Super computer needed to count this year’s English hen harrier nests

Here’s the tried and tested method that Natural England has deployed in recent years to count the number of hen harrier nests in England. In fact they’ve only needed one hand to complete the task.

This year, there are so many hen harrier nests, they’ve had to deploy a super computer to cope with the figures.

We know there must be loads and loads of nests, judging by the response we received from Natural England to a recent FoI request. In early July we asked NE the following simple questions:

  1. How many hen harrier breeding attempts in England are Natural England aware of in 2017, to date?
  2. How many of those were successful, to date?
  3. In which counties were the successful/unsuccessful nests?
  4. How many of those breeding attempts were on a driven grouse moor?

Today they responded and told us the information was being withheld for the time being. One of the reasons was a Public Interest Test, as follows:

Gosh! Soooooo many nests the data are having to be “quality assured and analysed” so as not to be misleading or inaccurate! We can hardly wait to see the results of such a challenging and complicated analysis.

Interesting to note that NE says the results “will be made available within the next month“. Will that be before or after Hen Harrier Day, which takes place in two and a half weeks?


21 Responses to “Super computer needed to count this year’s English hen harrier nests”

  1. 1 Doug Malpus
    July 18, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    I can offer my “smarter than them” ‘phone. to help them count! They don’t even have to press buttons, just talk to it in plain and simple language.

    Mind you it may be unable to control its indignity!!!

    Who do these folk think they are dealing with?


  2. 2 Anon
    July 18, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Marvellous, great to see NE plumbing ever greater depths. Think I might just make it to my second hand then I’ll see if NE will pay me their “super computer’s” consultancy fee.

  3. 3 Gerard
    July 18, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    0 or 1, 2 or 3 then.

  4. July 18, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    I sure there is a nefarious reason for withholding this information? Or is it just good old incompetence?

    • 5 Iain Gibson
      July 20, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      Does civil service career progress in Natural England now involve watching old repeats of ‘Yes Minister’?

  5. July 18, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    That’s at least 3 ‘believes’ and 3 ‘feels’ in that 4 paragraph NE statement.
    Who needs a computer when you have loads of feelings and beliefs.

  6. 7 I C T
    July 18, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Let’s put it this way, you don’t need one hand, one finger will do. Also one finger to NE for chickening out on disclosing this single success until I guess after Hen Harrier day. NE, gutless , clueless & utterly hopeless.

  7. 8 Andrew
    July 18, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    I think they should have applied some quality analysis to their written reply. I think they have managed more repetition than the successful number of Hen Harrier breeding attempts that will be disclosed eventually.

  8. 9 nirofo
    July 19, 2017 at 1:45 am

    They’ll be holding back so as not to clash with the start of Augusts Inglorious 12th Grouse shooting season.

  9. 10 Mairi
    July 19, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if another Protest Day could be arranged…a ‘Post NE Hen Harrier Info Release Day’. Maybe next month after they’ve released the info this month, as promised??

  10. 11 bettylee13
    July 19, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Who in natural England was responsible for this reply and what political constraints were imposed. Can we have accountability!

  11. 12 Slioch
    July 19, 2017 at 8:10 am

    I think this reply must have been written by an admirer of our esteemed Prime Minister. “Quality assured and analysis” mentioned three times. I’m surprised we weren’t reminded that Natural England is a a “strong and stable” organisation.
    Or perhaps it demonstrates a chink of light within those gloomy walls: some poor apparatchik ordered to pen a dismissive reply decided to provide one of such monumental banality as to instead send the message that, “yes, I know this is nonsense, but my hands are tied.”

  12. 13 David Thompson
    July 19, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Never seen so many words used to say nothing, this is very truly the utmost political gobbled gook I have ever had the privilege “Not” to read.

  13. 14 Bill Murphy
    July 19, 2017 at 9:30 am

    All there hands are tied,, by DEFRA.

  14. 15 heclasu
    July 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Desperately needing time to investigate the most convincing way to ‘spin’ it – I can’t wait!

  15. 16 dave angel
    July 19, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    The only benign explanation I can think of for the delay is that NE have reason to believe there has been a successful breeding attempt somewhere, known only to the driven grouse shooting industry, that NE have so far been unable to verify.

    It would be a PR coup for the DGS lobby if they were able to announce a successful breeding attempt that NE were unaware of.

    • July 19, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Yes, perhaps, but our FoI questions deliberately included the qualifying term “to date”, to allow NE to comment on the current known status with the caveat that this figure might change before the season’s end.

  16. 18 Nimby
    July 19, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    The organisation, funded by the public purse so surely accountable to the public needs to be put out of its misery? Surely the kindest thing to do would be to euthanase it? Those who have wrestled its various guises over the decades might just opt for a complete cull?

    Please, NE staff don’t offer up the usual “careful what you wish for” dribble? Yes, I appreciate there are doubtless many lovely, well meaning grass roots staff scared about pensions etc. We need champions with backbones who work to conserve, protect etc. before it’s too late #stateofnature #wildlifecrime ?

    Well done RPUK, keep up the pressure. The rest of us should write to our MPs etc. Oh, they’re on a long summer recess soon …. wonder how many will be in the uplands on 12th August:(

  17. 19 Michael Whitehouse
    July 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Counting hen harriers and their nests requires experience.

    NE should recruit the guy who has recently undertaken this role counting Spoonbill nests in Yorkshire.

  18. July 20, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Hmm.. I wonder how many hen harrier field workers are employed by natural england? 0? The data is collected by raptor workers and at best NE act as coordinators…. This site could act as a duplicate coordinator… any English raptor worker seen breeding harriers this year?

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