Author Archives: Mike Price

About Mike Price

A member of Sorby Breck Ringing Group and Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group

It may be a different singer but it is the same old song.

The story of Mary’s short life is typical of many young Hen Harriers. The places and dates may change but the facts remain the same. It is a sad, shameful, reflection of humanity when Mary’s life can be summed up in the following 50 words.

Mary was a Hen Harrier. Mary hatched on the Isle of Man in the summer of 2019. Mary was satellite tagged by a NERF member working with Manx BirdLife and the RSPB Hen Harrier Life Project. Mary left the Isle of Man. Mary was killed on a pheasant shooting estate.

Mary – Female Hen Harrier tagged on the Isle of Man in the summer of 2019

The fact that Mary was poisoned on a pheasant shooting estate in County Meath, Eire, not on a shooting estate in the UK, is irrelevant. The important fact is that she was killed on a shooting estate with carbofuran, a poison so toxic that a minute amount will kill a bird, a dog, a child or a fully grown adult. Knowing the risks involved someone indiscriminately laced a bait with this deadly poison and placed it in the open countryside where anything and everything coming into contact with it was at risk of death. Mary was at risk and Mary died as a result. This total disregard for any life-form, which is not a game bird, stems from the arrogance that we have seen demonstrated by many individuals involved in the shooting industry over decades.

Despite the recent warm words from the shooting industry that bird of prey persecution is unacceptable, the fact remains that this bird has joined the large number of Hen Harriers that have suffered a similar fate, in similar habitats and on land managed for game shooting. According to data published by Natural England almost three quarters of birds satellite tagged in the Natural England Hen Harrier Recovery Project disappeared inexplicably on shooting estates when their tags ‘stopped no malfunction’. [Murgatroyd et. al.] Whatever the location, in Eire or on the UK mainland, the problem of continuing raptor persecution is endemic. Put simply, birds of prey will not be tolerated across large sectors of their range.

The loss of Mary must be a terrible blow to Manx BirdLife. The Hen Harrier population on the island is small, enclosed and reducing. If there was ever a case for the introduction of new birds, new genes, into a small population then the Isle of Man must surely qualify.

Our sympathies go to Louise, the island’s Raptor Worker, and to Neil, of Manx BirdLife, and of course to Mary, a bird that paid the ultimate price for simply being a Hen Harrier. However you can rest assured that NERF will continue to play its part protecting and monitoring your Hen Harriers during 2020 and beyond.

Goodbye Mary. Hopefully your illegal killing will not be in vain and inquiries by the Garda Síochána will identify the person(s) responsible and the courts can then impose a suitable and substantial penalty. Whilst that will not help Mary it may help other Hen Harriers who follow her.

NERF

2 February 2020

NERF Conference – advance notice

Northern England Raptor Forum Annual Conference

Binks Building, Chester University, CH1 4AR

This year the annual Northern England Raptor Forum Conference is being held on Saturday 23 November 2019, hosted by the Cheshire Raptor Study Group. Once again we have an excellent series of lectures delivered by bird of prey experts.

Subjects include:

  • Birds of Prey and Owls of Cheshire
  • Golden Eagles
  • Red Kites of Shropshire
  • Kestrels
  • Wintering Raptors on the Cheshire and Wirral estuaries

We will also have presentations from Cathleen Thomas, RSPB Hen Harrier Life Project Manager and Police Superintendent Nick Lyall, Chairman of the Police led Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group.

This your annual opportunity to learn something new about the birds we love. It is also a great opportunity to get together with old friends and make new ones in the field of bird of prey monitoring.

Delegate booking forms will be available from 1 September.

NERF

12 August 2019