Overnight nest protection for hen harrier nests – RSPB recruiting

hh LAURIE CAMPBELLIn preparation for this year’s breeding season, the RSPB is looking to hire six people to work as part of an overnight nest protection scheme for any hen harrier breeding attempts in northern England.

It’s a pretty sad indictment that in 2017, even with the Government’s so-called Hen Harrier Action Plan in place, hen harrier nests still need 24-hour protection to stand any chance of being successful. And even with this round-the-clock nest security, the birds are still vulnerable to being killed while away from the nest on a foraging trip – five breeding males ‘disappeared’ in 2015 while away from their nests, resulting in failed breeding attempts.

The six roles are expected to be located in Northumberland, Cumbria or Lancashire, with the tiniest of tiny chances of also being in Yorkshire and Derbyshire (don’t hold your breath). But let’s be honest, given the grouse shooting industry’s abject hatred and intolerance of this species, and the wide range of options available to them to ‘get rid’ (shooting, pole traps, decoys, poisoning, gas guns, banger ropes, baited spring traps, inflatable screeching scarecrows, nest burning, ice cubes placed on eggs, putting terriers in to nests, chick trampling), with little prospect of being caught, we’ll be lucky to see any breeding attempts this year away from Forestry Commission (Northumberland) and RSPB (Cumbria) land.

And if we do see any breeding attempts away from these safe areas, the chances are those nests will be subjected to brood meddling (due to begin this year) so any eggs/chicks will be removed, reared in captivity and then released back in to the uplands just in time for the opening of the grouse shooting season. Their chance of survival? Virtually nil. Hopefully they’ll all be fitted with satellite transmitters and hopefully the public will be allowed to see these birds’ movements, although the reality is that this information, if being handled by Natural England, will be kept secret and away from public scrutiny.

At least we know that if any hen harriers breed successfully again this year on Forestry Commission and /or RSPB land, that the nests won’t be subjected to brood meddling and that the offspring will be fitted with satellite transmitters by the RSPB (paid for with funds raised via LUSH Skydancer bathbombs) and the public will be kept updated via this website on what happens to those young birds.

The closing date for applications for the role of Overnight Nest Protection staff is 27 Feb (next Monday).

Hen harrier breeding attempts in England, 2005-2016 (data source: RSPB)



17 Responses to “Overnight nest protection for hen harrier nests – RSPB recruiting”

  1. 1 Henry Swardle
    February 22, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Sad indictment indeed. Having being involved in watching the last harrier nest in my area I realise that it is ultimately futile as in most cases the male simply ‘disappears’ whilst away hunting.

    Bad times.

  2. 2 Frank Williams
    February 22, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    I may have missed something here and sorry if this has been covered before.
    You say nests on FC managed land won’t be subjected to the brood meddling scheme…….(for the record something I am against) ………… Can I ask why ?
    Both the FC and Natural England are both Government agencies and I suspect that if pressure ( heaven forbid) is being applied to one to adopt the brood meddling plan then the the other is susceptible to the same pressure
    Is it because FC land isn’t used for Grouse shooting.
    In the Forest of Dean/Wye Valley some parts are off the Crown Estate, while some outlying areas are leased. The shooting rights on the leased areas are controlled by the land owner.

    • 3 RaptorPersecutionUK
      February 22, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      Hi Frank,

      That’s a really good question. We had assumed that FC wouldn’t be subject to brood meddling because landowner permission is required, and we’d assumed that FC would not support brood meddling given that FC land has been a safe haven for hen harrier breeding attempts (and on a wider scale, the FC is known to be very supportive of raptor conservation in general…e.g. ospreys, goshawks, sparrowhawks, golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, buzzards, red kites).

      But you’re absolutely right. As a Gov agency FC may have no choice in this.

      Perhaps someone from the FC will read this and clarify?

      • 4 Dave Dick
        February 22, 2017 at 4:53 pm

        Whilst waiting for what should be an interesting answer – its worth pointing out that while Im not a total FC lover, due to their [past?] endorsement of millions of pointy trees on our uplands…they have held the line on a strict no snaring policy, been extremely helpful on many raptor projects and indeed been quick to respond on persecution incidents happening on their boundaries. They also have had to bear many “haven for vermin” attacks from shooting neighbours. All of which will have made them unpopular with the very people who want brood meddling. Lets support the FC in fighting off any anti- raptor conservation initiatives.

        • 5 Frank williams
          February 22, 2017 at 5:17 pm

          The FC have a really difficult job to do, as there as so many different user groups that use FC managed land from Motorsport to Conservation and trying to keep everybody happy cant be easy. I do agree however they have been important conservation partner to many wildlife groups and long may that continue.

  3. 6 Jimmy
    February 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    They should be armed with shotguns, pole traps and poison – just like the scum they are protecting the Hen Harriers from

  4. February 22, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Great initiatives to protect the young but look how badly they fare when they fledge :(
    Will there be another attempt at the petition and a more constructive debate?

  5. February 22, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    Can’t we get the 120 thousand that signed the last petition to mobilise? The whole cause needs much better publicity. We have the facts thanks to the amazing RPUK.

  6. 10 Dylanben
    February 22, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    There is one item missing from your list of potential Hen Harrier persecution methods – the dreaded drone which enables territory and nest disturbance to be undertaken without going anywhere near. Before anyone suggests that I’m putting ideas into their heads, please see here, for example: http://www.yorkshirelife.co.uk/people/how_drone_technology_is_helping_yorkshire_gamekeepers_1_4639672

    • February 23, 2017 at 12:37 am

      Worrying. As if they need anything else.

    • 12 Mairi
      February 23, 2017 at 7:32 am

      And I worry especially about this sentence, from the course lecturer ” and some sporting estate owners may feel the drone flying over their estate or moor may frighten their birds (in reality there are many more scary avian predators to worry about).”

      • 13 les WallacL
        February 23, 2017 at 12:47 pm

        Aye it’s clear from the number of very young keepers being caught out killing BoPs (the older ones are more careful?) that the old ideas haven’t been dying out at all – they are being reinforced with a vengeance. Would love to know exactly what’s done and said of these gamekeeper courses. Certainly are keeping up with new technology though, what about that night visions equipment to locate raptors in the dark?

        • 14 Northern Diver
          February 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

          And don’t forget RPUK’s post in December 2015 about Garry Dickson, lecturer at Border College and his views on vermin. Wonder if he’s still training young gamekeepers?

  7. February 23, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    I’m interested in being hired to carry out nest protection.
    However, I wonder how much intimidation one could expect in doing such a job?
    I imagine there could be a lot of nastiness (from the aptly named ‘nasty brigade’) aimed at anyone involved in attempting to protect a Hen Harrier’s nest.
    Perhaps that is why the RSPB feels that it needs to pay people to carry out such a task?

  8. 16 Tom
    March 1, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Where do you apply for these jobs as the link does not work

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