Everyone's talking about white-tailed eagles, it seems. Even my taxi driver this morning in London had a view - amazingly he lives in Suffolk! And for what it's worth, he was very much in favour of the reintroduction scheme.
There are some great comments on my earlier blogs on this subject including one posted yesterday by Derek Moore which it is well worth reading for its forthright nature.
Tom Tew, the Natural England Chief Scientist, was on the radio earlier this week dispelling some myths and spreading some common sense and you can listen to it for the next few days by following this link.
On the more sceptical end of things, following Libby Purves's not very accurate article in the Times there have been two letters published on the subject in this same newspaper, one by Songbird Survival and the other by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Neither is very positive about the reintroduction which appears to be The Times's own line since it hasn't seen fit to publish any contrary views although we know they have received some.
The Daily Telegraph published one article on the subject which took the Robin Page line - funny that, he writes for the Telegraph! - including the view that there is scant evidence that white-tailed eagles used to live in East Anglia. Well we know that is a myth.
What is lacking is any evidence to back up the claims of Robin Page and others that white-tailed eagles will do harm to livestock or wildlife. The comments posted here on my blog (some from true experts in the field) , and all the discussions I have seen, suggest that the landowners of Suffolk have nothing to fear from eagles and that the wider public have much to look forward to in respect of a beautiful bird and the economic benefit that it will bring with it in terms of tourism revenue.
On Mull, an RSPB economic study indicated that the white-tailed eagles brought in annually about £1.5m to the local economy - we would now think that figure is closer to £2m per annum.
If there is hard evidence from where white-tailed eagles currently live that they might do harm in Suffolk then let us please see that evidence now. That's one of the things that a consultation period is for. The RSPB is keen to see any evidence on this subject, but uninformed hysterical opposition to what is, let's face it, just a big bird, in the early days of the 21st century seems very sadly misplaced.
Claire - very many thanks. Very useful information.
I'm belatedly picking up on the issue of winter food here, being busy with fieldwork myself. We have heard all the same arguments in East Scotland about there not being any food for the birds during the winter up here, although these soon stopped, after our birds found plenty of wintering wildfowl, rabbits and carrion as well more unexpected things like the occassional crow or heron during their first winter! a situation I believe would be replicated in Suffolk. For the East Scotland re-introduction as in previous re-introductions we maintain a food dump after release to mimic the behaviour of the adults dropping off food for the young birds whilst they learn to hunt in the first couple of months. Despite this free and easy food supply, some birds find their own wild food within the first week of release, as generalist predators there is a lot available to them. They also only eat approx 600g a day and people are also often surprised by their laziness. The East Scotland release in Fife, a busy lowland, agricultural area (that contains poultry, pheasants and free range pigs) is going well and people have got used to the birds very quickly with neighbouring farmers now asking me if the birds are ok once they start to disperse away from the release site! You can currently see 2-3 sea eagles daily at our Vane Farm nature reserve. Hopefully people will continue to look to the East Scotland project as the work on the English project continues.
Derek Moore the reason the take up on the schemes may be low is obviously because for the monetary rewards whatever some people think are so low,by that I mean that the paperwork is so demanding that mostly a professional has to be employed and makes the scheme just not worth doing which is why only the enthusiasts go on them.
An example of how stupid these schemes can be is that we scraped into entry level by a very narrow margin and in a field we had a pond which they would not allow us one point for but the barbed wire fence round it we could claim points for.I complained at meetings held by DEFRA about this but of course they would not give a inch.
Surely everyone knows ponds are a good conservation project and barbed wire must be one of the worst while we have people like this trying to control farmers is it any wonder numbers of them avoid the scheme and to cap it all the politicians can't often pay out in time and money which the british farmer was due to from these schemes goes into Europe and DEFRA fined for being so slow.British taxpayers money of course.
Afraid those on the outside have not got a clue how difficult for farmers these schemes are.Now we have a RSPB spokesman having a go at farmers so have asked Mark to invite him to explain his criticism that farmers don't do much for their £2.5 billion from these schemes.My guess is it is another wrong fact but lets see if he comes and takes up the invite and comments.
Even if there is substance in what he says I can guarantee some farmers will be annoyed and say blow the schemes or worse.Sad to say a really silly own goal and unless the person is right needs to be demoted to making the tea.(better not put what I really think as pushing my luck that Mark publishes this)
If you do Mark can only say many many thanks.
Sooty you are being a bit defensive. I really cannot agree with you about the farming community being the best conservationists. If that had been the case the enrmous nature conservation movement in Britain would have not have been necessary.
Maybe my language on the take-up by farmers of agri-environmental schemes was a shade over colourful and for that I apologise but the fact is that the take-up of these schemes is often not good and generally those that do are already keen on having wildlife on their farms.
As for conservationists thinking they know better than farmers I have to say something on this as well. I think all nature conservationists accept that farmers know well how to produce food efficiently and in many cases do make some contribution to managing for wildlife. What galls me is that having delivered that respect to the farming community they are suddenly all experts on birds and show the conservation community no respect at all.
This is the main barrier to break down. Mutual respect for each other's skills.
You accuse me of being badly informed. Well I can tell you I played quite a part in setting up prescriptions for the Broads ESA and also lobbied with farmers in Brussels to get environmentally payments for managing permanent Set-aside. I have always had a close relationship with farmers being a past trustee of FWAG and Chairman of FWAG in Wales.
The problem is that the farmers working with us on common agendas are still too few.
Derek Moore I am really surprised by you saying farmers and landowners have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept agri-environment schemes,these type of comments are believed and then mislead everyone.
The facts are that all these schemes are voluntary so it is simple if you want the money you agree with what is asked.
No way can voluntary schemes get people kicking and screaming.
As a retired farmer I am appalled at all comments that come from people really badly informed who think they know better than farmers.
Wonder if anyone knows or has bothered to ask why farmers took hedges out.
Farmers have since grown hundreds of miles of hedges where they have been needed,wonder why no one comments on that.
If you look back over a 1,000 years you will see that farmers have been the best conservationist by miles and the modern conservationist is a relative new thing and while they do a certain amount of good in the big scheme of things it is small fry.Compared to sterile towns etc the farmland is really alive.
I find it really hard to understand how people think they know so much better than farmers about farming when it never crosses my mind that I know more about other peoples occupations and of course all these ridiculous quotes are believed by general public.
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