Category Archives: NERF Statement

RSPB Birdcrime Report 2018

The RSPB has today published the annual Birdcrime Report.

87 confirmed incidents of Raptor Persecution. As we well know the number of incidents that are discovered/recorded are just the tip of the iceberg as previous highlighted by the BASC Director of Communications Christopher Graffius in this publication from December 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 was also the year that ‘Analysis of the Natural England’s data from satellite tagged Hen Harriers was published’

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as the year that NERF Members in the Peak District were involved in a study of the catalogue of Raptor Persecution Incidents recorded in the Dark Peak alongside the disparity between breeding success of both Goshawk and Peregrine Falcon in the Dark Peak compared to the White Peak areas of the Peak District National Park. The report from the study can be read here

Natural England’s answer to the issue of illegal raptor persecution in our uplands was to implement their flawed policy of Hen Harrier brood management on the basis that it is essential for Hen Harrier conservation and will lead to an increase in the English population. That second assertion may be true during the breeding season, but it totally ignores the fact that all of the evidence reveals that persecution is more problematic after the chicks disperse from their breeding grounds and that it affects many more raptor species.

The Head of RSPB Investigations Mark Thomas speaking about the ongoing issues of raptor persecution can be found below

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Supporting the work of the RSPB Investigations Team

The RSPB Investigations Team has a reputation second to none in the field of investigating and detecting crimes against birds of prey. For more than two decades this highly qualified specialist team has been assisting Police Wildlife Crime Officers and the National Wildlife Crime Unit by providing expert evidence to the Courts. There is no doubt that without their evidence many of the cases would not have been successfully prosecuted and the relentless persecution of raptors would continue unchallenged.

The Investigations Team is now seeking help from the public to allow them to continue their vital work.

The RSPB has created a moving video, showing the challenges of working on the frontline in the fight against raptor persecution and exposing some shocking statistics. You can watch it here:

Further information can be found at:

www.rspb.org.uk/defend

 

NERF

12 August 2019

Raptor Persecution Awareness Raising Day

Raptor Persecution Awareness Raising Day
Goathland Community Hub, North Yorkshire
10 am – 4 pm on Saturday 10 August 2019
Raptor persecution continues to plague the north of England and none of our birds of prey are immune. The needless slaughter of these iconic species continues unabated and the deaths are frequently associated with commercial game shooting.
To highlight the issue the Northern England Raptor Forum [NERF] is holding a second raptor persecution awareness raising day. The event will be held at the Community Hub in Goathland, North Yorkshire from 1000 to 1600 on Saturday 10 August 2019.
The event is supported by North Yorkshire Police, Operation Owl and the RSPB who will be on hand, together with members of NERF to discuss the issues with both bird of prey enthusiasts and members of the public who are committed to bringing bringing this disgraceful situation to and end.
Goathland is in the heart of the North Yorks Moors. It is the home of the popular TV series ‘Heartbeat’ and on the North York Moors Heritage Steam Railway.

Friends of Red Kites (in the North East of England) join NERF

The North England Raptor Forum is delighted to announce that the Friends of Red Kites in the North East of England (FoRK) have joined as members of the Forum.

FoRK are a well-established, membership-based, community organisation which was formed by volunteers in 2009 to encourage an active interest in the conservation of the Red Kite population in Gateshead’s Lower Derwent Valley and to continue to monitor their health & welfare.

It is the successor to the funded Northern Kites Project which was responsible for the re-introduction of 94 young red kites in the core area between 2004 and 2009.  [In 2006 red kites began to breed in the region for the first time after an absence of over 170 years.

In addition to FoRK’s considerable experience in monitoring and protecting Red Kites, the group channel their efforts into public engagement and education initiatives which raises awareness of the threats still apparent to Red Kites.   The species’ efforts to expand further into Northumberland, Durham and, indeed, Cumbria are also monitored by FoRK.

See www.friendsofredkites.org.uk for further details.

Coincident with this announcement we are also pleased to welcome the Yorkshire Kites Group which now formally joins NERF in an ‘Advisor’ capacity.   See www.yorkshirekites.net for further details.

NERF has enjoyed cooperation with both groups over many years but these changes represent an important advance.  Many of the issues faced with Red Kite conservation are shared by other raptors across our region and we look forward to seeing the benefits of exchanging information and expertise through our closer association with these two respected organisations.

NERF
1st  July ‘19

Hen Harrier Brood Management

In a few months time the outcome of the 2019 Hen Harrier breeding season will be announced. Some people will claim that it has been a good year and others will trumpet the outcome as a great year for Hen Harriers in England. Neither of these claims will be true, nor will they accurately reflect the fact that whatever the actual number of fledglings is this year, the population will remain perilously low for years to come despite the fact that there is sufficient space for c 300 pairs in the northern uplands.

If brood management goes ahead as planned 2019 will not be remembered as a good year for the English Hen Harrier population. It will be remembered, by leading conservation groups, including NERF, and Raptor Workers across the country as the year that Natural England (the English Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation) betrayed Hen Harriers to placate the grouse shooting industry. An industry that is, according to Natural England’s own data, largely responsible for the unexplained demise of 72% of Hen Harriers satellite tagged by their own staff. With that knowledge it is not unreasonable to assume that a similar percentage of un-tagged birds ‘disappeared’ under identical circumstances over the same period. It is also clear from press releases issued by RSPB that many of the birds satellite tagged as part of their Hen Harrier Life Project have also suffered the same fate on land managed for grouse shooting.

Natural England’s answer to those facts is the implementation of their flawed policy of Hen Harrier brood management on the basis that it is essential for Hen Harrier conservation and will lead to an increase in the English population. That second assertion may be true during the breeding season but it totally ignores the fact that all of the evidence reveals that persecution is more problematic after the chicks disperse from their breeding grounds. Brood management will do nothing to prevent persecution despite claims to the contrary. Anyone who believes that the entire grouse shooting industry will wholeheartedly welcome an increase in the Hen Harrier population is at best delusional. There are members of the industry who won’t even tolerate the small number of birds that already reside in, or transit through, the uplands at the present time let alone an increased number.

Following the confirmation that brood management has taken place this year, NERF fully expects an announcement in due course from Natural England stating how many eggs, or chicks were taken in to the scheme .What the hatching rates were from each clutch.  What the fledging rates were and confirmation that the birds were released back onto the moors from which they were removed. The project calls for all of the chicks to be satellite tagged prior to release back to the wild, in the interest of transparency NERF expects to read a prompt press release when the birds either die naturally or ‘disappear’ in circumstances that suggest persecution was the probable cause. The press release should include the location of the last known fix from the satellite tag.

Natural England has the legal right to undertake brood management, because they licensed themselves to do it. However, there is no right way to do the wrong thing and there is, in NERF’s opinion no justification for pursuing the brood management of Hen Harriers. We often hear the Police say that they cannot arrest their way out of the Hen Harrier persecution problem and in part that may be true. However, it is also true that Government policy should not be influenced by individuals or organisations that rely on criminality for their industry to prosper.

Additionally we need to know how much of the significant cost of brood management is being borne, not by the industry which has created the problem through illegal persecution, but by the British taxpayer.

Despite the hype that we can expect at the end of the breeding season, 2019 will not be a good year for Hen Harriers in England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NERF

June 2019

 

 

Peregrine shot dead at Elton reservoir, Bury

Peregrine Falcons epitomize everyone’s vision of a top avian predator. They are sleek, elegant and phenomenally fast, stooping on their prey at up to 200 kilometres per hour.

Whilst urban Peregrines populations are increasing slightly their rural relatives are not faring so well. NERF members have been monitoring Peregrine nests for decades and there is a large body of evidence, gathered by experienced, licensed fieldworkers, to demonstrate that persecution, the killing of Peregrine Falcons, is continuing to have a detrimental impact on their numbers.

Whilst it is extremely disappointing to learn that another one of these magnificent has been killed, regrettably it comes as no surprise.

Following a report on a local Facebook group page that there was a dead Peregrine at the foot of a pylon on the Elton Reservoir local nature reserve, Bury a birdwatcher went in search of the bird and found the corpse beneath the pylon on 7th May [12th May in the papers – what do you think?]. A Peregrine had been watched regularly on the same pylon by local birdwatchers and was last recorded there, alive, on 30th April.

When the body was recovered it was evident that it had badly scavenged, however an x-ray organised by RSPCA Inspector Paul Heaton, a member of the NERF affiliated Manchester Raptor Group, revealed that there was an air pellet or a bullet embedded in the body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A post mortem is to be conducted by the RSPCA to remove the air pellet or bullet, which may assist the Police in their investigations to trace the culprit.

Despite the fact that the two local landowners had not given anyone permission to shoot over their respective land local people have reported that someone was shooting wood pigeons illegally in the area.

NERF would like to thank the RSPCA for taking the lead in the investigation of the killing of this Peregrine Falcon.

Eldon Reservoir is popular with dog walkers and the RSPCA have launched an appeal for information surrounding the killing of this magnificent bird. If you have any information that would aid the investigation please contact the authorities.

There are several ways to pass on information confidentially; you can contact:

  • The Police on 101
  • Crimestoppers on 0800 555111
  • RSPCA Investigations on 0300 1234 999
  • RSPB Investigation Team on 01767 680551
  • RSPB hotline on 0300 999 0101

 

NERF

15 May 2019

Dark Peak Peregrine ‘abandons’ nest containing three eggs. Really?

Hope springs eternal”.

So said Alexander Pope in his ‘Essay on Man’ written in 1732. This is a metaphor for man’s ability to keep on hoping that everything will work out for the best in the end no matter what the odds and it perfectly sums up the attitude of Raptor Workers at the start of every breeding season.

Autumn and winter in the northern uplands can be long, cold, wet dreary months. Eventually the wet grey days and long dark nights give way to warmer days; the clocks go forward and nature wakes up and bursts into life again.

However; despite following Pope’s philosophy spring time in the northern uplands always induces a mixture of elation and trepidation for NERF members. Having spent hundreds of long cold hours on the fells monitoring and protecting Hen Harriers on their roosts, often in dreadful weather, spring offers new hope. With luck the coming raptor breeding season will be successful; the weather will be kind, prey will be plentiful, clutch sizes will be large and by mid-summer young fledglings will be on the wing. That’s the hope but unfortunately the spectre of raptor persecution is never far away.

We understandably spend a great deal of time discussing and condemning Hen Harrier persecution however we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is evidence  that all bird of prey species face the threat of persecution throughout the whole of the NERF raptor study area. Along with Hen Harriers we know that Buzzards, Goshawks, Short-eared Owls and Peregrine Falcons remain victims of egg collectors and they continue to be trapped, poisoned and shot to death annually. The problem is particularly acute in North Yorkshire and the Dark Peak but no region is totally immune.

Peregrine populations have been suppressed by persecution in the northern uplands for decades and in the Dark Peak Peregrines have had a torrid time for many, many years. This latest incident, which occurred in the Peak District National Park, involved an active Peregrine nest where the adults ‘disappeared’ leaving 3 unhatched eggs.

On the 26th of March 2019 two licensed Raptor Workers, from the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, were checking an historic peregrine breeding site on a remote crag on a grouse moor in the Glossop area when they witnessed a food pass between a male and female Peregrine Falcon. Along with this observation the Raptor Workers watched the adult male drive off a Kestrel that had strayed into the potential breeding area. From experience they quickly realised that this was a precursor to a breeding attempt and determined that they would return two weeks later.

The Raptor Workers returned to check on progress at the breeding site on the 8th of April 2019. After observing the nest site from a suitable distance for some considerable time they were dismayed when they realised that there were no adults present on the crag. In order to confirm whether or not the Peregrines had actually commenced breeding they made a licensed visit to the nesting ledge and there they discovered three cold Peregrine Falcon eggs. Whilst we may never know what actually occurred at this site research tells us that Peregrine falcons do not abandon their eggs unless one or both of the birds have been either killed or kept off of their nest for a very long period of time. The average incubation period for Peregrine eggs is 31 days [BTO] and yet adults are so committed to hatching their eggs they will continued incubating infertile eggs for periods considerably longer that the normal 31 days. Taking into account that the adults were absent, that the eggs were cold, that the nest was located in an area where raptor persecution is rife it is difficult to perceive a cause of this failure that doesn’t involve human interference at the site.

Peregrines are one of the earliest raptors to breed and this incident reminds all of us, not just Raptor Workers, that we must be vigilant whilst monitoring, or simply enjoying watching, all raptor breeding attempts. They are all vulnerable and NERF will play its part in protecting them in the months and years ahead. To some, following the philosophy ‘hope springs eternal’ may appear naïve when persecution of birds of prey continues apace. However; if we lose hope we lose everything. We will never lose hope; our magnificent birds of prey deserve no less. Persecution is pernicious and there is no place for it in modern day society.

For future information on the level of raptor persecution in the Dark Peak click on the links below.

Peak Malpractice 2006 – RSPB,
Peak Malpractice update 2007 – RSPB,
The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative 2018 – Peak District National Park Authority, National Trust, Moorland Association, Natural England and both of the local Raptor Groups [The RSPB left the Initiative in early 2018 due to a lack of progress and ongoing raptor persecution incidents].
Raptor Persecution in the Peak District National Park – Melling et al 2018, highlighting the fortunes of breeding peregrine and goshawk in the Peak District National Park and the association of raptor persecution with driven grouse shooting.

This incident has been reported to the Police. If you have any information that would aid the investigation please contact the authorities. There are several ways to pass on information; you can contact:

  • The Police on 101
  • Crimestoppers on 0800 555111
  • RSPB Investigation Team on 01767 680551
  • RSPB hotline on 0300 999 0101

NERF

18 April 2019