You may have seen the blog summarising hen harrier breeding success in England explaining how the Hen Harrier LIFE project team have been involved in protecting and monitoring nine successful hen harrier nests in England this year, with the successful fledging of 33 chicks.

This is the result of a lot of hard work from a huge number of organisations and committed individuals.  Yet, this good news is tempered by knowledge that these birds face the ongoing threat of illegal killing. 

It is sobering that none of the chicks we tagged in England in previous years are still alive: to date over half of them have died or disappeared in suspicious circumstances and there are many other examples of ongoing illegal killing associated with driven grouse shooting (see the hen harrier called River being recovered below).

What’s more, burning on peatlands has intensified and continues.  Gamekeepers burn heather (as shown in Any Hay's image below) to benefit red grouse, but this damages important peat bog habitats. Burning not only releases large amounts of CO2 into the air, fuelling climate breakdown, but it also dries out the peat, making these habitats less resilient to fire. This is also why less than 10% of England’s peatland protected areas are in favourable condition.  We have long argued that burning on peat bogs must stop and I have no doubt that this week’s publication of the IPCC report on land use will ignite calls for peatland restoration.

We know that to reverse the declines of wildlife across the country, action is needed now to restore our uplands and bring them back to life. But this won’t happen without urgent changes to the way we manage the land for commercial activities such as driven grouse shooting.

Those within the shooting community believe that self-regulation will deliver necessary reform.  We disagree which is why, while some are calling for a ban, the RSPB has called for the introduction of a system of licensing

This is, of course, a deeply contested area and we believe that the Westminster Government needs to do something to break the logjam.  This is why I have written to the new Secretary of State Theresa Villiers calling for an independent review on the sustainability of driven grouse moor management, as is taking place in Scotland.

My video here explains why we think this review is justified.

  • We tend to imagine the uplands always looked like they do today. South West Norway is on the same latitude as Scotland ( we were all once connected) and is successfully naturally regenerating trees and shrubs to upland areas that until 150 years ago had been farmed with sheep, barren and almost treeless. Species  are returning. The heather still grows, but not predominantly, and grouse use other plants to feed on as well as the heather. This must be the way forward, surely. 

  • We should be conserving the moors not destroying them and looking after all the wildlife that live and depend on them for their habitat.Too long have the shooting fraternity had there own way what with gamekeepers poisoning or shooting the predators on the moors or burning the heather anything to make money out of the moors at the expense of the wildlife ..It needs to stop and stop now its just a money making racket for the rich landowners

  • Why not mention the latest petition to ban driven grouse shooting?  You can say something along the lines of "A significant number of people are so concerned about the criminality of DGS that they have signed up to a petition calling for its banning. The RSPB would prefer a licensing scheme but, if you are interested, this is a link to the petition."  You are not endorsing but you are informing.  That would shut up a goodly number of your birding critics.