Towlersonsafari

Driven Grouse Shooting a UK Disgrace?

140 posts in this topic

Apologies for raising this again but in the year that the Hen Harrier plan starts a gentleman was filmed re-setting pole traps on a grouse estate in North Yorkshire. Pole traps are like small man traps that spring metal jaws shut when birds land on them.They have been illegal in the UK since 1904. Hen Harriers have not breed in this part of Yorkshire since 2007. In Scotland a land owner is liable for the acts of his employees with wildlife crime.Alas not so in England. To see the footage go to YouTube pole traps in North Yorkshire The gentleman was only given a caution

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another update! The National Trust, a UK charity that helps preserve both land and houses and has a lot of land indeed, has responded to the incident earlier this year when a gentleman in combat gear and a decoy hen Harrier on heather moorland leased by the National trust to a grouse shooting concern.

they are ending the lease early, and say that in the future all those who lease such land owned by the Trust will have to demonstrate how they are going to conserve and encourage birds of prey.

In less welcome news, another Red Kite has been killed in North Yorkshire-the 5th i think this year there, and a goshawk nest in the forest of bowland area has been destroyed. Of course that might just be a natural event, and the shotgun casing found nearby along with goshawk feathers, a mere coincidence.in fact as there appear to be no more raptors to kill in that area, some game keepers have taken to killing large numbers of Black Headed gulls and leaving them about the place in piles.they must be running out of things to kill. It is thought that no Hen Harriers-or at most one pair, will have bred this year in England

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry make that the 10th suspicious Red Kite death in North Yorkshire this year!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sadly, another incident of illegal trap setting on a Grouse moor this time in Scotland, on the Invercauld Estate in the Cairgorms National Park-this is a copy of a press release from the RSPB Scotland,

" RSPB Scotland has today issued a press statement about the discovery of illegally-set traps found on a Royal Deeside grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

On 27 June 2016, two members of the public found a Common Gull that had been caught by the legs in two spring traps that had been positioned next to a dead rabbit that had been used as bait. The gull was distressed and bleeding profusely. The hill walkers called RSPB Scotland, who immediately alerted Police Scotland and the SSPCA. An SSPCA Inspector quickly attended the scene and the gull was found to have two broken legs. The bird’s injuries were so extensive it had to be euthanised.

Several days later, a multi-agency (Police Scotland, SSPCA, RSPB Scotland) search was undertaken on the grouse moor, ‘w

Several days later, a multi-agency (Police Scotland, SSPCA, RSPB Scotland) search was undertaken on the grouse moor, ‘where clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.d

It is probably no coincidence but the RSPB has now withdrawn support for the Hen Harrier recovery plan and is calling Grouse Moors to be licenced.A main tenent of the plan was for illegal persecution of raptors on Grouse moors to stop and with illegal trap setting, Red Kite killings in North Yorkshire and decoy harriers this has just not happened. This year in England, there are 5 nesting Harriers none on Grouse moors

ra bbits, in a line stwo h

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did say that I was done with this subject, however the weekend before last I was at the WOMAD music festival walking around in the half dark one evening my mind far removed from this topic I thought why is there someone walking around in some very strange chicken costume. When I got closer and could see rather better I realised that it was Henry the Harrier, I was duly accosted and handed a card. Afterwards I thought I hope I see him again in the daylight so I can take a photo for this thread, not only did I manage to catch up with him again in the daylight but I even shook hands with his friend Dr Mark Avery sadly though I didn’t have time to have a chat.

 

28869399376_986b3cf700_o.jpg

WOMAD 16 Henry the Harrier by inyathi, on Flickr

 

Their purpose in being there at the festival was to hand out cards encouraging people to sign the online government petition to ban driven grouse shooting. The card states

 


You have the power to save this bird

 

Hen Harriers are killed on grouse moors – because they eat grouse that people want to shoot for fun.

 

60,000 have signed the petition to ban driven grouse shooting add your name at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003

 

10 more reasons to ban intensive grouse shooting: flood risk, greenhouse gas emissions, dead eagles, cruel traps, water pollution, snares loss of aquatic wildlife, increased home insurance bills, thousands of dead foxes and.... Chris Packham wants you to sign.

 

 

As I think I’ve said I’m a little sceptical about some of these claims, clearly home insurance bills are rising in some locations due to increased flood risk but can that be directly attributed to moorland management for grouse shooting I rather doubt it. A while ago it might have bothered me that some of these claims about flooding and greenhouses gases don’t necessarily stack up but now I don’t particularly care if any of these claims are true or not having learnt just over a month ago during our EU referendum that the truth counts for precisely nothing it’s the winning that matters. Actually I already knew from similar debates to this one that the truth isn’t important to either side.

 

I don’t necessarily think that a ban is the right answer but the petition has already passed 86,000 signatures if it passes 100,000 which I'm sure it will then the issue will have to be debated in the houses of parliament. So long as there is a conservative government in power I believe a ban is unlikely but I think that a parliamentary debate on the subject of bringing in a ban bearing in mind some MPs will be in favour, might concentrate the minds of the moorland owners and their keepers. If gamekeepers feared the possibility of a ban more than the presence of hen harriers they might amend their behaviour and stop persecuting the birds. Whether or not intensive driven grouse shooting would then be viable is open to question. However if they don’t change their behaviour then they will likely soon discover that they are fighting a battle that they cannot win and if I'm wrong and there is a ban they only have themselves to blame.

 

The situation at the moment as I understand it is that the RSPB had pulled out of the Hen Harrier Action Plan because of the continued persecution of the birds. Their view is that the implementation of the plan was supposed to bring about an end or at least a marked reduction in the persecution and it has not the persecution is as bad as ever. Therefore there is no point in them continuing to participate if the current situation continues there will simply not be any breeding hen harriers left in England at all.

 

It is quite clear that the reason for the continued decline in harrier numbers is illegal killing by gamekeepers, even the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust has admitted in the past that this was the primary reason for harrier decline and they accept it probably still is. However the British Association of Shooting and Conservation take a different view.

 


They accuse the RSPB of ignoring other reasons for the hen harriers decline, such as weather and the activities of other predators, including voles.

 

Peter Glenser, the chairman of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said: “The protection of hen harriers can only come through organisations working together. It is easy to blame grouse moors and gamekeepers, rather than considering other impact factors, such as disturbance and climate.

 

 

This was taken from the following Telegraph article, I wasn’t aware that voles were predators I think maybe someone didn’t proofread the article properly.

 

Countryside groups split over hen harrier conservation plan

 

People like Peter Glenser will point to evidence from Scotland showing that harrier nests can fail because of cold wet weather or predation by foxes. This may be the case but no one outside of the shooting world will believe for one minute that the failure of hen harriers to breed successfully in England is due these causes. I believe very strongly in the principal of innocent until proven guilty but the constant claim from defenders of shooting that the RSPB are far too quick to blame keepers for the disappearance of raptors while completely ignoring other possible causes starts to sound ridiculous after a while.

 

Since 2011 eight tagged golden eagles have disappeared from the Mondhliath Mountains in Scotland the RSPB believe that the eagles were killed and satellite tags destroyed. The Scottish Moorland Group says that there is no evidence that the eagles have been killed and that the tags may have stopped working for other reasons. Believing that there could be other explanations for the disappearance of the eagles is one thing believing that the eight satellite tags were not destroyed by people but all failed for some other reason stretches credibility too far. After all I would assume that the same or similar satellite tags are used on a whole range of different birds so the RSPB would know how often these tags fail.

 

Eighth tagged eagle 'disappears' in Monadhliaths, says RSPB

 

Grouse shooting: Glorious sport or environmental calamity?

 

I’m not actually 100% behind the ban but I signed the petition because while I don’t think a ban is that likely I want to see a very clear message sent to those involved in grouse shooting that they have to put their house in order. They keep trying to lay the blame for the failure to save hen harriers at the door of the RSPB accusing the RSPB of being intransigent but public opinion is most definitely not on their side. As was mention earlier by @@Towlersonsafari some birdwatchers filmed an armed man in camouflage gear waiting close to a decoy hen harrier clearly hoping to attract a real harrier that he could shoot, this took place on a moor belonging to the National Trust. In response the trust has terminated the shooting leases for the property 4 years early; they haven’t banned grouse shooting on their land and are looking for someone else to take over the leases next year. The National Trusts vision for their land is that they want to increase wildlife and biodiversity and that includes increasing the raptor population. The Moorland Association has inevitably expressed its disappointment at the trusts decision but the National Trust really had no choice, as a conservation sharity if it were revealed that raptors were being illegaly killed on NT land and they were doing nothing to stop it they would get into serious trouble.

 

National Trust revokes shooting licence for first time in High Peak Moors

 

Meanwhile just recently ramblers on Ilkley moor held a protest against grouse shooting on the moor however this is a special case because the moor effectively belongs to the local community or at least the local council. It was bought back in 1893 precisely because of conflict over shooting basically the community wanted to freely enjoy the moor but the owner wanted to exclude them to protect his shooting interests. In essence the protesters are saying that the management of the moor for grouse is incompatible with the public enjoyment of the moor. Given that the group who staged the protest is called Ban Blood sports on Ilkley Moor one might assume that they are in part motivated by animal rights.

 


Edward Bromet of Bingley Moor Partnership, which runs the shoot, said grouse shooting aided the upkeep of the moor.

 

"We put in every effort and investment to restore the moor and heather and birdlife, bringing in all kinds of birds, including lapwing and curlew, which used to be on Ilkley Moor.

 

 

This is the sort of statement that I find problematic in that when he says all kinds of birds he forgot to add except raptors. Much as I’ve said before going on about how great moorland management is for rare birds when raptors are continuing to disappear is ridiculous protecting the rare species that you like while persecuting the ones you don’t is not conservation.

 

'Picnic protest' held against Ilkley Moor grouse shooting

 

I don’t know because I haven’t tried to find out exactly what the situation with regard to raptors is on Ilkely Moor.

 

People keep claiming that hen harriers do better on grouse moors because of predator control but clearly that isn’t the case in England. Even if this might be case on some moors in Scotland on too many it isn’t, that is to say you can try present any number of good examples of harriers supposedly doing well but these will always be negated by examples of where harriers are disappearing. You have to show that the persecution of harriers, eagles and other raptors really is only being carried out by a tiny minority of keepers. Otherwise all of the good conservation work done by responsible law abiding gamekeepers counts for precisely nothing in the eyes of the public who will tar all keepers with the same brush.

 

Opponents of grouse shooting argue that moorlands are being managed to effectively create a monocrop of red grouse at the expense of biodiversity. My concern about the proposed ban is that it may not lead to the more biodiverse uplands that conservationists want to see. Unless we are going to effectively abandon the uplands and rewild them as some people would like then we will have to keep managing them even if in a different way and that will cost money. If that money doesn’t come from grouse shooting where will it come from? If the demise of driven grouse shooting led to moorland owners covering the hills in Sitka spruce plantations that would hardly be a victory for wildlife conservation. I’m not suggesting that commercial forestry is the only alternative to grouse shooting I’m just conscious that you have to be careful what you wish for.

 

Ideas put forward by the likes of George Monbiot that we should remove all of the sheep from the uplands and rewild them allowing woodland to return and reintroducing lost large mammal species is just romantic pie in the sky in my view. I don’t entirely dislike the idea but the UK is the fourth most densely populated country in Europe and will soon overtake France to become the second most populous country in the EU (we haven’t left quite yet). What proponents of rewilding and of turning back the agricultural clock never explain is where our food is supposed to come from. I do want to see a little bit of rewilding with the reintroduction of beavers as mentioned before and the return of pine martens to the south of England and maybe one day wildcats and I want to see efforts to increase biodiversity or at least better protection of current biodiversity but not at the complete expense of food production. The idea that we can simply import all of our food and turn the land back to nature doesn’t make sense, but we do have to integrate the conservation of biodiversity into agriculture as much as possible. Obviously for example allowing pollinating insects to continue declining will eventually lead to disaster. People (like me) aren’t going entirely to give up roast lamb so that we can turn the Welsh mountains into some kind of vast wilderness reserve full of bears and wolves etc or whatever Monbiot would advocate ( I haven’t read his book ‘Feral’ on the subject of rewilding). The point being that if the ban on grouse shooting goes ahead I don’t see conversion of the uplands to wilderness as being the most likely alternative to management for grouse shooting. We need to be careful to ensure that whatever form of upland management comes in if there is a ban that is not detrimental to conservation.

 

Recently a gamekeeper who has remained unnamed applied for a licence from Natural England to control common buzzards on the estate that he manages arguing that by killing pheasant poults they were threatening his livelihood. His application was turned down so he took the matter to the High Court claiming that Natural England had acted illegally in denying his application. The judge agreed with him on the grounds that if anglers can get a licence to control cormorants to protect fish he should be allowed to control buzzards to protect pheasants. This is a somewhat strange decision as the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) is a native species whereas the common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) isn’t and most pheasants are reared in captivity and then released into the wild. He has now been granted permission to kill 10 buzzards and this could set a very dangerous precedent leading to other keepers applying for licences and it will be almost impossible to monitor exactly how many birds are actually being killed. Furthermore killing buzzards on an estate will just create vacant territory allowing other buzzards to move in which the keepers will then want to kill. I think this is a very unfortunate decision and will prove to be the thin end of the wedge.

 

Granting this licence to shoot buzzards will unleash a killing spree

 

There is a petition calling for this license to be suspended if anyone in the UK wants to sign it, it has someway to go before it catches up with the other one https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/163483

 

Having said that I want to see a future in which European beavers are abundant across the UK and landowners can apply to Natural England or Scottish Natural Heritage for a license to remove problem beavers when necessary. Otherwise people will likely take the law in to their own hands; farmers on the River Tay in Scotland are already complaining that they are losing an unacceptable amount of land because of beavers, they should be able to apply to SNH for a licence to remove those beavers that are causing the trouble or at least destroy their dams if necessary. Initially beavers could be trapped and moved to more suitable areas but once numbers have built up they could be euthanized if there’s nowhere to release them. European beavers only build dams on streams and small rivers those living on big rivers don’t normally build dams. The reason I support beaver control is that they won’t have any natural predators in this country and therefore the population will have to be kept in check and the while beavers in the right places will be a good thing beavers in the wrong places will certainly be a bad thing. It might seem contradictory but I see the control of buzzards and other raptors as being entirely different of course when the day comes that landowners can apply for licences to control beavers there will be an outcry from animal rights campaigners.

 

The subject of grouse shooting is back in the news because the Glorious 12th is almost upon us at least it will be when the sun comes up here and then the grouse season will start and also in part because next month the BBC Trust will decide if Chris Packham has breached editorial guidelines with some of his comments on shooting following a complaint from the Countryside Alliance. This latter issue has resulted in a war of words between Chris Packham and Ian Botham who has called for the former to be sacked even though Packham has never actually made any of his comments about grouse shooting on air during the programs he presents. I suspect that the BBC will rule in Chris Packham’s favour and that he will definitely not be sacked or even censored and the CA and Mr Botham will be made to look somewhat foolish. I think that these attacks on Chris Packham just show how much people in the shooting lobby fear his influence and that they would not actually be doing themselves any favours in the eyes of most of the public if they succeed in getting him sacked. Their attempts to silence him look more an more like an attack on freedom of speech not a wise course of action I would suggest.

 

One might have thought the mere fact that the Countryside Alliance has only around 105,000 members while the RSPB has over a million might persuade them that they are fighting a battle that they won’t win. I might go so far as to suggest that in fighting their corner the shooting lobby are being as inept as the 'Remain Campaign' was in the recent EU referendum they would help their cause no end by sacking the ecologically illiterate Mr Botham (who appear to think beavers eat salmon) or at least tell him to keep his mouth shut. They are simply perpetuating the view held by many people that far from being conservationists they are actually waging war on our native wildlife, someone needs to remind them that when you are in a hole it's a good idea to stop digging.

 

I hadn’t as I said earlier intended to revisit this thread but after meeting Henry the Harrier I felt I at least had to post a photo and then the whole issue reappeared in the media. Due to my anger at the constant and pointless denials regarding raptor persecution particularly in relation to latest story about the golden eagles and also the granting of a license to control buzzards I felt I had to write somewhat more than I had originally intended which has also taken a little longer than I meant but then now seemed to be an appropriate time to post this.

6 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once again a fine summary of the position @@inyathi it is always tricky to know if people will be interested in updates on a topic so I wondered about posting much of what you have said-I really think that a licencing system has to be tried first but i do fear that we have a long way to go to achieve this. i am very jealous of you actually meeting Harry the Harrier though!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks @@Towlersonsafari

 

I am also in favour of licensing rather than an outright ban, if people in the grouse industry don’t wake up they will find that the licensing boat has sailed as it were and that there will be an outright ban. I'm sure that not everyone will be interested in constantly revisting this topic but in light of recent developments I thought I would add one further update.

 

In the UK this is an important conservation issue and it says quite a lot about our attitude towards wildlife and conservation in that sense it relates to some conservation issues in Africa. The petition calling for a ban is directed specifically at driven grouse shooting not game shooting generally or at shooting grouse per say. Inevitably it is being presented by the shooting lobby as a campaign by extremists for reasons of animal rights rather then conservation which is why I wanted to make it clear that this is a genuine conservation issue. Hunters will use very much the same strategy when attempts are made to for example ban or restrict lion hunting arguing that there’s no conservation justification for such a move and that people calling for a ban are just animal rights extremists. A lot of people who aren’t aware that there is increasing scientific evidence to support the need for either more restrictions on for example the age at which lions can be hunted or the need for an outright ban will think that it is just an animal rights issue. Hunters will then still be able to get away with arguing that hunting is good for lions when evidence shows the opposite. I support well managed trophy hunting in Africa, I don’t want to see an end to such hunting but if the science says that lion hunting needs to stop well then it has to stop. The research conducted by WildCRU’s Hwange Lion Project carried out by scientists like Brent Staplekamp who collared Cecil the lion would seem to suggest that lion hunting is currently unsustainable and that it does need to be far better controlled if not stopped entirely.

 

A lot the people campaigning against lion hunting as those campaigning against grouse shooting will be animal rights supporters it is therefore all too easy to categorise these issues as being about animal rights. In the UK when the ban on hunting with dogs was introduced people predicted that game shooting would be the next target. This campaign against driven grouse shooting will be seen by many as part of a wider campaign against game shooting and for some animal rights supporters it certainly is. If there is a ban then animal rights campaigners will see it as the first step towards getting all game shooting banned. The best thing people in the shooting lobby can do to defend their ‘sport’ is address the serious conservation issue at the heart of this, stop denying that raptor persecution is taking place or playing it down and deal with it.

 

As I expected the petition to ban driven grouse shooting has now passed the necessary 100,000 signatures I suspect given everything else that’s going on that moment that MPs will likely think they have more important matters to address so exactly when the issue will be debated is anyone’s guess. The fact that over 20,000 more people have signed the petition just in the time since my previous post may well be very largely thanks Mr Botham. On BBC Radio4’s Today program on the morning of the Glorious Twelfth there was a brief debate between Ian Botham and Chris Packham and it appears the number of people signing the petition started to shoot up afterwards. The petition still has a month to run so it could pick up plenty more signatures expecially if Beefy keeps opening his mouth.

 

When I said in my previous post that the truth doesn’t really matter I was just being overly cynical, it does matter as the following point illustrates. In the radio debate Mr Botham at one point tried to suggest that managed grouse moors are a veritable paradise for birds and cited a bird survey conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology which apparently found 800 pairs of lapwing, 400 pairs of curlew and 100 pairs of golden plover and that 89 species were recorded. However the following is from a statement on the BTO website

 

These figures have been attributed to the BritishTrust for Ornithology (BTO), but this claim is erroneous. This fieldwork was not carried out by the BTO and did not use the rigorous statistical methods employed by BTO in order to produce accurate estimates of this type.

 

 

British Trust for Ornithology Press Statement Pennine Grouse Moor survey report

 

Whoever gave this erroneos information to Mr Botham should have checked their facts first; this does show as I said before just how inept they are, Ian Botham is now on record making a statement that is demonstrably untrue.

 

Ian Botham stated that there hasn’t been a single prosecution of anyone for killing hen harriers and tried to suggest that this was proof that hen harriers are not being illegaly killed all which is obvious nonsense. What it really shows is how difficult it is to catch people and to find the necessary evidence and prosecute them. Police wildlife crime officers don’t have the resources to really seriously tackle this issue so the investigation of raptor persecution is left to the RSPB. Gamekeepers are generally working out on moors where there is normally no one else around so they can commit their crimes when there are no witnesses and a dead harrier, buzzard or eagle is obviously not like a rhino or elephant disposing of the carcasss and covering up the illegal killing is very easy. Controlling non protected predator species like for example stoats or magpies is entirely legal so gamekeepers can legitimately set traps for these species, in the event that they are found to have killed a raptor they may be able to claim that it was entirely accidental. Any traps that they set should be covered so that they cannot catch non target species so they shouldn't really be able to get away with claiming it was accidental. Even when the RSPB do find the evidence securing a prosecution is still difficult. I don’t wish to think ill of anybody I would love to believe that gamekeepers are all doing a great job for conservation and are not illegaly killing raptors on a significant scale but the evidence says otherwise. The fact that there are only 3 pairs of hen harriers nesting in England shows otherwise.

 

Calling Chris Packham an extremist as Mr Botham did was very unwise given that nothing he said was in any way extreme other than perhaps referring to dark satanic moors, what is very clear is the Mr Packham won the debate and that because the debate was heated and they are both famous names it has been reported in almost all of the media. One might say that Mr Botham tried to take aim with his shotgun only to fire both barrels into his foot and that he may have in fact done more to persuade people to sign the petition than Henry the Harrier did.

 

What is interesting about all of this is reading how this is baing reported in various different newspapers. Ian Botham as spokesman for You Forgot the Birds writes (well allegedly writes) articles in the Daily Mail which is edited by Paul Dacre who happens to own a grouse moor. The Daily Telegraph tends to be also very supportive of field sports such as grouse shooting whereas the Guardian being squarely on the left is not keen on field sports and has it in for Paul Dacre.

The following are two articles from the Guardian; the second one is particularly interesting on the subject of You Forgot the Birds.

 

Chris Packham using BBC role to push grouse-shooting ban, Ian Botham says

 

Grouse shooting's rich, influential backers join forces to fire on critics

 

Here’s are two articles from the Telegraph

 

MPs could debate grouse shooting ban, as more than 100,000 sign petition

 

Wildlife presenter Chris Packham should not take sides in grouse- shooting debate, says Sir Ian Botham, after fiery encounter on BBC Radio 4

 

I have to say I completely agree with the following statement from an article in Birdwatch magazine

 

“This is starting to raise the question over whether there is a sustainable future for driven grouse shooting. The simple answer is that it doesn’t have a future unless it changes and adopts best practice. The illegal killing of birds of prey like Hen Harrier must end, and sadly this tars the reputation of every grouse moor estate and every shooter.

 

 

RSPB warns driven grouse shooting does not have future without change

 

Here’s are a couple of campaign videos by Chris Packham

 

In the interests of being balance here’s a couple of videos about driven grouse shooting and moorland management.

 

If these honest law abiding keepers feel that their jobs are threatened they need recognise that the blame lies not with the likes of Chris Packham or Dr Mark Avery but with other keepers who aren’t honest and law abiding. If they want to have a future and for their children to follow in their footsteps then they need to put their house in order and deal with those keepers who are persecuting raptors and stop pretending that it’s not happening.

 

As I’ve said once before I think I’ve said my piece on this topic, if there are further interesting developments in the future if for example our MPs do debate this issue then I may update this thread otherwise I will leave it.

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello @@inyathi you have said just about everything I was going to-but I suspect rather more succinctly and I would only add this. I am more on the "animal rights" side of things but conservation decisions have to be made on evidence, not on emotion, It has to be a reasonable step to try at least a licencing option, as i think they are looking to do in Scotland.As a member of the BTO I saw their press statement and I must admit, I have walked on a fair few moors and have yet to come across any that are teeming with lapwings (which one could argue are really a farmland bird in a lot of areas) or any wildlife save in areas such as the West of Scotland, orkneys or the outer hebrides. areas where they do not have driven grouse moors.(Although that is of course anecdotal and not evidence)!

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@Towlersonsafari and @@inyathi As a result of this thread and your informative and interesting writing I have noticed the debate in the press, so it's not all down to Messers Botham and Packham slugging it out on R4. Thanks, its enormously easy to overlook conservation issues in my back-yard and this thread serves to remind me it's not all about impressive beasts in far flung places.

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@inyathi:

 

I was very disappointed that you put your name on a petition to ban driven grouse shooting despite the fact that you don't believe that a ban is likely to benefit hen harriers.

 

You state: "I would love to believe that game keepers are all doing a great job for conservation and are not illegally killing raptors on a significant scale but the evidence says otherwise. The fact that there are only 3 pairs of hen harriers nesting in England shows otherwise." Clearly, you have swallowed the Packham/Avery propaganda. You seem to more outraged by illegal killing of harriers than about doing what is best for their conservation.

 

You are aware that hen harriers are a semi-colonial ground nesting species. You should be aware that suitable habitat exists for them on the well over 50% of English moorland that is unkeepered, but that none thrives thereon. Can't you accept that this can, in large part, be ascribed to lack of predator control. Have you ever wondered why the RSPB-managed Lake Vyrny reserve (albeit in Wales) doesn't have a flourishing population of hen harriers? If you are even-handed, as I think you are, I hope you'd accept that several red and amber -listed species other than grouse benefit from the predator control efforts of grouse keepers. Why, then, did you lend your support to a campaign that will destroy keeper livelihoods, cause serious loss of income ( grouse are often the only source thereof from the land) for moorland owners and cause conservation damage to threatened species - particularly when hen harriers themselves won't benefit?

 

Upthread, I was advocating a "zonal" model of conservation for hen harriers. While this is somewhat different from (and, in my view superior to) the approach advocated in the Joint Action Plan for the species, I suggest that either would be more beneficial to harriers and very much less damaging to other species of conservation concern than could possibly be achieved through a ban on grouse shooting. You appear to want your cake and eat it. You want harriers and expect landowners to pay for them (at an estimated annual cost of approximately £6000/pair). This could be considered a reasonable cost by many owners of driving moors. Unfortunately, a single pair can quickly become 10 pairs or more at which point "the game wouldn't be worth the candle", keepers would become unemployed, foxes and other predators would return and harriers would be wiped out. Earlier in the debate, I also suggested that the illegal killing of raptors by gamekeepers was, arguably, no more heinous than the refusal of English Nature to grant permits for the legal killing of protected species which are demonstrably causing economic damage. The law has always had provision for this and the RSPB seems able to obtain such permits for use on its reserves. I was delighted, therefore, to read that a judge had overruled English Nature and granted a permit to a low ground keeper to kill buzzards. I think this represents a huge advance for practical conservation, conflict resolution and the furtherance of concepts of "zonal conservation".

 

This brings me back to Chris Packham, a man who has contempt for single species conservation (read his official website and the Wikipedia entry which deals with his comments on giant pandas). One can only assume, therefore, that his harrier campaign is but a convenient vehicle to further his animal rights agenda - he brings his non-conservation-related anti-hunting and anti-badger culling views along to the anti-raptor persecution cause (BBC Wildlife Magazine, September 2015). I'm astonished that you appear to accept that all his claims are unanimously backed by scientific evidence. Nothing could be further than the truth. I also suspect that he is driven by a fairly left wing agenda (Avery certainly gives this impression) and I think he is probably inherently antipathetic to those whom he regards as "rich, land-owning toffs". Having said all that, I find myself in agreement with some of Packham's views. As an erstwhile research scientist with considerable experience of grouse management, I would welcome the opportunity of a meeting with him. I would like to find out whether his views are immutable or whether they could be changed by receiving new evidence of which he is currently unaware.

 

I had thought/hoped that this debate had died a death. However, I felt the need to respond after you'd thrown down the gauntlet (Poor Beefy apparently gives you as much dyspepsia as Packham causes me!)

 

I may well start a new debate, entitled "Raptors in an Anthropogenic Environment" in which I will speculate on their effects on prey species. I hope others will join in and, if necessary, correct various assumptions I will make at the outset. I will be suggesting that it is an urban myth to believe that raptors play little or no part in population declines of prey.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@douglaswise your post is disappointing.Hen Harriers in the UK only survive in non grouse shooting areas.T hat is a matter not of opinion but fact.You can find examples where Harriers fail to thrive in non grouse shooting estates but that is not a logical argument to prove that illegal persecution is not the reason for a lack of Harriers.and remember it is illegal persecution. The action plan is dead thanks to the illegal persecution.And attack the arguments not the people who make them.Especially those who do not read this site. I would have thought that as an academic you would understand that conservation should be of an eco system that includes predators.Finally the petition is for a debate in parliament.Alas nothing will come of it but it's a start.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes @@Super LEEDS ( a forest fan i do admire the optimism in your name!!!!) it has at least made the TV news. I am sure it is a coincidence that it and those 8 golden Eagles have vanished with no trace of the tag. As anyone who follows the BTO cuckoo tracking team it is possible to tell if a satellite tagged bird has died as the tag information shows gradual reduction in the temperature until it reaches ambient levels. Oh and the tags don't suddenly disappear

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Towlersonsafari:

 

You state: "I would have thought as an academic you would understand that conservation should be of an ecosystem that includes predators." It may be that it has escaped your attention that I have been preaching "zonal conservation" as being a much more effective conservation policy than the "sharing model" that you advocate, particularly in anthropogenic environments. "Sharing", may work in some very large reserves in Africa or elsewhere, but is not generally applied or appropriate in the more populated areas of South Africa. Applied across the board in England, it would lead to a "tragedy of the commons" with widespread habitat degradation and declines of many species of animals and birds. Why do you think that the RSPB frequently kills predators on the reserves it manages?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

The statement that the RSPB frequently kills predators on its reserves is a fine example of an statement unsupported by any evidence.It adds nothing to the debate without evidence supporting it.You could have quoted an occasion when the RSPB removed a pair of kestrels preying on little tern chicks but that does not support your thesis.Facts and evidence please.Y our suggestion that without controlling predators the south east of England would be a waste land again is merely a statement unsupported by fact.Indeed if your argument was correct @@douglaswise you would have seen an increase in prey when the birds of prey were decimated in the 60's .Your statement also ignores the research showing that, for example kestrels sparrowhawk and squirrels have no effect on songbird numbers

Edited by Towlersonsafari

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

True, but unsupported by evidence just as your claims that disappearance of protected raptors is all down to grouse keepers. If you want evidence, it would be easier to provide it for the former statement than the latter. Let's be less legalistic and more conservationist. At least, I have not heard of keepers planting false evidence against the RSPCA while I do have knowledge of one example of the reverse. I know that you are an animal rights propagandist because you have had the integrity to acknowledge it. I only wish that your concerns were more focused on conservation science rather than statute law.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@@douglaswise I had hoped to post a reply but I haven't had time and now I must confess that I am just off for a couple of weeks to try and hook up with a long-legged Brazilian beauty :D so I won't have time to reply for a while but I will respond in due course.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear @@douglaswise touched though I am at your accolade alas I do not deserve it.If my arguments were based on emotion or ethics then fair enough or if I made wild unsubstantiated statements then please attack them.But I have tried to back up my arguments with evidence and that is all I ask of anyone in a debate.We can surely agree that conservation decisions must be made not on sentiment whether that sentiment is from an animal rights point of view or from the hunting standpoint but from evidence.And it is surely uncontestable that illegal persecution of Raptors by gamekeepers is a major factor in both the artificially low Hen Harrier numbers and the lack of Eagles in the East of Scotland. The evidence mentioned in this thread is easily enough to pass the civil law test in The UK. So can we agree on a way forward? First illegal persecution must stop.It is no different to elephant or rhino poaching.I favour a licencing system with agreed good behaviour rewarded with subsidies and bad behaviour punished. @@inyathi is correct in that there has to be a risk that landowners may revert to forestry if not given some incentive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Towlersonsafari:

 

I suspect that some of our disagreements in this debate arise because we are at cross purposes. I am satisfied that you have cited plenty of evidence that illegal persecution of raptors takes place. However, you have provided little to suggest, certainly in the case of hen harriers, that stopping such persecution would, except in the very short term, do much good unless control of other predators continued. I think the Langholm research has shown that driven grouse shooting is unsustainable where harriers thrive, leading to unaffordability of keepers and loss of predator control.

 

I'm interested that you think that killing by humans of harriers is the obvious cause of their rarity. If, however, it is suggested that the decline of songbirds is related to growing numbers of their avian predators, you would almost certainly say that this is too simplistic an assumption. Reverting to harriers, I would suggest that foxes and other predators would do the killing if humans didn't. My problem is that, at the same time, they'd also be killing significant numbers of red and amber listed ground nesting bird species

 

We both agree that it would be desirable to see more hen harriers in England. I think there is a way forward which offers a high probability of success. As you know, my favoured approach involves the adoption of a "zonal model" of conservation with or without environmental offsetting. This would allow human/ wildlife conflict to be resolved. While harriers continue to threaten livelihoods, you cannot expect illegal persecution to stop entirely. It would be better to start building up harrier numbers in land areas with no current grouse shooting and then permit the legalised destruction of raptors on grouse moors only. Meanwhile, the Joint Harrier Action Plan, for what it's worth, will continue to be implemented even if, for publicity reasons, the RSPB has deemed it impolitic to be seen to be involved.

 

I don't know enough about eagles to make more than the odd comment. I read The Eagle's Way", a book recommended to me by @@inyathi. However, despite gleaning insights into the author's passions and politics, I learnt little of scientific value which would be of much use in conservation. Grouse are most certainly not the preferred prey of golden eagles so, in theory, unless their presence unduly disrupts grouse behaviour and provided that grouse don't get too badly exploited when preferred food sources are absent, I see no reason for keepers to want to persecute them. Eagles take lambs and are thus disliked by shepherds. In fact, the few recent prosecutions for eagle persecution have all been against shepherds and not keepers. The eagle's preferred prey would seem to be hares and rabbits. If these become scarce, they'll readily take carrion, which, under appropriate circumstances and with encouragement, could be supplied by keepers or trusted volunteer ornithologists (appropriately positioned hides might also allow supplementary income!). Please note that, while I claim to know about grouse management, I'm theorising entirely on the subject of eagles and may be writing BS.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you @@douglaswise for your considered post.I think my main evidence that illegal persecution is the main driver of less Harriers than there should be is based on the maps of where Harriers currently are how that correlates with where grouse moors are.Certainly foxes for example do take eggs and young as the example in North Skye I gave shows.I would say that's what makes illegal persecution so important.Its already a precarious existence! As for Eagles they do take grouse.As generalist predators at the top of the UK food chain they will take anything although they do take a lot of Hares and on the West of Scotland in winter mostly carrion.Again the persecution of Eagles -both kinds now-on the East of Scotland is a real factor in their failure to thrive.And this is where to me it gets so frustrating.It must be possible for all sides to get together and work out a way where those who wish to enjoy their sport perhaps accepting smaller bags, accepting your evidence almost certainly smaller bags and being given subsidies which a lot of the bigger shooting estates get anyway to act as custodians of a type of land use that otherwise may not exist for much longer.If the Moorland association or similar could show that they really were environmental protectors and point to healthy raptor populations on their land just think how much easier it would be to continue their sport.And how much everyone would benefit. It is difficult.I am a member of the Hawk & Owl Trust that at the time of writing is still keen to pursue the Action Plan but also the RSPB who under pressure from members has pulled out.Remember the average RSPB member is not exactly a fire breathing radical.If the blood of the ordinary Englishmen becomes stirred...... Anyway I am going to see what is the population density of Harriers in areas where foxes exist.Are you able to identify moors where you think Harriers are not present but could be?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Towlersonsafari:

 

You've set me to work again with your last question.

 

I found various potentially useful information by googling.

 

Suggest BTO's population information paper (if you are not already familiar with it). (www.bto.org/national-offices/scotland/ourwork/selected.../hen-harrier

 

The Moorland Association website is useful as it has maps of heather moorland. (I'm not sure, in fact, that hen harriers need heather moorland. I think they might be able to thrive on heath and fen land.)

 

I also recommend www.gwct.org.uk/media/576615/Hen-harrier.fact-sheet-2016.pdf. This states that 50% of heather moorland is managed for grouse.

 

Suggest you look at Wales and West of England for moorland (with some heather) where foxes exist.

 

GWCT suggests that England could, in theory, support 84 pairs of hen harriers (half on grouse moors) with fox control. If sufficient blocks of moorland were managed specifically for hen-harriers ("zones"- as I recommend), I think it might be possible to exceed these numbers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you @@douglaswise I am going to look at the historical range of UK Hen Harriers but thinking about it I am sure heather Moorland is quite rare in the rest of the Harriers range outside the UK so they must be able to utilise other areas.I will see where my investigation takes me! But I hope you take my point about the grouse shooting interests missing a real trick here

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Towlersonsafari:

 

I shall be interested to see what you glean from your investigation. You finish post # 97 with the following: "But I hope you take my point about the grouse shooting interests missing a real trick here."

 

I think it likely that you have no clear understanding of how impossible it is for "grouse shooting interests" to produce the outcome you wish (zero illegal persecution of protected raptors). At best, they can effect a reduction and this is what they are striving to do (see Moorland Association website). This is why it was so hypocritical of the RSPB to back out of the Joint Hen Harrier Action Plan after pressure applied by the Avery/Packham (BBC) axis and before any potential benefits from its implementation could possibly be assessed. (My wife has just pointed out to me an article in this morning's Daily Telegraph, written by Philip Merricks, Chairman of the Hawk and Owl Trust, on this subject. I stopped writing this to read it and am now back putting my single finger to use. In my view, Merrick's article is an excellent and succinct summary of the debate we've been having here.)

 

I would like to attempt to explain why "grouse shooting interests" can't be expected to deliver at the 100% level. I will use guesstimates. There are approximately 200 English grouse driving moors. Suppose this results in 200 landowners who, between them, employ 600 keepers. Possibly the majority of owners live nowhere near the moors they own. Their interests may be looked after by local agents (still, themselves, remote from the moors) or directly by head keepers. Some owners don't necessarily know much about grouse moor management (their only relevant interest being shooting), but the majority probably do. However, at the end of the day, head keepers act autonomously and not under the direct control of their employers or agents thereof. In turn, under keepers are usually working most of their time well away from any direct supervision of their head keepers. Further, many keepers are able to muster local support from volunteers who, in turn, are often working alone on the hill. Thus, while all owners may well be supporting the Action Plan, their levels of direct control are far more constrained than one might expect in a more typical employer/employee relationship. I am sure, however, that a large majority of keepers are now much more willing to tolerate hen harriers than they used to be because the Action Plan ensures that they won't become overwhelmed by increasing numbers and, in consequence, lose their jobs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello @@douglaswise, yes i read that article-he is the chairman of the Hawk & Owl Trust as referred to above and whilst I have some sympathy with his position hi cannot plead for tolerance and working together in one breath and call those who disagree with him names with the other. i suppose both sides feel equally frustrated, one at the seeming intransigence of more than a few grouse moors and the other with folk telling them how to run their business. I do not expect the owners to deliver at 100% but your explanation is perhaps a very good reason for a licensing system!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So in the wake of yet another buzzard shot in north Yorkshire, the GO-To place for killing birds of prey, the cations no doubt of a young foolish game keeper trying to make his way in the world, i have been looking at where Hen Harriers nest in other areas.In Ireland and part of Europe they do use low lying marsh and rough ground, free from disturbance although in the interests of fairness in Ireland numbers are falling because of increased forestry. although intensive forestry in its early stages are good for harriers and indeed Short Eared Owls because it attracts voles,, that phase does not last long. In France there is some use of arable land-nesting in corn or wheat-as long as protection is given so the young are not killed by machinery.there is some historical records of Hen Harriers in the UK also nesting in arable land but since Harriers were shot out by the start of the 20th century, according to Natural England, not for a long time. this quote from Natural england-

"Hen Harriers are birds of open landscapes, usually avoiding closed-canopy woodland, conurbations and high mountain tops. Within England they currently nest on the ground almost exclusively in mature heather."

And that is very interesting. Hen Harriers in England-again according to Natural England not exactly a hotbed of Eco Zealots (as the chairman of the Hawk & Owl Trust has described those who disagree with him) as Hen Harriers have not been in numbers in Northern england for over 100 years, they can have had no impact on grouse for that period of time. Again from Natural England,

"After the Second World War the hen harrier started to make a comeback, probably due to a reduction in the number of active gamekeepers and a corresponding drop in the intensity of persecution. Northern England was recolonised in the mid-1960s and in the 1970s and 1980s up to 25 nesting attempts were made each year in Cumbria, Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire. It was hoped that this was just the start of a more complete recovery but this was not to be."

They continue-

"Although virtually all recent Hen Harrier nesting attempts in England have been in the uplands, the species is not, in fact, an obligate upland bird. We have seen that birds have nested successfully in lowland England and we know they were widespread here in the past. They also nest in lowland areas across continental Europe. However, whilst our breeding birds produce insufficient recruits to populate even the moorlands adjacent to the current breeding areas and whilst they continue to be killed both within and away from protected areas, the prospects of a return to lowland haunts looks distant indeed."

And this i think is behind the Action Plan to take some hen Harriers from nests and try to trans-locate them in other areas.thus letting grouse moor owners off the hook But the plan is contingent on an end to persecution. It also ignores all the other matters mention at the start of this thread. I would welcome such a plan being tried, but I think that the only rela option that could work for all sides, is the licensing of grouse moors, rewarding good environmental management and punishing bad

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


© 2006 - 2017 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.