Shot hen harrier Rowan – here’s that x-ray

For those of you who have been following the story of the Natural England / Hawk & Owl Trust / Cumbria Police cover-up re: whether hen harrier Rowan had been shot (see here and here), the RSPB has just published the x-ray:


Is that a shattered leg bone with bits of shotgun pellet lodged in the soft tissue?

Clear, irrefutable evidence that Rowan was shot – not ‘likely to have been shot’, but most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, shot.

We’ll come back to this later – just off to meet some journalists – but Natural England / Hawk & Owl Trust / Cumbria Police have some very serious questions to answer.


64 Responses to “Shot hen harrier Rowan – here’s that x-ray”

  1. 1 Peter Cosgrove
    February 3, 2017 at 9:13 am

    That Defra Response in full “We have the best hen harriers in England, all the best hen harriers. Despite appearances none of them are dead, they were just sleeping when the x-rays were taken by our experts, the best experts”.

  2. 2 Dylanben
    February 3, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Looks as though they’ve painted themselves into a corner, which is going to take some getting out of!

  3. 3 Chris Roberts
    February 3, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Throughout my life I have had nothing but respect for our UK police. Unfortunately over the years, now in my 70’s, I feel very disillusioned with them due to all their ‘cover up’s’ and sadly, my respect for both them and our justice system in general is severely weakened.

    • 4 Dougie
      February 3, 2017 at 11:58 am

      You are far from alone in having that opinion.

    • 5 Andrew
      February 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      I have to say that I have exactly the same feelings, possibly exaggerated by the personal experience of a police officer lying in court to secure a minor traffic conviction – was the light red or amber? He blatantly lied about where he was. He didn’t see me and he was assuming it had to be red because of the sequence. It was marginal and I still maintain it was amber. As we left the court I told him what I thought of his evidence and what it had done to my feelings about the reliability and honesty of the police. Maybe he amended his ways..

      • 6 Simon Tucker
        February 3, 2017 at 2:03 pm

        Andrew: I had a similar experience only, in my case, the magistrates ripped the policeman to shreds as I proved he had lied on at least three occasions under oath, I know several policemen, who are good, decent human beings – but cannot bring themselves to admit that some of their colleagues are beyond the pale.

        • 7 Andrew
          February 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm

          My Magistrates comments were “why would this policeman lie” I was trying to avoid pointing out I had leathered it round the corner to beat the sequence of lights. The copper said he was behind me as I went through which was a downright lie as I was fully aware there was no traffic anywhere near me at 10pm. He was 200yards behind as he came through with his blue light flashing.

          Interesting program on radio about compensation bias last year. The researcher asked two of his friends who were policemen If they had ever got it wrong when arresting suspects. Both said no. Presumably even if the evidence was insufficient they still thought they had got it right. Recruitment requirements for the police tend to select people with a heavy tendency to compensation bias.

    • February 3, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Maybe i have missed something but this doesn’t look like fault of the police. I think i am right. Mark Avery doesn’t mention the police in his list of ‘likely lads’.
      The first draft of the press release by the police on 3 Nov used the words ‘had been found shot’ and ‘Following a post mortem examination funded by Natural England it has been established that the bird was shot’.
      Interestingly they asked NE, ‘if you feel more detail would be better I would be happy to do that’.
      ‘More detail’ not less.
      Even the first person at NE to look at the police draft wrote ‘the statement is perfect’.
      The meddling of the final police report on 7 Nov appears to have happened further up the food chain.
      Look for zealots.

      It was the press statement by NE & HOT on the 28th of Oct 2 days before the Westminster debate which is surely the smoking gun? The Post Mortem showing that the bird had been shot was passed to NE on 27 Oct. They acted very quickly but deliberately suppressed information for one reason only, propaganda purposes. The excuse of any judicial reasons is obviously a fabrication as shown by RPUK’s comparison with numerous other identical cases.
      The police appear to have had no involvement in the statement by NE/HOT at that time.

      Apart from the obvious questions about the doctoring of information, i am puzzled by the fact that the police are asking anyone about the content of one of their press releases (which was released on the same day as the e-mail and alleged meeting of Merricks with NE).
      Is this normal in other situations? This the fault i find of the police but maybe i am just naive.
      They should have released it immediately with minimum consultation and refused to have those words changed. If they hadn’t dithered it would have been in time for the debate.

      I am also shocked at the tone of the e-mails. This level of collusion and inward looking protectionism is part of the problem.
      PC Helen Branthwaite to NE: ‘Don’t want [other organisations] to get upset with us!’
      Stephen Murphy of NE to NE: ‘should the cooperation and help of the landowner be mentioned? From trying to borrow me(sic) a boat and then his chest waders he could not have been more helpful.’
      FFS, helpful would be pointing out culprits not lending waders!
      Philip Merricks to NE: ‘Good to see you’.
      There is nothing in these e-mails that seems concerned with the actual crime and the criminals.
      It is almost as if they are discussing the annual accounts.

      • 9 dave angel
        February 3, 2017 at 1:45 pm

        Agreed, other the comment about Stephen Murphy, which is well out of order.

      • 10 Iain Gibson
        February 3, 2017 at 4:33 pm

        I agree with anandprasad, and would say it seems perfectly clear that the collusion was between Natural England and the Hawk & Owl Trust. Nothing surprising about that. I also suspect they’ll word their emails more carefully in future. It’s too easy to forget about the possibility of a FOI request.

      • 11 SOG
        February 3, 2017 at 4:39 pm

        As you say, one should allow some sympathy to the copper. She may have come under pressure, from above or outside, due to the timing of events.

        • February 3, 2017 at 5:57 pm

          Just to be clear – there is no suggestion (on our part) that Stephen Murphy did anything wrong. He’s a diligent, knowledgeable fieldworker and it seems that the recovery of Rowan’s corpse was entirely down to his ability to accurately interpret sat tag data, his tenacity, and his field skills. In all the correspondence we’ve seen (some of which we haven’t published), at no point did Stephen Murphy suggest covering anything up.

          There is also no suggestion that the two Cumbria Police WCOs involved with this case did anything wrong – we might argue that they were naive to accept the word of Natural England on whether Rowan was shot or ‘likely to have been shot’, and that they should have checked with the pathologist at ZSL if there was any doubt, but in fairness to them, they accepted the word of the Government’s statutory conservation body in good faith, not with any intention to mislead, and why wouldn’t they accept NE’s word in such circumstances?

          However, our criticism is aimed further up the management hierarchy at NE, and at the senior management at Cumbria Police. We asked Cumbria Police, in an identical FoI to the one we sent to NE, for a copy of all correspondence relating to Rowan’s death, including the post mortem report, and a senior officer refused to release anything. We haven’t blogged about that yet, but we will do very soon. Cumbria Police are not off the hook by any means.

      • 13 lizzybusy
        February 5, 2017 at 1:41 am

        I’ve worked as a campaigns officer and done quite a lot of press work. The organisations I have worked for expect senior members of staff in all partner organisations on projects to be consulted about press releases precisely because they don’t want to damage working relationships.

        The sad thing is that organisations which initially start projects with good intentions can become bogged down in promoting good news stories about their work and partners, and especially in developing good working relationships with partners to the detriment of the campaign work and the truth.

        Grants are the main source of income of lots of campaign organisations and to get grants you need partners.

  4. February 3, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Tosh…. it was quite probably it was the work of the local vicar….. incensed by the sight of this devil bird he clearly threw the church roof at the bird and got lucky.

    HOT press office.

  5. February 3, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    I presume that a bird with such an injury would take a few days to die so i was being to harsh on Stephen Murphy regarding the landowner. Stephen Murphy appears to be involved with the actual tagging in the field.

  6. February 3, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    More lies and deceipt from Natural England, they are a complete con in all ways and should be called unnatural England.

  7. 20 Dylanben
    February 3, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Aside from all the questions as to who said and did what, the bottom line here is that both Rowan and Carroll – two young Hen Harriers – have been deliberately targeted and wounded by shot-gun users. Both have probably suffered lingering deaths, one the result of it having been shot.That’s the real message which we should be pushing! Also, how does this affect the HOT position in relation to its involvement in the brood-meddling proposals?

    • 21 Paul V Irving
      February 3, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      HOT said originally that any evidence of continuing persecution and they would withdraw from there co-operation in relation to brood management. Currently there is a deafening silence from their direction, their credibility is already almost rock bottom and the only way to retrieve it at all is to withdraw now. Failure to do this will condemn them to no credibility for a very long time or until Merricks is long gone.

    • February 4, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Paraphrasing slightly… the HOT said that they would walk away from the hen harrier cull project if the illegal killing did not stop. Then further clarified by stating that this only applied when their part of the cull began and as had not started yet, the chaps could carry on killing harriers as they see fit. (But it would help if they were discrete about it….. wink.

      If Merricks did not say those exact words…then he needs to understand thats how the rest of the world interprets his actions.

  8. 23 Northern Diver
    February 4, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Have you seen the statement on the Hawk & Owl Trust Facebook page? Now they know the bird was shot – one they had tagged themselves, not to mention all the others – are they going to withdraw from the HH Action plan, like they promised???

  9. 24 Dave Appleton
    February 4, 2017 at 12:21 am

    I’m sorry, but are you experts at reading x-rays? I see something that looks like a broken bone with some bright spots near the breakage. I am willing to believe that an expert might be able to deduce that the spots are metallic, and knowing the history of persecution of Hen Harriers it would seem very likely that it was shot. But can you explain how the x-ray would have looked if the bird’s leg had been broken by some other object and some grit had got lodged in its tissue? How do you know it might not look like this? To claim that this x-ray is irrefutable proof that the bird has been shot is ridiculous unless you have some supporting evidence that you have decided not to share. Objectively (and personally I like it when the police are objective) the x-ray shows, at most, that the bird was likely to have been shot.

    I’m sure all parties concerned saw the x-ray and concluded in their own minds that the bird had been shot, as I have, but for the police to release a statement that it had (definitely) been shot would rightly require more than them to be personally convinced. It would require them to have objective proof that the bird had been shot. It seems to be to be entirely reasonable, at least from the evidence you have presented, that they should use the phrase “likely to have been shot” instead of “shot”. And not just reasonable, but accurate, and sufficient. I’m really not sure what your beef is about – you seem to be making a huge deal about one press release that uses the phrase “likely to have been shot” instead of “shot”.

    Your suggestion that Philip Merrick and the Hawk and Owl Trust were covering up the truth has all the hallmarks of Trumpism. If you say it often enough people will believe it – and they do – but what is your evidence? One email from Philip seeking a conversation that may or may not have happened prior to the press release being signed off. You have no idea what was said in that conversation if it happened – for all you know Philip might have wanted to press home the importance of them including the information that it had been shot. I am at a total loss as to how you have concluded that Philip might have (a) wanted to and (b) succeeded in persuading the police to replace shot with likely to be shot. It seems to be that you want to believe ill of Hawk and Owl Trust and you are desperately seeking to find evidence of it where that evidence does not exist. And in true Trump style if you have no evidence, just suggest it’s true, and keep on suggesting it’s true, and encourage people who say it is so. Keep on churning out “alternative facts” that make people believe Hawk and Owl Trust are the villains.

    The effort you have gone to with freedom of information requests is impressive. But for what purpose? To protect Hen Harriers? No, for no other purpose that to take cheap shots at individuals and organisations that are doing their level best to protect Hen Harriers. And the fact that you are so willing to twist and interpret the slightest nuance of wording to suggest foul play or cover up that doesn’t exist is doing nothing but making their efforts more difficult.

    At the end of the day, another Hen Harrier has (probably) been shot and Hawk and Owl Trust are working their butts off trying to find practical solutions that have some chance of actually working to protect Hen Harriers while all you seem to be concerned about is denigrating them with the tenuous rubbish and alternative facts.

    Isn’t there enough actual raptor persecution going on that you have to pick fights with those who want to stop it? I don’t know what your agenda is, but if it’s to thwart genuine conservation efforts you’re going the right way about it.

    • 25 Messi
      February 4, 2017 at 9:25 am

      Hi Dave
      I assume you’re not the Dave Appleton from Natural England in Devon, involved in the hen harrier translocation down here? I genuinely assume not!
      You raise a wider point that the Hawk & Owl Trust team are ‘working their butts off’ to save hen harriers. Removing hen harriers from driven grouse moors to make way for – facilitate, enable – intensifying driven moorland management is what they’re working their butts off to achieve. That’s not nature conservation- it’s serving a damaging land use, turning a blind eye to persecution of other protected species and environmental damage. Releasing harriers into an area, such as the SW, where factors driving their near extirpation elsewhere – illegal killing – is not working butts off to save hen harriers, it’s creating a whole new set of problems. Better to work butts off to address illegal killing, rather than spreading the problem into new areas.

    • 26 Dylanben
      February 4, 2017 at 10:31 am

      It looks to me as though Mr Appleton is questioning the professional expertise and credibility of specialist veterinary staff at ZSL. They will have undertaken detailed examination of the remains of the bird as well as the x-ray plate. They are experienced in the interpretation of x-ray findings. They will have noted the opaque objects on the x-ray and will have checked them out before providing their report. I would have thought that this would amount to the ‘objective proof’ which Mr Appleton is seeking.

    • February 4, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Deary me…. keep up with the facts, we are not the experts, the expert was the vet that carried out the autopsy on the real dead bird. The expert had the x-ray and could find the entry wounds etc, …. on the basis of the all of the evidence the vet said “this bird has been shot”. Getting hold of the x-ray and publishing it is a very clear way of publicising not only the criminal behaviour of the shooting community, but the complete insincerity of their commitments.

      I am sorry to say that the HOT are not “working their buts off” for hen harriers. Your reference to “practical solutions” gives away your support for a cull of hen harriers simply to enable a few people to devastate 100’s of thousands of hectares of upland habitat in the interest of killing grouse for fun. Perhaps you might not think you are supporting a hen harrier cull but think it through, its the logical conclusion of the project (and then it will be all other raptors in the culling line).

      For me this is not about hen harrier, its about the health of the environment and all of the species that make it work. The hen harrier is just one species that it is now at the end of its tenure because of wide scale, intensive habitat destruction that driven grouse requires.

      From a distance, it very much looks like the HOT, a minor conservation charity is doing a bit of self-promotion by trying to play with the big boys. The big boys are bullies and the HOT have to do something nasty to get in on the game. Its all going to end in tears…..

    • 28 dave angel
      February 4, 2017 at 10:42 am

      ‘I like it when the police are objective’

      Initially the Police were intending to release a statement saying the bird had been shot.

      It appears therefore that, so far as they were concerned, the bird had been shot.

      That statement was revised following the involvement of NE senior staff and the Hawk & Owl Trust.

      Whether the revisal was as a result of their input remains to be seen.

      As things stand, there are questions that need to be answered.

    • February 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      David Appleton, that was very well argued but you are being a bit tricky aren’t you?
      You write
      ‘Your suggestion that Philip Merrick and the Hawk and Owl Trust were covering up the truth has all the hallmarks of Trumpism’
      First of all please define ‘you’.
      There is a post by RPUK and many comments by several people. Does your ‘you’ (and you use it more than once) apply to everyone!
      That is a logical fallacy. We aren’t an organization and no one is representing us. We are not all of one mind as you can see when Dave Angel put me right for a comment which i wrote which was in itself criticising Chris Roberts criticising the police. There are often spats on this site from people with similar views.

      Even if it were true that we were some kind of collective your quote above just isn’t correct, so you are actually the one doing a post truth trick. I personally would interpret the posts by RPUK as suggesting that HOT and NE and the police (see their first sentence above) are possibly involved in a cover up, hence the question mark in the original post and the need for an explanation. But why are you only defending HOT and not NE or the police? It is very chivalrous but a bit disingenuous. It gives you an opportunity to imply that RPUK are laying the blame solely on HOT.

      I don’t know if it was deliberate but you have avoided the fact that the wording of the police press release is highly unusual. I don’t know, i am accepting the expertise of RPUK on this matter. If you can find any other similar case where a bird was pronounced shot by the autopsy report and then later declared ‘likely to have been shot’ then please provide it and we can see it stands scrutiny. If you read the original RPUK post you would know that ‘‘the injuries are consistent’ with being shot is the wording usually used by the police but i presume this is only when there are no pellets visible. The pellets are there as clear as day.
      Are you arguing with the forensic evidence on this? That really is desperate.
      Even the Daily Express printed a story that it had been shot.
      Are they part of the ‘you’ conspiracy?
      FFS the HOT Facebook page even says it was shot!

      SOME comments have pointed the finger at higher up figures in NE and HOT and i am one of them but it is all supposition. The paper trail of evidence points in that direction. Personally i would suggest that it was Merricks but again that would be my best guess on the evidence and his track record. The motive is clearly there. So if you like you can target your rant at me.

      Even if the wording change was nothing to do with Merricks, several others have pointed out that this is highly relevant to him breaking his pledge to withdraw from brood persecution if the killing doesn’t stop. He has already tried to get out of this promise by some metaphor about the ship not sailing or some other utter nonsense metaphors so i will state that personally i would trust Trump over Merricks. Trump seems unfortunately to stick to his word.

      Even if i am right and Merricks made the suggestion of the phrase change it was NE who signed off on it, had something to gain from it and are equally culpable. I doubt the police even knew what was going on. Are you saying the doctored press release has nothing to do with the timing of the Westminster debate? That it was just an unfortunate coincidence?
      Zebras! (As in ‘when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras’).

      If i am wrong and Merricks and NE high heidyin had nothing to do with the phrase change and they have a convincing explanation i would love to hear it.

      • February 4, 2017 at 1:18 pm

        ” I don’t know what your agenda is, but if it’s to thwart genuine conservation efforts you’re going the right way about it.’
        If you think appeasing the grouse lobby with brood persecution and population and distribution meddling by HOT and NE and the distraction of lowland re-introductions are ‘genuine conservation efforts’ then i think it is you that has an agenda. An agenda which, if you are involved in the lowland introduction scheme, you are trying to hide.
        And yes i do want to thwart those schemes and support the banning of driven grouse moors as a real solution and conservation effort.

        HOT/NE are ‘thwarting genuine conservation effort’ by distracting from the real issue of the dependency and profiteering of driven grouse moors from organized raptor crime and in not calling for an outright ban or at the very least licensing of DGMs.

        • February 4, 2017 at 1:57 pm

          Oh and it just occurred to me that David Appleton conveniently failed to mention the lack of release and later refusal under FOI to show the X Ray. This is not according to RPUK normal in such a situation.
          Omission and blocking release of the X ray added to the doctoring of the police press release plus the timing are all highly suspicious.
          This is not in retrospect. RPUK and Mark Avery thought it was suspicious at the time and the e-mails have only increased this suspicion.

          • February 4, 2017 at 2:35 pm

            And failed to mention the HOT/NE press release on the 28th Oct, despite knowing for two days that Rowan had actually been shot:
            ‘Following an autopsy, Natural England has passed details to the police for Investigation‘.
            This what raised flags.
            That was three days before the Westminster Debate.
            I don’t see any Zebras only NE and later HOT.

  10. 33 Chris
    February 4, 2017 at 1:33 am

    I have to say Dave Appleton does make some valid points. Are you aware of any corroborating evidence that proves this bird was shot? If not, I think we do need to accept the statement “likely to have been shot” as the most accurate assessment in this case. I do feel there is a bias against the Hawk and Owl Trust which is based upon your dislike of their attempts, which may or may not be naive, to at least try to make the best of bad solutions work. It won’t be the first time the HOT has been discriminated against.

    • February 4, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Chris… everyone who saw and examined the bird confirmed it had been shot. It was only the folk with a political agenda that insisted that the verdict was watered down. Wake up.

      • 35 Chris
        February 5, 2017 at 12:23 am

        circusmaxim Don’t you dare tell me to wake up!! I was commenting on what I could see, and the information that had been made available at that time. Where was it written that everyone who saw and examined the bird confirmed that it had been shot? I do not have the benefit of being trained in interpreting x-ray images. And read my comment accurately, I was asking if RPS was aware of any other corroborating evidence that proves the bird was shot. THAT is me being open minded and questioning the evidence as it was available at the time. I do not accept blindly what I hear from anybody, and am certainly not “asleep”.

    • 37 Messi
      February 4, 2017 at 11:04 am

      There’s a bigger picture here, Chris. It’s legitimate to point out problems with the H&OT approach. It’s fair to be biased against what you describe as ‘the best of a bad solution’. Surely a bad ‘solution’ is a bad ‘solution’, whether one makes a good or bad job of it? I can think of a lot of bad things that I could do well – does that make it OK to do them?

      What exactly is upland hen harrier removal a ‘solution’ to? There’s no point removing hen harriers unless you also conduct the very intensive upland management required to deliver extraordinarily high densities of red grouse. Removing hen harriers simply perpetuates – facilitates this intensive upland management and all the other problems (such as the killing of other protected species) that accompany it. Philip Merricks is a single-issue, single species man – all he is looking at is hen harriers. H&OT turns a blind eye to other aspects of intensive upland management. Hen harrier removal is no solution at all.

      H&OT appear to have emboldened game keepers wishing to remove buzzards, the logic being that, if it’s OK to remove (very rare) hen harriers to protected (very abundant) grouse, why can’t one remove (very common) buzzards in order to protected (very common) pheasants. Licence applications for buzzard killing have increased since H&OT launched their brood removal proposal. H&OT refuse repeatedly to address this problem – I’m happy to be ‘biased’ against such an arrogant organisation that simply refuses to engage with difficult questions.

      Is it possible that the H&OT colluded to downplay this incident because they wish to deflect attention away from driven grouse moor managers? It seems plausible to me that the translocation project into southern England is also partly aimed at deflecting attention away from illegal killing in the uplands – ‘bury bad news’ by creating a ‘good news story’.

      Doing the wrong thing well doesn’t make it right; doing the wrong thing badly, and failing, is time wasting and reckless if one cares about hen harriers and upland management more than one’s ego.

      • February 4, 2017 at 1:41 pm

        ‘all he is looking at is hen harriers. H&OT turns a blind eye to other aspects of intensive upland management’
        Yes and ignoring the killing of all the other raptors on DGMs.
        Really the mind boggles. It is astounding that Steve Redpath ignores this too.
        I will get into trouble again but surely there is an ‘agenda’ here. I can’t find any other explanation.
        Do they really believe that brood persecution will suddenly make gamekeepers stop killing Peregrines etc.?

      • 39 Chris
        February 5, 2017 at 1:10 am

        Messi, please see my reply to circusmaxim above. I never said it was not a legitimate approach to question the H&OT approach, but I recognize that a worst case scenario must be considered. I am not a member of the H&OT, was many years ago though, and I know that it was set up by falconers and those interested in raptors. I am a falconer, and a conservationist. Falconers have done more for conservation of birds of prey worldwide, the recovery of the peregrine and the Californian Condor in the US and the Mauritius kestrel to name but a few, than many people commenting here have even thought about. Yet there is still an anti falconry element among the readers of this blog.

        This all saddens me, because the real issue of raptor persecution and it’s consequences to the environment should be what matters more to us than fighting about different approaches to what is a very complicated issue to make progress on. RPUK does a sterling job for the most part, that is why I support this blog, even though I don’t always agree. Comments that other people care more about their ego’s than hen harriers is not really helpful.

        I don’t shoot, never had any interest in doing so, but I know many who do. I can assure you I constantly raise the issue of raptor persecution with them face to face, and in a realistic and non confrontational way. How often have you done that? That is a genuine question, not a statement to boost my ego, or claim any moral high ground, our environment and wildlife needs more from us than that. This is the greatest value of RPUK to me, they give me the facts that enable me to do that. You might be surprised at how many of them also care about wildlife as passionately as you and I. Raising awareness of the wider concerns directly with them is how I feel I might just be able to make a small difference. I expect you will consider that naive, or perhaps even pandering to the shooting community, but like it or not, shooting has a powerful lobby and great financial influence, and thus far, outright and total opposition to it has had little effect.

        • 40 Messi
          February 5, 2017 at 8:59 pm

          Hi Chris
          The ego comment wasn’t directed at you, it was aimed at the chair of HOT. I’ve volunteered on one of his Kent reserves to know him well enough. I’ve also volunteered for HOT and donated at their Norwich peregrine watch, which I think is fantastic – I think it’s wise to separate HOTs long-running, excellent work on raptor conservation from the single-minded focus on harrier removal being pursued by its Chair. I am very familiar with how falconer expertise has been pivotal in conservation efforts for birds of prey (having worked a bit myself of Asian vultures, incidentally). I’m afraid that removing hen harriers from driven grouse moors facilitates intensive grouse moor management, period – there’s no point practicing intensive driven grouse moor management unless you can remove harriers, that’s they they keep getting shot. A better rounded solution is to allow for a reduced red grouse density – demand less – then more hen harriers can be accommodated and other problems caused by intensifying management can be addressed too.

  11. 41 crypticmirror
    February 4, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    [Ed: comment deleted. What you’re suggesting could be construed as harassment]

    • 42 crypticmirror
      February 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      It is not. Timewasting office bureaucracy has always been a valid form of protesting. There is no threats made, nor was I calling for any threat.

      [Ed: It doesn’t have to include a threat to constitute harassment. What you are proposing is most definitely harassment and it’s not something we will promote here]

  12. 43 Secret Squirrel
    February 4, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Well (and neatly) done RSPB

  13. 44 Dave Appleton
    February 4, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    A few responses to my comment from last night deserve a response.

    Firstly Messi, you are correct, I am not a Dave Appleton from Natural England in Devon, involved in the Hen Harrier translocation. Apologies – if I had realised I had a namesake involved like that I would have clarified to avoid confusion. I am a birder in Norfolk who has no connections whatsoever with Natural England. Equally I do not speak for Hawk and Owl Trust in any way – I am a member for reasons that I will make clear and I regularly visit their reserve at Sculthorpe Moor, but I do not know Philip Merricks or any of their staff who are involved with Hen Harriers at all and have, so far as I know, never met, spoken with or corresponded with any of them (I have met and corresponded with staff at Sculthorpe Moor but on completely unrelated matters).

    You (Messi) state that HOT are “removing hen harriers from driven grouse moors to make way for – facilitate, enable – intensifying driven moorland management”. I have seen no evidence that HOT wish to see the intensification of driven moorland management and it would surprise me very much if that was in any sense their objective. I see no objective evidence that they are turning a blind eye.

    Dylanben, no indeed I am not “questioning the professional expertise and credibility of specialist veterinary staff at ZSL.” I have not seen any report from ZSL and have not discussed it so I am not sure why you would think that. Neither am I suggesting that objective proof that the Hen Harrier was shot does not exist. However it has not been presented in this blog post. In this post we have been given an x-ray without any professional expertise and told that this, alone, provides, “clear, irrefutable evidence that Rowan was shot – not ‘likely to have been shot’, but most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, shot.” It does not. At all. That is an alternative fact. In other words a lie.

    Circusmaxim, I am at a total loss as to why you should think I have the least bit of “support for a cull of hen harriers”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am equally at a loss as to how or why you think that the logical conclusion to the project is a cull. What on earth is your evidence for such a bizarre allegation? I do, however, entirely agree that it is about the health of the environment and all of the species that make it work, not just about Hen Harriers. Something I am sure Hawk and Owl Trust would wholeheartedly agree with too. I don’t share your analysis of Hawk and Owl Trust’s motives one little bit.

    Dave angel, I think my original comment addresses your comment.

    Anandprasad, thanks, my use of “you” was perhaps careless. In the main I meant the authors of the post, who so far as I have seen are anonymous. But I was also aware in writing it that “you” could equally include a lot of followers and supporters of this blog too. I accept that there are differences of opinion. You are correct in observing my defence of HOT but not NE or the police. That’s not because I think the criticism of NE and the police is justified (in this case I don’t think it is, although I could probably think of plenty of other things to criticise NE for if I tried). It’s because I see Hawk and Owl Trust as making a laudable contribution to conservation and it is criticism of that from people supposedly supporting conservation that riles me the most.

    I don’t think the inclusion of a ? justifies the attack, RPUK know full well that a headline questioning HOT’s (and yes, NE’s and the police’s) motives will fuel the belief that HOT’s motives are bad without them actually needing to make the accusation, and that seems to be their intention. Unlike you I don’t accept the expertise of RPUK – I have seen too much conjecture dressed up as fact to accept their expertise in anything I’m afraid. As above, I am not disputing that the bird was shot.

    I don’t know anything about Merrick’s “pledge to withdraw from brood persecution if the killing doesn’t stop” but wonder if you mean the statement: “Should any Moorland Association, Game & Wildlife Trust, or National Gamekeepers Organisation member be proved to have illegally interfered with a Hen Harrier nest or to have persecuted a Hen Harrier on their grouse moors, the Hawk & Owl Trust would pull out its expertise from the brood management scheme trial.” As much as you (and I) may suspect that whoever shot this harrier might have been a member of one of these organisations, this criterion for withdrawal explicitly requires proof that is sadly lacking – therefore I don’t see any objective evidence for a supposition that Merricks has or will in the future break his pledge.

    I’ll ignore your comments about my agenda as they clearly stem from the misunderstanding that I may be a different person who works for NE and is involved in lowland reintroduction of Hen Harriers. For what it’s worth I think the majority of reintroduction schemes are misguided and am not convinced of the wisdom of this one, although I do not wish to debate this now as I haven’t looked into it sufficiently.

    Chris, thanks. Exactly.

    Messi, you have talked again of removing Hen Harriers. I appreciate you haven’t said this, but I fear some readers may think you mean complete removal and conclude that that is part of HOT’s plan. That may be an objective of some misguided gamekeepers perhaps, but complete removal of Hen Harriers is certainly not the objective of HOT or of the brood management scheme. Indeed there is NO removal of Hen Harriers in any given area unless and until there is a population of Hen Harriers remaining in that area. Given the choice between no Hen Harriers (the likely outcome of the combative approach by RPUK and others) and a population of Hen Harriers (the only possible outcome where Brood Management actually goes ahead) then I’d settle for the latter.

    If your only awareness of Philip Merricks is that received through the propoganda of RPUK and the like then I can’t blame you for thinking that Philip Merricks is a single-issue single-species man. In reality he and the Hawk and Owl Trust have a significant track record of conserving and improving habitat for a wide range of species. I would suggest that you visit Elmley one day.

    Your suggestion that Hawk and Owl Trust “have emboldened game keepers wishing to remove buzzards” is completely without basis. I am tempted to suggest that the increasingly combative approach by RPUK and others has emboldened gamekeepers wishing to remove Buzzards, but I won’t for the real reason for the increase in applications for Buzzard killing is surely obvious. In 2015 a Judicial Review ruled that Natural England’s/DEFRA’s decision to refuse a buzzard-killing licence the previous year was unlawful and this decision opened the floodgates for more. To suggest HOT are responsible is absurd. And as for HOT refusing to address this problem, well to be honest I’m entirely comfortable with that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t in the slightest bit approve or agree with the issuing of licenses to kill Buzzards to protect Pheasants – I think it is utterly wrong. But I don’t see it as a priority conservation issue. The Buzzard population is soaring and they aren’t under the least bit of threat. I am glad people are opposing it, I’m glad the RSPB have come out against it, and I’d be perfectly comfortable with HOT doing so as well if they chose to. But am I bothered if they’re focusing on protecting species of higher conservation priority and not getting distracted with Buzzards? No.

    I am completely and utterly and unequivocally against illegal persecution of raptors, and I see nothing in the words or actions of the Hawk and Owl Trust that suggests they are not too – indeed they clearly state that they are. Conservation cannot succeed without the cooperation of those who own land and those who manage land – it is utterly naive to suppose otherwise. I never expect to see full cooperation – there will always be bad eggs – but if we do not maximise the cooperation we cannot possibly expect to make progress. The combative approach cannot possibly succeed – and I see no evidence that it is succeeding.

    I joined Hawk and Owl Trust because I admire the fact that they are willing to take an unpopular stand with a policy which they believe, rightly or wrongly, will benefit Hen Harriers, and because that stand involves working with, and not against, a community of people who own or are responsible for managing land and habitat that is vital for conservation. I myself am not a landowner or gamekeeper, have never used or even handled a gun and have no interest in doing so. I don’t understand why some people enjoy killing things but I recognise that landowners and land managers have a vital and unavoidable role in conservation of habitat and species and we have NO OPTION of working WITH these people and not AGAINST them if we are serious about conservation. If you’re just in it for the fun of protest then keep up the anti, but stop pretending it’s for the birds.

    Remember, Raptor Persecution UK exists for “one simple reason: to highlight the relentless and illegal killing of birds of prey in the UK”. It is a protest organisation (“Our hope is that, as more people become aware…, more people will… stand up and say enough is enough”). Hawk and Owl Trust is not a protest group, it does not exist to highlight the killing, it is actually trying to do something about it. Whether or not you agree with how they’re doing it, they are “dedicated to conserving owls and birds of prey in the wild” and at least they are doing something, not just sitting behind their desks stirring up ill-feeling.

    I have no issue at all with those who disagree with Hawk and Owl Trust’s policies, e.g. brood management. My gripe is that Raptor Persecution UK and others are not merely debating the policy, they are actively seeking to create the impression that Hawk and Owl Trust are somehow colluding with those who are engaged in illegal persecution of raptors without a shadow of evidence or reason to think that is or might be the case.

    • 45 Chris
      February 5, 2017 at 1:34 am

      Dave, this is a well written response and better put than I could have done.

      The only thing I can add in relation to the brood management plan, is something that hasn’t been properly pointed out. If this goes ahead, the work would probably be done by Jemima Parry-Jones at the International Centre for Birds of Prey. Jemima is very well known, and respected (though not always liked) within the falconry community for her blunt and pragmatic approach to everything. She has already publicly mentioned her misgivings about the scheme with respect to the value of raising and re-locating hen harriers if they are still going to be shot, but she is prepared to put the ICBP expertise to the best use she can. Her ability to get things done and make a difference should not be under estimated.

      I will also say, in my opinion this plan is the best of a bad solution in the event of a worst case scenario, and I would hope is something we can avoid. A back up plan if you like. The situation is currently bad enough that we do need to be thinking about it.

    • 46 Mick
      February 5, 2017 at 2:57 am

      I don’t want to go into your entire post because frankly most of it is not worth commenting on. I know you’re not Dave Appleton from Devon, you’re Dave Appleton from Norwich and I’m sure you write a blog and have previously had a go at Mark Avery on it because he doesn’t do things in the way that you want him to, how dare he?

      Whether you are Dave Appleton from Norwich who writes a blog or not, you seem to expect people who have worked with the shooters and achieved absolutely nothing while doing so, to carry on doing the same thing. Meanwhile we have just had a breeding season which produced 3 pairs of hen harriers in the whole of England which is less than 1% of the number that could breed here. A quote rightly or wrongly attributed to Einstein applies “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

      Personally, I think you have the naivety of a child.

      People have tried to work with the shooters and things have not changed for the better. While the RSPB were trying to work with the shooters we were seeing birds of prey regularly turning up poisoned, shot and trapped. A person was photographed hiding in grass with a decoy hen harrier and a gun, males hen harriers went missing while the females had to desert nests, blow up dolls have been used on the moors to scare off birds of prey, Christ, we’ve had an osprey found dead with its legs broken next to a grouse moor, the damage was consistent with a bird caught in a trap.

      The instances of raptor persecution are not going away and the time of trying to work with criminals(that’s what a lot of them are, they’re not a few bad apples) has past because it doesn’t work, the shooters have been and still are taking the piss out of everybody who has tried to work with them.

      As for you claiming “In this post we have been given an x-ray without any professional expertise and told that this alone, provides, “clear, irrefutable evidence that Rowan was shot – not ‘likely to have been shot’, but most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, shot” It does not. At all. That is an alternative fact. In other words a lie.”

      The FOI request shown in previous articles shows that following a post-mortem it was decided that Rowan had been shot. “likely” only came into the story after HOT became involved and the police and Stephen Murphy of Natural England had already agreed to release a statement to say Rowan HAD been shot based on a preliminary post mortem report. That is a direct quote which you either have not read or you are ignoring on purpose. You clearly have an agenda (yes, we all probably have them) and are trying to belittle RPUK who do fantastic work, you sir, are a fool as all of the proof is contained within this website which you clearly have not bothered to read or you choose to ignore to suit your script.

      I have personally seen far too many birds of prey that were shot and the x-rays which are produced during post-mortem or during treatment when birds of prey are in rehab and still alive. Rowan was plain and simply shot and the fragment of lead shot are clearly visible on the x-ray and that is what will have been viewed and used to make a judgement. The odd angle of the injury is because Rowan will have had his legs tucked into his body during flight. He will more than likely have survived until he either died through blood loss or starved because he no longer had the tools to hunt and feed himself, either way he had a long and painful end to his short life.

      HOT are rightly being suspected because of their involvement and the timing of the wording change, please read the information provided before going on an uneducated rant.

      And here ends my rant.

    • February 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Please go and do some background reading. Try and get some basic understanding of the situation.

      The hen harrier plan that HOT supports sets a maximum density for upland harriers. Above that density they propose to remove and relocate the young… to unoccupied territory. Sooner or later, there wont be any suitable unoccupied ranges and the only solution, having set a maximum acceptable density will be to cull the birds. The underlying principal behind the HOT supported project is that it is OK to suppress hen harrier populations.

    • February 5, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      D. Appleton, Thanks for reminding me of the wording of the condition.
      It was also mentioned here with different wording

      I would suggest you read Inglorious because to be frank you obviously don’t understand the larger picture as shown by your comments to Messi. She/he gave you about as concise and eloquent a description of the situation as could be and you don’t even understand it.

      You wrote ‘ There is NO removal of Hen Harriers in any given area unless and until there is a population of Hen Harriers remaining in that area.’
      Your definition of ‘population’ is from a different version of reality to me.
      and to highlight a point
      “Incidentally, if two nests which were no more than 10km apart happened to be the only two in the whole of England, would the brood meddling process still be triggered?”
      ‘Yes, this is absolutely what they’re planning to do. There is no pre-determined threshold that the breeding population must reach before brood meddling begins. As long as one of those two nests is on a grouse moor, and the landowner agrees to the removal of eggs/chicks.’

      From a previous comment by me:
      ‘1 pair per 80km2 is less than a third of the density which Potts (1998), [the grousers bible according to Gilruth], states at 25km2 per suitable habitat would have little effect on shooting bags.
      Potts estimated that this would mean 1660 breeding females. So even if this brood persecution worked we are supposed to accept a density which if ‘rolled out’ for the whole of the UK would give us c518 pairs, considerably less than the c749 pairs in 2004!

      The The Hen Harrier Conservation framework puts the potential at 2514–2653 pairs and ‘favourable status’ was given as 2.12 pairs per 100km, which they considered conservative (Fielding et al. 2011).

      Ref: Thirgood, S., et al., Raptors and Red Grouse: Conservation conflicts and management solutions. Conservation Biology, 2000. 14(1): p. 95-104.
      Potts, G.R., Global dispersion of nesting hen harriers Circus cyaneus; implications for grouse moors in the UK. Ibis, 1998. 140(1): p. 76-88.
      Fielding, A., et al., A Conservation Framework for Hen Harriers in the United Kingdom. JNCC Report, 2011. 441: p. i-viii, 1-82.

    • 49 Messi
      February 5, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      Hi Dave

      First, apologies for suspecting you were the Dave from NE.

      I agree with some of what you say. For example, you respond to this comment from me: “removing hen harriers from driven grouse moors to make way for – facilitate, enable – intensifying driven moorland management”.

      ”I have seen no evidence that HOT wish to see the intensification of driven moorland management and it would surprise me very much if that was in any sense their objective. I see no objective evidence that they are turning a blind eye.”

      What I should have said was this: Removing hen harriers from driven grouse moors makes way for – facilitate, enables – intensifying driven moorland management”. In other words, of course Phil doesn’t wish to see the management of driven grouse moors intensified – you;’re right. But one consequence of hen harrier removal is that existing intensive management will continue – there’s no point practicing very intensive grouse moor management unless you can hold harrier density very low. It that sense, a consequence of hen harrier removal is the perpetuation of very intensive – highly damaging – driven grouse moor management. I don’t know how well you understand the legislation, but the places we’re talking about are more often than not SPA and SSSI, and the intensive management – which it’s only worth doing if someone removes hen harriers – is often illegal (look at Article 6(2) of the Habitats Directive and various related provisions in the UK Habitats Regulations [which will remain post-BREXIT, before anyone says that’s irrelevant!]). So, there’s actually a legal imperative to reduce the intensity of driven grouse moor management (those that are designated) and, if you reduce management intensity, you get fewer red grouse, and, with fewer red grouse, the reasoning for harrier removal drops away.

      You say:

      ”If your only awareness of Philip Merricks is that received through the propoganda of RPUK and the like then I can’t blame you for thinking that Philip Merricks is a single-issue single-species man. In reality he and the Hawk and Owl Trust have a significant track record of conserving and improving habitat for a wide range of species. I would suggest that you visit Elmley one day.”

      I have worked at Elmley and I know Phil. Lots of staff and volunteers have done great work there, and Phil drives around a lot.

      Do, please, try to distinguish criticism of HOT’s approach to hen harrier conservation from HOT’s long standing work in, for example, Norwich at at Sculthorpe. Maybe if you spoke discretely to some HOT site and project staff you’d not find as much support for Phil’s brood removal as you display.

      You say:

      ”Indeed there is NO removal of Hen Harriers in any given area unless and until there is a population of Hen Harriers remaining in that area.”

      My Understanding is that HOT et al. plan to remove hen harrier broods this summer if they can find any – I’m not sure what you mean by ”a population remaining in that area”. If two pairs are close enough within the next few months, the brood of one will be removed.

      Please remember – there is no point at all reducing the density of hen harriers unless you also continue to manage driven grouse moors very intensively, and the trend on driven grouse moors has been for an increase in management intensity over the last decade – there’s plenty of evidence of that in the peer-reviewed literature.

  14. 50 Dave Appleton
    February 6, 2017 at 1:44 am

    Mick, yes, there is much I disagree with Mark Avery about, but I do not have a go at him simply because he dares to do things differently from how I think he should. I will, however, happily debate how things should be done and I am prepared to call out people or organisations that appear to be more concerned about defaming and besmirching other conservationists and conservation organisations that are, whether you agree with them or not, doing their best for conservation.

    Thank you for suggesting I have the naivety of a child – I’ll take that as a compliment but I regret it is not true. I am all too aware of the bad things that happen on many grouse moors and elsewhere and, as I have already stated, I am well aware that whatever approach we take there will always be some who wish to continue these bad things.

    Again, I am not claiming the harrier wasn’t shot, nor that there isn’t proof that it was shot. And no, I haven’t read every blog post from RPUK so maybe there is evidence hidden within its pages that makes this clear. My point was, and stands, that the blog post that claimed to show clear irrefutable evidence did no such thing. I have no particular desire to belittle RPUK. If I have an agenda it is not to belittle anyone, but perhaps to discourage them from belittling others.

    Circusmaxim – thanks for the explanation. If the logical conclusion is that Hen Harriers become so widespread that there is nowhere suitable left to relocate them too then I’d call that a success. I certainly don’t want to see Hen Harrier populations suppressed, but I’d rather see Hen Harrier populations suppressed than no Hen Harrier populations because they’ve all been shot, which seems to be the very likely conclusion if things go on as they are.

    Anandprasad – thanks for the link to another RPUK blog post which appears to be another attack of Philip Merricks for no good reason. The words aren’t materially different so far as I can see, despite the title of the post. I can’t argue with your comments about the population as I haven’t currently got access to the paper on which the threshold is actually based (as opposed to RPUK’s interpretation of it). For what it’s worth though, I agree that removing eggs of one of only two nests in England would be wrong. I’d also be quite surprised if HOT supported it in such a case, even if this is theoretically possible under the conditions laid out.

    Messi – don’t worry about the suspected misidentification of me – perfectly understandable. Thanks for clarifying your point about intensification. I understand why intense management is connected to a desire to hold down Hen Harrier density and I can understand the argument (although I’m not convinced by it) that if Hen Harrier densities were higher there wouldn’t be any point in practising intense management. If we could find a practical effective way of maintaining (or rather restoring) high Hen Harrier densities and that did result in removing the demand for intense managment then great. This is the sort of debate I welcome – I don’t have a problem with anyone disagreeing with brood management. And on that note I absolutely agree with your plee to distinguish criticism of HOT’s approach to Hen Harrier conservation from HOT’s other work. That’s really what’s prompted me to get involved in this discussion. HOT do fabulous work and they have a refreshingly positive and cooperative approach to conservation. I never see Philip or HOT demeaning RPUK but what really riles me is people not simply disagreeing with and debating Philip and HOT’s policies but maligning them and creating tenuous conspiracy theories to make readers think they’re the enemy.

    For clarification, I have never said that I think brood management is the answer, and certainly it is not without problems. What I am convinced about is that landowners and land managers are, and always will be, critical to the success of any conservation effort. I keep hearing people say “we’ve tried working with the shooters and achieved nothing” or words to that effect. I suspect a more respectful approach to working with them and their managers/landowners might achieve more positive results, but even if I am wrong about that I am quite sure that working against the very people we depend on because they own and manage the land can only make matters worse.

    • February 6, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      Do you realise that your previous post tried to justify lying on the grounds of personal preference. Never mind but strange that you accused others of Trumpism. So this will be my last comment as your x-ray comments show wilful ignorance.

      You have only chosen to answer the points raised which are based on belief but ignore any which have evidence. e.g. ‘I agree that removing eggs of one of only two nests in England would be wrong. I’d also be quite surprised if HOT supported it in such a case.’
      Your loyalty to HOT is astounding. This is exactly what they are going to do or is 5 nests OK?

      I gave you the maths and i can send you the Potts paper although Fielding is on line if you really want to read it.
      1 pair per 80km2 (= c518 pairs) is less than a third of the density which Potts states at 25km2 psh (=1660 pairs) would have little effect on shooting bags. Fielding estimates the potential of 2514–2653 pairs.
      Potts is agreed upon by the GWCT and there is no controversy about this a minimum, it is very conservative.
      The conditions which HOT have accepted would if rolled out across the UK mean a reduction in overall HH numbers. From c749 pairs in 2004 to c518 pairs. This is a mathematical fact.

      The conditions of the brood persecution which HOT have agreed are: that the trial is not dependent on the cessation of illegal persecution. So even if all the satellite tagged birds are found to have been killed, the trial will continue for five years.

      Try to see through any conservation bias and see if this is reasonable.
      If one Hen Harrier anywhere is found dead and a member of one of the organizations involved on the brood persecution trial is found guilty, then Merricks has promised to withdraw. (The trial would probably take years so would the trial continue until the final verdict?)

      I presume you know enough about raptor crime to understand that those that are caught are the tip of the iceberg especially with Hen Harriers. 55-74 female Hen Harriers are killed each year in Scotland (x2-3+ to include males and immatures) (Etheridge et al. 1997). http://www.jstor.org/stable/2405296?

      The chances of a gamekeeper getting caught and prosecuted is extremely rare. I presume you know this. The RSPB crime report this week showed how even a water tight case caught on video can be thrown out by a judge and the chance of someone uncovering a crime in the first place is extremely remote.

      So Merricks has made his immovable condition based on no more than blind luck, the roll of a dice.
      Do you think this is acceptable?

      I try to find a situation in any other field where this would be acceptable or even make sense.
      I hesitate to find an analogy because analogies are just that, analogies so any differences can be twisted.
      So please find an analogy which supports this kind of bias.
      Mine is that if these were aboriginal children forcibly translocated away from their parents and were found to fall fatal victim from a certain form of organized crime (take your pick). Would the scheme be allowed to continue because no culprit was caught even though many children were found killed?

      The HH trial is a trial to see if HH brood persecution is viable. If HH are continuing to be killed which they are and will be, then who does the killing and if they are prosecuted isn’t the most important factor.
      HOT are making fools of themselves.

    • 52 Messi
      February 6, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Dave

      You say that:

      ”I suspect a more respectful approach to working with them and their managers/landowners might achieve more positive results, but even if I am wrong about that I am quite sure that working against the very people we depend on because they own and manage the land can only make matters worse.”

      I assume you’re are aware of the fact that brood management has been on the agenda for three or four years, during which time game keepers have continued to shoot hen harriers (and many other protected birds of prey). You would have expected this ‘more respectful approach’ by HOT to have solicited a ‘more respectful approach’ from those who kill protected birds of prey, right? You know, a show of good will? But just in the last week we receive conformation that a further two harriers have been shot. So, with the most respectful approach in the world, it seems there is an ingrained dislike of protected birds of prey. A cease-fire could have been delivered by now given all the meetings with the game managers to work out the detail of brood management. But the killing continues. It seems quite likely that you have not been actively involved in working with upland grouse moor managers over the last couple of decades, as so many local Raptor Groups have, yet you feel qualified to imply that positive engagement hasn’t been the modus operandi of so many raptor workers. There’s a very long history of attempts at very positive working with game management interests and throughout that extended period the illegal killing has continued and the management intensity of driven grouse moors (which are also SPAs and SSSIs) has increased (as peer-reviewed literature demonstrate).

      To my mind, there are two broad possibilities here:

      1) Parties could accept that the extraordinarily high densities of red grouse now being demanded across driven grouse moors is untenable because to deliver these densities game managers feel the need to kill / remove hen harriers and kill other birds of prey, intensify burning, spread stream-toxic medicated grit etc etc. Accepting that the costs of such high red grouse densities are too high, parties could reduce the density demanded. In so doing, one can reduce management intensity, welcome more hen harriers, cease illegal killing etc. This approach also happens to be consistent with the UK Habitats Regulations, CRoW Act etc.

      2) One could accept the extraordinarily high densities of red grouse demanded by driven grouse shooting interests as a given – non-negotiable, and offer to remove (most) hen harriers, thereby tacitly accepting also as a given all the other illegal killing and damaging upland management that is required to deliver excessively high red grouse densities. Be clear that the densities of grouse now demanded – and that necessitates very intensive moorland management – is a recent thing. This approach happens to contravene provisions of the UK Habitats Regulations, CRoW Act etc etc.

      I’d respectfully suggest to you, Dave, and to Chris, that the way forward would be for HOT to stand back from brood management and to embrace a more integrated approach along the lines of Option 1. It’s likely to be more tricky, and the HOT leadership would need to be brave to embrace this approach.

  15. 53 Dave Appleton
    February 7, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Thanks Messi, I appreciate a well-reasoned argument about this subject. I fully agree that we are not seeing the reciprocal respect from a number of gamekeepers. Nevertheless I still believe the only effective way of making any gains in the world of conservation is to seek to work with stakeholders who own land or are responsible for land management and not against them. Currently large sections of the conservation community are seeking combat not collaboration and so it is little wonder that some people are fighting back and not respecting us. Even if we all agreed that our best strategy for conservation was to seek to collaborate with landowners and managers, and took steps to do so, this would not be successful overnight and we would have to persist with this approach while some representatives of the groups we want to work with continue to do bad things like shooting harriers. That doesn’t mean we tolerate those actions, but it does mean we will have to persist with seeking collaboration despite them. I have seen, personally, enough of a respect for nature among landowners I’ve met and desire to manage their land for the benefit of nature (even if that isn’t always their highest priority) to believe that this approach has some chance of success. Perhaps not perfection – there will always be bad eggs – but I am convinced it would lead to a better outcome for nature and conservation than combat.

    I share your desire to see an end to intensive management and I respect your view that brood management will work against that end.

    Anandprasad I don’t understand your first paragraph at all and certainly don’t accept that my previous post tried in any way to “justify lying on the grounds of personal preference” and cannot understand that suggestion at all. However I also respect your concerns about brood management, and let me reiterate that my support for Hawk and Owl Trust is not because I love the idea of brood management but for their understanding of the need to collaborate with landowners and managers and their commitment to this approach even in the face of opposition.

    • 54 Messi
      February 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

      Hi Dave

      It’s not simply my ‘view’ that brood removal works against wider objectives – it’s clearly true that the reason for removing harriers is to sustain incredibly high densities of red grouse, which in turn requires very intensive management with all its ill effects. That’s not my ‘view’, it’s objectively verifiable truth. That’s precisely what Stephen Redpath’s population model demonstrates. You may share my desire to see the intensity of driven grouse moor management reduced, by but defending Phil’s brood removal programme you work against what you actually want to see.

      Working out what sort of lower intensity management might deliver for game interests and also respect protected wildlife and habitats demands is the sort of collaboration we need – not removing harriers and ignoring all the other problems.

      I’ve lost count of how many Countryside and Higher Level Stewardship agreements I’ve helped farmers to prepare and how many game managers I’ve worked with to ‘tweak’ their game cover crops to make them better for farmland birds. I’m fully well aware of the need to work with farmers and other land owners. But if I came across a farmer setting snares or poison baits illegally I’d let the police know. Maybe you would too? I’ve worked with developers to minimise their impacts on protected wildlife sites: they grudgingly expect to have to work within the laws, not just wildlife legislation, all sorts of legislation. I don’t know whether you’d class such engagement – telling developers that they need to respect legislation – as ‘confrontational”? I’d call it the mark of a civilised society that we all respect the law.

      You mentioned Elmley: as you know, this forms part of the outer Thames estuary and grazing marshes SPA complex. A major reason that the estuary airport did not go ahead was because it would displace birds from the SPAs and thus damage their nature conservation interests. Maybe a better solution in such cases is to move the pesky wildlife on – remove lapwing broods, use gas guns to shift wintering waterfowl and waders. That’s the ‘collaborative’ approach, right? Fortunately in the UK we’re slightly more thoughtful and have come up with a more intelligent approach. We identify the very best wildlife sites, call them Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation, and we have designed protective legislation that reflects their international importance. Only in exceptional circumstances is it OK to simply ‘move the wildlife’ to some other place. Yet that’s precisely what Phil Merricks is planning for designated uplands but would oppose tooth and nail in the North Kent Marshes. I think Phil’s ‘move the wildlife along’ approach at designated sites is the thin edge of a wedge that undermines three decades of wildlife conservation policy development in the UK.

    • February 7, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      ‘Your suggestion that Philip Merrick and the Hawk and Owl Trust were covering up the truth has all the hallmarks of Trumpism.’
      Not true is it?
      It is odd that someone who claims to favour respectful dialogue is happy to sling the worst insult imaginable but never mind.
      I promised to shut up but this really stuck in my craw.
      ‘I’d rather see Hen Harrier populations suppressed than no Hen Harrier populations because they’ve all been shot, which seems to be the very likely conclusion if things go on as they are.’
      So a sticking plaster solution.
      Please answer the difficult questions not the easy ones.
      How is the HHAP going to stop the killing of Peregrines, Golden Eagles etc. on DGMs?
      You accuse ‘us’ of ‘thwarting genuine conservation efforts.’
      I think i can safely speak for the majority of readers of this blog to say that ‘we’ want to stop all raptor crime on driven grouse moors and all the environmental and social damage that it entails not just sticking plaster HH sops to DGS.
      The HHAP slows down the inevitable outcome (or if you insist option) of licensing DGS, and when that fails as it almost certainly will, the banning of DGMs. In that way the HHAP is ‘thwarting genuine conservation efforts’ to solve all the problems associated with DGMs.

      ‘No Hen Harrier populations because they’ve all been shot’ will never happen (unless shooting HHs becomes legal throughout the UK) because there are plenty of areas in Scotland where there are no DGMs so in effect your statement supports the status quo. Your sentence doesn’t make sense or shortens to ”I’d rather see Hen Harrier populations suppressed’.

    • February 7, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Put things in a proper perspective.
      It’s been illegal to shoot, poison, burn, club etc. Hen Harrier for well over 50 years.
      The conservation or LEGAL lobby, represents the view of the nation on the matter.
      The killing is carried out by a tiny minority on behalf of a smaller minority.
      Over this period of protection the conservation community has engaged with the shooting community- the criminals have made at least one solemn promise every year that the killing has stopped. Every year this has been exposed as a bare faced lie. There is a litany of evidence that confirms that the shooting community lacks any sincerity or willingness to mend their ways. Your argument simply supports the continued killing of Harriers.
      The simple pragmatic working solution that we need is the most basic compliance with the law. That will sort out Hen Harrier conservation… at zero cost.
      But that won’t address the massive ecological catastrophe that is intensive muirburn. The only practical solution to this problem is to ban this damaging land use completely.

  16. 57 Dave Appleton
    February 7, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    I think we’ve probably reached the point where to continue debate we will go round in circles, but thank you for your comments. I have supported a collaborative approach and defended HOT for taking such an approach, and as the specific collaborative approach that HOT are taking involves brood management I suppose it is reasonable for readers to think that I am here to defend the policy of brood management. Actually that is not and never has been my intention. You will see that I have never claimed that brood management is the answer; indeed I have stated that I have reservations about it.

    My original comment was a reaction to my frustration that this and other RPUK blog posts (and comments from others elsewhere) were not seeking to demonstrate flaws in brood management or any other Hawk and Owl Trust policy, they were making misleading and inaccurate statements that served only to denigrate the Hawk and Owl Trust and tarnish their repuatation (along with NE and the police). Regardless of whether or not brood management is a good thing or a bad thing (and I am genuinely not sure either way despite your helpful contributions), I have (still) seen zero evidence in support of the clear message that RPUK are promoting which seems to be that Hawk and Owl Trust are colluding with law-breakers or their supporters in covering up the truth.

    The Trumpism comment wasn’t directed at you anandprasad, unless you are the anonymous author of the blog post, but I’m afraid I do see the same populist disparaging style, lacking care for truth and accuracy, as I see from the Trump team. RPUK and others who use or support the same style of attack might be right to oppose brood management, but the manner in which they deliver that opposition damages their case.

    • February 7, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Another straw man
      ‘the clear message that RPUK are promoting which seems to be that Hawk and Owl Trust are colluding with law-breakers or their supporters in covering up the truth.’

    • February 7, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      ‘The Trumpism comment wasn’t directed at you anandprasad’
      I know, that is why it was a lie.

    • 60 Messi
      February 7, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      It’s been good debating with you, Dave, and hopefully you’ve seen that arguments against brood removal, and in favour of in-situ conservation, are not bereft of logic and substance. I very much hope that you’ll use your open mind to challenge Phil and the other HOT trustees to properly justify their stance and tighten their resolve in the face of flagrant abuses of trust.

      The notion that you can simply remove internationally protected species from internationally designated wildlife sites has serious implications not just for hen harriers but also other upland birds of prey, upland management and broader management of our best and most heavily protected wildlife sites. Driven grouse moors are not economically significant or a big employer compared with other sectors of the economy who’s activities have the potential to affect designated wildlife sites and protected species. Let’s not weaken UK conservation policy and practice overall just for the sake of driven grouse moor managers.

    • February 7, 2017 at 11:45 pm

      I guess you just dont understand enough about the environment and the politics of moorland management to see that the HOT are compounding the Hen Harriers problems and simply prolonging the gross habitat mismanagement.

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