Natural England in denial about the disappearance of so many nesting Peregrines from the Forest of Bowland

 Peregrine Cliff Destroyed 2015-1
One of 7 destroyed Peregrine nesting sites located
by the North West Raptor Group in the Forest of Bowland since 2010

It is well known that since licenses allowing the North West Raptor Group to monitor Peregrines and their persecution in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland were withheld in 2010 by Natural England, successful Peregrine territories in this moorland region, estimated at 18, have all been found abandoned. Natural England the Governments Wildlife Advisor are saying very little if anything about this unfolding tragedy.

Last week a Freedom of information request was submitted to Natural England by Terry Pickford in the hope Natural England would come clean about the loss of so many Peregrines from this moorland region in such a short time scale.

Peregrine 5 Bowland-1

A second Bowland Peregrine territory abandoned after several consecutive breeding attempts where clutches of eggs had being removed. In 2015 at the same breeding site both falcons mysteriously disappeared in the spring leaving an empty nesting scrape

The request submitted by Terry asked Natural England to provide details of the number of successful breeding sites in the Forest of Bowland between 2011-2016, details of which are annually contained within licence returns provided to the BTO and Natural England by licence holders. Natural England’s curious refusal to provide the detail asked for is also attached,

“The question posed by Terry Pickford was hypothetical”

Terry Pickford 16 January 2017

Dear Natural England,

Can Natural England, in consultation with their licensing agent the BTO, confirm the number of successful peregrine territory recorded within licence returns received by both Natural England and the BTO for each of the private shooting estates in the Forest of Bowland between 2011 – 2016?

I am aware there were 2 nesting attempts made in the Forest of Bowland during 2016 but I am not aware either of these attempts were successful.

Yours faithfully,

Terry R. Pickford

Below is the reply received this morning by Terry’s in response to his Freedom of Information request sent to Natural England, Can you believe Natural England’s excuse for refusing to supply any detail at all? The question posed is hypothetical?

Natural England’s Reply

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your email below.

The question posed is hypothetical and we do not respond to such requests, we can only determine an application based on the facts in the actual documentation. However, we are aware of the long running situation and your previous communication with both Ian Carter and the BTO and particular the offers made to consider any evidence of failed monitoring in the area (missed nest sites) offered by yourself, and/or evidence of improved relations between persons monitoring birds in that area.

As far as we are aware we have not received either. Unless there is evidence offered then we are unlikely to change our view of the situation.

Kind regards


Science, Education and Conservation Wildlife Licensing
Natural England
Horizon House, Deanery Road, Bristol, BS1 5AH
Telephone: 020802 61089
Email: [1].img


Published on Jan 18, 2017

Terry points out he felt Mark Avery’s petition was ambushed by the Tory shooting aristocracy during the debate dominated by biased Conservative MP’s who disregarded the ongoing persecution of Hen Harriers on red grouse moorland completely.

As a result of this one sided position demonstrated by all Tory MP’s who took part the debate, in Terry’s opinion moorland gamekeepers have now been given the green light to manage so called ‘protected raptors’ on moorland where they are employed with impunity (nothing much changed then?). Terry also believes it is now very likely the Peregrine will disappear from moorland where red grouse are shot entirely sooner rather than later. He also thinks the DEFRA Lack of Action Plan to relocate Hen Harriers to the south of England will end badly, as he believes a bulk of these birds will relocate back to England’s northern upland where they will most likely disappear after being shot.

Terry asks the question, why did DEFRA decide not to release Hen Harriers to moorland regions like the north York moors or in the Forest of Bowland in the first place, the answer is all too obvious? Why risk releasing any Hen Harriers without fixing the problem posed by persecution first?

Terry ended by highlighting his continued frustration at Natural England and the BTO’s unwillingness to reinstate licenses allowing the North West Raptor Protection Group to monitor and protect potential Peregrine nests in the Forest of Bowland. Beginning in 2010 Peregrines throughout the Forest of Bowland began to disappear, and by 2016 Terry was aware eighteen pairs of Peregrines had disappeared completely leaving their former nesting territories throughout the Forest of Bowland abandoned. Why wasn't something done by the Government to prevent this happening in the first place we ask?

Group licenses held between 1974 – 2010 for use in Bowland were withheld by Natural England in 2010 after the group was advised others were now undertaking this work. On the instruction of Natural England the BTO wrote to Terry explaining that if licenses were reinstated to the NWRPG - this would result in duplication of nest visits and cause unnecessary disturbance to nesting Peregrines. Really, how could this happen when Terry had already pointed out something Natural England was already aware of, there were no longer any active Peregrine nests to visit or disturb anywhere in the Forest of Bowland.

Taking these facts into account Terry is certain the real reason for Natural England's decision to withhold licenses in 2010 was to prevent estate embarrassment and protect shooting interests after Terry had published via social media details of widespread raptor persecution taking place throughout the Forest of Bowland.

8 comments to Natural England in denial about the disappearance of so many nesting Peregrines from the Forest of Bowland

  • Trapit

    The birds will never be allowed to return to Bowland, except the occasional pair that sneaks under the radar for one season,then goodbye.

    Terry and Co will never get their licences again, under the current regime, because nobody will back down, lose face, and admit they may have been wrong.

    There will never be a meaningful discussion on the subject in parliament because there is no mileage in it for MPs,unless you are one who shoots Grouse.

    There will never be a fair deal for wildlife in this country,irrespective of government.

  • I totally agree with all your above comments Trapit. Would be good to meet up for a pint to discuss lack of honesty, poor communication and lack of common sense in conservation/personnel conflicts sometime?

  • Thorbjorn Odinsberg

    Bowland sadly has just caught up with the rest of the grouse moor areas of northern England they all lost their Peregrines twenty years ago except the Peak bu then they are doing very poorly too.The same of course is largely true of Goshawks and certainly true for Harriers. The change in Bowland came about due to a change of management on one prominent estate and i believe has nothing to do with the withdrawal of Terry et als licences, that is just coincidence.

    Editor’s Comment. You could be correct Paul in what you claim about the loss of Terry’s licence being a mere coincidence, but it all seems very odd and these losses are not being recorded in the main. There is no valid reason under the present circumstances not to reissue licenses to the North West Raptor Group. Their members are still doing the work finding nests destroyed and eggs gone missing from nests, so not use their expertise? If nothing is done the situation will not change at all, no one wants this. In a way its now much easier for gamekeepers to manage the reducing number of nesting attempts which still occur periodically in Bowland.

  • Trapit

    Stranger things have happened.

  • Albert Ross

    I may have misunderstood the problem and NE’s fatuous response so forgive me if I state the bleeding obvious.

    As I see it NE are saying they have no knowledge of nesting attempts, failed or successful as nobody is sending in reports. Neither the ‘authorised’ BTO people or the ‘unauthorised’ NWRG people? No input, no data!
    So why not give them the input? Nest at A. failed. Nest at B destroyed. Nest at C. abandoned by possible disturbance. And keep on sending it until the database is there for all to see..

    It is my experience that Police crime statistics get massaged in the same way. People don’t report a crime (as they know nowt will be done)and so Chief Constable goes on Telly to say crime is falling when the reverse is true! But by making a make a point of reporting each and every crime really buggers up this plan. Crime figures go back up and horror of horrors so do ‘unsolved’ crime figures(cos nowt was done!)Chief Constable less smug after a good kicking by the press.

    If it works for Britain’s finest I am damn sure it will work with the uncivil servants in Natural England.After all an increased workload is just what Parkinson requires for his law to work..

    Editor’s Comment. Albert Natural England are not saying they have no knowledge of successful nests in the Forest of Bowland at this stage. In their first response to Terry’s ‘Freedom of Information’ request they are saying he asked a hypothetical question, when clearly he has most certainly not. However it now appears someone at Natural England may have made a blunder by replying to an earlier FOI request submitted by Terry over twelve months ago asking for information about licensing, nothing to do with what he asked in his latest request.This does seems odd under the circumstances because Terry in our opinion has been crystal clear in what he asked Natural England to provide on 16 January 2017. We will update our followers when the position has been sorted out by Natural England.

    Natural England instead of sticking their heads in the sand they should issue a peregrine disturbance licence to Terry. As there are more peregrine territories throughout the Forest of Bowland now abandoned than occupied, and the few nesting attempts made failing, someone at Natural England should get their act together and do the right thing for once. Why not issue the licence to Terry, what have they got to lose under the current conditions? The situation in Bowland can not get much worse? Perhaps as Trapit has pointed out, Natural England have been wrong all along and if they issued a licence allowing Terry to return to monitor peregrine nests in Bowland they would end up with egg on their face.

  • Jack Williams

    People reading this post and comments, may not be aware Natural England issued a peregrine disturbance license to an individual 5 years after this individual had been successfully prosecuted for illegally disturbing breeding peregrines in Cumbria. As far as I know Terry Pickford has not been prosecuted for any wildlife crime during the 4 decades he has been protecting birds of prey in the north west of England.

  • Stuart Pryor

    The Forest of Bowland Business Park, formerly an area of outstanding natural beauty, now run as a shooting theme park for ,and by ,the wealthy. No birds of prey allowed

  • Albert Ross

    Thank you for the clarification above. I did say I may have misunderstood the problem. Maybe the data should still be sent in? After all you don’t need a licence to disturb an abandoned nest and in bird monitoring even a “Nil return. Nothing to report” is useful data.