Six successful hen harrier nests in England this year: some perspective, please

hh LAURIE CAMPBELLIn response to the Telegraph’s wholly inaccurate article yesterday (see here), Natural England has issued a press statement outlining the breeding status of hen harriers in England this year.

The statement headline reads: ‘Hen harrier breeding season set to be most successful for 5 years’. On a superficial level, this sounds great, and for those who only read headlines rather than the details, they’d be forgiven for thinking that hen harriers are doing OK so what’s all the fuss about?

Perhaps this was the intended outcome by the person(s) tasked with writing the headline. It’s certainly played in to the hands of several organisations, linked with driven grouse shooting, who have been happily tweeting this ‘good news’ story.

But what’s the reality? You have to read further than the headline for that. It turns out that there were six successful hen harrier breeding attempts this year in the whole of England. Those six successful breeding attempts have produced 18 fledged chicks. Is this the most successful for five years? Technically, yes. If you look at the figures provided in the press statement (see here) then six successful nests is more than the four successful nests in 2011, one in 2012, none in 2013, and four in 2014.

But let’s just get some perspective here. We’re talking single figures. Less than ten, and certainly a lot less than the estimated 330 breeding pairs that a Government-funded report says England has suitable natural resources to support. Think about it. Six successful nests in the whole of England. In comparison, at Langholm this year there were also six successful nests, producing 17 young (see here). That’s six successful nests on a single grouse moor. And, notably, on a grouse moor that is being managed as a demonstration project, i.e. hen harriers are not being killed there. That’s pretty revealing.

That only six hen harrier nests have been successful in the whole of England this year is a bloody disgrace. It’s not a cause for celebration and it’s not ‘a positive step forward’, as suggested by Natural England. It’s a clear indication that the English hen harrier population is still being suppressed as a result of illegal persecution. No amount of superficial ‘good news’ headlines from the Government agency responsible for protecting hen harriers will change that.

The e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting (in England) is nearing 10,000 signatures, the number required to trigger a response from the Westminster Government. It would be terrific if that number could be reached before Hen Harrier Day this Sunday. If you think that six successful hen harrier nests in the whole of England this year is something to be ashamed of, as opposed to something to be celebrated, please add your voice here.

Going back to that made-up story in the Telegraph yesterday, Mark Avery has written some amusing opinion pieces that are worth a read: see here, here and here.

13 Responses to “Six successful hen harrier nests in England this year: some perspective, please”

  1. 1 Davy
    August 5, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Nice to see you ommitting the small fact that the sites “protected” by tge RSPB all failed despite £2 million in funding https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hen-harrier-breeding-season-set-to-be-most-successful-for-5-years

    • August 5, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Davy, try reading the information again, this time with your eyes open. You’ll see that not all the sites being monitored by the RSPB failed.

    • 3 crypticmirror
      August 5, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Not as if people with an axe to grind on raptor protection, RSPB policies in general, and anti-government funding, didn’t know where and what was going on. Yes it is suspicious that those sites failed, but not in the way you are hinting at.

    • August 5, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      Dear Davy…. 2Million???? over how many years? All spent on the exact sites that failed? The 2 Million spend is within the UK… not just England. Get facts” Get real!

    • 5 Marco McGinty
      August 5, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      Ah, but RSPB protection can only go so far, especially if gamekeepers’ guns are killing male Hen Harriers whenever the birds venture into the neighbouring killing fields. Of course, a similar fate will be in store for many of this year’s young birds, simply because the driven grouse shooting industry cannot operate without resorting to illegal activity. Just watch as sat-tagged birds disappear, and disappear, and disappear.

      And once again, it would appear that we have a pro-shooter using that pathetic tactic of trying to divert the attention away from illegal activity with the usual “RSPB bad” nonsense.

      So, Davy, and all of you game-shooting hypocrites, I take it then, with a UK Golden Plover breeding population exceeding 40,000 pairs, Lapwings exceeding 100,000 breeding pairs, Snipe exceeding 70,000 breeding pairs, and Redshank exceeding 20,000 breeding pairs, we won’t ever hear or read of anything from the shooting industry and their supporters about low wader populations?

      It will be interesting to see how the shooting industry will manage to get around that wee poser!

  2. 6 crypticmirror
    August 5, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    It is a pity these birds cannot be somehow enticed into urban areas (business estates tend to have green roofs, and so do increasing numbers of blocks of flats) to give them an urban stronghold the way other animals have adapted. A place they could colonize, secure, and then continually spread from would certainly be one that would have many keepies, farmers, and general nutcases (the like of which like to rave against government funding of non-right wing charities) fair foaming at the mouth.

    • 7 Dave Dick
      August 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      I remember the delight with which George Carse [now sadly, deceased raptor worker] told a Borders keeper that they had just found 20 pairs of sparrowhawks within the edinburgh city boundaries, in the 1980s…..however, lets not go down that route..the countryside belongs to all of us not just these ignorant killers who would turn it into a mere grouse and pheasant killing zone.

  3. 9 Andrew
    August 5, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Statistics – according to the figures in their table the last three years have been less successful than the previous three for number of successful nests! As you say not a success story at all.

  4. 10 Jeff
    August 5, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    It would be very interesting to see the barchart of how many successful pairs there were pre-2010. Any ideas where I might find these? I’ve looked in the JNCC framework document but can’t see anything.

  5. August 8, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Surely it’s almost impossible to relate your comments with regards to Langholm and a viable grouse moor? Isn’t it almost 20 years since any grouse shooting took place on Langholm?

  6. 12 Jack Snipe
    August 10, 2015 at 12:45 am

    The Hen Harrier is a bird which epitomises wildness, and what it needs is freedom to inhabit these wild places without persecution. If it started nesting on green roofs in urban areas it wouldn’t be the same enigmatic bird that it is. I look forward to the day when conservationists don’t have to supplement their natural prey or call for foxes to be controlled, both activities which I feel are missing the point (the latter can clearly be interpreted as hypocrisy). We should concentrate on getting rid of grouse shooting as an interim demand.

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