The RSPB does an amazing amount of work with partners across the four countries of the UK, the UK Overseas Territories and internationally for a wide variety of species, habitats and places. In this blog, I try to give a taste of the breadth and diversity of this work. However, over the years I have frequently returned to one particular bird.

The hen harrier has taken up more blog posts than any other, and for good reason. Its conservation plight epitomises much of what is wrong with our own species' relationship with nature.

A female hen harrier, RSPB Geltsdale (photo by the RSPB's new Head of Investigations, Mark Thomas: rspb-images.com)

The challenges facing this species will be well known to readers of this blog: the hen harrier now occurs at such appallingly low numbers across the UK because they are illegally killed to maximise the number of grouse that can be killed on driven moors across England and Scotland.

The RSPB has been calling and fighting for change for many years. So have many others.

When brood management was first suggested as a possible measure for hen harriers, the RSPB was very clear in its objection. And when Natural England announced at the beginning of the year that they had issued a licence permitting the trial of brood management the RSPB repeated those serious objections.

We objected on scientific and philosophical grounds.  Brood management involves removing hen harrier chicks from driven grouse moors once breeding numbers begin to impact significantly on numbers of red grouse for shooting. We believe that the first step in hen harrier recovery should be the cessation of illegal killing. This way, harriers would begin to recover naturally and we could then look at other measures. Without that recovery, the hen harrier is at best, destined to be a rare moorland breeder and at worst will be lost from the English uplands altogether.

We also objected on legal grounds.  Which is why we very clear that we would contest a decision that we felt to be fundamentally wrong. While legal challenges are always a last resort for us. and we never take these decision lightly, when red lines have been crossed we will act.  And that is why we sought a judicial review of the Natural England license for a trial of a brood management scheme for hen harriers.

Today sees the culmination of that process as the hearing for our judicial review of the NE plans reaches the High Court.

It is right that the arguments will be heard and we will then await for the judgement.

I will say more once we know the outcome.

Anonymous