Reactions to RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report: compare & contrast

Following this morning’s publication of the RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report (see here), it’s fantastic to see such widespread media attention on the continued illegal killing of birds of prey in the UK.

Guy Shorrock (RSPB Investigations) gave a cracking interview on BBC Breakfast (available to watch on iPlayer here, but only for the next 24hrs. Starts at 1:50:10).

Given North Yorkshire’s atrocious track record (again) for illegal raptor killing, we were particularly pleased to read a statement from the Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), which is featured prominently on the YDNPA website:

We should expect this level of condemnation from a National Park Authority as a given, but the fact we’re even blogging about it shows how rare an occurrence this is. But it’s very, very welcome, and probably a reflection of how public opinion is forcing the YDNPA to take note and act.

Kudos to Carl Lis – he clearly ‘gets it’ (see his reference to an increase in successful nests being the only indicator of real progress) and he didn’t have to say anything at all, let alone post it on the National Park website. Well done that man.

But not everybody’s happy about today’s high media coverage. In contrast to the statement from the YDNPA Chair, have a look at the Countryside Alliance’s twitter response to the publication of the Birdcrime 2016 report (interestingly, this hasn’t been published on the CA’s website):

It’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that the Countryside Alliance has criticised the RSPB’s annual Birdcrime report. In 2014 they made a formal complaint to the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission rejected the complaint outright – well worth a read (see here).

Does anyone believe this organisation is intent on stamping out illegal raptor persecution? Perhaps if they put as much effort in to this as they do trying to silence the RSPB, or trying to get Chris Packham sacked just because he speaks out about wildlife crime, we might actually start to get somewhere.

14 Responses to “Reactions to RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report: compare & contrast”

  1. November 1, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    ‘Relegated to the report’s appendix’
    The appendix is the meat of the report.

    When CA stops spinning and cherry picking, well turtles will fly.

  2. 2 Dave Dick
    November 1, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Go Guysie!…I would fully endorse his statement about being fed up having to pick up bird of prey corpses year after year – I used to describe myself as the RSPB’s foremost dead bird expert. The Countryside Alliance comments are sickening in their cynicism – phrases such as ” surging numbers of raptors across the country..” are reminiscent of the vile language used by racists and come from a similar well of bigotry. This “surge” is in fact the welcome return of birds such as buzzards in many areas, but its by no means all across the UK for several species in areas where “sport” shooting takes place.

  3. 3 Hugh Webster
    November 1, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    “2016 must be viewed in the context of surging raptor numbers” – Freudian slip there. I think they meant to say “recovering raptor numbers…”

    “Birds of prey are increasing in numbers, some to unprecedented levels, in the UK” – Er, which bird of prey is now at an “unprecedented level” exactly? Unprecedented since when?! Utter nonsense.

    The Countryside Alliance will never be taken seriously as a partner in the campaign against raptor persecution when their anti-raptor agenda is so transparent.

  4. 4 Macgee
    November 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Confirmed killings of raptors may be going down however it is only the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t take into account for instances where species have been completly eradicated.
    Once ALL raptors are killed no need to kill raptors.
    Thats what is happening in many places.


  5. 5 Dylanben
    November 1, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I see that Comic Cuts, aka the Countryside Alliance, has woken from the slumbers which prevented it condemning the Marsh Harrier persecution case reported on this blog – https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/video-of-marsh-harrier-persecution-on-north-yorkshire-grouse-moor/
    We are now told that ‘With the notable exception of the Hen Harrier ….. most other birds of prey are increasing in numbers, some to unprecedented levels, in the UK. Many of these increases are because of the tireless work of gamekeepers, landowners. and the environmental benefits that are attributed to shooting’. Maybe the CA would like to tell us about these various species of birds of prey which benefit from shooting. Clearly the organisation is dizzy from its own spin!

  6. 6 Gerard
    November 1, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    There are loads of gamekeepers working on urban peregrine projects then? Thanks CA, you illuminate the dullest of days.

  7. 7 Iain Gibson
    November 2, 2017 at 6:17 am

    The wild statements made by Countryside Alliance, Game & Wildlife Conservation [sic] Trust and others, about “surging raptor numbers,” is presumably based almost entirely on the range expansion of Buzzards throughout England. We need to sort out the confusion which is still causing this now out-of-date perception to continue. The RSPB still speaks of it is a major conservation success, but without accurately identifying exactly how this dramatic change occurred. As someone who has taken a long term interest in the species, based in west central Scotland (covering mainly from Ayrshire to Argyll, including the Clyde valley), I am aware that the expansion in population and range started in Scotland and appeared to spread south. I’m currently attempting to write up and explain this change in the bird’s fortunes, but quantitative data other than my own is hard to find. The BTO qualifies the rapid increase trend by pointing out that the CBC results up to 1994 relate mainly to central and eastern England, reflecting the distribution of volunteer surveyors. However the evidence of range expansion is unequivocal. The introduction of BBS thereafter produced a more representative national sample, but still as might be expected, biased somewhat towards the main distribution of human populations.

    Consistent data collected by myself as Local SOC Recorder and several other observers in Clyde noted an increase commencing as early as 1986, originally based on relatively casual recording of birds in unusual areas or locations – a relatively subjective but very real observation. A detailed survey of West Renfrewshire in 1997 produced a total of 66 territorial pairs, an increase of 1600% in ten years! The following ten years saw a continuing increase of approximately another 50%. Casual observations more widely suggested that this dramatic increase had taken place at least widely throughout west central Scotland. Such dramatic changes in the population were difficult to attribute merely to a reduction in persecution, but interestingly seemed to correlate with a significant regional increase in breeding Hen Harriers (e.g. from 2 pairs to 14 pairs in West Renfrewshire).

    So what caused this increase? One coincidental change which a number of local birdwatchers noted independently was an apparent increase in field vole populations. To myself and other raptor enthusiasts this was no ordinary fluctuation in the usual cycle, but appeared to be unusually widespread or ubiquitous in rough grassland, both in the lowlands and the uplands. As Recorder I was also receiving far more records of breeding Kestrels and Tawny Owls than usual, and in the uplands Short-eared owl populations were also above average. None of this is particularly surprising except in two ways: the huge increase and spread of the Buzzard population, and ultimately the length of time that this apparently widespread ‘vole plague’ continued. Then, strangely, not only did the vole population crash on my main study area in the winter of 2004-05, but they seemed to simultaneously crash in an area extending from mid Argyll to South Ayrshire, a longitudinal distance of approximately 200 kilometres. There appears to be very little systematic medium or long term monitoring of vole cycles in Scotland (or anywhere in the UK?), so it can only be speculated that the exceptionally high populations in central Scotland between 1986 and 2005 may have extended further, possibly into northern England at least.

    Since the vole crash took place, the regional population of Buzzards in the Clyde recording area has declined significantly somewhere in the region of 80%, and sample transects in Argyll have produced similar results. Intriguingly, reports from throughout continental Europe were of a ‘dampening’ of field vole populations over the same period. Although there appears so far to be little evidence of the Buzzard’s new range contracting as a result, it will be interesting to see the latest BBS results from BTO.

    • 8 Dylanben
      November 2, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      My totally unscientific opinion is that the spread of buzzards from Cumbria into North Yorkshire coincided with increased use of Larsen traps for more selective crow control. A keeper once explained to me that they don’t use poison for this purpose anymore. His face was a picture when he realised what he had just said!

      • 9 Iain Gibson
        November 2, 2017 at 9:09 pm

        Sorry Dylan, I fail to understand the connection. It is my belief that the increased Buzzard population is likely to have inevitably led to greater persecution of the species. Most keepers I’ve known tend to shoot Buzzards rather than poison them. Also in my experience Larsen traps are used mainly for Magpie trapping, shooting or crow traps being the preferred methods of controlling Carrion Crows, Rooks and Jackdaws. As laying poison is illegal, there aren’t really any official statistics on the comparative use of these methods, as far as I’m aware. Maybe the RSPB Investigation teams will have a better idea.

        • 10 Andrew Blake
          November 3, 2017 at 3:22 pm

          I can see a link in the sense that poison baits laid for crows and magpies will inevitably be also eaten by buzzards. Traps are less likely to impact on buzzards.

          Can anyone pinpoint the time when cheaper machine made nets became available allowing pheasant rearing to be done under nets? This change would have allowed more sensible keepers to feel there was less need to kill buzzards. You also have the conservation awareness increase that came from the 70’s onwards.

  8. 12 Andrew Blake
    November 3, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    There may have been a drop in confirmed incidents in 2016 but not a trend.

    If it is getting hotter in the kitchen you take more care not to burn yourself. Doesn’t mean you cook less meals.
    And boy is it getting hotter for the raptor killers.

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