Monday 22 August 2016



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










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• the RSPB have withdrawn from the Hen Harrier Action Plan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



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.




























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 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 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.