoying watching the Harrier over the moor a voice came from one of the RSPB wardens “could you keep walking please you will disturb the Harrier” i pointed out to the wardens that i was on a footpath and there was a sign at the bottom of the valley saying welcome and i had as much right to watch these birds as they had as they do not belong to them.

  • nirofo

    Are these people so naïve that they think they are the only ones who know the whereabouts of these harrier nests, what do they think the gamekeepers get up to in their spare time, play dominoes ???

    What gives them the right to set up a public hide on a highly sensitive Raptor species where persecution by shooting interests is rife and then have the gall to decry others for mentioning that harriers are breeding on Bowland. The arrogance of these people never ceases to amaze me.

  • bubo bubo

    I’m surprised the Rspb are not charging people to walk up the valley and watch through binoculars, or have your photo taken in the hide, I presume the Rspb will be making a presence at the hen harrier day in Bowland or will they then retreat from the frontline to perhaps a less political protest area?

  • paul williams

    The reason there has been a Hen Harrier success this year in Bowland, apart from being a great vole year, is because the serial nest visitors who work for the RSPB have been kept away nests this season.

  • Circus maxima

    In Renfrewshire….every year for the past five years, the RSPB have had the AA erect a series of bright yellow road signs which say “this way to the Hen Harriers”. They have a camera on the last pair of Harriers in the Renfrewshire Heights Spa.
    The birds have failed in most years But they still insist that publicity is the best form of defence……which seems to be at odds with the Bowland situation?

    Editor’s Comment. In Bowland the return of the Hen Harrier this year was brought about by a vole plague TAKING PLACE ON ALL UPLAND MOORLANDS. Historically it is being alleged many Bowland Hen Harrier nesting attempts were undermined by licensed individuals visiting sites (legally) when birds were nest building or just laying their eggs. This year it appears the RSPB have put a stop to this irresponsible practice at last, this new policy will almost certainly deliver dividends in higher numbers of fledged chicks.

    The whole Hen Harrier position in Bowland is all about maximising publicity, getting the most benefit possible for the Society. The RSPB Skydancer team claim to be on the Hen Harrier ‘Frontine’ in Bowland, and yet they refuse to support the Bowland Hen Harrier Protest day and will not be attending the Bowland Protest. The RSPB have not mentioned one word about the third pair of Hen Harriers which nested on the UU estate put then failed. Cant blame the eagle owls because they have all vanished.

    Once again peregrines are suffering from a lack of adequate protection in Bowland. The peregrine nest over-looking the first Hen Harrier territory failed this year. The reasons for this unusual failure differs from one person to the next you speak to. This year there may be more successful Hen Harriers in Bowland than Peregrines. Just 4 years ago 18 productive peregrine territories were established in Bowland, this year we will be lucky if we see two productive sites. Once again eggs were taken from one territory for the second successive year, but neither RSPB nor the police are interested despite being reported on this blog. It seem only certain raptors are worth protecting.

    What about the Eagle owls in Bowland this year? The RSPB could not even bother to protect them, passing this responsibility earlier this year to the World Owl Trust. What happened, not a single occupied nesting site this year at all, four pairs disappeared completely, does anyone care-of course not.