16
Oct
15

What grisly fate awaits these two satellite-tagged hen harriers?

Bowland HH Jude LaneAs part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life+ Project, the movements of two satellite-tagged hen harriers can now be followed online – see here.

The two birds are called ‘Holly’ and ‘Chance’.

Holly had her satellite tag fitted in June this year by members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group, assisted by the MOD Police and was one of three chicks from a nest located on high security MOD land at Coulport. She was named after a member of the production crew from BBC Scotland’s Landward programme after appearing in a special feature about hen harriers and the threats these birds face from illegal killing (see here). Holly fledged in August and has since left her natal area, moving in to the uplands of central Scotland.

Chance had her sat tag fitted in June last year by members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group and was named by RSPB Scotland staff. She travelled south from her nest in SW Scotland to the RSPB Wallasea Reserve in Essex at the end of October (2014), before crossing the Channel to spend the winter months in western France. Chance came back to the UK in spring this year but has since returned to France via Wales.

The RSPB’s explanation for sat tagging these two hen harriers (and others) is: ‘To better understand the threats they face and identify the places they are most at risk‘.

To be frank, there is already a very good understanding of the threats they face and of the places they are most at risk; it’s been known for at least 20 years that these birds are illegally killed by gamekeepers on driven grouse moors. It’s no mystery and it’s no secret.

However, that’s not to say that continued satellite-tagging is without purpose. There’s a very important reason for continuing to do it, and that is to raise public awareness by getting people ‘involved’ with these individual birds (hence, giving them names) and showing people the birds’ movements (via online maps) so that when they are eventually shot, trapped, poisoned, or they simply ‘disappear’ in grouse moor areas (it’s inevitable), the public outcry will be considerable and the subsequent pressure on the authorities to actually do something about it will be greater. That is, assuming the police decide to publish the information, but it’ll be harder for them to keep quiet if we all know the birds have stopped moving.

There are already plenty of examples of satellite-tagged hen harriers either ‘disappearing’ or being found shot, so nobody should expect anything different for Holly and Chance. Here are some of the well-known individuals from the last few years:

Hen Harrier Annie – found shot dead on a Scottish grouse moor in April 2015 (here).

Hen Harrier Heather – found shot dead at a winter roost site in Ireland in January 2015 (here).

Hen Harrier Sky – ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Lancashire in September 2014 (here).

Hen Harrier Hope – ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Lancashire in September 2014 (here).

Hen Harrier Sid – ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire in September 2014 (here).

Hen Harrier Blue – ‘disappeared’ somewhere (location not revealed) in October 2013 (here).

Hen Harrier Bowland Betty – found shot on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire in July 2012 (here).

Hen Harrier Tanar – ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Aberdeenshire in June 2011 (here).

Hen Harrier (unnamed) – ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in southern Scotland in October 2011 (here).

And then there were the 47 hen harriers that Natural England sat-tagged between 2007-2014. Last year we were told that four were still known to be alive, six had been found dead, and a staggering 37 birds (78.7%) were ‘missing’ ‘somewhere’ (see here). Natural England has been persistently coy about telling us us where those 37 birds went missing, even though the satellite tagging project has been funded by us taxpayers.

Bowland Betty

And of course it’s not just hen harriers that we’ve watched meet a premature death. Other species have also been sat-tagged in recent years including Montagu’s harrier ‘Mo’, who ‘disappeared’ on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk last year (here) as well as at least eleven golden and white-tailed eagles (listed here), including some very high profile cases such as golden eagle Fearnan (found poisoned on a Scottish grouse moor here), golden eagle Alma (found poisoned on a Scottish grouse moor here) an unnamed golden eagle that had been illegally trapped on a Scottish grouse moor before being dumped in a lay by (here) and the first fledged white-tailed eagle in East Scotland for over 200 years who ‘disappeared’ on a Scottish grouse moor (here).

So, contrary to the belief of the Hawk & Owl Trust who earlier this year told us that fitting satellite tags to hen harriers “would prevent any gamekeepers from shooting them in the sky” (see here), gamekeepers don’t give a toss whether the bird in their gun sight is carrying a transmitter or not because they know full well that they are highly unlikely to get caught, let alone prosecuted. Not one of the above cases has resulted in a prosecution. So, no, the purpose of tagging isn’t to directly save the bird, but indirectly it just might, if enough of us follow the online movements of Holly and Chance and all the other tagged harriers that will be part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life+ Project and then shout from the rooftops when each bird is illegally killed. It’s going to happen, and we are going to shout.

Top photo: Bowland Betty alive (photo Jude Lane).

Bottom photo: Bowland Betty dead (photo RSPB).

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33 Responses to “What grisly fate awaits these two satellite-tagged hen harriers?”


  1. 1 steve macsweeney
    October 16, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Persistence pays.Never give this up! You will win in the end.
    Respect.

  2. October 16, 2015 at 7:48 am

    A quote from the RSPB’s appeal page;

    ‘£10 will help pay towards a satellite tag. By tagging the birds we can follow them wherever they roam and take action to protect them when they stray into danger.’

    The invetible outcome, you say, is death by persecution with no alternatives. The RSPB protection plan does not seem to work then. Why does the RSPB fail to protect these harriers when they stray into danger, as stated in their appeal advert.

    • 3 George
      October 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

      I would propose, David, that given the inaction of the legal authorities and the continued persecution by grouse shooting interests, that no matter what the RSPB they would be frustrated by the current state of affairs. “Brood management” would only result in those who are persecuting them appearing to co-operate while large numbers of them would continue to die on grouse moors with overall numbers remaining low. They would remain low for the simple reason that any harriers which stray on to grouse moors, and they are very mobile birds covering much territory, as satellite tagging has illustrated, would be summarily killed when the opportunity presented itself. In my opinion the answer lies not with the RSPB but with the relevant legal authorities to commit more fully with their remit and to thoroughly investigate and prosecute these wild life criminals…. and to keep the public fully informed during the course of these various processes. What the RSPB could do would be to support the “Ban Driven Grouse Shoots” movement and thus attract more supporters to what appears to be the only way forward at this time. To in some way blame the RSPB for failing to protect hen harriers is ingenious, as it is the authorities and the shooting estates who hold the key to eradicating this problem. Meanwhile, satellite tagging will continue to help identify the locations of where these crimes are committed, and thus identifying who might be responsible, as well as providing other data which can be garnered to further protect these birds. I might be missing something however, David, so any ideas you have in regard to solving this problem would be welcomed. I do wonder however, that if you are concerned about their continued survival why you have not placed the focus on those who are committing these crimes against them, rather that those who are attempting to intervene on their behalf.

      • 4 Jack Snipe
        October 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm

        We should use every means at our disposal to eradicate these illegal activities, and I agree with George in the case of Hen Harrier persecution that the only feasible way forward is to get rid of the blight of grouse shooting from our heather moors. This would be so much more achievable with RSPB support. However I’ve yet to hear any meaningful explanation why the call is only for driven grouse shooting to be banned. What do we do if we are successful in achieving that objective, then discover that walked-up grouse shooting involves exactly the same level of harrier control? Or that like the fox hunting scenario, the hunters merely establish some ridiculously contrived loophole to allow them to continue? I believe we are making a mistake by not calling now for a ban on all grouse shooting. If we accept a compromise it could be near impossible to take it a step further, and harriers will continue to be killed. I have personal experience of several examples of this, and what do many estates currently do when grouse are in short supply? They release thousands of red-legged partridges onto the moors, an entirely unsuitable habitat for the non-native species (one shooting estate with which I am familiar even released 2,000 domestically reared Mallard onto a heather moor!). Predators are also ruthlessly exterminated to save these substitute ‘mini-grouse’ for the guns.

  3. October 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    The other reason to keep doing this is that if you dont then the killers and their apologists will deny any harriers are being killed. [and unbelievably there are some shooters still naive enough to believe the drivel coming from certain sections of the shooting community..despite decades of hard evidence, including film of birds being shot]. Keep at it..doing nothing is not an option.

  4. 6 Marian
    October 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Hello, the Raptor team,

    I want to write to our local paper – on the occasion of Wildlife Crime Week starting Oct. 19 – about the plight of hen harriers et al, mentioning Mark’s petition – am I able to use some of the damning evidence you cite above? I shall of course quote RPS as source.

  5. 8 Bruce Barclay
    October 16, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I joined this blog because I thought it was a site concerned with the welfare of raptors. I have in the past helped various organisations in spotting and making them aware of raptor nest sites and sightings of the raptors themselves so I have a vested interest in the conservation and protection of these beautiful birds but I’m sad to say and quite angry that this blog seems to be just full of grouse moor bashing and bashing the hunting and shooting community in general. I have shot all my life and mix with what seems to be this sites enemies , keepers, shooting fraternity etc. In the majority of cases, these people have a great concern for the conservation of raptors and wildlife in general and I think it’s ignorant of this site and some of the people who post, to tar every grouse moor and person who like to shoot with the same brush. In my experience the majority of people involved in these things will avoid or report if any illegal persecution is taking place on a piece of land and not associate with them again. There is too much energy expended on hating, belittling, ignorance and in some cases pure bigotry when I feel more constructive actions and words could be used to try and help raptors throughout the Uk. Yes, I agree there are unscrupulous keepers and land owners out there and yes I think they should feel the full force of the law but please stop pooling everybody who likes to shoot n hunt or game keepers in the same pot as the stupid people who do not care. There are many more raptors killed or there habitats destroyed by other man made actions and I feel that solely focusing on and expending all that bile on grouse moors n keepers is an oppertunity missed and passion wasted. We should be focusing on the general welfare of raptors and the conservation of there habitats and the state of the natural kingdom.

    • October 16, 2015 at 8:10 pm

      It’s always fascinating when people comment on here, usually for the first time, and try to dictate what material we should or shouldn’t cover. Funnily enough, it’s usually always someone from the shooting industry that disagrees with our position. The usual angle is ‘You’re being unreasonable’, ‘don’t tar everyone with the same brush’, ‘we’re not all at it’, ‘let’s all sit down and talk it through’ blah blah blah blah.

      We’ve heard it a million times before. Sorry mate, it’s far too late for talking. The game shooting industry has had 60 years (actually, 61 years) to sort itself out. We’re tired of waiting.

      You’re entitled to your view, ‘Bruce’, and welcome to post it here, but to be frank, editorial decisions are none of your business. If you don’t like what’s written here, feel free not to read the blog. Cheerio.

    • 10 Bruce Barclay
      October 16, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      In reply to your somewhat inaccurate assessment of my post. Firstly I do not want to or intend to dictate what you or others should or should not cover on this site. As stated, I joined the site as I’m concerned and always have been concerned with the plight of raptors, there habitats and nature in general. After reading the material on here, I was concerned that you/ others seemed to be advocating that there was only one community that persecuted raptors and that everybody concerned with that we’re all raptor killers. Again I reiterate that the majority of people in the shooting community are concerned with the conservation of raptors and our countryside. It is not my fault that you seem incapable of understanding that.
      Secondly, I’m not part of the shooting community but living in a remote part of Aberdeenshire for most of my life, quite understandably the people I meet, friendships I have and vocations bring me in contact with ” the shooting community”. I have seen first hand the concern and protection offered to raptors by the ” majority” of the people I have met in this field. On one occasion witnessing the expulsion, in-friending, exiling and reporting to the police of a bloody idiot taking a pot shot at a buzzard on a shoot ( luckily not hitting it) with the keeper being the main person to punish and report the idiot. You well be right and maybe keepers like this and shooting parties like this are thin on the ground but in my experience, there are far more than you give grievance to. I firmly believe that communication and working with keepers, land owners and the like will reap more rewards in the long run. Fighting or attacking this sector will only make them more defensive and less willing to listen. Extremism on both sides of the equation creates a massive gap which makes it very difficult to change minds or actions and to just get along.
      I want the same as you or what I think you want, Persecution of raptors and there habitats to stop but come at it from what seems a very different angle.
      I truly wish you the best if this is indeed your intention to stop the persecution of birds of prey but feel that you should not dismiss people with different approaches as yours so readily and viciously as I think we need as much support as possible.

      • 11 Jack Snipe
        October 16, 2015 at 10:19 pm

        Bruce, maybe if you and your ilk extended your concern and compassion to the Red Grouse and other legal quarry species which you shoot for personal entertainment, we might not have such cause for dissent and disagreement. I suggest you take up birdwatching instead, a harmless and rewarding hobby which does not involve bloodshed, but can have a competitive element if that’s what turns you on. You could then truly help and support nature conservation without the contradictions. There is also the advantage of not being complicit in wildlife cruelty of the legitimate and illegitimate varieties. Then perhaps we could all live in harmony. Imagine.

      • 12 Jimmy
        October 16, 2015 at 10:21 pm

        Fair enough Bruce – but if the sport is not happy with its image then it needs to cough up the more than a few bad apples within its ranks that continue to commit serious wildlife crimes on a near daily basis. The proof that things are getting better is when raptor populations on Grouse moors start approaching levels that would naturally occur in such areas without illegal killings. We are still a long,long way from that state of affairs.

      • 13 kevin moore
        October 19, 2015 at 9:40 pm

        Bruce , I will just repeat what RPS have said, we have heard it all before, ” its just a minority of bad gamekeepers” ” they do great work for conservation on the moors” “should be working together” etc etc etc , these same comments have been peddled out for years and nothing has changed,if anything it has got worse, gamekeepers and themoorland landowners are interested in grouse and only grouse, and anything that predates on the grouse is wiped out.

    • 14 Marco McGinty
      October 22, 2015 at 3:35 am

      Just in case Bruce is still reading, I will respond to some of his remarks’

      “but I’m sad to say and quite angry that this blog seems to be just full of grouse moor bashing and bashing the hunting and shooting community in general.”

      If you had bothered to read any of the other posts going back a few years now, you would soon realise that other organisations, industries and individuals are all on the receiving end of criticism. That ranges from all political parties and many individual politicians, some aspects of the farming community and its associated organisations, pigeon fanciers, and of course some conservation organisations, so your comment is utter tripe.

      “I have shot all my life and mix with what seems to be this sites enemies, keepers, shooting fraternity etc. In the majority of cases, these people have a great concern for the conservation of raptors and wildlife in general”

      Really? You honestly believe that? If these people have such a concern for wildlife in general, can I ask you for an explanation as to why each and every species of the following list are killed in numbers each year, or the keepers and the shooting industry would like to see them killed? We have creatures such as Fox, Hedgehog, Otter, Pine Marten, Badger, Stoat, Weasel, Polecat, Wildcat, Brown Hare, Mountain Hare, Rabbit, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel, Osprey, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl, Long-eared Owl, Raven, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Jay, Magpie, not to mention all of those other species that are accidentally killed in snares or other types of traps.

      “In my experience the majority of people involved in these things will avoid or report if any illegal persecution is taking place on a piece of land and not associate with them again.”

      Is this evidence-based, or is it just in your imagination? Google is quite a good search engine, so would you be willing to offer some links that can prove that your “majority” of those involved in the shooting industry report illegal persecution?

      “but please stop pooling everybody who likes to shoot n hunt or game keepers in the same pot as the stupid people who do not care.”

      As far as I am aware, that has never happened on this site, so it would appear that you are deliberately lying to try and win your argument. Many people on here accept people shooting for the pot.

      “There are many more raptors killed or there habitats destroyed by other man made actions”

      Would you be prepared to name these other activities that kill more raptors?

      “We should be focusing on the general welfare of raptors and the conservation of there habitats and the state of the natural kingdom.”

      We are, and that is why we are opposed to driven grouse shooting and all of its huge, environmentally destructive practices.

      • 15 Bruce Barclay
        October 22, 2015 at 9:17 am

        Marco mcginty, I would like to respond to comments and unfair assumptions about me and my post. The passion shown by you is admirable in your concern for raptors but your criticism of me and my views are somewhat misguided. Even though I advocate the freedom of speech and to have individual personal views, I feel I have either not explained myself properly, you and others see/read what you want to or are so blinkered by your hatred that it wouldn’t matter what I wrote or thought.
        Firstly I will repeat again my life long concern and active participation in the conservation of raptors and other wildlife. I am also sickened by the lack of proper and real punishment handed out to people who persecute raptors and especially the estate owners as in the case of all other businesses, the guys at the top are responsible for the actions of there workforce and the impact of there business on others, the environment and the public in general. So why are these people not held to account by a weak legal system? I have personally taken action to report animal cruelty, helping to get a ” pet shop” closed down for animal cruelty, reporting and giving evidence against illegal snaring and trapping to the police, spotting and helping to monitor raptor nest sites,to name but a few. I reiterate, I am very concerned by the welfare of raptors and there habitats. So please do not presume to know me or how I feel.
        I have read many of the threads but not all and the majority of them seem to be about shooting estates and grouse moors which I agree whole heartingly is an area that needs a huge overhaul in relation to persecution of raptors and wildlife in general. My comment is not ” utter tripe” as you kindly and intelligently remarked. Like you I maybe got the wrong impression, did not read properly or presumed.
        I did not say that my views of the shooting fraternity and keepers was all encompassing but based only on the people I associated with and know personally. Whatever your views on hunting and shooting , the people I know show a huge concern for the environment and the animals and birds living in the areas concerned, improving habitat and increasing numbers and variation of wildlife that was either very scarce or not there at all.
        My personal opinion on what I’ve read on here has given me the impression that you ” pool” everybody who hunts or shoots in the same manner and I have tried and say again that the people I know, however small a number they might be, are not the type of people who persecute raptors or other wildlife. I never once mentioned hunting for the pot but I agree that it is acceptable if properly managed as in the shooting grounds I went to or know well.
        As for other activities that kill raptors in greater numbers, at present I cannot give you exact figures as i don’t have the information at hand but would be more than happy to collate them and send them to you in the future. But off hand, smile of the biggest killers of raptors and bird life include, nearly 2 birds per wind turbine per year( which if you factor in how many of them would be raptors is far too much), the use of pesticides, chemicals in industries, pollution caused by cars/vehicles, collisions with vehicles, pylons, cables etc, destruction of habitat for industry, intensive forestry and urbanisation, not to mention all and more of these in the countries that these birds migrate to and from and en route, global warming and the associated problems caused by this, illegal collection of eggs n chicks for falconry here and abroad, etc. These I’m sure you will agree kills more raptors than grouse moor “management” and hunting and shooting activities put together. I’m not trying to say that it is not significant or that something should be done to toughen the laws as I’ve said before, I’m disgusted by the lack of real punishment for these activities but it is a small part of a bigger picture. The idea behind the morality of hunting, shooting n fishing is a different matter.
        I have a great concern for the welfare of all wildlife and the ecology of our country despite what you presume to know. I hope I have made myself clearer but would not expect or demand you agree with me. I think we have the same goals but a different route to achieve it.

        • 16 Marco McGinty
          October 22, 2015 at 8:43 pm

          Here we go again, with the “blinkered” nonsense again. Judging by the very fact that you have not even attempted to tackle most of my questions, I’ll just assume that you didn’t bother digesting any of my comment.

          At no time did I question your activities regarding wildlife conservation or animal welfare, and I never presumed to know you in any way, so there really is no need to go on about it, but as you have brought up the subject of animal cruelty, how does this fit in with your shooting activities? I would have thought that someone with major concerns about animal cruelty, the protection and welfare of wild creatures, and the conservation of natural habitats, would instantly distance themselves from an industry that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of native creatures each year, by various methods such as shooting, trapping, snaring, bludgeoning and poisoning. It does seem a tad hypocritical to hold such beliefs on animal welfare one minute, only to offer support for that most environmentally destructive and cruel industry the next.

          As for my remark that your comment was utter tripe, I was justified in using such a term, as you categorically stated that the blog was only aimed at attacking grouse moors and hunting and shooting in general. Yes, many of the articles on the site will be aimed at the grouse moor industry, or other shooting estates, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why that is the case. I also pointed out that various other groups and individuals are also targeted for criticism, by the blog owner/author, and of the many individuals that use the site. For example, just go the archives for September and October where you will find articles dedicated to criticising the Scottish Government, and many individual comments doing likewise. The police will also regularly be on the receiving end of some robust examination, as are the judicial systems, and politicians. I shouldn’t have to explain it any further.

          You did state that “In my experience the majority of people involved in these things will avoid or report if any illegal persecution is taking place on a piece of land and not associate with them again.”, however you have conveniently managed to sidestep that question by more or less regurgitating the same comment, so it is indeed just an anecdotal comment. If you can’t provide any evidence to support this claim, it is utterly pointless trying to use it as an argument.

          However, you followed it up with “the people I know show a huge concern for the environment and the animals and birds living in the areas concerned, improving habitat and increasing numbers and variation of wildlife that was either very scarce or not there at all.” Guess what, I’m again going to ask you for some evidence to support this claim. In what manner are these people improving the habitat and increasing numbers and variation of species?

          I never stated that you did mention hunting for the pot. I brought this subject up to counter your argument that we “pool” everybody that shoots into the one category. I merely used the fact that many people on here accept that people will take the odd pigeon, duck or goose for the pot, which soundly defeated your argument. It was a fairly straightforward comment, but you clearly had some difficulty in understanding it, as you have again repeated your nonsensical argument.

          Regarding your beliefs on those other raptor-killing activities, please don’t send them to me when you have finished compiling them, just post the results on here. That way, everyone has the chance to analyse your data. But I do have to delve into some of your accounts.

          You are using pure guesswork on the impacts of wind turbines on raptors, so it would be fair to dispense with this theory until you can provide some factual evidence. Then you have mentioned pesticides and industrial chemicals. It would appear that you have randomly used these two in a mistaken belief that they will somehow assist your theory, but I honestly don’t believe that any of these will result in more raptor deaths than the combined efforts of the UK’s grouse moors. Then you claim that pollution caused by cars and other vehicles kills more raptors than grouse moors. Really? This is then followed by collisions with vehicles. Again, it is nonsense to suggest that this is responsible for more raptor deaths than grouse moors, and it is the same with your assertion that pylons and cables pose a bigger threat to raptors.

          But the one thing you have conveniently ignored, is that any death caused by those “raptor-killing activities” mentioned above, would be accidental. None of them could be considered a deliberate act, which is the exact opposite of zero tolerance approach used on the majority of grouse moors.

          Egg collecting, as despicable as it is, only takes out one clutch, so unless the same pair is being targeted year after year, the long term impact on a pair is negligible. The same can be said for the taking of chicks for falconry purposes. Grouse moor management, on the other hand, is responsible for killing adults, immature birds, juveniles and nestlings, and it is a concerted year-round effort, so it’s not quite the same.

          However, I will agree with you on the issue of the perils faced during migration, or in a birds formative years when it spends much time in a state of vagrancy, as it has been proven time and time again that these birds just disappear whenever they venture onto land managed for grouse shooting!

          If you are able to provide any evidence that these individual activities kill more raptors than grouse moors (and they must be taken as individual activities, and not as a combined total), then please do so and I will reconsider my stance.

          • 17 Jack Snipe
            October 22, 2015 at 10:25 pm

            Marco, I agree with almost everything you write, but am slightly concerned at some points which I think create a diversion. I realise they were brought up by BB in the first instance. It’s very difficult for us to determine how many raptors are killed by the shooting industry and individual ‘marsh cowboys’, just as precise figures as far as I know are unavailable for traffic accidents killing raptors. One sad aspect of the Buzzard increase during the 1980s was the resulting rise in dead Buzzards by the side of motorways, and for much longer than that we’re all too familiar with the sight of dead Barn Owls by the roadside. Estimates of raptor casualties at windfarms are notoriously unreliable, and some recent studies cast further doubt on the accuracy of industry standard collision risk assessments. It seems highly probable that they underestimate the casualty rate.

            Surely the important point is that these factors cause unintentional mortality of raptors, incidental with a technological society? It’s old hat for the pro-hunting lobby to introduce such distractions into the shooting and raptor persecution debate. However there is only a remotely tenuous connection between one person wholly unintentionally running over a pheasant, or even a Buzzard, and another ruthlessly destroying a nest full of Hen Harrier chicks, for the purely selfish reason of preserving a few more Red Grouse to shoot. One is accidental, the other unethical. As a society we should do everything we can to design out artificial hazards to wildlife, including some lateral thinking about energy generation, but the inhumane slaughter of raptors to protect a minority’s recreational interests is worthy of campaigning against. I just wish more naturalists, birdwatchers and conservationists would become actively involved.

            My only area of fundamental disagreement with Marco (not that he’s on his own holding this view) is that I do not think it is necessary in this modern country to “shoot for the pot.” That’s just an excuse put forward by hunters to justify their sadistic pleasure seeking. I’m not a vegetarian, and used to being accused of hypocrisy, but I do also campaign for better husbandry and slaughtering conditions for the domestic animals which provide our meat. Vegetarians and certainly vegans often disagree with me, but I’m satisfied that it is natural for humans to eat meat. I don’t deny we still have a long way to go to ensure that the rearing and slaughter of animals is carried out as humanely as possible. It seems to me that the pro-hunting lobby has again been disingenuous and drives us into a corner where we might feel obliged to be concessionary and say that “shooting for the pot” is acceptable. We don’t need to believe that and I don’t.

            • 18 Marco McGinty
              October 23, 2015 at 2:38 pm

              Jack, I did mention that Bruce’s “raptor-killing activities” were all as a result of accidental deaths, but perhaps it got lost in amongst the text. It is nonsensical of the shooting lobby to use these deaths in an argument, but trying to switch the topic from the widespread criminal activity associated with shooting onto something entirely different and unconnected in any way, does seem to be a frequent tactic used by the criminal apologists. That’s why we have to take this argument of theirs, and disengage it at the earliest opportunity.

              I agree, it is impossible to gauge the exact numbers killed by the methods Bruce suggested, but he has categorically stated that these activities “kill more raptors than grouse moor management and hunting and shooting activities put together.”, so if he can’t provide any evidence to back his claim, then again his argument is defeated.

              In relation to the “one for the pot” situation, it would appear that we are at an impasse. I support your belief that there is no real need for those living in a modern society to do so, but I also believe that there are people out there that have “opted out” from society and prefer to live in a self-sufficient manner. The “one for the pot” rule, whether that be bird, mammal or fish, certainly applies to this small, disparate group of people, and as long as the rule is adhered to by those few people, I don’t have a problem with it.

              Killing for fun, on the other hand, is abhorrent, and it should not be deemed as acceptable in any modern society.

              • 19 Jack Snipe
                October 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm

                You seem to have missed my point that anyone shooting wildlife for fun can excuse it to your satisfaction by claiming to have “opted out from society” and to be shooting “for the pot.” That’s an argument frequently used by grouse shooters to justify their actions. Also, the implication is that it’s okay to shoot certain species for the pot but not others. Why discriminate? Would you really not have a problem if you watched, as I have, hunters shooting dozens of Snipe “for the pot”? It’s perfectly legal to do so, but in my book it’s unnecessary and unethical. It’s also fudging the fight against raptor persecution, and reminds me of the argument that Americans have the right to bear arms for self defense. I’m all for people opting out of society, but not to do so in a manner that is so offensive to those of us who care about wildlife conservation and welfare. Call me selfish but I’m sick of my days out attempting to birdwatch in the peace of the countryside being spoiled by encountering the cruelty and violent disturbance by idiots, blasting away at everything in sight, whether they’re doing it for the pot or not. You also seem to have “no problem” with falconry, but are you aware of the illegal hunting which is widespread in that practice? I could show you an area where not only were Grey Partridges driven to final extinction by Goshawk handlers, but September was regarded as the prime Corncrake hunting season. One hawker I know claims to have killed more Corncrakes than I’ve seen in my local patch! Right now they’re out there stalking the hedgerows with their Sparrowhawks after Fieldfares and Blackbirds. Once they used Merlins to hunt Skylarks in winter, but can’t find the Skylarks any more due to agricultural changes.

                • 20 Marco McGinty
                  October 23, 2015 at 9:56 pm

                  And you appear to have missed my point. There are some people, albeit not many, that have opted out from society, and they live off the land, sustainably taking anything that the land can produce. That could mean a single bird, animal or fish being taken each week, which is a far cry from any “sport” shooter using the “one for the pot” as an excuse. Let’s face it, many of those involved in the shooting industry are wholly reliant on lies and misinformation, so anyone sensible enough would immediately see through the lie.

                  On the contrary, I have seen “sport” shooters in action, and I find their behaviour abhorrent. I agree that it is unethical and unnecessary, but again this cannot be compared to those few people that carve out a meagre existence by living off the land. The two ways of life are completely separate.

                  Furthermore, those that are living off the land are unlikely to disturb your birdwatching activities, however the scene you depict of “idiots blasting away at everything in sight”, is once again that of the “sport” shooter.

                  And finally, where did you get the idea that I had “no problem” with falconry? The only mention of falconry came in the following comment, “Egg collecting, as despicable as it is, only takes out one clutch, so unless the same pair is being targeted year after year, the long term impact on a pair is negligible. The same can be said for the taking of chicks for falconry purposes.” To me, it seems a straightforward analysis on the impacts of egg collecting and falconry, in comparison to the systematic killing of all raptors, no matter their age, which is carried out by many of those involved with shooting estates, and within the text it did include my personal opinion on egg collecting (and indeed falconry). I honestly thought that by using the word “likewise” the intention would have been obvious. Evidently not.

                  • 21 Jack Snipe
                    October 24, 2015 at 12:33 am

                    Marco, this is getting too personal. Don’t you realise that by prolonging this sideline debate you’re proving my point entirely. Who are these societal “opt-outs” you refer to? I’m not familiar with that sector of society apart from a few “survivalists” who are trying to prove themselves to be independent (and macho) with no responsibility to their fellow human beings. You must introduce me to one of these more noble savages of which you seem familiar. If you had used the example of poor people in a third world country who have to hunt to survive I would have been more convinced. I have absolutely no objection to that.

                    Sorry to repeat myself, but what we’re disagreeing on is a separate issue which can only lead to confusion when you introduce it to your otherwise top notch arguments against grouse shooting and its consequences for raptors like Hen Harriers. Haven’t you noticed how the shooting community has hijacked the sustainability argument, as have pleasure shooters in general, by saying that they are practicing a “sustainable sport” as hunter gatherers? Compromise is for the sanctimonious and certainly not an appropriate tactic in the war against those who persecute raptors. In my case it would be dishonest.

                    I’ll be careful with my words in future as you have a tendency to take remarks too literally. Inverted commas aren’t always quotation marks, and my use of them regarding you having “no problem” with falconry was to emphasize irony. I felt your comment was perhaps playing down the significance of chick theft for falconry purposes, and seized the opportunity to expand upon the more complex problems which arise from that particular criminal activity. For some reason I’ve never fully understood, the RSPB is either unaware of these or have decided not to tackle the problem. I find that falconers (or ‘hawkers’ as they call themselves around here) are even more secretive than gamekeepers, and some of them are more prone to react with violence against whistle-blowers. I’ve already been threatened with serious harm for revealing the Corncrake secret, so I didn’t mention it lightly.

                    • 22 Marco McGinty
                      October 24, 2015 at 2:17 am

                      “Don’t you realise that by prolonging this sideline debate you’re proving my point entirely.”

                      And yet you continue to respond to the same issues, again and again.

                      “Who are these societal “opt-outs” you refer to?”

                      Despite what you think, there are people out there that believe they don’t fit in with a modern society, and they would much prefer to live a basic life. Living off the land is the way for a few people, so you can choose to believe it or not. Their way of life is no different to that of the third world peoples you refer to.

                      “Haven’t you noticed how the shooting community has hijacked the sustainability argument, as have pleasure shooters in general, by saying that they are practicing a “sustainable sport” as hunter gatherers?”

                      And they are clearly lying, therefore it is up to us to dispel the myths whenever we can. Those that are living off the land, taking the occasional bird, mammal or fish, are the ones that are truly practicing sustainability, so I honestly don’t see the problem in illustrating the vast differences between the two, thus defeating the shooting industry lies in the process.

                      “Compromise is for the sanctimonious and certainly not an appropriate tactic in the war against those who persecute raptors.”

                      I’m not offering any form of compromise. It is patently clear to me (and I’m quite sure it will be clear to many others), that there is a world of difference between someone living off the land in a sustainable manner, and those that want to kill animals for fun.

                      “I felt your comment was perhaps playing down the significance of chick theft for falconry purposes, and seized the opportunity to expand upon the more complex problems which arise from that particular criminal activity.”

                      Then it was a poorly formed impression. The comment was clearly aimed at demonstrating the differences between losing a single clutch or brood in one season, as opposed to losing birds of differing ages throughout the whole year.

                    • 23 Bruce Barclay
                      October 24, 2015 at 10:13 am

                      Marco, I think I need to explain myself further, to you especially, before I get accused of supporting bear baiting or similar.
                      I did not intend or want to sideline the importance of the persecution of raptors on grouse moors but only to try to point out the widespread deaths and casualties, intentionally or unintentionally caused by mans treatment of the environment.
                      Firstly, at no point have I said I support, condone, accept or excuse the shooting lobby or there persecution of raptors or any other wildlife. Ian not part of the shooting lobby nor have I ever been, or shot on a organised grouse moor( but have been a beater loader picker upper etc) or shot in a heavily organised shoot of any kind but have in the past, but not anymore, taken part in ” rough” shooting with a friend or small group of friends on a well managed piece of ground. I find the illegal persecution of all wildlife abhorrent and have already said I can’t understand why the legal system is so weak in punishing these crimes especially in the case of grouse moors and sporting estates but also in the general community. I find organised grouse, pheasant, geese, duck, snipe etc shooting to be a very short sighted, out dated and immoral activity which has gone on for too long but this could be the reason for the difficulty in changing views as it is ingrained into the life of certain sectors of society. But maybe the better management, policing and education of the shooting lobby especially the young, might be a step in the right direction, leading to the cessation of these organised slaughters. It sometimes feels that the more you try to ban or stop these things the higher and stronger the defences get of the shooting lobby and the attacking back becomes more ferocious and organised, putting more effort into keeping there “sporting” activities alive and well. So maybe just maybe an increase in the educational approach, directed mostly at the young and strong policing and punishment of wildlife crimes might make a difference. I, like you I think, am impatient for this to happen but for the life of me I can’t see how attacking, trying to ban or belittling the shooting lobby, however much we hate what they do, is going to change or stop illegal persecution of raptors at any a faster rate than putting effort into educating the young and old alike and strengthening the legal system.
                      I hope you can see through what seems to be the fog of your false impression of me, my intentions and views and see that in general we are in the same side and that sometimes, maybe sometimes, your views may not always be right or morally on a higher level than mine. I feel you have to garner support from all areas and routes leading to the same conclusion , not to preach righteous indignation from that high horse you seem so comfortable sitting upon. Hopefully I have never attacked your views on raptor persecution but have offered a different route to the same goal and can only apologise if I have or not made myself clear. Judgements on people sometimes can be made rather quickly.
                      Again, I reiterate, I have a huge concern for wildlife conservation and a special interest in birds of prey.
                      I would go through some of the points you raised about my post but my eyes are tired, my brain has stalled for the day, my fingers raw and my heart saddened by your unfair assessment of me, maybe another time!

                    • 24 Marco McGinty
                      October 26, 2015 at 8:41 pm

                      “Marco, I think I need to explain myself further, to you especially, before I get accused of supporting bear baiting or similar.”

                      Bruce, to date, nobody on this site has accused you of anything, so I don’t know where all this paranoia is coming from.

                      “I did not intend or want to sideline the importance of the persecution of raptors on grouse moors but only to try to point out the widespread deaths and casualties, intentionally or unintentionally caused by mans treatment of the environment.”

                      Then why bring these issues into the debate? There is a massive difference between deaths through accidental collisions and the deliberate killings carried out by the death squads on shooting estates.

                      “Firstly, at no point have I said I support, condone, accept or excuse the shooting lobby or there persecution of raptors or any other wildlife.”

                      I don’t recall anyone suggesting you do, or did.

                      “I find organised grouse, pheasant, geese, duck, snipe etc shooting to be a very short sighted, out dated and immoral activity which has gone on for too long but this could be the reason for the difficulty in changing views as it is ingrained into the life of certain sectors of society.”

                      But according to you, and this is a direct quote of yours, “I have shot all my life and mix with what seems to be this sites enemies, keepers, shooting fraternity etc. In the majority of cases, these people have a great concern for the conservation of raptors and wildlife in general.” You can’t have it both ways. They’re either wonderful ambassadors for conservation, or they’re backward thinking sociopaths. (It’s the latter of the two, just in case you’re wondering!)

                      “But maybe the better management, policing and education of the shooting lobby especially the young, might be a step in the right direction, leading to the cessation of these organised slaughters.”

                      Well, the shooting estates don’t appear to be able to manage or police their gamekeepers, and the shooting industry persistently plays down the scale of the problem, sometimes to the extent that we have heard wholesale denials regarding persecution. As for the police, I have mentioned it before, and I will mention it again – they are corrupt, and have shown very little interest in trying to combat persecution. As for educating the shooting lobby, well if they are in constant denial of the problem, or they persistently seek conflict, then how do you suggest we attempt to educate them.

                      “It sometimes feels that the more you try to ban or stop these things the higher and stronger the defences get of the shooting lobby and the attacking back becomes more ferocious and organised, putting more effort into keeping there “sporting” activities alive and well.”

                      So should we just sit back and allow the killing to continue? What possible positive outcome could be achieved but standing aside, allowing, the killings to continue uninterrupted?

                      “but for the life of me I can’t see how attacking, trying to ban or belittling the shooting lobby, however much we hate what they do, is going to change or stop illegal persecution of raptors at any a faster rate than putting effort into educating the young and old alike and strengthening the legal system.”

                      But, I thought the “majority” of these people were fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizens, that would instantly report any unlawful activity? Why can’t this “majority” use their influence and put a stop to the criminal activity within their profession?

                      “I hope you can see through what seems to be the fog of your false impression of me“

                      Again, we appear to delving into the paranoia here. I have had issues with some of the points you have raised, and I’ve questioned you on your beliefs. It’s all part of the debating process.

                      “I feel you have to garner support from all areas and routes leading to the same conclusion , not to preach righteous indignation from that high horse you seem so comfortable sitting upon.”

                      And with that wee sermon, it would appear that you have stepped off a very large Clydesdale yourself! Practice what you preach, and all that bollocks.

                      “Hopefully I have never attacked your views on raptor persecution”

                      You have made various claims that you oppose persecution, so why would you attack my views?

                      “Again, I reiterate, I have a huge concern for wildlife conservation and a special interest in birds of prey.”

                      And again, although we only have your word on that, no-one has debated that point.

                      “I would go through some of the points you raised about my post but my eyes are tired, my brain has stalled for the day, my fingers raw and my heart saddened by your unfair assessment of me, maybe another time!”

                      What assessment? Instead of constantly imagining that people are against you, and instead of repeating the same points, you could have spent some of that energy in tackling my comments.

  6. 25 Jack Snipe
    October 16, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    I’d suggest a more holistic appraisal would be appropriate, lest we forget the extent of environmental and ecological damage caused by moorland management for grouse shooting. Raptor persecution is top of the list for many of us, but it’s quite a long list. There are many reasons for abandoning grouse shooting.

  7. 26 George
    October 17, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Well, Bruce, I, too,live rurally and have also spent a few years living in various Angus Glens but my experience of the shooting industry differs vastly from yours. Throughout most of my life I have been a “countryman” (I participated enthusiastically in blood sports too at one time) and have had in depth relationships with both shooters, non shooters, gamekeepers and beaters .. but .. to be honest .. it is hard for me to recognise the picture you attempt to paint. The general atmosphere of “perverse masculinity” seems to pervade the shooting community it is the biggest bag or the opportunistic killing of a much hated raptor which appears to raise an individuals standing in those communities. The post shoot drinking session which often comes after a days “sport” tends to be a popular venue for such boasts. Not too long ago I was told by a close friend, a long standing member of the shooting community, of a dead wildcat photographed with it’s full length displayed on a bale of hay (for “kudos” I expect) … and this by a guy associated with a local organiser of all things hunting. Like you, however, I do not tar every person who shoots with the same brush … but I would say that most all feel bound by the code of “omerta” when it comes to reporting such crimes to the relevant authorities. For example, did you report the incident of the individual taking a pot shot at a buzzard as you would someone attempting to break into a Post Office? Or did the “wall of silence” descend and the guy was left to try to be a little luckier the next time? Did any other members of the group object or report this incident? The truth is, Bruce, that any beater or gamekeeper who breaks this “wall of silence” will never be employed again … and all know that. Like the Trade Union activists who came before them, albeit in a different environment, they understand fine well that they would be blackballed should they be seen to be working against the perceived interests of those who employ them. If shooters themselves wish to be seen as helping to eradicate wildlife crime then they should take a stance against it, like they would any other crime, and aid the arrest and prosecution of those engaged in it. Let me assure you those who would take that stand would be applauded and welcomed by the vast majority of the public an could possibly give a lead to others who also have serious moral qualms about what they have witnessed, or heard of, and have done nothing about. They could put your “sport” on a new footing with the public who are finally having their eyes opened as to the practises and consequences of the illegal acts which are endemic in the grouse shooting industry. I am sure that a few instances of actions like these would have more influence as far as the lessening of condemnation of the shooting industry as whole goes, than all the meaningless words uttered by the shooting lobby for many, many years.

  8. 27 Jack Snipe
    October 18, 2015 at 1:29 am

    George’s comments set me thinking. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘countryman’, but more of an edge of townie who took a great interest in natural history from an early age. Over a period of fifty years I’ve got to know quite a range of people with different interests in the countryside, from farmers to foxhunters, agricultural contractors to gamekeepers. In amateur, semi-professional and professional circles I’ve been involved in dealings with most country sports men and women, some quite socially. It’s those in this latter category that are the richest source of information within which a code of silence usually operates, especially gamekeepers in the local pub who have maybe had one drink too many. In fact this is the main reason I write on this blog under a pseudonym, but I’m not someone who is afraid to be open with my opinions in any company.

    It’s mildly frustrating not knowing most of the people who contribute to RPS, especially the organiser(s) themselves, so it’s difficult to know how much of this ‘insider’ information I can or need to communicate effectively. I don’t wish to appear arrogant or patronising; on the other hand some of what I could reveal would sound invented or even conspiracy theorist. Apart from stating the rather obvious fact that the deeply entrenched ‘countryman’ ethos that George refers to is very true, and that their tight-knit community is far more clever and devious than we might give them credit for, there is one particular fact that I hope could be more widely recognised.

    It was at least thirty years ago when a gamekeeper first confided in me the practice of offering up a “sacrificial” harrier nest to the local RSPB or Nature Conservancy (now SNH) Officer, and keeping them up to date with the progress of the nest to give the impression they were not persecutors of harriers. In the meantime, all other nests on their patch (up to five in one year) were either destroyed or the adults and/or nestlings killed. A very effective strategy, similar to what they did with the local Peregrine pair, removing all but one chick from the nest – the first time I recall hearing the term “brood management.”

    That’s why it didn’t surprise me at all to hear of the English scenario this year whereby harriers that the RSPB were monitoring were apparently shot, away from the nests of course, whilst the only six nests that were successful just happened to be on or close to grouse moors where RSPB were not “looking after” the birds. I think it extremely likely that this counter-intuitive result arose as an extension of the devious plotting of which I have long known these people are capable.

  9. 28 George
    October 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for your honesty Jack, as I can discern the truth of what you say from my own experiences. Some raptor workers (though thankfully very, very few) and worse i.e. The Hawk and Owl Trust, have been taken in by the type of gamekeeper you talk about. This is, I feel, because they have no experience of these people in social circumstances where they feel under no threat and are familiar only with social groups whose dynamics and relationship to the truth is very different from these characters. I have no real beef with the majority of gamekeepers as they are only manifesting behaviours and habits bestowed on them by those who went before, without really being exposed to different opinions ; and each and every one of us rationalise when it comes to our employment. I am, however, under no illusions as to how the practise contradicts the rhetoric. What is worse, or at the very least, just as bad, is that it gives the occasional raptor worker/enthusiast a sense of security and they take no precautions when approaching the nests of raptors in the territory of a supposed “enlightened” gamekeeper. This simply makes it so much easier for the keepers to locate and summarily deal with nests they might have missed. I have personally witnessed a raptor worker dressed in bright clothing appear over the horizon and make straight for the nest while taking no precautions to conceal his motive or the exact location of the nest… and believe you me, gamekeepers know every local raptor worker, the number plates of their cars and where they habitually park them. I do not impugn the raptor worker’s motivations but would certainly question their understanding of how this crew functions and, consequently, negatively affects the decisions they might make based on their inadequate understanding of that specific area. I feel that the more people who are made aware of these practises the more clarity will be given to the actual scale of the problem raptors are facing. Finally, thanks for exposing how they manipulate facts as to how killing a male hen harrier outwith their immediate nesting location can be made to look like the RSPB are less successful in protecting them than those who persecute them while, in fact, the opposite is true. Of course, deception and camouflage are the two skills that gamekeepers excel at, given the nature of their job.

  10. 29 Dave F
    October 19, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Interesting the area ‘Holly’ is frequenting – I recall seeing my first hen harrier in that area as a boy 30 years ago. Not sure how well they will do now with so much maturing planted forestry and wind turbines

  11. 30 kevin moore
    October 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Excellent and very interesting comments by George and Jack Snipe , a lot of it I can relate to and clarify happens here in the Forest of Bowland.


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