Blog

Monday 24 July 2017

 

RAPTOR TRACKING STUDY - ALL SYSTEMS GO!

Picture by Gordon Yates

The licensed raptor tagging team have had a very busy few months locating and monitoring territories and nests. As previously mentioned (see here) a number of known territories were unexpectedly vacated and adults mysteriously disappeared, but despite this, we have tagged a number of raptors in the north of England and we are regularly receiving data from their tags.  The birds have been seen regularly by our field team and our observations in the field and data from the tags show that the birds are behaving normally. The plot below shows the movements of one of the birds to show the type of data that are being collected.

 

Obviously, we are still being very uncommunicative about which species and which localities are involved in order to protect the birds and the study.

 

These young birds may well start to disperse over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see, and then they may travel large distances.  We will provide periodic updates on their travels and if they come to any harm then you will hear much more about them.

 

If you are interested in learning more about how satellite tracking can help us understand more about raptor movements and their fate, then please read the excellent scientific review commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (see here). Although this report is aimed at Golden Eagles in Scotland, the principles apply to other species and other locations.

 

Thanks again, to all BAWC supporters who donated to this project. Without your support and generosity this project would not have been possible.

Wednesday 29 June 2017

 

BAWC's RESPONSE TO THE NATIONAL HEN HARRIER SURVEY

It’s that time of year – the Hen Harrier is back in the news – with the publication of the results of the National Hen Harrier Survey 2016. And like so many times in the past, we at BAWC are bitterly disappointed. The numbers are not good. DEFRA’s “Joint Action Plan to Increase the English Hen Harrier Population” is clearly having little impact.

 

To quote Martin Harper, Conservation Director for the RSPB:  “The latest figures back up a continued trend that we have seen for more than a decade – Hen Harrier numbers are on the decline throughout the UK.”

 

Furthermore, Martin puts persecution at the centre of the problem: “The illegal killing of this bird of prey is a significant factor behind the diminishing numbers and a large barrier stopping their recovery.”

 

As at the time of writing, the Hawk and Owl Trust have not commented on the survey. It will be interesting to see what comments they make, given their support for the plan and its controversial support for brood management.

 

The RSPB stresses that they are not anti-shooting and want to find a sustainable solution for grouse moors. BAWC too is not anti-shooting per se, but what is clear is that one of the UK’s most iconic species is in danger of becoming extinct in England. Throughout the UK, Hen Harrier numbers are falling and the current campaigns and action plans are failing.

 

BAWC’s position is simple. Raptor persecution is a crime. Hen Harriers and indeed all raptor species in this country are being let down because crimes are going unprosecuted. In addition protection measures are clearly inadequate. BAWC believe that more resources need to be put into the investigation and prosecution of crimes against Hen Harriers. We also believe that vicarious liability should be introduced in England as soon as possible with individuals and employers prosecuted where appropriate.

 

There are several ways you can help protect our Hen Harriers. Firstly, learning how to Recognise, Record and Report all Wildlife Crime. Find out more by clicking this link.

 

And of course, you can join hundreds of like-minded individuals across the UK by attending one (or more!) of the Hen Harrier Day 2017 Events

Thursday 11 May 2017

 

BAWC's RESPONSE TO HEN HARRIER SHOOTING

Those of you that follow the ongoing travesty of wildlife crime here in the UK will be aware that the Victorian practice of birds of prey persecution is as prevalent today as it was 100 years ago. Indeed, it is the raison d’etre for the existence of BAWC. In many ways there should be no reason for BAWC to exist, on the other hand never has the BAWC community been so needed. Last week the news broke that a case of Hen Harrier persecution had been dropped by the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). An active nest of a breeding pair of Hen Harriers was being monitored by licenced RSPB Scotland staff using the standard technique of a remote hidden camera. Such cameras are used to monitor the breeding success of a wide-range of species, including passerines, waders and raptors. As widely reported, this particular case captured footage of a female Hen Harrier flushed from the nest and the sound of two gunshots followed by a ‘puff’ of feathers a split second later. A man carrying a shotgun is then seen holding what appears to be a dead hen harrier and then makes his way to the nest site and collects a number of feathers. Details of the event can be read on the RSPB Scotland website.

 

It defies belief that any rational person could argue that the video footage does not clearly show a wildlife crime. That the legal authorities have decide not to proceed with case stating that the video evidence is inadmissible seems a rather bizarre stance to take given the wide use of such evidence in a range of other crimes. Why should wildlife crime be treated any differently?

 

As always Raptor Persecution UK have posted a series of excellent blogs on this latest incident of wildlife crime. Included in these blogs are some ideas on what you can do to show your disgust at the decision not to proceed with this case. If you live in Scotland, we would urge you to contact your MSP (find out who yours is here) and ask him/her to contact the Scottish Government’s Justice Minister, Michael Matheson to complain on your behalf about the handling of this case. The more MSPs that see this video footage, and hear about the public’s serious concerns, the better. For those of you that live outside of Scotland then please email the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, Margaret Mitchell MSP (Scottish Conservatives).

 

Of you are on social media then please share this news on Facebook and Twitter. The more people hear about these appalling wildlife crimes that are happening here in the UK the greater the desire for change. This is another example of a case that hasn’t resulted in a prosecution or conviction, but we will win in the end. All BAWC supporters can play their part, remember the 3Rs: Recognise, Record, Report.

 

And finally: RSPB Investigations, keep up the great work, we all appreciate your fantastic efforts to protect our magnificent birds of prey.

Monday 22 August 2016

 

BAWC's RESPONSE TO HOT

In the 22nd of August's edition of the Daily Telegraph, Philip Merricks, Chairman of the Hawk and Owl Trust, explains the reasons why he believes brood management will save the Hen Harrier. Here is a link to the article.

 

In a previous post, I've explained why I am sceptical about brood management working in the case of the Hen Harrier.

 

In this one I'd like to reply to a couple of the points Mr Merricks raises.

 

He refers to a person he met at the Rainham Hen Harrier Day event, who described himself as "an Eco-activist protester" and said he'd "spent many years as a hunt saboteur". Probably with this in mind, the article gives us all the title of "Eco-zealots". Like any group of people who agree on one thing - in this case we all want to save the Hen Harrier - there will be differences in opinion on how we achieve our goal, and why we want to achieve it.

 

BAWC's stance, as always, is that we want the law obeyed. It is illegal to kill Hen Harriers. We will oppose anyone who breaks the law.

 

Mr Merricks goes on to explain that "Gamekeepers will now have the opportunity, when harriers become too numerous on their moors, to call us to collect the eggs for artificial rearing and dispersal to other sites." I have a few questions about this:

Who decides when the harriers become too numerous?

What is that figure?

Is it more that three active nests in the whole of England, which is 2016's meagre tally? And remember, the Hen Harrier Action Plan is supposedly in force at the moment.

How will more than three active nests ever be achieved if nothing is done to combat the illegal persecution of all raptors on Driven Grouse Moors? I ask that because the Hen Harrier Action Plan hasn't stopped the "disappearances" this year.

 

I don't think asking those questions makes me an "Eco-zealot". Well, not in the very negative way that Mr Merricks headline writer uses the term. More like a realist, who prefers facts to flannel.

 

You decide.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

 

HERE'S WHERE WE STAND NOW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t seem possible that it is only just over two months since I wrote the post below - “Where Do You Stand On This?” Such a lot has happened since:

 

• the RSPB have withdrawn from the Hen Harrier Action Plan

• eleven very successful and well attended events were held across the country on Hen Harrier Weekend 2016

• the media has been swamped with Hen Harrier related activity - the Daily Telegraph featured a picture of Henry!

• the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting (BDGS) Petition has exceeded 100,000 signatures

• The RSPB, the League, Mark Avery and others are working hard to co-ordinate MPs’ briefings in preparation for a

   BDGS debate

 

I was at Saltholme on Hen Harrier Weekend and heard Blanaid Denman and Martin Harper speak forcefully and from the heart about what the RSPB was doing to fight Wildlife Crime, support the Hen Harrier and change things for the better.  They articulated how I felt and feel about those issues

 

I think it’s fair to say that BAWC isn’t disappointed any more.  Just determined to make sure we don't waste this momentum.

Monday 8 August 2016

 

WHAT BOTHERS ME ABOUT BROOD MANAGEMENT

In the Sunday Times of 7 August, in the middle of Hen Harrier Weekend 2016, the Hawk and Owl Trust (HOT) decided to reveal more details of how they envisage Brood Management will work. I won't repeat the details. You can read them in the attached picture (as long as you zoom in!).

 

HOT are very optimistic that this scheme will ensure the survival of the Hen Harrier in this country. I'm not. And I think you should be as sceptical as I am. Here's why.

 

Mark Avery, in his book "Inglorious" explains that the Hen Harrier has "low natal fidelity and high natal dispersal". Which means the chances of a Hen Harrier staying near to where it is fledged (or released from a brood management scheme by extension) are low.

 

Blanaid Denman, in her very informative and heart-felt speech at RSPB Saltholme, during Hen Harrier Day North East, explained that through satellite tracking, it is known that individual Hen Harriers will fly great distances. And that they are tenacious when they find a territory that suits them.

 

All of which says to me that if a Hen Harrier finds itself released on a so-so patch of Exmoor, the probability is that it will go looking for a better patch. And if that patch just happens to be on a Grouse Moor, what will happen then? Because nothing has been done to dissuade people from illegally persecuting raptors, we are back to square one, with another Hen Harrier disappeared.

 

Brood management may work for other animals with high natal fidelity and low natal dispersal, but that ain't the Hen Harrier. There must be a better way.

WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THIS?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In February, our friends at Rare Bird Alert tweeted this, rather prophetic quote from our Charlie Moores:

 

“The rhetoric around Hen Harriers…is often inflammatory, but that’s hardly surprising.  People like me, who love birds, hate seeing crimes committed against them.  Conservationists are often described as being “at war” with shooting interests, but speaking for BAWC, that’s simply not the case. We are at war with wildlife crime and the people who commit it.  There’s a difference.  And that’s why we’re so disappointed with Defra’s [Hen Harrier Action] plan.”

 

And BAWC’s disappointment continues.

 

The other day I was talking with someone at RSPB HQ about how the plans for Hen Harrier Day 2016 were progressing.  I managed to (not so) skilfully change the subject to our disappointment with Martin Harper’s blog that had been published earlier that day.  It’s entitled “An Update on England’s Hen Harriers in 2016”.  The person I was on the phone with was genuinely interested to know why we were disappointed.  And that got me thinking.

 

Why, exactly, was I disappointed?

 

I first tried to pin it down to specifics.  I re-read the blog, highlighting relevant passages; making notes.  The fact no numbers were quoted was frustrating.  The phrase “only a tiny handful of nesting attempts” was too woolly.  Being “pleased” that the Moorland Association had issued a statement condemning the use of Pole Traps on one of their member’s land, when that statement can best be described as going through the motions, was not the reaction I expected. Or indeed my own reaction when I first read said statement.

 

Then it hit me.  It wasn’t just specific passages in the blog I was disappointed with.  It was the blog as a whole.  I was disappointed that the blog didn’t reflect how I FELT.

 

I’m disappointed in the same way that I feel when a friend doesn’t agree with one of my stronger held beliefs.  And believe me, we do look upon the RSPB as a friend of BAWC.  Not only has the organisation helped us in our formative years, but individuals such as Mike Clarke, Jeff Knott, Blanaid Denman, Bob Elliot, Ian Thompson and Guy Shorrock have all been true friends.

 

And true friends can disagree.

 

When Mike Clarke said the following at the Game Fair last year, we applauded him:

 

“Failure to uphold long standing legislation that benefits the wider public interest is a matter of legitimate public concern. It is also a matter of legitimacy, if any industry fails to recognise its wider social responsibilities it risks losing its right to operate. And the risk is even greater if an industry stays in denial of evidence, and falls back to communications and spin.”

 

It felt like the RSPB’s stance was changing.  Not massively, as it does have legal restrictions placed on it and its activities, but changing nevertheless.

 

Organisations, and individuals, do change.  The RSPB started out as the Society for the Protection of Birds.  Over the years it has transformed into @Natures_Voice, taking on a wider wildlife conservation remit.  We have changed too.  We began as a small group of like-minded birders who wanted to do something about wildlife crime – hence the name Birders Against Wildlife Crime.   We now encompass many people – even Mark Avery’s beloved midwives out on a stroll in the countryside – all supporting BAWC, ALL Against Wildlife Crime.

 

Look at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.  Their Chair issued a strong statement recently, in response to the Mossdale Pole Trap incident, condemning raptor persecution.  A welcome change in the tone of how they react to wildlife crime on their land.

 

Look at the National Trust.  Following their investigation into the Decoy Hen Harrier incident, they have terminated the lease for the land this occurred on.  A welcome change in the action they take to deal with wildlife crime on their land.

 

Now look at Martin's blog again.  Having already heard rumours about the disastrous start to the Hen Harrier breeding season we were hoping for something that built on the strong tone of Mike's speech at the Game Fair.  Another step change.  That's why we were disappointed.  Still strong supporters of the RSPB, still members (and have been for decades) but, nevertheless, disappointed.

 

This is a very good time to confirm where BAWC stands:

 

  • We believe every individual can make a difference.  That is why we are committed to our 3Rs.  As many people as possible need to know how to Recognise, Record and Report Wildlife Crime.  You should get a copy of the leaflet HERE.
  • We believe that together we can make a difference.  That is why we support Mark Avery’s petition to ban Driven Grouse Shooting.  You should sign the petition HERE.
  • We believe that legal protest can make a difference.  That is why we support Henry Hen Harrier’s “Hands Off” campaign and the Picnics on the Moors.  You should turn up HERE.

 

So, where do you stand?

 

Let us know by commenting below.  Let everyone know, by tweeting, blogging, using whichever social media stream you prefer.  And most importantly let all the countryside and wildlife organisations you belong to know, by telling them what you want them to do with your subscriptions – Fight Wildlife Crime.

Hen Harrier Necklaces

by Caroline Hunt

 

If you find Hen Harrier badges not to your taste, then you might like the necklaces that Caroline Hunt creates, from RSPB badges.

 

As you can see from the picture on the left, they look rather stunning.

 

They are £10 each including postage and can be either 22ct gold or silver plate chains.

 

£1 from the cost goes to the RSPB and another £1 towards BAWC's Hen Harrier campaign.

 

Caroline can be contacted HERE

The Last Skydancer

by Janet Mary Robinson

A limited edition print, available from the artist

with a built-in donation to keep Henry flying

 

Janet Mary Robinson is a freelance artist based in the North West of England.  She also works as a natural history illustrator and runs art classes.

 

The beauty of the area in which she lives forms the inspiration for many of her paintings, including “The Last Skydancer”, shown above.  This was one of four paintings she exhibited earlier this year at the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe, during a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Forest of Bowland as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Here she describes the background to the painting:

 

 ‘The Last Skydancer’ is my most recent Bowland painting. I originally conceived it as a study of the mid-winter moorland, before the snow. I wanted to capture the beautiful shades of colour of the moorland, which has huge variety even on a dull day, as most winter days are here! Afterwards I added a Hen Harrier, or Skydancer as they are sometimes called.

I had been reading about the plight of this upland raptor.  It is now all but extinct in England, due largely to persecution on grouse moors. Hen Harriers eat small mammals and birds, so are targets for gamekeepers protecting grouse chicks for the shooting season. The Forest of Bowland used to be a stronghold for the Hen Harrier, but in recent years their numbers have plummeted – from 15 pairs in 2005 to effective extinction by 2013.

 

Then last summer, their luck seemed to pick up slightly when following a two-year absence, the birds somewhat miraculously returned to the Bowland Fells to nest. Under 24/7 surveillance by RSPB staff and volunteers, nine chicks were raised; a bumper crop of Skydancers. But shortly after having fledged, two of the young birds, named Sky and Hope by schoolchildren, went missing. It is not known what happened to them. Their radio transmitters and bodies have never been found. Despite the offer of a £1,000 reward, nobody has come forward with any information.

 

Whilst I live on the edge of the Bowland Fells, the closest I have ever come to seeing a Hen Harrier is on the Forest of Bowland boundary road signs- the birds are the emblem of the AONB. So perhaps it is somewhat ‘cheating’ to paint one. Nonetheless, I painted this in memory of Hope and Sky, the young birds who went missing last autumn. I hope very much that this painting is misnamed and that one day I might see a live Skydancer, gliding above the moorland."

 

It is easy, therefore, to appreciate how Janet felt when she heard of the recent loss of the Hen Harriers in her area.  So, in addition to helping organize a Hen Harrier Day event in the North West, she contacted BAWC with a very generous offer.

 

On her website http://jmr.org.uk she is offering for sale limited edition Giclee prints of “The Last Skydancer”. The print is generated from a high resolution digital scan and is printed on 310 gsm fine art paper. The Giclee printing process provides better colour accuracy than other means of reproduction and archival quality inks ensure that the prints will not fade over time. The prints are supplied mounted ready for framing and measure 51 x 38 cm (20" x 15").

 

Each print costs £72, from which £16 will be donated to Birders Against Wildlife Crime, to be used to increase the awareness of the plight of the Hen Harrier. Please note that the prints are printed on demand and delivery takes approximately one month. Postage and packaging is free within the UK. Please contact Janet at jmr@jmr.org.uk for delivery prices outside the UK.

 

We would just like to thank Janet so much for her generosity and urge you to buy a print.