Do you support the Hawk and Owl Trust in their support for brood management of Hen Harriers?

RBA Reader Poll

The Hawk and Owl Trust’s continued support for brood management has been highly controversial. (© Terry Pickford)

Back in January, following a surprise announcement by the Hawk and Owl Trust (HOT) that they would support Hen Harrier brood management, we ran a poll asking readers if they supported this position.

The Trust’s support for brood management appeared to take many people by surprise – including many members of the Hawk and Owl Trust itself, including Mark Avery. The Trust’s President, Chris Packham, resigned when he learnt of the plans, and an online argument followed between Philip Merrick’s (the HOTs chair), Mark, and numerous commenters which became increasingly hostile with Philip defending the Trust’s potential involvement in the brood management part of the Plan. Almost everyone else were opposed to it, calling the plans – amongst other things – naive and poorly-timed, coming at a time when it was felt that moorland managers were coming under intense pressure from campaigns to end wildlife crime on their estates.

Philip Merricks and the Hawk and Owl trust have continued to stoutly defend their position which maintains that if wildlife crime cannot be stopped and that brood management is seen by shooting organisations as the only viable way forward, then it has to be worth trying as a way to break an impasse that has existed now for several decades.

The result of the poll was comprehensive with 70.7% saying they would not support the HOT’s decision. 16.6% said they would support it, with 9.6% saying they wanted more information and 3% remained undecided.

In the few months since that poll a lot has happened much of which may have lead some to believe that the HOT may change their minds in supporting brood management.

Some more positive news came just a few days before Hen Harrier Day when Natural England issued a press releaseannouncing that English Hen Harriers had enjoyed their most successful breeding season in the last three years, with six pairs fledging 18 young. This was heralded by some as a great success, though looking at the figures in the press release it was interesting to note that it was exactly the same number as in 2010. However it must be seen as some welcome news given that in 2013 no Hen Harriers fledged in England!

During this period the Hawk and Owl Trust have been somewhat notable by their absence in the debate and appeared to many to be keeping a low profile. Some info did appear on their website soon after the decision was announced but not a lot since.

Then, two weeks ago the chair of HOT, Philip Merricks, agreed to an in-depth interview with Charlie Moores for our Talking Naturally podcast. This is the first time he has spoken in detail about the brood management trial.

Given this we felt it might be interesting to run another poll asking you if readers now support the HOT’s decision given they have now tried to explain the rationale behind supporting brood management and also how they see it working in practice.

If you have not listened to the podcast yet we encourage you to do so before you vote in the poll. You can listen here, just click play.

The poll will run for the next seven days and we will publish the result soon afterwards. You can also leave comments with your vote, a selection of which we will publish with the results. Please note the poll is anonymous, we cannot see who is voting even if you are logged into the RBA website and if you choose to leave a name with your comments this will not be published if we include you comment with the result.

To add your vote to the RBA ‘s pole click HERE

24 comments to Do you support the Hawk and Owl Trust in their support for brood management of Hen Harriers?

  • nirofo

    There can only be one vote, that’s a resounding “NO”. How can anyone be asked to vote for something that will only put more Harriers in front of the gamekeepers waiting guns. Make the shooting estate owners and their gamekeepers obey the law and stop the Raptor persecution then it may be time to start talking, until then it’s a non starter !!!

    Ban driven grouse shooting now.

  • John Miles

    I am sick of folk who know nothing about these moors. Hawk [= harrier ] and owl trust = short eared owl which are killed in their 1000’s each year by these moor owners (GAMEKEEPERS). 42 pairs of short eared owl recorded on one moor last year when protected and 22 pairs on another.

    Once the voles numbers had crashed the owls move onto unprotected moors and guess what happens then! So just on 2 moors you are talking of 128 adult owls + young which could be anything from 2 to 6 per pair + average 256 = 384 owls to be killed on other Red Grouse moors. Remember that was the total from just 2 moors, so should I add another 0 on my figure for short eared owls killed!!

    One moor was seen using night sights optics fitted to rifles to kill owls this year! Other birds killed include peregrines, buzzards even kestrels and anything that might remove a feather from a Red Grouse or just disturb the shoot from the 12th August onwards.

    Red Grouse will not fly to the butts if owls, harriers, falcons, eagles or buzzards fly in front of the beaters. No point talking about ‘brood management.’ Where are you going to put all these short eared owls, peregrines etc!

  • Brian Leecy

    BROOD MANAGEMENT !! we are not talking about Rearing Pheasants here ! These are Some of our Rarest Breeding Birds of Prey ! We are talking about these Criminals Slaughtering Hen Harriers,Goshawks,Peregrines and Everything Else that Dares to even think about eating a Red Grouse which can be Blasted Out Of the Sky by these Blood Thirsty B____rds.NO ,NO ,NO,Bring on the Ban on Driven Grouse Shooting .

  • Circus maxima

    I did not need to do it…but I did listen to the interview. I am now even more shocked.
    I thought that the interview might have been used by the HOT to provide a fuller explanation of their thinking. However, there was no more information.
    Worse than that Mr Merricks seemed to be stangely detached from the project and unable to accurately answer some of the most basic questions. I was truly astonished that he places more faith in a mithering torrygraph journalist than he does in the informed opinions of scientists and dedicated naturalists.

    I do not see how this will ever get past the EU… its sad that the HOT has ended this way.

  • Circus maxima

    I’m sorry, there was one bit of new information that came out in the interview. It was clear that Merricks believes that brood management is an unfair burden on the poor grouse moor owners and that the public purse should fund the work…. apparently forever. A FINANCIAL REWARD for breaking the law!

  • Shouldn’t we try our best to alleviate some of the ”fear factor” which was created by the original Langholm Study?
    I congratulate and support Philip Merricks et al for trying to pave a way forward to hopefully unblock this entrenched stalemate.

    • nirofo

      I take it you’ll pressurising the grouse moor estate owners and their gamekeepers to stop their illegal killing of protected hen harriers and other birds of prey before any attempt is made to unblock this so-called entrenched stalemate. This is a necessary requirement before any form of brood meddling could even be considered, however it appears that Philip Merricks has committed himself so much to the extent that he has left himself in a hole which only seems to get deeper the more he squirms and wriggles.

      Ban driven Red Grouse shooting now, it’s the only answer !!!

      • Hi nirofo,
        As a very active conservationist I want to see hen harriers back breeding on managed grouse moors. In an ideal world we wouldn’t be subjected to wrong doers and law breaking criminals. However this is just a fact of life which occurs in every profession. Lets be honest it’s always going to be that a minority spoil it for the majority.
        To go forward with this harrier conflict surely bridges of trust, good communication and honesty on both sides have to be slowly built up?
        Surely you have to respect eminent/scientific people like Prof Ian Newton, Prof Steve Redpath and Prof Des Thompson for supporting a potential way forward in this dire and long standing conservation mess? Banning grouse shooting in the long term will not help harriers.

        • nirofo

          So, what you are saying in reality is that for the time being at least it’s ok for the shooting estate gamekeepers to continue to break the law and persecute our so-called legally protected Raptors, so long as we have bridges of trust, good communication and honesty, on both sides. OK, we’ve trusted them so far, when do they start to reciprocate, at what point do we expect the gamekeepers to stop or reduce their raptor persecution, communicate with us honestly and build bridges by allowing us to prove that they have stopped.

          When did Prof Ian Newton, Prof Steve Redpath and Prof Des Thompson say they fully supported and went along with what you and Philip Merricks are proposing.

          Why do you think banning driven Red Grouse shooting will not help Hen Harriers in the long term when the only people who are persecuting them are the grouse moor owners and their gamekeepers? In the short term once the gamekeepers, the main threat to their existance has been removed it will start to help the harriers recover very quickly !!!

          • Hi nirofo,
            Pity that we couldn’t meet up for a beer/coffee sometime to discuss in person the harrier/grouse conflict as you seem to misconstrue some of my comments.The banning of grouse shooting and why it won’t help hen harriers in the long term is a bit more complicated and would take some time to explain.

            Basically after decades of conflict I’d like to see a compromise and hopefully an eventual end of illegal persecution of harriers. As I’ve stated previously perhaps if we removed the ”fear factor” and applied some form of common sense into the equation e.g. brood management/non-lethal quota trial the fortunes of this fantastic raptor could possibly be transformed?

          • nirofo

            @Mike Groves – I don’t think I’ve misconstrued some of your comments at all, for a start the compromise road has already been tried for many years with the large majority if not all of the compromise coming from ornithologists and conservationists. In all that time there has been no effort from grouse shooting interests to reduce or stop raptor persecution, in fact if anything it has increased.

            You are still harping on about brood management when the majority of experienced ornithologists and conservationists have already stated that unless there is a definite halt to raptor persecution there could never be a serious attempt at brood meddling. Where would they get their broods from, I for one would be very unhappy if it was attempted from any of the broods I was involved with in scotland, especially knowing full well that the birds were being taken away just to be shot later? The fact is if the grouse shooting estate owners and their gamekeepers stopped killing birds of prey there would be no need for any form of brood management, the birds are quite capable of increasing naturally all by themselves.

            Why you think banning grouse shooting won’t help the harriers to recover is a strange one, especially seeing as it is the grouse shooting interests and their gamekeepers that are responsible for their demise and are the only ones actually persecuting them. Could it be that you are swallowing the gamekeepers story, that tired old chestnut that without their moorland management and predator control the moor would revert to forest scrubland and be overrun with predators, in other words revert to it’s natural habitat. Well there are a lot of people out there who would like that to happen just fine, as i’m sure would most of the wildlife including the Hen Harriers.

  • Albert Ross

    This is ridiculous! I gave up listening at about 10 minutes. The man has not got a clue. He should do the decent thing and resign. Why are his members letting him continue?
    Turning now to the bit I heard. Intro. “Fully protected and yet persecuted”. How will brood management change that?
    “Responsible for wiping out Hen Harriers.” So enforce the legislation. Don’t fudge the issue. It is about illegal destruction of a species not fancy ideas of Management. People don’t fudge serious crimes against infants by moving the schools to a safe haven. They catch and lock up the criminals!!!# If I get nicked for doing 100mph do I plead “I am part of a traffic management plan and relocating?”
    Merricks actually said “Wildlife crime cannot be stopped!” Says who?
    We won’t stop it by ‘brood managing it away’!!
    Sadly I am coming to the conclusion that positive action is required. I detested some of the excesses of the “Hunt Saboteurs” of days gone by and still do BUT I feel that if Hen Harrier persecution is to be stopped we need to firmly demonstrate our intent along the lines of the famous Mass Trespasses of the Ramblers in the 1930s.
    “Kill our Hen Harriers and we will kill your sporting days out!” would be a message that they must listen to. You will never get a ban on Grouse Shooting so make hard for the Ba$tards to do it!
    Start planning now for next August in Bowland as a starting point!

    • JohnBell

      I fully support Albert Ross in believing that it is time for the anti grouse shooting supporters to emulate some of the actions taken by anti hunting protesters not least in the publicity this would entail. It should be remembered that many people are not aware of the disputes between the grouse shooting industry and conservationists over hen harrier persecution and there is nothing like publicity in bringing pressure for change. Next august or sooner if possible large demonstration in Bowland. Ban driven grouse shooting. I am going to Forest Of Bowland in a fortnight on an unrelated matter will keep ears and eyes open.

  • Northern Diver

    HOT Chairman, Philip Merricks – I believe he is also President of Kent Country Landowners Association.

    HOT Vice Chairman, Col. Robin Rees-Webbe – Once Director of CLA Game Fair.

    Not a surprise to me then that HOT is taking this line??

  • it should be called controlled management just look at the problems when birds like buzzards peregrines red kites sea gulls comorants are not controlled some poeple are only interested raptors they did need protecting years ago millions of other peoples recitation have been ruined by some of these over protected birds. other poeple who go fishing pigeon fanciers all have to stand and watch these over populated and protected birds destroy other poeples this why i think brood control is the only way forward

  • nirofo

    a langslow – You obviously haven’t got any real idea what it’s all about, do some serious research and then come back with real questions and ask for answers !!!

  • nirofo

    The result of the recent poll, “Do you support the Hawk and Owl Trust in their support for brood management of Hen Harriers?” organised by Rare Bird Alert is now complete, the result shows an even higher number of people are against it and 80% ticked “NO”.

    Time to kick brood meddling into the dustbin where it belongs, it was a non starter from the beginning. HOT and DEFRA now need to see the light and bring an end to the unworkable idea of brood management, their activities would be better used if they concentrated on the real problem, bringing an end to raptor persecution at the hands of estate gamekeepers. Even better would be for them to back an end to driven grouse shooting !!!

  • hi NiroFo
    brood management is not something new it as worked with many other animals look at peregrines whitetail eagles otters water voles conservationist are talking about moving young eagles to new area’s menbers of the N.W.R.P.G Have moved young Peregrines to Prague in the Czech republic from Scotland

    • nirofo

      a langslow
      Nobody’s disputing that, it’s brood meddling Hen Harriers on grouse moors that we’re on about, a non starter because the gamekeepers are determined to keep on illegally killing them. It would be like firing the young harriers out of a clay trap for them to shoot at !!!

      • Hi nirofo,
        Yet again I stress why not try and remove this ”fear factor” associated with this particular raptor and try and move forward progressively?
        If we remove the potential threat of colonisation on certain grouse moors surely we have an increased chance of harriers breeding successfully in the future?
        What is your real name nirofo and in what region of Scotland do you work on harriers?

        • nirofo

          Hi Mike
          You’re starting to worry me, your obsession for a one sided attempt to appease the grouse shooting estates and their gamekeepers without any offer from them of stopping Hen Harrier, (and other raptor) persecution is leading me to think you may be more in bed with them than you’re letting on ???

          You must have seen by now the result of the recent poll, “Do you support the Hawk and Owl Trust in their support for brood management of Hen Harriers?” I blogged about in an earlier post. If 80% against is not enough to disuade you from any idea of brood meddling then there’s not a lot more we can say !!!

  • Hi nirofo
    what a waste of money the studys on langholm moors

    • nirofo

      a langlow – I have to agree with you on that one, when only one side wanted it to work it was bound to fail.

  • I think it’s worth trying brood management what else is left all we are doing is going over the same ground over and over again, there is only one bird of prey that needs help other birds are in trouble and it not down to gamekeepers you can have the best habitat but sometimes it is not enough.