“The hen harrier…..this is a nasty bird of evil habits. It must be got rid of at all costs”

The hen harrier….this is a nasty bird of evil habits. It quarters the moor a few feet above the ground and pounces on grouse or chicks it catches unawares. It must be got rid of at all cost”.

This is a quote. You might think it’s attributable to Amanda Anderson (Director, Moorland Association). It’s not that far off her infamous quote last year:

If we let the harrier in, we will soon have nothing else. That is why we need this brood management plan“.

But our quote isn’t from Amanda. It’s from a book called Grouse: Shooting and Moor Management, first published in 1958 (er, four years after the Protection of Birds Act became law!) and written by Richard Waddington who had a grouse moor in what is now the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park.

Obviously stuck in a Victorian time warp, another quote from the chapter called ‘Vermin on the Moor’:

Eagles can very easily be trapped…..They can also sometimes be shot. However, since they are vigorously protected throughout Scotland it is perhaps wisest to say nothing on this subject. But if you want a successful grouse shoot you must find some means of ridding yourself of eagles“.

[Thanks to the blog reader who drew this book to our attention, also quoted in Mark Avery’s book Inglorious].

And here we are, well over half a century later, and not much has changed, has it? A number of grouse shooting estates are quite clearly still ‘ridding themselves of eagles’, including some on the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park (see here), while breeding hen harriers have been eradicated from many Scottish grouse moors (see here) and virtually every English grouse moor (we heard there was a pair this year on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales but apparently, we’re told, it ‘disappeared’. Presumably this will be confirmed by Natural England at some point. But then again…).

The fight back continues though. For the fourth successive year, Hen Harrier Day events will be happening throughout the UK over the weekend of 4-5 August (and an event on the Isle of Mull on 29 July 2017). Full details of each event can be found on the Hen Harrier Day website HERE

Find one near to you (or find a distant one and have a road trip) and turn up, join in and show your support. We’ll be at the Tayside event (along with other speakers) on Saturday 5 August and also at the Highland event on Sunday 6th. We look forward to seeing some of you.


21 Responses to ““The hen harrier…..this is a nasty bird of evil habits. It must be got rid of at all costs””

  1. 1 Ron55
    July 14, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    There’s nothing quite like the truth, written in a book for all to see, for eternity, is there?

    • 2 Stephen Brown
      July 15, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      The comments aren’t truth they are an opinion. Albeit a small minded ignorant minority one. Inadvertantly however the words describe quite well what a marvel of evolution hen harrier truly is. Perfectly adapted to its environment being a beautiful, skilled and graceful hunter.

  2. 3 barry robinson
    July 14, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Hi there rpuk not sure if you would be interested in this but the british falconers club have an interesting article in there spring 2017 magazine reviewing mark averys book’ inglorious seems as if they are against him which is a suprise.I can try and email you the article

  3. 4 Doug Malpus
    July 14, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    This reminds me of a phrase from a gamekeeper that was quoted in a lecture I attended.

    Gamekeeper talking about goshawks, ” ….they’re evil birds, they kill for pleasure.”

    Some day we will rid the country of these wicked people. But at the moment, newcomers are indoctrinated with old ideas of hate.


    • July 14, 2017 at 10:28 pm

      How are we going to rid our country of them when colleges are training young people to kill our wildlife and then these ‘graduates’ are being paid to live in remote locations and kill our wildlife?
      Some structural changes are necessary..

      • July 15, 2017 at 8:57 am

        You actually have to wonder if the two colleges churning out the new generation of victorians set this as a course book or have it in their libraries?

        Sorry I got a bit confused about reading and the education and game keepers… it has to be all practical….

    • 7 Marco McGinty
      July 15, 2017 at 4:32 am

      Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, came out with a similar statement a few years ago, at the same time as claiming a Goshawk took 30+ pheasant poults in a single strike!

    • 8 Northern Diver
      July 15, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Last year I listened to a talk from a retired estate manager from Bolton Abbey Estate who showed a slide of barren moorland and asked “What do you see …… that’s right, no trees!” “Why? ……. because that’s where the BAD BIRDS would nest”.
      No trees allowed to grow on those grouse moors. Funnily enough there’s a wildlife crime hotspot near there.

  4. 9 crypticmirror
    July 15, 2017 at 12:48 am

    Another interesting book is Giles Catchpole’s “Birds, Boots, and Barrels: Game Shooting in the 21st Century” published 2002 by Quiller Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1 904057 04 7

    It is a coffee table format book for the aspiring middleclasses, and while it does not mention birds of prey directly at all, it does on pages 83, 84, 86, and 111 talk about the level of tips that a standard middle class person is expected to give to keepers (cash in hand) for a high bag and the consequences for not providing a high bag even to relatively low paying customers on driven grouse and pheasant shoots. It works out to be a sizable sum even in 2002 prices for even a small party of amateurs. For the shoots for the super rich it would be considerably higher. A running theme throughout the book is that a gamekeeper is expected to provide guns to complete novices, expect poor firearm discipline, and make sure the bag is very high. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together to understand the unspoken demand in providing those high bags that generate large cash-in-hand tips for even the amateurs.

    Again, this is openly admitted in a nicely illustrated coffee table book written by a member of the shooting club and aimed at aspiring middleclass people looking to get into the hunting and shooting set. It is an interesting read to understand their mindset, and it does make you wonder at just how much is left unsaid or only lightly touched upon in coded language for the reader to understand only once they’ve joined the set.

    Game shooting in the 21stC? More like a wistful plea for those deeply desiring to return to the 1950s, if you ask me.

  5. 10 chris lock
    July 15, 2017 at 5:57 am

    Homo sapiens, a nasty vindictive creature who will kill pretty well anything inclusive of it’s own kind.

  6. 12 Paul V Irving
    July 15, 2017 at 7:41 am

    You can easily find copies of Waddington’s book for sale 2nd hand although a little pricey and there is a published biography from 2004. He apparently died in 1999.
    I was once told by a keeper he wished he could deploy spring guns and man traps to keep folk like me off the moor ( I did have the permission of the owner) So he could ” deal” with the vermin without worries.

  7. July 15, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Sadly the downside to a liberal democracy is that even ignorant twats like Waddington and his ilk have a right to free speech. At least we also have the right to call them out for what they are and fortunately the ignorant are a tiny minority.

  8. 15 stuart law
    July 15, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    FFS, the beater quarters the grouse moor, with their loose dogs – frightening the unsuspecting grouse into the air and in direct line of fire from the blood-thirsty mouth-frothing shooters, waiting with their hired help to reload their shotguns, so as they don’t lose any time at all that could be spent blasting these plump easy targets as they just about manage to get airborne. Gamekeepers and the shooting fraternity are and always will be seen as fcuking SCUM in my eyes. Kill all apex raptors, which include grouse in their diet for survival – in order to kill the defenceless grouse themselves. But that’s perfectly ok isn’t it? Why ‘allow’ anything else to kill what they believe is rightfully theirs to kill. #SportMyArse

  9. 16 lizzybusy
    July 16, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Heres an interesting quote:

    “Of the remaining vermin I would say that eagles are quite the most tiresome. Not only do they kill a lot of grouse, but their presence on a beat entirely destroys a days shooting. … The eagle only kills the sitting grouse! It is for this reason that this bird is such a nuisance on a beat. As soon as he appears every grouse gets up and flies away. On the wing, the grouse knows he is safe. On the ground he is not.”

    Last year I overheard a discussion about what the effect on a day’s shoot would be of images of raptors, eagles etc, being put on kites and flown on the moors and gizmos hidden in Heather playing the calls of grouse in distress and raptors I’ve loud speakers. This appears potentially answer some of those ideas.

  10. 17 Jimmy
    July 16, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Chilling stuff – sadly his type continue to menace wildlife on what are mean’t to be national parks

  11. July 16, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    “Luckily they (ravens) are now rare birds…”

    Yep, nothing in the natural world is quite as satisfying as witnessing the decline of an ‘inconvenient’ species. And yet, here we are, if it’s not an oxymoron still living in a bygone age.

  12. 19 Northern Diver
    July 17, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Please read this newspaper article and comments.


    Maybe those with more scientific knowledge could comment please ? Two very misleading and ill-informed comments at present.

    • 20 Louise
      July 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      In the online version of this article there is a significant typesetting error — the article reads :

      From previous research, it is known that the main factor limiting the UK hen harrier population is illegal associated with driven grouse moor management in northern England and parts of mainland Scotland.

      — surely a whole word is missing ?! “illegal persecution” would make this sentence make sense, where “illegal” on its own doesn’t.

      And when there’s no explicit mention of persecution, it’s that bit harder for the ordinary member of the public to spot the massive non sequitur in the piece (harrier numbers are limited by persecution –> rearing and releasing harriers will solve everything).

      • 21 Northern Diver
        July 17, 2017 at 7:41 pm

        Yes……though I’ve always preferred the word “killing” to “persecution” – after all, it’s just possible to survive persecution.

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