The poor season for hen harriers was covered in yesterday's Daily Telegraph and Guardian. The Guardian basically rehashes our press release (I'm not complaining!) whereas the Telegraph quibbles a bit about whether the lack of this grouse-eater is the fault of grouse-shooters. I found the last line in the Telegraph piece very witty - you don't often find jokes in the papers' news coverage. It says that '...gamekeepers and landowners insist that shooting estates are helping to protect the hen harrier by ensuring grouse moors are well managed and maintaining native moorland.'. That was meant to be a sardonic joke, surely?
I can't find any comment from Natural England on their web page on this sorry state of affairs - although we did offer them a quote in our press release. In the past Natural England has been commendably outspoken on the subject of raptor persecution. On 22 December 2008 Natural England were happy to say 'Persecution is prime cause of harrier disappearance.'. On 2 November 2009 Natural England were happy to say '... illegal persecution has led to today’s critically low breeding numbers and patchy distribution.'. So what has happened since then? The General Election was held on 6 May 2010.
Maybe in this new age, Defra is the place to look for comment on this subject? I cannot find any comment on the Defra website - certainly not under 'news'. Bu then this isn't news is it? It is the status quo.
The Raptor Politics website is naturally concerned about the plight of this fantastic bird. Farmers Guardian and Bird Guides also cover the story.
If you take a step back, it really is pretty grim that one small group of citizens are through directly breaking the law the most likely cause of the next extinction of a flagship species in England - we've been a hairsbreadth away from that happening for the best part of a decade.
I confess to a feeling of recurrent despair on this subject!!! In many senses the same old questions, rhetoric and reasons for the loss of Hen Harriers crops up time and time again. The names are different, so the concerns are now being expressed by a successive generation to previously. Of course the situation has to change, but, it seems to me, the RSPB simply can't afford to follow the same route as it has tried over the last thirty years. It's simply not working, and whilst I admire those involved for sustaining their motivation in the light of all the disappointing repetition of poor results and the inevitable accompanying frustration, a fresh approach is now needed. I realise various initiatives are under consideration to improve the numbers of harriers, but I still feel a new focus needs to be directed at the errant minority who continue to repeatedly break the law. The fact is , I've no confidence that there will be a faithful uptake of new ideas without persecution continuing. This is where a licensing procedure would have more influence!!
I have just put a piece out on my own Blog (www.islaybirder.blogspot.com ) in the form of a response to the press release issued last week. We're in a bind on this one, things have to change and the level of "activity" moved up a gear. Whether or not the RSPB , as a charity, can front such an overt political exercise is perhaps a problem but the time is ripe to try. With the Coalition Government claiming to be ( read "wish to be" ) the "Greenest " ever they need seriously taking to task if improvement doesn't ensue.
Apologies for the tirade, but the situation is so damned frustrating!!!
Sooty, a good point about how shooters view the RSPB. To see how bad things are getting, see "Another cunning stunt from the RSPB" on James Marchington's blog (18 November). There is a good reply from Grahame Madge and a reasoned response from JM.
There is no doubt that, overall, shooting is of enormous value to the UK's countryside and its wildlife. The few problem areas are small in comparison, but very significant. I would love to see Mark present the Purdey awards for shooting and conservation. That may indeed be some way off. Meanwhile perhaps the RSPB could be a little more thoughtful in how it drafts its press releases and not just focus on problems and illegal acts.
Very true cardus but the money should be in Black Grouse via the HLS agreements. Can we afford to just leave it? No sheep and all cattle on one side of the Geltsdale reserve is farming and management but this is supposed to bring back trees naturally where as on the other side 100,000 trees were planted by the RSPB. So here is one reserve with 2 sets of managers trying different things but what is the same, is you are paying for both!
Jockeyshield: "If management concentrated on Black Grouse not Red then the uplands would be diverse."
Never mind the colour of the grouse, management is concentrated on money.
Diversity would be much better served by the absence of management., although I can't see that happening any time soon. Even the conservation organisations don't agree - managers like to manage and for the most part they see natural processes - such as ecological succession - as negative forces to be battled rather than as a vital part of the nature they claim to be conserving.
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