Three successful hen harrier nests in England (none on driven grouse moors)

The RSPB has just announced the results of the 2017 hen harrier breeding season in England. There was a pathetic total of three successful nests (England has the capacity for ~330 pairs).

The three successful nests (with ten fledglings) were on land managed by the Forestry Commission in Northumberland.

Read the full, sorry details on the RSPB’s Skydancer blog here.

Well done to the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership (Northumberland National Park Authority, Forestry Commission, RSPB, Natural England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Ministry of Defence, Northumbria Police, and the Northern England Raptor Forum).

There’s an interesting quote from Andrew Miller of the National Park who says, “We will continue to monitor our birds throughout the year….” This implies that the young birds have been satellite tagged, but according to our sources, only one fledgling was fitted with a tag because Natural England left it too late this year. This seems hard to believe, given NE’s experience of sat tagging hen harriers, but no doubt we’ll hear more about this in due course.

The real story, and what should be our focus of attention, is that for a second year in a row, there wasn’t a single successful breeding attempt on any driven grouse moor in England. This is despite the grouse shooting industry supposedly being signed up to DEFRA’s Hen Harrier InAction Plan.

[Drawing by Gerard Hobley]

If this year’s shameful breeding results don’t inspire you to attend a Hen Harrier Day event this coming weekend, nothing will.

Well done to the RSPB for publishing the details of this year’s breeding season in good time (presumably Natural England is still fiddling with its super computer, trying to count up to three and ‘analysing’ the data).

20 Responses to “Three successful hen harrier nests in England (none on driven grouse moors)”

  1. 1 Gordon McAdam
    August 1, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but your final sentence is superb.

  2. 2 Andy Aitken
    August 1, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Words fail me. 3 nests.

    • 3 Dylanben
      August 1, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      Agreed that this is an abysmally low figure. However, looking on the bright side, at least the young got off. Looking forward to clarification of the radio-tagging situation.

  3. August 1, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Just sickening – a pathetic 3 nests – and what will happen to the fledglings as they disperse? It’s a pity we can’t tell them not to move to the likes of Yorkshire.
    Natural England should be dissolved – just scandalous!

  4. 6 Stephen Brown
    August 1, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    A vote of thanks for such a proliferation of HH. Testament to all the hard work put in by those wonderful caring game keepers who encourage raptors on their land. It warms the heart.

  5. August 1, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    This truly is ” the gift of grouse ” !
    The eradication of Hen harriers on English grouse moors should be shouted from the rooftops as yet another piece of proof that driven grouse shooting is totally unsustainable & is carried out only by way of widespread criminality.
    Any agency or charity that still supports the destruction of the uplands to cater for driven grouse shooting really needs to wake up & finally realise that they will not be supported by the wider public in the longer term.
    For many years I have refused to visit the English & Scottish moors where the industry dominates, so my tourist £ & that of many others is denied to their economies.
    Yes, I know the industry will laugh loud at that as they are not dependant upon green tourism, but they do not operate in a vacuum and the media should be hounding them.
    I am now seriously contemplating ending my support for any charity such as the National Trust & RSPB that does not unequivocally call for an end to the driven grouse industry & outlaw it on their holdings.
    Yes, a licensing system would soon show the depth of criminality but it is just delaying the inevitable death of the industry.
    Having been a raptor worker for approaching 50 years I have lost patience with the pace of change.
    I know I am not alone in that.

    Keep up the pressure !

    • August 6, 2017 at 12:57 am

      Well said, Senenn. I am amazed the RSPB has not taken a more robust approach given its membership status. Collaboration hasn’t worked. I can’t believe there were only three succesful HH nests in England this year.

  6. 10 Blanaid Denman
    August 1, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks RPUK for linking to our blog and spreading the word. Just to officially clarify the sat-tagging situation in England this year – the plan was for RSPB (through the Hen Harrier LIFE project) to work in partnership to tag two chicks (one each) in each of the three nests. As many RPUK readers will probably be aware, we delay tagging the chicks until as close to fledging as possible so that the birds are essentially fully grown and the tag harness has a “goldilocks” fit – not too tight, not too loose. This is best practice for obvious reasons however it leaves a very short window in which to tag the birds before they fledge. Unfortunately this year, the weather was extremely unsettled when it came to the ideal dates for tagging at these nests and a number of attempts to visit the nests to fit the tags were cancelled at the last minute due to heavy rain. The safety and welfare of the birds always comes first and we won’t visit nests if there’s a risk of them suffering through exposure. By the time the weather had cleared, all but one of the chicks had fledged and that one was ably fitted with a sat-tag by NE. It was exceptionally frustrating for all involved (myself included) but just one of those things I’m afraid.

  7. 13 Coop
    August 1, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Are you good folks going to respond to the barely literate comments to this post on you facebook page?

  8. 17 Coop
    August 1, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Oops, typo in there! Pot and kettle, eh?

  9. 18 Mike Haden
    August 2, 2017 at 6:52 am

    I am surprised that the information on the number of birds tagged has been made public. Surely this means that the one or two bad apple type gamekeepers can shot at any raptor with impunity knowing only one has a tag.

    Or is the fact that almost all the tagged birds in England disappeared last year, means that it doesn’t matter since it is open season anyway.

    • 19 Blanaid Denman
      August 2, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Mike, you raise a valid point… and if that was indeed the only hen harrier tagged this year, I would agree completely with you. However I’m pleased to say that while only one hen harrier may have been tagged in England, many, many more have been tagged elsewhere this year. As we all know, hen harriers travel widely outside the breeding season. Birds from north Scotland can easily end up in England and vice versa, to say nothing of Wales and even Ireland… so one chick fitted with a satellite tag in England this year does not mean that only one hen harrier in England is flying around with a tag on. We have our eyes to the skies more than ever before (more news on this to follow soon – keep an eye on @RSPB_Skydancer)

  10. August 2, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I wonder how long it will be before the Forestry Commission are invited to join the action plan cabal….or even replace EN?

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