Tag: raptor persecution

Beyond belief

by on May.30, 2012, under Birdwatching, Hen Harrier, North Pennines, Northumberland

Earlier this year I blogged about a North Pennines trip on which we found a pair of Hen Harriers, a species that is very close to the hearts of both owners of NEWT as we spent a lot of time monitoring a nest site in North Tynedale from 2006-2008 (and since then, even though there hasn’t been a subsequent successful nesting attempt at the site).  During the three years where we had successful nesting attempts, that one site and the surrounding area had an adult female shot, an incubating adult female ‘abandoned’ a nest overnight, a nest was robbed, unleashed dogs were allowed to run straight through a nest site, a number of empty nests were located.  And that’s just the persecution/disturbance that we know about.

The sighting in the North Pennines was astonishing, as the area where the birds were is a heartland of illegal raptor persecution.  First the female, and then the ghostly, sublimely beautiful, male dropped down into the heather close to a small burn.  After a brief discussion with our clients on the day, a ‘phone call was made to alert a local raptor worker, with vast experience of monitoring harrier nests.  He was astonished too, and couldn’t remember how long it was since a potential breeding pair had been recorded in that area.  24hrs later there was no sign of either bird at the site, and the breeding attempt had presumably gone the same way as so many others.  Now we’re in a position where there is only one nesting pair in England, and the main contributory factor in that is illegal persecution.

Yet, with illegal persecution still rife and affecting many birds of prey, DEFRA commissioned, and has now thankfully scrapped, a study into the effect of Common Buzzard predation on Common Pheasant populations.  Methods proposed included destroying nests and capturing Common Buzzards and taking them into captivity for falconry.  That’s right, £375,000 of taxpayer’s money was going to be spent deliberately suppressing the population of a native species, that is still recovering after centuries of persecution, in order to protect a non-native, artificially reared and introduced gamebird.  You couldn’t make it up, it’s so far-fetched and ridiculous.  This would have just been the thin end of a very big wedge though.  Sparrowhawks next? then Peregrines and all of our rarer raptors?

What’s really needed is the full force of the law to be brought to bear on those individuals, and estates, that persist in the barbaric, outdated, illegal practice of raptor persecution.  Perhaps DEFRA could fund a study into what happens if raptor populations are left unhindered?

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Talking birdwatching

by on Dec.09, 2010, under Birdwatching, Family and friends, North Pennines

Woodcock are continuing to feature in our birdwatching at the moment.  Martin saw two more yesterday; one flying ahead of the car as he drove through Ashington and another one flying over our house, as Lee from G&S Organics was delivering our weekly groceries.

Yesterday evening we were out and about again.  This time it wasn’t a nocturnal birdwatching trip but a much more sociable occasion, meeting up with a friend for a meal and a few drinks.

Nick was already in the pub, with a pint of Guinness in hand, when we arrived.  The conversation through the evening focused primarily on raptors; a real obsession for all three of us.  He didn’t make it to this year’s North of England Raptor Conference so we filled him in on the highlights.  As our discussions covered population ecology, persecution, identification and migration patterns, the time raced by and soon we were driving back through the snowy wastes of Northumberland.  Unsurprisingly, most of our discussion had focussed on the Hen Harrier; probably the most persecuted raptor in Britain.  Our study area covers twelve 10km squares in southwest Northumberland, notable for having no breeding Hen Harriers, although a vast amount of suitable habitat.  There’s a lack of Peregrines as well, although at one site they can often be seen displaying in the early spring…

On our North Pennines tours, the lack of raptors is often commented on by our clients.  When we explain the reasons, and back this up with our own observations and experiences from the harrier nest we monitored in North Tynedale, we’re generally met with looks of incredulity, horror or dismay.  Who knows, maybe 2011 will be the year when the Hen Harrier starts to make a comeback on the moors of Northern England?  Don’t hold your breath though…

Now, after a morning which Martin spent being interviewed for the BBC Politics Show (which will be shown at 12:00 on Sunday 11th December), it’s time to process another batch of Gift Voucher orders and finalise details for this Saturday’s boat trip around the Farne Islands and Holy Island.  Gift Vouchers are an ideal present, and our final boat trip of the year looks like being a really good one, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book.

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