Forest of Bowland entertainers White-tailed eagle & Pallid Harrier


Male Pallid Harrier still showing well after three days in this location; also White-tailed Eagle again early on before flying north at top end of Dunsop Valley towards Whitendale Fell (SD658543). Park only at Dunsop Bridge and follow public footpath north for 4km to view; do not drive along track north of Dunsop Bridge. This is the second recorded sighting of a White-tailed Eagle in the Dunsop valley. The first record was in approx a decade ago; this eagle also flew north towards the top end of Stocks reservoir but was not seen again we are advised.


Magnificent capture of Male Pallid Harrier Dunsop Valley by Craig Bell

Interestingly, a Pallid Harrier mated in the 1990’s with a Hen Harrier on Orkney, eggs were laid but then disappeared from the nest.

38 comments to Forest of Bowland entertainers White-tailed eagle & Pallid Harrier

  • Adam

    Wow!!! I hope that these birds get maximum protection! Stunning!

  • Darren

    Having ventured up to see the beautiful male pallid harrier today, I was shocked by the lack of raptors in the valley. It was a super day with a nice wind that would favour soaring raptors. Apart from the harrier only saw 2 kestrels and one buzzard ! Strange place .

    Editor’s Comment. Darren, You should not have been surprised at all at the lack of raptors seen on your Forest of Bowland visit yesterday. In fact it’s a miracle the Pallid Harrier was seen first by a bird watcher before it had disappeared. The fact that birders are flocking into Bowland just to marvel at this special bird may, in the short term, just be enough to save its life. We were told earlier today there have been unsettling rumbles from United Utilities tenants working in the Dunsop valley of their unhappiness so many interested people are flocking into the valley blocking up the Whitendale road when trying to view this Harrier. We hope people pressure will persuade anyone from taking a pot shot with a gun.

  • Darren

    Am i right in thinking that there was a female pallid harrier at brockholes NR in May last year ?

  • che

    Not a single Raptor seen on Monday….Plenty of green jeeps about though….

  • If you want to see raptors, waders, etc in abundance I’d suggest that your readers make a trip to Scotland and visit the Angus Glens.

  • Alan

    Wednesday 02 May – excellent displays during the afternoon.

    Not such a good display from the angry young estate working person though. Very confrontational, accused a small group of us of interfering with his rat traps, then blamed all birders who came to see the ‘silly birds’. I suspect his attitude and manner was down to generations of in-breading and with the remoteness of the farmhouse, I doubt he gets out much to mix with normal human beings!

    With the display I witnessed, I wonder how these people get licences to carry rifles on their quad-bikes. Mental stability is obviously not taken into account. More importantly, it makes me fear for the longevity of the magnificent bird I saw today and the other ‘silly birds’ that dare to frequent the Whitendale valley.

    As a result of what I have seen today, I shall be joining the Hen Harrier day in August.

  • alan

    Wednesday 03 May – excellent displays this afternoon from the bird which is more than could be said about the angry young estate worker and his very confrontational attitude.

    Accused a small group of us of interfering with his rat traps before blaming all birders who had the temerity to want to be there watching those ‘silly birds’. I can only think that his attitude was down to generations of in-breading or perhaps because of the remoteness of Whitendale farm, he doesn’t get out much to mix with normal human beings!

    I shudder to think how these people are given firearms licences, obviously mental stability is not taken into account. But as well as the attitude shown to us, what was worrying was the distain shown to protected birds – I fear for the safety of this magnificent one.

    Given what I witnessed this afternoon, I shall certainly be going to the Hen Harrier day in August at Dunsop Bridge.

  • Bowland landowner

    Would be fascinating to witness the reaction if a rat took the eggs or chicks of a raptor after the traps to control them were tampered with. Did a stoat not kill the Harrier young in Bowland last year? We should work together not against each other!

    Editor’s Comment. What is the evidence showing a stoat killed young harriers last year? In the past when several young harriers had been found dead away from their nest, an individual without any scientific experience made the decision without any challenge.

  • neil p

    i have to agree with bowland landowner. you, raptor politics as a matter of course seem to assume that all keepers are bad and wrong, whilst you are always right. conservation groups themselves legally control predators, such as stoats and rats, to protect other species – you just won’t admit it. that you and the likes of avery have deliberately worked to polarise the different sides, makes any working together that much more difficult.

  • Albert Ross

    I can see both sides of this debate and Alan needs to remember that the people living in the Whittendale Valley are actually working there. It is not surprising that a major twitch will be a source of irritation to residents and Twitchers are not really the best of adverts for considerate behaviour.

    I would mention that I do not have a problem if a Stoat takes eggs. This is part of the natural life cycle of all wildlife. What I do have a problem with is the unnatural control of this natural life cycle by attempting to wipe out predation simply to conserve stocks of game birds in order to kill them later in an unnatural manner in the name of sport.

    Both Twitchers and landowners need to up their game and consider others more (as well as comply with the Law) and not resort to name calling and mud slinging such as Alan resorts to in his references to the mental faculties of ‘in bred’ people living in a rural area.
    I wish the Eagle and Harrier every success.

  • peter

    the police don’t work with burglars to stop house breaking. Why the hell should we as conservationists work with grouse shooters and keepers who are the cause of England’s lack of hen harriers and why most grouse moor peregrine territories are kept vacant, why short eared owls and Goshawks are getting scarcer. We tried talking for years it changed nothing. Should I come to see this bird and be accosted by some gun toting forelock tugging neanderthal, he will either be looking for some new teeth or I will complain to both the land owner and the police about his suitability to carry firearms.

  • Derek

    Is that a threat Peter? I’m sure the police will be very interested to hear how this gamekeeper will be looking for some new teeth at your hands. Shows the mindset of these so called ‘conservationists’. Theyre clearly the unstable ones and I can see how every resident on the whitendale road is a little fed up of them for harassing and insulting those who actually have to live and work in the rural community.

  • Albert Ross

    Shakes head.

    Because it is their land you are on! Simplistic I agree but a fact you must live and work with. On the other hand House breaking and burglary involve OTHER peoples land and property. There is a difference.

    And really the rest of your “gun toting forelock tugging neanderthal looking for new front teeth” speech says more about you and does little for the cause of conservation. The Forest of Bowland has enough problems already without you and others with your attitude turning up and adding to them.
    I can read the headlines from here. “So called Bird lover thumps farm worker going about his lawful business on his own land!” That would really help things along!

  • Darren

    Trading insults is not the way forward . Everybody has a job to do and we will always get conflicting information about both parties. Is it possible to sit round a table and discuss things ? I hope so . I allways thought the idea of supplementary feeding was a good idea . Why not ? Let’s reach a middle ground with mutual respect. That’s all .

  • peter

    No it is United Utilities land and if he is a keeper he is the employee of a tenant, I have no problem with the farming tenants. Keepers on the other hand think they rule the world in the countryside whereas they a just by and large employed wildlife criminals. I have little time and even less respect for them, Bowland used to be a haven for raptors until the new breed of keeper arrived with their traps, guns and the law doesn’t matter attitudes. I will treat them with the contempt they so richly deserve. As a teenager I was hit in the face twice with a gun butt by one for bird watching on a private pond, another pointed a gun at me for “trespass” on a public footpath. In the intervening years little has changed, they are still the last people who should have guns or be respected, why do you think harriers and peregrines have recently nearly gone from Bowland. Its not us birders killing them.

  • Martin {Bowland resident}

    Maybe by the attitude of Alan and Peter towards local residents they may have been
    part of the group of so called conservationists who harassed a local elderly retired farmer for catching moles, snatching his traps from him and shaking them in his face saying what he was doing was against the law,

    I think people who do this sort of thing are not welcome in Bowland and are a disgrace to there cause,and should swat up on the law before shouting about it.

  • peter

    Martin I would not do such a thing, I do not have a problem with local residents but what I object to is I or any other birder being accused of interfering with traps by a keeper who may well be a wildlife criminal as most are. They are the ones dragging the good name of Bowland through the mire by making it harrier and peregrine free when it was not so long ago the standard for other areas to aim for. Bowland is or was a marvellous place to come birding then and I did so many times, as yet I have not been this year but will do so as soon as I can, hoping the Pallid harrier is still displaying and spend money in the cafes and possibly by stopping overnight.

    • Derek

      Please don’t come Peter. You should know you’re not welcome while you show such contempt for those who live and work in the countryside. It seems you have been ruined by an earlier experience and I strongly suggest you should have let the police know that you were assulted when you were younger as that behaviour is NOT tolerated in bowland. Also maybe if some conservationists who you strongly support now weren’t historically taking peregrines to sell to Prague there may be more now for you to watch? Just a thought…

  • Albert Ross

    You do not even know if the ‘estate worker’ was a keeper or a farm or forestry worker. The only thing known about him is that he was legally entitled to be where he was and was not of the same opinion as Alan. (We can work on the latter but not the former.)Alan makes several inane comments about inbreading (sic)by remote populations when for all he knows the chap may well have a degree in sociology or wildlife management.
    You are falling into the same trap by branding him a ‘gun toting forelock tugging Neanderthal’ just because of where he was and what happened to you as a teenager. Incidentally both those incidents should have been reported as assaults. The chap was not even carrying a gun. He possibly had an air rifle on his quad bike for shooting rats!
    Do go to Bowland and enjoy what little it now has to offer but leave your attitude, that all those who live and work there are either sub normal or criminals, at home or you will not be welcome.

  • peter

    Derek it is quite quite clear that the problem for Peregrines and Harriers in Bowland is, as it is in all other grouse shooting areas, persecution of breeding adults, looking at their population and distribution shows that. Believe it or not I have friends who live and work in Bowland and do not think all are sub human at all quite the reverse, I have visited many times over many years and will continue to do so. I have had an interest in raptors all my life and know very well what keepers do and do not do, I have known and still know quite a number. I don’t interfere with traps unless illegal and then I disable and call the police. It is you who think all of us can be branded as knowing nothing or little because we don’t live there. As I say it is not conservationists who are destroying the good name of Bowland but those illegally killing your predatory birds. As to reporting what happened to me as a teenager, it was and the police did nothing because I believe that the two keepers worked for a man who was a local big wig and magistrate, life was rather different in the 60s.
    Albert in all the many visits I’ve made to Bowland over many years the ONLY people with any guns I’ve seen have been keepers.
    Both of you have a good day. Mitakuye Oyasin

  • Stewart

    Hi, I just wanted to give some positive feedback. I’ve never visited the area where the Harrier is. Its beautiful. The Harrier was magnificent. I arrived in the area at 6 in the morning and walked up the valley. The people who I passed that morning were all very friendly and polite. I even spoke with a farm labourer (i believe) for a good 10-15 mins. No issues at all. I will go on to say though I do believe the raptors in the area are not disappearing purely through natural means. If people are found to be killing, disturbing or interfering with these birds then they should be prosecuted, end of. I wish we could all work together to sort these issues and have a healthy population of raptors in the area. The local community should be proud of the area and I’m sure they are. I look forward to my next visit to the area.

    • Bowland landowner

      I have to say that it makes for pretty depressing reading when you see some of the plain wrong comments.
      Most of not all landowners in Bowland work to preserve the landscape and wildlife that inhabits it.
      I know from bitter personal experience that if you don’t target predator species in spring they kill every young lapwing, curlew, oystercatcher, redshank, snipe, grey partridge, hare amongst other less rare species.
      If the more hard line birders who we welcome with open arms want to see nothing there is no better way to achieve that than by doing nothing.
      Perhaps those that dip in and out and are highly critical should spend some time with a land manager and see exactly what is involved and what gives us all something to have adverse opinions upon.

      • peter

        I have never suggested you do nothing, although what you say is ecological nonsense but expect you, as is expected and demanded of all of us to stick to the law. This means no trapping, killing or disturbance of protected birds.

      • Stewart

        May I ask what comments I made were incorrect?

      • Darren

        What predators are you talking about ? What is unatural is maintaining a moorland solely for red grouse !! All about the money !!

  • Alan

    Any suggestion that I might have been “part of the group of so called conservationists who harassed a local elderly retired farmer” is offensive, I was not.

    My original comments were based on what I saw and heard whilst lawfully going about my life. I was standing on a public right of way causing no disruption or interference to other users of the track. I don’t appreciate being accused of doing things that I haven’t done or know anything about and especially in an aggressive manner like the one displayed.

    I am a law abiding bird watcher, I do think that birds and wildlife in general needs more of a hand to help its survival but I’m not an activist – I don’t actually have a problem with people rearing birds for shooting especially if it helps to maintain our countryside – I do have a problem with people who kill and/or persecute wild birds and especially those counted as protected species.

    I would like to think that responsible landowners, tenants and the many law abiding gamekeepers would do something to stop the minority who are perpetrating the illegal killing of protected species, regrettably, given the evidence presented in various prosecutions, that doesn’t appear to be happening as yet.

  • Albert Ross

    Oh dear. Having remonstrated with both Peter and Alan over their attitude to folks going about their lawful business I am NOT going to remain silent over the ill advised comments of “Bowland Landowner”.
    Sir, whilst you have a right to be depressed over some of the comments in this thread and your efforts to preserve the landscape and wildlife of the Bowland area is applauded:-
    I do NOT share, support or applaud your blanket targeting of “predators” or your incorrect statement that if not targeted they will kill
    “every young lapwing, curlew, oystercatcher, redshank, snipe, grey partridge, hare amongst other less rare species.” As well as being scientifically incorrect it is plain stupid.
    Wildlife has existed in balance for eons and will continue to do so without the added “protection” of mankind. Indeed it is the arrival on the scene of mankind that creates the problem.
    To suggest as you do that visitors will ‘see nothing’ without your intervention and help is crass in the extreme. It is a fact that if left to themselves (where mankind has been excluded for various reasons such as military areas) wildlife will do very nicely indeed.
    So please don’t think for a moment your targeting of all predators is helping in any way. It is not. Far from it.
    Bowland used to be a haven for wildlife until certain factions decided to ‘control’ certain species in order to favour others for commercial reasons. That this selfish ‘control’ is achieved by often illegal means casts a poor reflection on the whole of Bowland.
    If you and your fellow landowners want to save “our wildlife” for everyone to enjoy just put your guns back in storage and leave nature to do the rest.
    Better still, if you do know of certain miscreants who are breaking the law in their misguided zeal to control raptors, report the ba$tards to the police and ensure due penalty is paid. Not much to ask is it?
    Then law abiding people will have a better outlook on everyone without stereotyping certain sections of the population.

    Editor’s Comment. A concise, measured and accurate comment at last. Well said Mr Ross. Without radical change our raptors will never recover on moorland where red grouse are shot, FACT. The wholesale distribution and installation of so called vermin traps together with grit feeders across heather moorland will ensure raptors are discouraged from settling to breed FACT.

  • Bowland landowner

    It would be far too easy to play the “what land or habitat have you ever manged or created” card.

    The biggest issue I have ever had with raptors was the interference with a nest by an individual that purports to protect raptors in Bowland Subsequently the nest had the eggs or chicks taken and I made a complaint to the police about the interference.

    I have worked for thirty years to create and renovate over thirty ponds, rebuilt and maintained around twenty miles of walls, planted hundreds of thousands of trees, planted new hedges, brought thousands of acres of Moorland back from horrendous overgrazing to create the mix of habitats needed for Moorland birds of all types.

    I know ( this is a fact, not a fanciful opinion) that without the control of predators in the spring there are no survivors of the species I mentioned in an earlier post. I know this because I operated an area of over 1000 acres for several years as a control without any predator control and compared the success rates and populations with an area that did have controls in place.

    We have some of the highest breeding densities of waders in Bowland as confirmed by the RSPB. That’s my interest, all birds not just one species.

    I am concerned about the near disappearance of the Grey Partridge despite my best efforts. This is a national issue not a local one. Red squirrels similarly vanished some forty years ago as a result of an introduced species, the grey squirrels destroyed virtually every nest box brood or nest for several years over a wide area of woodland. Controlling grey squirrels has cured this issue.

    We have issues with Mink which are devastating to the native species as is often the case. They removed a whole Sand Martin population in short time.

    I know full well that many say leave nature to its own devices and a natural balance will occur. My experience is that this scenario will achieve the type of Moorland I crossed this spring whilst walking the pennine way, with no wildlife.

    Maybe agree to disagree but don’t tell us black is white as it does some of you no credit.

    • Albert Ross

      Again I will be the first to applaud your own efforts over the years to create and establish a haven for wildlife on the 1000s of acres of moorland ‘managed’ by you.

      But some of the points you raise are only a diversion and are irrelevant to the main topic which is the illegal persecution of raptors. As an example I don’t see how Raptors were involved in overgrazing land.

      Perhaps you would tell us how many Raptors were successful in breeding or even surviving on your 1000s of acres once rehabilitated to mixed habitat?

      Your attempt to lump all creatures that kill for a living as ‘vermin’ does nothing for your case. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with the total extermination of alien introductions such as Mink, Grey Squirrel and even Coypu. After all you are only rectifying a bad case of man’s interference which is allowed under all ecological management ‘rules’.

      Where we must diverge is the blatant and illegal ‘control’ of naturally occurring wildlife in order to create unnatural surpluses or more economically rewarding species. Naturally occurring wildlife will find its own balance (or the predators would have starved to death long before any man made interference was even possible). Even the re-emergence of Pine Marten into areas where they had not been ‘tolerated’ for many years is actually helping this process. Pine Martens are succeeding in removing Grey Squirrels where 100 years of mans attempts have clearly failed despite financial incentives. As a by product, the Grey’s disappearance is helping the native Red to re-establish. Just one example of natural balance in action if wildlife is left to its own devices.

      So do please carry on with your laudable efforts to control proven alien species but please do not lump all predators together as villains!

      The real villains are Landowners who permit if not actually encourage the illegal persecution of Raptors to the point of extermination.

      This is then compounded by the failure of the courts to adequately penalise
      the offenders when caught ‘red handed’.

      Only today we see two clear cut criminals caught on video being allowed to escape prosecution by CPS declining to prosecute. Why should this be?

  • Stewart

    Well said Mr Ross.

  • Trapit

    Some valid arguments there, Bowland landowner.

  • Bowland landowner

    Well I didn’t see any raptors on the barren over grazed or unmanaged areas of the pennine moors but saw plenty on the manged areas. If there is nothing to eat wildlife tends not to hang around for long.

    You are talking about a single topic and I am involved in wider management that may help add some perspective for those of you that struggle with objectivity.

    We have had many raptor breeding successes over the years to the extent we ran a buffer feeding system and pigeon loft on the moorland. This did take pressure off other species until habitat recovered.

    The only issue as previously mentioned was a leading member of the Bowland raptor protectors illegally approaching a nest that subsequently failed having succeeded in most prior years.

    I like the old Chinese proverb “he who preserves everything, preserves nothing” I would rather see diversity on the moorlands and in order to achieve and assist where human intervention has created an unfair balance I am prepared and willing to intervene to redress that balance.

    I don’t want to see lots of carrion crows, magpies, stoats, weasel, Mink, rats for a year or two and then nothing when they starve or move.

    I can’t control management mistakes or species introductions of the past that I had nothing to do with but can act now to do what I can.

    What have you ever done Albert Ross other than be opinionated or critical, I mean really done to help any wildlife? I have a clear conscience as I have tried and succeeded. Have you?

    • Albert Ross

      Bowland landowner.
      I don’t have a problem with the bulk of your achievements and indeed have applauded them in my earlier posts. My only issue with you was your initial statement that you must ” target predator species in spring they kill every young lapwing, curlew, oystercatcher, redshank, snipe, grey partridge, hare amongst other less rare species.” which was and is plainly incorrect.

      I am pleased to read of the lengths you went to to obtain breeding success with raptors. I don’t think anyone reading these exchanges would find fault with that.
      You have twice referred to a single instance of nest interference by some one you know as a Raptor Group member and who you feel should have known better. I do not know of the incident so cannot comment other than to say that if it was illegal then action should have been taken at the time.

      Where we still differ is your proposed cull of all ‘bad’ wildlife, and whilst even I am no fan of Carrion Crows, or Hoodies as we know them in my part of the world. I accept Mink as an alien species should be wiped out and Rats need “a firm hand” too, but do NOT accept that our native mustellines need any control whatsoever. Where do you draw the line in your interference? Hedgehogs? Pine Martens? Polecats? Eagle Owls?

      What have I done? Modesty forbids! Suffice to say that I have been actively getting my hands dirty in conservation since the early fifties and am still at it today despite advancing years.
      Conservationists never die, they simply turn to compost.

  • Nick Moss

    Well it seems the displaying Pallid Harrier has now gone, I can’t imagine that it simply went of its own accord as it was strongly displaying in the area.

    I obviously cannot prove it but it very likely has been shot or at least disturbed purposely to ensure it moves on.

    • Albert Ross

      Well of course you are entitled to think what you like to think but the reasons for the bird no longer being visible are many and varied.
      It may have taken advantage of westerlies to head back east, it may just have continued to wander. He may even have got fed up of getting no response to his “are yer dancin? Are yer askin?” and tried another venue.
      Perish the thought, but it could just have got brassed off by the voyeurs in its space and gone somewhere more private. I CAN imagine that it simply went off of its own accord. It had no ties to the area.
      And yes, it may well have met an illegal end at the hands of flat headed men in their little green Land Rovers.
      Let’s all wish it well, where ever it is, and be thankful for the hours of joy it provided to those lucky enough to see it while it was there.