Posts Tagged ‘hen harrier


Damning report highlights illegal killing of birds of prey on Nidderdale AONB grouse moors

The Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an absolute hell hole for many birds of prey.

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

This is no secret. The illegal killing of raptors on the grouse moors of this AONB has been documented and reported on for years, by the RSPB and by this blog. The area is notorious amongst raptor conservationists for the number of hen harriers that ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances (that’s a euphemism for ‘they have been killed’) and the number of red kite corpses that have been found either shot or poisoned, or sometimes both.

It’s a gaping black hole on the breeding distribution maps of many raptor species and despite this being a so-called protected area, in the words of Mark Avery it’s actually a massive wildlife crime scene.

Here’s a map we produced a while ago showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle, which we now know should be closer to the red star on the Swinton Estate).

Nidderdale AONB lies directly east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, another raptor persecution hell hole. Last year, the Park Authority responded to public concerns about the killing of raptors on grouse moors by producing an evidence report on the scale of the problem. As we wrote at the time, ‘This report, which is very well written and referenced, is a significant move. There’s no attempt to deny or hide or obfuscate the facts, as we’ve seen so often before. It is a clear description of what’s been happening in this National Park and places grouse moor management at the centre of it all. It’s well worth a read‘.

Fast forward a year and now the Nidderdale AONB has done exactly the same:

You can download the report here: BoP-in-NiddAONB-Evidence-Report-FINAL-Sept-2019

It’s another well-written, fully-referenced report and there’s no hint of denial or obfuscation. It is particularly pleasing to see the use of RSPB persecution data, not just the inaccurate, out of date, watered-down RPPDG data that some pro-shooting organisations rely upon to minimise the perceived scale of the problem. Once again, the report’s conclusion is that grouse moor management is in the frame.

Well done to the author(s) of this report and well done to the Nidderdale AONB for having the balls to publish it.


Hen harrier brood meddling letter: you won’t see this on the Moorland Association’s website

News of this year’s Hen Harrier Brood Meddling trial continues to trickle through.

Yesterday, Mark Avery posted a fascinating email from one member of the Scientific Steering Group to all the others, outlining concerns about the safety of the brood meddled birds once they’ve been released back to the wild (er, yes, this has been the most glaring flaw in the brood meddling plan – has the scientific steering group only just recognised this?!).

Here’s another letter that’s been brought to our attention (thanks to the blog reader who sent it), this time written by senior figures at Natural England, Police and the Moorland Association and addressed to Moorland Association members (predominantly grouse moor owners) and some sporting agents:

Gosh, you won’t find a copy of this letter on the Moorland Association’s website – although it should be right up there, pinned to the front page, to be read first before all the usual propaganda about the so-called ‘triumph’ of this year’s breeding success (less than 5% of the country’s carrying capacity is nowhere near a triumph) and how grouse moor owners have apparently been ‘voicing their support’ for Hen Harrier Day! Really? Where was that, then?

‘Stop killing hen harriers’ is this letter’s message, writ large.

It’s interesting that we’re already a third of the way through September and as yet we’ve not heard of any of this year’s satellite-tagged cohort ‘disappearing’. Most unusual.


What happened to this buzzard, caught in a trap on Leadhills Estate?

This buzzard was caught inside a crow cage trap on the Leadhills Estate in January 2019. It isn’t illegal to catch a buzzard in this sort of trap – it’s seen as accidental by-catch – but it is illegal for the trap operator not to release it immediately upon discovery and it’s also illegal to not check the trap at least once within every 24 hour period.

The trap, which was padlocked so was inaccessible to anyone without a key, was being filmed covertly by RSPB Scotland and their camera captured some interesting goings on in the night, with ‘somebody’ (unidentified, natch) rocking up on a quad bike, entering the padlocked trap, appearing to strike at something on the ground, removing something from the trap, and then driving off. As the cameras continued to roll, at dawn it became apparent that the buzzard was no longer in the trap.

Watch the video here:

According to a detailed blog (here) written by RSPB Scotland Head of Investigations Ian Thomson, there were at least two 24 hour periods where the trap was not checked by the trap operator, but despite a Police Scotland investigation, the trap operator could not be identified (presumably because the estate refused to divulge that information).

Nobody has been charged with anything relating to the operation of this trap.

Just as nobody has been charged for the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier on this estate in 2017 (here), or for the witnessed shooting of a short-eared owl on this estate in 2017 (here), or for the shooting of a buzzard found on this estate in 2018 (here), or for the savagely barbaric trapping of a hen harrier on this estate a couple of months ago (here). In fact, according to the RSPB, there have been a total of 72 confirmed raptor persecution incidents recorded on this estate since 2003 and only two of them have resulted in a successful prosecution.

Not only have there been no charges brought, but no civil sanctions either, such as a restriction on the use of the General Licence, which SNH has had the authority to impose since 1 January 2014 if there is sufficient evidence (from Police Scotland) that wildlife crimes have taken place but insufficient evidence to secure a criminal prosecution.

Great, isn’t it?


What are Britain’s uplands for? Debate in North Yorkshire tomorrow

This should be an interesting day tomorrow, with guest speakers including Martin Holland (Chair of Goathland East Moor Regeneration Group and a Goathland Parish Councillor), Andrew Johnson (Duchy of Lancaster), George Winn-Darley (Moorland Association regional rep & grouse moor owner [Spaunton Moor]), Rachel Pickering (North York Moors National Park Authority) and Robert Frewen (Country Land & Business Association).

The event will be hosted and chaired by Anne Gray of the Heather Trust (formerly of Scottish Land & Estates).

For those of us in to raptors, the North York Moors National Park, which is saturated with driven grouse moors, represents one of the major raptor persecution blackspots in the country. Indeed, these grouse moors were identified in the recent scientific paper on hen harrier persecution as being one of the worst of the so-called Protected Areas for hen harriers. Can’t imagine why. Perhaps this issue will be raised in tomorrow’s debate?

Hope to see some of you there!

NB: You need to book here


See you at Hen Harrier Day tomorrow!

Wild Justice (Chris Packham, Mark Avery & Ruth Tingay) is hosting this year’s Hen Harrier Day event at Carsington Water Visitor Centre, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 12 noon to 5pm Sunday 11th August 2019. Huge thanks to Severn Trent Water for their support, enthusiasm and help.

This is a family-friendly event with loads of kids activities and stalls and a fantastic line up of speakers who’ll be telling the ugly truth about what’s happening to hen harriers.

[This hen harrier was caught in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a grouse moor. The trap practically severed his leg. Despite the best efforts of a specialist wildlife vet, he didn’t make it. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The speakers will be on stage throughout the afternoon in three blocks:

Early speakers: Iolo Williams (Conservationist and broadcaster), Hardyal Dhindsa (Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner), Gill Lewis (author), Tim Birch (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust).

Mid-afternoon speakersRuth Tingay (Wild Justice and Raptor Persecution UK), Cathleen Thomas (RSPB Hen Harrier Life project), Dan Rouse (conservationist, Wales), Ian Thomson (RSPB Investigations, Scotland)

Late afternoon speakersNick Lyall (Police Superintendent, chair Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group), Tessa Gregory (lawyer, Leigh Day), Dom Dyer (conservationist), Natalie Bennett (Green Party), Chris Packham CBE (Wild Justice, broadcaster etc).

We know that many supporters are travelling across the country to be there. Safe travels and look forward to seeing everyone.


Police warning as red kite confirmed poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Last October (2018) a dead red kite had been found near Wath, in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a notorious raptor persecution black spot.

An x-ray confirmed the kite had been shot and North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation. We blogged about the case here.

It seems that wasn’t the end of the story. Although the x-ray revealed two pieces of shot, these were not considered to have caused the kite’s death so it was sent off for post-mortem and toxicology examination.

The results are now back (10 months on!!) and nobody will be surprised to learn that, like so many other red kites in Nidderdale, this one had not only been shot on two separate occasions, but it had also been poisoned with a concoction of banned pesticides.

North Yorkshire Police has now issued a warning and an appeal for information as follows:


Police have issued a warning about illegal pesticides, after a post-mortem concluded a red kite died as a result of pesticide abuse.

At the end of October 2018 a red kite was found dead in Nidderdale. The finder in this case was the landowner, who was concerned that criminal activity may have taken place on his land.

North Yorkshire Police arranged for the bird to be x-rayed, and this showed there were two pieces of shot in the bird. However, it was not possible to say whether these had caused fatal injuries. Police released details of the incident, and appealed for information from the public.

Officers have now completed their enquiries. The dead bird was subjected to a post mortem, which concluded that the injury caused by one piece of shot was old and had healed. The damage caused by the second piece was recent but was not a fatal injury.

The bird was then submitted to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, which is administered by Natural England. It was subjected to toxicological tests which found several poisons in the bird. The largest quantity of poison was a substance called bendiocarb, a pesticide which is licenced [sic] for use in the UK. Smaller amounts of two other pesticides, isofenphos and carbofuran, which are both illegal in the UK, were also present. The report concluded that the kite had died as a result of the abuse of several pesticides.

At this time, officers have not received any information to help them identify any suspects. Although the investigation has now concluded, anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police, quoting reference 12180199938.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “The test results suggest that someone not only has access to two illegal poisons, but is also placing them, along with a legal pesticide, into the environment so that a wild bird has been able to consume them. In addition to being poisoned, the bird had also been shot at least twice during its life.”

Red kites have been successfully re-introduced to Yorkshire, having been extinct as a breeding bird in England, and they are now a familiar sight to people in Nidderdale. All birds are protected by law and it is a crime to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird. If anybody has information about persecution of birds of prey, whether by poisoning or shooting, please call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

Anyone misusing pesticides may also be committing a variety of offences. If you come across an object which you believe may be contaminated with a pesticide or other poisons, please do not handle it. Report the situation immediately to the police giving accurate details of location and why you suspect involvement of a poison.


There’s an RSPB blog about this case here.

Interesting to note the suggestion that Bendiocarb is a pesticide that is licensed for use in the UK. Not in Scotland it isn’t – it’s one of eight pesticides that are considered so highly toxic that it’s an offence to even have them in your possession, let alone use them (the others are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine).

When an opportunity arose to have these substances banned in England, the then Wildlife Minister Richard Benyon (owner of grouse moor & pheasant shoot) refused to support such a move (see here).

So, here’s yet another red kite victim to add to all the other red kite victims that have been found either poisoned or shot on or close to grouse moors in the Nidderdale AONB, along with all those missing satellite-tagged hen harriers and two shot hen harriers.

RPUK map showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle).



First Minister finally writes to 9 year old boy about golden eagle persecution

At the beginning of July the news emerged that two satellite-tagged golden eagles, named Adam and Charlie, had vanished from the same grouse moor, on the same morning, in highly suspicious circumstances (see here).

In response to this news, and prompted by children’s author Gill Lewis, quite a number of people drew pictures of golden eagles and sent them to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, urging her to finally take action against the grouse shooting industry. One of those people was a nine-year-old boy called Freddie Blackman, who drew this fantastic picture:

After almost a month of silence from the First Minister, not just about these suspiciously ‘missing’ eagles but also about a ‘missing’ hen harrier and two other hen harriers (here & here) that were found on grouse moors with illegal spring traps gripping their legs, Nicola Sturgeon has now finally responded to Freddie with this letter:

Nine-year-old Freddie seems a pretty savvy young man and is unlikely to be impressed with The First Minister’s suggestion that she doesn’t yet know why golden eagles and other raptors are ‘going missing or being hurt’ but that she’s waiting for a report from a ‘special group of people’ (Prof Werritty et al) to find out!

He’ll also be pretty unimpressed if he checks out the SNH website, as Ms Sturgeon suggests, to find out ‘what we are doing to protect wildlife in Scotland’. Er, here’s what you’re doing, Nicola – thinking about putting ravens on the General Licence so that gamekeepers and farmers can slaughter as many as they like, when they like, without any level of accountability whatsoever.

Freddie wasn’t the only one who wrote to the First Minister urging action against the grouse shooting industry. Andy Wightman MSP, the Scottish Parliament’s Golden Eagle Species Champion also wrote to Ms Sturgeon following the disappearance of Adam & Charlie. He told her it was ‘long past time for reviews and inquiries’ and he asked for some very specific action:

  1. Provide clear leadership in condemning these organised crimes;
  2. Commit to legislate to ban or to regulate driven grouse-shooting;
  3. Meet with me and others concerned with raptor conservation to discuss how your Government can take further action to eradicate wildlife crimes;
  4. Invite the Justice Secretary to convene a high-level task force of law enforcement officials to step up prevention and detection of wildlife crime and improve the admissibility of evidence in court.

The First Minister’s response to Andy’s letter? To ignore his specific requests for action and to delegate back to Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham who simply regurgitated the standard response that’s been sent to all those who wrote to the Scottish Government about the ongoing persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors:

Without a shadow of doubt, the Scottish Government’s continued procrastination about dealing with the criminals within the grouse shooting industry will be high up on the agenda of many of us attending the Revive conference today.

Watch this space……

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