Chris Packham & Mark Avery Review The Real Price of Grouse, but overlook the Forest of Bowland Tragedy

Message to Mark Avery from Terry Pickford, no mention of the Forest of Bowland Tragedy, why?

Mark, I was so disappointed that during your interview above with Chris Packham this week, although you highlighted the disappearance of many, but not all, raptors from the Yorkshire dales, the north York moors and the Peak District, you totally omitted to mention the unprecedented disappearance of all Hen Harriers and Peregrines as breeding species from the Forest of Bowland. Was there an underlying reason for choosing not to mention Bowland and the complete loss of these two breeding species which of course have now resulted in Bowland becoming England’s first moorland ‘native raptor breeding free zone’?

You are not alone in choosing not to highlight the disappearance of these protected species missing from the Forest of Bowland. The RSPB are none too eager to talk about what has taken place in Bowland either, but that is perhaps understandable as the Society had been paid to protect these birds for many years by United Utilities.

Following the publication of an article I wrote in 2014 in which I highlighted the unprecedented disappearance of Peregrines from the Forest of Bowland Graham Jones, the RSPB’s North West Regional Conservation Officer, submitted an explanation published in the same magazine two months later. These are the exact words Graham used to try and explain the Peregrine losses,The RSPB acknowledge that the Peregrine population in Bowland is at a concerning level. There are a number of factors that can affect Peregrine breeding success including weather, food availability, infertility, predation and illegal persecution. Determining a specific cause can be difficult.” Graham’s explanation was very interesting but at the same time was certainly misleading. Hindsight is a great thing; when the RSPB had to explain the disappearance of Sky and Hope the 2 Bowland satellite tagged Hen Harriers in 2014, followed by the disappearance of the 4 male Hen Harriers from Bowland in 2015, none of the reasons Graham Jones mentions above for Peregrine losses were even mentioned in relation to the lost Hen Harriers, except for the last one ‘Persecution.’

Making a claim that several possible scenarios may have resulted in the loss from Bowland of all Peregrines, but then strongly hinting at a single scenario for Hen Harrier losses from the same moorland region, i.e., their persecution seems illogical and contradictory, after all both species experience the same weather conditions, food availability, infertility, predation and last but not least persecution. These are the reasons why I think you made an error by omitting to mention the Forest of Bowland in your latest interview with Chris Packham.

Terry Pickford

10 comments to Chris Packham & Mark Avery Review The Real Price of Grouse, but overlook the Forest of Bowland Tragedy

  • JMcCallum

    Well said.

  • alan

    I think they are inconvenient truths.
    I genuinely wonder if these 2 actually care about raptors, as opposed to them being a useful tool.

    Editor’s Comment. Yes certainly an inconvenient truth which some involved with conservation within the Forest of Bowland are unable to deal with, hence no words of condemnation against what is clearly taking place. We do believe both Mark Avery and Chris Packham really do care passionately about raptors, just like we do. there is little doubt the Forest of Bowland is a hot potato, and extremely political with estate owners running the show, hence some would not wish to become involved sadly. This is the main reason why Natural England withheld licenses they had previously issued to the North West Raptor Group for nearly 40 years. Its really is a shame, but as there are no peregrines or hen harriers nesting in Bowland any more, the group do not require a licence to check possible nesting territories in the future.

  • Alex Milne

    I’ve seen the video, which mentions many species which are decimated by grouse shoot management. All grouse moor areas in the uk are affected, and although the Forest of Bowland is badly affected, it is not the only area affected. I live in Scotland, and the situation here is as bad as in Bowland. The strange position held by the RSPB in Bowland is a different matter to those mentioned in the interview, and should be tackled independently.

    Editor’s Comment. Alex we think possibly you may be missing the point of Terry’s argument. Importantly, there are no longer any breeding peregrines or hen harrier remaining anywhere inside the Forest of Bowland making the two species extinct, this is very significant to what Terry was trying to tell people. Altogether at least 18 peregrine territories now abandoned since 2010. Last year there were 7 hen harrier breeding attempts, this year there were none. In 2014 two recently fledged satellite tagged hen harriers Sky and Hope disappeared after fledging. In 2015 4 male hen harriers disappeared almost at the same time after leaving their nests to forage for food to feed their females. The logo for the Bowland ANOB is a hen harrier, the RSPB have been active inside Bowland since the middle of the 1980’s but have said very little about the hen harrier situation and nothing about the plight of peregrines in this region. The RSPB have been unable to prevent what has been taking place in Bowland. As far as we know the Society have not included any of the Peregrine losses and nest failures as suspicious within their annual Crime Report statistics.

  • Bowland Bill

    Alex Milne: With respect, and you are obviously as passionate as the rest of us, but as bad as it is anywhere at all, to be fair to Terry Pickford he does make a strong case as to why the Forest of Bowland should not be omitted from any such important video shoot. In fact, it should be highlighted as the worst case scenario when speaking about English grouse moors, which will happen to other grouse moors and such areas, where raptor persecution is rife.

    You can not get any worse than no successful breeding pairs of hen harriers or peregrines at all.
    Sadly, without any doubt whatsoever, the gamekeepers will want to keep it this way and will already have plans in place to do so for the future, Bowland is finished for raptors in my view.

  • It does seem very strange to me that your most heavily persecuted area in England is not even given a mention. Perhaps they are planning another video just highlighting the shocking plight/demise of raptors in the likes of the Forest of Bowland?
    Do you have any grouse moor areas in England were raptors breed in reasonable numbers?

    Editor’s Comment. Mike, there were no breeding hen harriers this year on any English Red Grouse Moor, including Bowland. A handful of occupied peregrine territories (thought to be less than 10 pairs) still remain of grouse moors, I trust this answers your question?

  • Extremely dire situation you have in England. Apart from good numbers of Marsh Harriers and Hobbies (which don’t usually breed on grouse moors)Scotland has a much healthier number/percentage of various breeding raptors.

  • The Watcher

    In my opinion The Forest of Bowland has been destroyed, the ecosystem broken beyond repair, where the only things allowed to survive are Grouse, Merlin & meadow pipits, oh and sheep. It’s a bleak desert of nothingness, all predators eradicated. Go outside Bowland where there are no Grouse & you’ll find life. It’s a disgrace that an AONB that has the Hen Harrier as its emblem is now extinct from this area. This is an important area for the Hen Harrier and needs publicity to highlight this. Why doesn’t Terry invite Mark and Chris to Bowland so that they can see it for themselves and make a video there.

    Editor’s Comment. We understand that such an invitation was sent but not accepted.

  • alan


    The reason I made the comment on whether theses guys care or not or is that there has been immense effort put in to the anti grouse campaign, but when ever wind turbines are mentioned, it is either poo pooed, or considered acceptable. If there was a genuine care, surely there would at least be a campaign to quantify if turbines are a serious issue.

  • Northern Diver

    What do you guys think of this?

    Especially the last paragraph.

    Editor’s Comment. This proposal seems somewhat late, we doubt there are any vayable roosts remaining. The RSPB may have views on this, they should ask them as they know all about the protection of hen harriers in Bowland. Another concern may be, if these people are being paid to carry out this work, they may be required to ask for landowners approval before they are able to enter the estate???

  • Paul Tresto

    I have been doing HH winter roost monitoring at a Forest of Bowland winter roost site for the past couple of years on a voluntary basis. Other FOB sites were similarly monitored on the same days, at the same time. This was coordinated by the RSPB. No money involved as far as I am aware. I haven’t heard if this will happen again this winter although I have been up once already.

    Editor’s Comment. You did not say if any Harriers were recorded at any of the winter roosts being monitored, it would be interesting to know?