The heather burning continues: Man recorded walking within known Eagle Owl territory.

On the 15th March we published a story illustrated by video clips, graphically highlighting the willful destruction of heather habitats classified as a Sites of Special Scientific interest (SSSi )and Special Protected Area (SPA) within the Forest of Bowland on a private shooting estate. Read about it HERE. What was significant about the incident, the moorland being burned had previously contained not  just one, but two historic ground nesting Peregrine territories; Short-eared owls and Hen Harriers in the the recent past had also been recorded as breeding on this moor. No regard was paid to these facts by this particular estate, because what was taking place was within existing legislation. There is no doubt in our mind the dense clouds of white acrid smoke being produced over such a wide area would deter raptors from settling to breed at this location.

The burning continued yesterday (Thursday 18th March) on another estate owned by United Utilities on moorland, positioned overlooking the Dunsop Valley. We have been advised a pair of Eagle Owls may be already incubating a clutch of eggs somewhere within this location. Yesterday’s burning, see video below, took place less than one half mile from where last year a pair of Hen Harriers are known to have laid eggs within the patch of heather seen in the foreground, where embers from the fire above were NOW falling.



The cameraman filming yesterday’s fire also captured an additional sequence showing an RSPB field officer walking through the heather at a territory where in the past Eagle Owls had made several attempts to breed, some successful, others’ not so successful. The video records the man walking down along the fence crossing the stream gully where Eagle Owls have bred successfully, see image below. It was at this point the individual became aware his activities were being observed and then walked away from the territory, back over the moor to where his RSPB pickup truck had been parked.

Eagle Owls Stoney Clough

The Eagle Owl nesting gully showing two unfledged chicks at this site. Why was this individual visiting this possible nesting site? 


The question must be asked, why was this individual walking at mid-day, on moorland where Eagle Owls are regularly known to breed? He must have been aware that disturbing any Eagle Owl nest containing eggs or small chicks could result in the nest being abandoned. This has happened far too often at several breeding sites on moorland owned by United Utilities in the past.

Additional Information: Forest of Bowland Eagle Owls Deserted Nesting Sites.


18 comments to The heather burning continues: Man recorded walking within known Eagle Owl territory.

  • Julie Wright

    They don’t want them there, Infact they don’t want any raptors there!

  • bubo bubo

    Julie you are right,the RSPB do not want the Eagle Owl breeding in Bowland,have they ever come out and said we are going to protect this magnificent bird? every year the nest gets visited by wardens during the day at the eggs stage, why cant they just keep away and leave it alone.

  • Les Wallace

    The RSPB have been ludicrously alarmist about ‘alien’ eagle owls in Britain. The idea that they’ll pose an ecological risk on one side of the channel and not on the other is bloody silly. I suspect they are making song and dance because technically eagle owls here may be introductions and they don’t want to downplay concept of invasive species, but the real bad ones are signal crayfish and Japanese knotweed, not European natives.

  • They are a disgrace to their name, keep watching them, they need exposing. They cannot just choose what they want to protect and what they don’t.
    As far as protecting any raptor species on moorland used for shooting they have and still are failing miserably, leave the Eagle Owls alone and start doing your job properly, using wardens who haven’t got a hidden agenda.

  • Simon

    There’s absolutely nothing in that video clip to show that this man is anything to do with RSPB. How can we, the public, be certain that it’s not just more anti-RSPB mud slinging?

    • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Group

      Simon we have the pickup licence plate number and a photograph of the guy’s RSPB logo on the side of vehicle. May I ask how can the facts be mud slinging? Or do you believe employees of the RSPB are above the law and are not accountable for the mistakes they make?

  • Simon

    Chrissie, actually they can chose. All UK raptors are protected by law whereas non-native Eagle Owls are not.

    • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Group

      You are incorrect, any eagle owl chicks hatched in the wild are fully protected under UK wildlife legislation.

    • Skydancer

      Simon it is called the royal society for the protection of birds not royal society for the protection of some birds, may I add they might be be more protective of the eagle owl if it were not on a grouse moor, they make the excuse that it could predate on the Hen harrier, and what happened to the rspb logo of “giving nature a home ” .

  • Julie Wright

    Personally I don’t trust any of them in Bowland. Funny how eggs, chicks birds disappear even when they are being watched, I know there are people who do care and want to protect them, but they don’t stand a chance. Yes sir no sir if you get my drift!

  • Simon

    The point I was making was that the video clip didn’t show any RSPB logo. If you have other evidence then fair enough, but the text and video didn’t make that clear.
    With regards the legal status of adult Eagle Owls, they are not protected under UK law as they are not a native species. Whether they should be or not is a different argument (I believe they should be actually), but as it currently stands they are not.
    With regards Eagle Owls predating Hen Harrier chicks, that has been proven to happen. So, the dilemma there is the complex conundrum (and the legal responsibility) of having to protect a Schedule 1 species from a non-native predator.
    It’s an extremely thorny and complicated problem and there are no easy answers. That doesn’t mean I’m defending anyone, just that it is enormously complex. Government research has suggested that increases in breeding Eagle Owls may have a deleterious impact upon several protected species, including Hen Harrier. The bigger problem with Hen Harriers and the grouse shooting moors is of course an entirely different matter and one that needs to be tackled asap (but probably won’t be sadly).

  • Hybrid

    Simon, I am not so clued up as others on the laws about protection of the Eagle Owl, as a stand alone species and so have looked on the internet myself and what you claim is certainly not a fact, aside from it being complex. In fact, what Terry Pickford claims further up, is indeed backed up on various websites. If the parent bird made its own way over from say France, which I’m assured they can do and then successfully reared young in the wild, those young are then allegedly protected under UK legislation. I use the term ‘allegedly’ very loosely, as looking at the above footage, assuming it is an RSPB field officer, then he/she could very easily stumble upon the favoured Hen Harrier, should there be an early brood. Is it common practice for someone who presumably knows the above moors, to purposely walk within reported breeding sites? That’s not aimed at you Simon, but to anyone who is more familiar with these matters. It’s all quite disturbing, literally.

  • Jonathan Round

    So much money and effort is put into blood sports for the bloodthirsty Oiks. It’s time they put their money to better uses such as Industry, funding innovation, conservation and our own people. Too much of our money is spent on the failing EU and wars that don’t concern us. Money would be better spent on conservation and our preservation. Burning Heather in the name of sport should not be allowed to happen! Nature is wonderful.some people are nothing but selfish greedy monsters.

  • nirofo

    Sometimes makes you wonder if some of them have connections with the grouse shooting estates, the number of times this sort of things happens, especially in the Forest of Bowland area shows either total incompetence, total disregard or ulterior motive. ???

    Editor’s Comment Anyone qualified with a knowledge of Eagle Owl behaviour, irrespective of any association with the RSPB, must be aware entering an Eagle Owl nest containing eggs or small chicks, less that 2 weeks old, would invariably cause the adult birds to desert their nest.
    The question in this case therefore, why on earth was this individual looking for nests in the middle of the day when he must have been fully aware of the consequences of his irresponsible actions had he located an occupied nest?? Very poor judgement.

  • Skydancer

    Also what if there was a hen harrier prospecting or building a nest in the area ? his presence could put them off , seems like total incompetence to me but the rspb have a reputation for this in bowland.

  • Tim Sarney

    How many traditional Peregrine sites are occupied this year in Bowland?

    Editor’s Comment. Possibly only one occupied site. As of yesterday, the total number of territories recorded as abandoned since 2010 stands at 21. Those responsible for this situation should hang their heads in shame. Raptor Politics will very shortly be publishing full details of all the sites destroyed and abandoned. The last known site remaining in the whole of Bowland will be checked out later this week.

  • wayne

    Just been reading thru sum comments,,Are these owls the original Owls from past breeding seasons? if so it has been mentioned that thet were escapees .so they are not protected,,If this pair are the offspring how can you tell?
    or am i missing something?

  • Observer

    Hey wayne. I think now that it is impossible unless they were ringed as chicks to know if the Eagle owls are birds that may have bred further north or wherever. So for that reason they would have to be classed as possibly wild and looking up at the ansers it means that they will be protected birds. I have never even seen one in the wild anyway myself.