Henry’s tour day 40: Geltsdale

Tues 9 June Copy

Henry paid a visit (under heavily armed guard) to the RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve in Cumbria, scene of the latest hen harrier ‘disappearance’.

A team from Channel 4 News was also at Geltsdale to talk about ‘disappearing’ hen harriers – that programme aired on Tues evening (9th June). If you missed it, it’ll appear on Channel 4 Catch Up in the next few days.

It was good to see the issue of hen harrier persecution featuring on a national news programme and it was even better to see who the grouse-shooting industry had put forward as their spokesman – one Duncan Thomas, ex-Police Wildlife Crime Officer (Bowland) and currently working for BASC. Some of you may remember him from last year’s Countryfile – we blogged about his performance here.

Here’s what he had to say on last night’s programme:

There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that these birds have been persecuted. They could merely have moved on or died from natural predation. We’ve had a horrendous spring up here, many many species have suffered as a result, as a direct result of that, and in all the time that I was [Police] Wildlife Crime Officer and doing this job [BASC], I’ve not seen direct evidence of human persecution. I’m confident that everybody up here is doing their bit to make this work. What we need is the Hen Harrier Recovery Plan to be able to reintroduce and to spread this species in to suitable habitat and to get the population back to a level where everybody’s comfortable with“.

‘No direct evidence’ is probably the line used by those defending Jimmy Savile for all those years. Truth will out in the end – it always does, and we are all well on the way to exposing that truth to a much wider audience than ever before.

What Mr Thomas forgot to mention is the management of the grouse moors adjacent to the Geltsdale reserve. Wonder who owns those and perhaps more interestingly, who the sporting agent is?

The presenter, Tom Clarke (Science editor, C4 News) chose his words carefully and did a reasonably good job, although he needs to check his research when he claims that ‘hen harriers are doing quite well in Scotland’ – they’re actually not – see here.


14 Responses to “Henry’s tour day 40: Geltsdale”

  1. June 10, 2015 at 2:26 am

    If Henry goes back to the Forest of Bowland he should get one of his admirers to take a photo of him in font of one of the FoB signs. It might be the only Hen Harrier he is likely to see.

  2. 2 Stewart Abbott
    June 10, 2015 at 6:11 am

    Reintroduced to suitable habitat! What is he on? They were on suitable habitat. What a #>^*.

  3. 3 elizabeth snell
    June 10, 2015 at 6:19 am

    The RSPB spokesman was far from the best they could have supplied and not robust enough. He could have poured out some facts to show that 5 male harriers going missing is an extraordinary % of the population and highly unlikely to be caused by bad weather, flying into pylon lines etc. That final line from the presenter about them doing well in Scotland was just what people want to hear…oh that’s ok then, go back to sleep. RSPB man could have made the point that the only places that have successful harriers are non-grouse areas of Scotland and Wales. I know one can’t influence the final piece that goes in but at least ‘our’ chap could have spoken in a more animated way, and been louder! He was the most softly spoken of the lot or is it me?

  4. 4 Stewart Abbott
    June 10, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Totally agree Elizabeth, came across poorly. Where was the passion, disappointment & anger?

  5. 5 Stewart Abbott
    June 10, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Totally agree Elizabeth, where was the passion and anger. Almost came across as Ah well!

  6. 7 Bridget Carrington
    June 10, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Sorry – Correction: MARSH harrier eggs!

  7. 8 John Taylor
    June 10, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    I haven’t seen C4’s piece, but if the earlier observations are correct then the RSPB missed an opportunity there. I do think our anger should be coming across loudly at every opportunity; could it be something to do with the word “Royal” in the RSPB’s title that’s connected to the problem here?
    And once again the BBC’s “Springwatch” series failed to alert millions of people to the plight of our Harriers: the Team were talking about Marsh Harriers last night and could so easily have mentioned the appalling situation we have in the UK regarding Hen Harriers in particular.

    • 9 Val Badger
      June 13, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      The ‘disappeared’ five actually did get a mention on Thursday 11th, the final programme of the series with a comment about the persecution suffered by this species.

  8. June 10, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    The ” Harriers are doing quite well in Scotland” comment was worrying as many people, who do not know the subject, now believe that Harriers are doing quite well in Scotland when, as you have pointed out, they are certainly not doing well. As for Duncan Thomas! We wonder if Alex Hogg and Mr Thomas have been to the same school of nonsense statement making. Thank goodness he is no longer a wildlife crime officer, that’s all we can say.

    Can we just use this opportunity to give a shout out to the marvellous Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre in Ayrshire. Gay and Andy have spent many years (25) rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing thousands of wild animals including many birds of prey and they have their open day this Sunday the 13th. You will get a tour of the site and learn about the work of the centre. There will be food, drink, stalls and entertainment also. You can Google their website to find out more and get their address.

  9. 11 Grouseman
    June 10, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Wait a minute I thought two years ago all the headlines screamed ‘harriers extinct as a breeding bird in England’ and everyone lamented claiming they would never breed in England again and this spring there was 11 nesting pairs being monitored? This just shows Harrier populations, like everything, flucuate according to several factors including food supply, weather, predation and yes, persecution. In a Europian scale the Hen Harrier is thriving and as a result of migration there will always be Harriers nesting in Britain.

    • June 11, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      I find yours an unbelievably complacent attitude. Those who have studied this species are confident that the evidence they have found suggests that there should be a sizable population in England not the meager handful that only manage to nest thanks to round-the-clock protection. The population here should not be dependent on “migration” from the continent but should be a self sustaining population. Neither am I sure that it’s accurate to describe the European population overall as ‘thriving’ – admittedly the figures I have to hand are a decade or so out of date, but of 21 countries listed the species HH is declining (sometimes markedly) in 11, stable in 5, fluctuating in 2, increasing in 1 and trends not given in 2.

    • 13 Marco McGinty
      June 11, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      “Wait a minute I thought two years ago all the headlines screamed ‘harriers extinct as a breeding bird in England’ and everyone lamented claiming they would never breed in England again and this spring there was 11 nesting pairs being monitored”

      I don’t recall anything of the sort. It may have been suggested that the species was coming perilously close to extinction as a breeding species in England (which it was at the time, and still is). However, are you stating that that the monitoring of 11 nesting pairs (many of which have since failed as a result of persecution), in an area that should support many hundreds of nesting attempts, should be seen as a success story?

      “This just shows Harrier populations, like everything, fluctuate according to several factors including food supply, weather, predation and yes, persecution.”

      Nobody has suggested otherwise, and it’s all patently obvious, so why bother mentioning it? But as you have mentioned it, as a result of the zero tolerance approach to predators, it is quite obvious that there would be an abundance of food on grouse moors, so can you give an explanation as to why the Hen Harrier fares so badly in these areas?

      “In a European scale the Hen Harrier is thriving and as a result of migration there will always be Harriers nesting in Britain.”

      So it should be OK for the shooting industry to relentlessly persecute them? The warped and twisted mind of a pro-shoot supporter has been revealed for all to see. So, following your logic, it should be acceptable for all of those organisations that concentrate on invertebrates to cull the majority of passerine species, especially if they have a migratory instinct, and they have favourable European populations? Or what about those hirundine species? Should house owners or tenants be able to destroy the nests of Swallows and House Martins, especially if the house owners or tenants are being inconvenienced by the droppings produced by the two named species?

      And while we’re on the subject of favourable European populations, there are hundreds of thousands of Willow Grouse, so why does the shooting industry have to eradicate all known predators in their attempts to increase grouse numbers?

  10. 14 Me
    June 14, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I’ll need to watch the Channel 4 programme to decide if Mr Thomas allegedly got to where he is by the ” it’s not what you know,but who know” route.Of course it could be both these factors as allegedly some people aren’t as “two faced” as they make out and should not be prejudged.

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