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NERF 2019 Review

We announced in July this year that we had taken the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Raptor Conference due to be hosted by the two Peak District raptor groups in November.

Even without the second COVID 19, lockdown, we could not see an acceptable way to safeguard the conference attendees in a manner that enabled the conference to be popular success we have become accustomed to. Not least of which is the social side of the event, which many of our conference attendees consider to be important as the informative and entertaining presentations.

In any event the second lockdown, announced at the end of October, would have led to short notice cancellation and this risk alone meant that an early cancellation was the most sensible thing to do.

The initial lockdown at the start of spring 2020, will undoubtedly have influenced fieldwork and data that will feature in the 2020 report (to be published in 2021), it does not mean that the 2019 report could not go ahead. This did create some difficulties, namely how would we manage the distribution of a hard copy and recovering the cost of producing the report, the conference being key to both these issues in the past.

The solution we have settled on is to produce a downloadable reduced content 2019 report Whilst we are hopeful that the global Covid pandemic will have been brought to an end as the vaccines become available, at the present time we feel that it would be wise to be cautious in predicting what the future will hold for us during 2021. We will of course continue to update as the situation unfolds.

The 2019 report can be downloaded here. (or click the image below)

Stay safe and thank you for your continued support. Hopefully we will be able to gather together again at the NERF 2021 Conference.

NERF 21st November 2020

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Northern England Raptor Forum – Annual Conference 2020 cancelled.

It is with regret that we have to announce that the NERF Annual Conference planned for November 2020 has been cancelled. The effects of Covid-19 pandemic continue to disrupt daily life and threaten the health and well-being of people throughout the country.

NERF has a duty of care to our members and supporters, many of whom are in the vulnerable age group, and we have taken this decision to ensure the safety of delegates, speakers and venue staff is not put at risk.

We can now look forward to meeting again at the next conference in November 2021. In the meantime enjoy birding over the next few months and stay safe.

NERF 13 July 2020

The incredible story of a Red Kite called ‘Red Philip’ and the dedication of the Friends of Red Kites volunteers.

On 8th January 2020 the Friends of Red Kite [FoRK] announced that, sadly, one of their ‘founder’ Red Kites, known as ‘Red Philip’, had to be euthanised after suffering from a serious injury.

Red Philip was hatched in the Chilterns in 2004 and was transferred to the Derwent Valley later that year where he was fitted with wing-tag number 15. He was one of the first 20 Red Kite chicks to be tagged and released from the National Trust property at Gibside, Gateshead, as part of the Northern Kites Project. He was named by pupils at the St Philip Neri Primary School in Dunston, which adopted him as part of a special scheme for 107 schools.

In the spring of 2005, Red Philip set up a ‘first-year territory’ with a female, called ‘Flag’, however, they did not breed that year. In April 2006, he once again paired up with Flag. They successfully built a nest and in late May hatched the first Red Kite chick in the region after an absence of 170 years. The chick was successfully raised and fledged in late July. The young chick, although not wing-tagged, was nicknamed ‘Geordie’.

Flag and Red Philip successfully bred again in both 2007 and 2008. Two chicks were successfully raised in each year.

In 2009, Red Philip and Flag refurbished their 2008 nest and hatched a further two chicks, but failed to successfully fledge them. The chicks appeared to have fallen from the nest; one was recovered from below the nest and taken in to re-hab.

In March 2010, Red Philip and Flag started to refurbish their old nest, however this was then abandoned and Flag partnered with another male called ‘Thunderbird’. Flag and Thunderbird have remained partners to date.

In 2011, Red Philip found a new partner called ‘Swift’ and together, they built a new nest within his territory in the Derwent Walk Country Park. They successfully fledged three chicks, the first brood of 3 for Red Philip. Two of the chicks were wing-tagged however, the third chick was too small for tagging. It is not uncommon for Red Kites to ‘decorate’ their nests and this nest was found to contain the head of a soft toy seal.

In 2012 Red Philip and Swift raised one chick.

In March 2013, Red Philip appeared to be on his own. Swift had left him for an untagged male holding the adjacent territory. Red Philip unsuccessfully tried to woo her back by visiting her whilst the male was away. Despite refurbishing his nest, and calling continuously, Red Philip failed to attract a mate.

He had better success in 2014 when he attracted a new partner, a Yorkshire female called ‘Soar’, and built a nest near Hagg Hill Farm. Together they successfully raised two chicks.

Unfortunately in March 2015 Red Philip was injured in a road accident at Winlaton. The RSPCA were called and he was taken to their expert avian vet at Morpeth where he was X-rayed. Whilst there were no fractures he had suffered some tissue damage and there was some internal bleeding. Following a course of treatment and a period of recuperation he was re-released back into the wild on his territory. Soar, although initially seen at the nest site, appeared to have deserted him. Throughout the remainder of the year, Red Philip was seen on a number of occasions near his territory. He continued to hold the territory during 2016 and 2017 however, the Raptor Workers found no evidence of a nest during the breeding season and a thorough check during the weeks that they would expect to find newly fledged young confirmed that he had not bred during both years.

In February 2017, Red Philip was once again been involved in a minor accident, having flown into the window of a bungalow near Barlow. He appeared slightly dazed but, after perching on the wheelbarrow for a while, he flew off again. It is believed he had been ‘hunting’ a swallow motif on the window, ironically designed to prevent birds crashing in to windows.

Red Philip was seen displaying and built a nest in 2019, however once again he failed to attract a mate and the nest was unused.

At the end of 2019, Red Philip, aged 15, was found in the Gibside Estate in a distressed condition. He was taken to the vets, Robson & Prescott of Morpeth. Examination of the previous injuries that he had sustained showed signs of arthritis and the vet determined that he would be unable to fly very far without considerable pain and discomfort. Reluctantly, the decision was taken to euthanise him. Red Philip’s body was, fittingly, buried on the Gibside Estate.

Red Philip was an iconic bird being one of the 94 Red Kite reintroduced in the Derwent Valley between 2004 and 2006. He had a full life with three partners [previously the theory was that Red Kite pair for life] and fathered 11 chicks. Red Philip had a number of followers; some of whom have been in tears after hearing of his demise. One member claimed that he was regarded as a member of the family.

Fifteen years after the first re-introduction, the local Red Kite population is faring well in the core area. Unfortunately away from the core area they remain under pressure and there is no doubt that persecution is preventing them from expanding their range. Red Kites are primarily scavengers, actively cleaning the countryside. They do not represent a risk to people, domestic animals or game interests. However, since 2010 seven Red Kites have been found poisoned or shot. Sadly, there will have been many more undetected victims of crime during that period.

Images of Red Philip, courtesy of Paul Danielson.

For further information please contact Harold Dobson [FoRK Media Relations]

Mobile: 07801 907832 or email:

NERF awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Chairman of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group

NERF has been a member of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group [RPPDG] for 10 years, working tirelessly to monitor and protect birds of prey in the North of England.

Between 2015 and 2019 NERF partnered the RSPB Hen Harrier Life Project committing an extraordinary amount of voluntary time monitoring Hen Harriers at roost sites during the winter and locating and protecting nests during the breeding season. During the lifetime of the Project NERF members committed almost 15000 hours monitoring Hen Harriers and travelled in excess of 150,000 miles to and from the roost and nest sites. The value of NERF’s contribution to protecting Hen Harriers has been formally acknowledged by Superintendent Nick Lyall, the National Chair of the RPPDG, who has awarded NERF members a Certificate of Appreciation.

Click to download full size pdf
Click to see full size

The citation on the certificate states:

“For your time, effort and commitment in providing your personal time and money in order to monitor and protect endangered Hen Harriers.”

NERF is a voluntary organisation and it is humbling to have our efforts acknowledged by Nick.


21 December 2019

Congratulations Chris Packham CBE

Congratulations Chris, the award of the CBE in the New Year’s Honours List is well deserved. The conservation of our natural environment has always had a place in the public’s heart and yet the protection that it requires has for too long been seen as a ‘Cinderella’ service by successive Governments. Decades of avoidable decline have left many species and habitats vulnerable to minor changes that could have a major, negative impact. This is not a prediction, we are already witnessing potentially catastrophic changes occurring all around us. Fortunately if the correct remedial policies are implemented the situation can be reversed. Now they have a champion recognised both publicly and politically for years of effort, speaking out on behalf of our natural heritage.
December 2018.

Photo by Ruth Peacey

Response to the Defra Announcement of plans for Hen Harrier Brood Management

Defra has announced approval by Natural England of advanced plans to introduce brood management trials for Hen Harriers in 2018. See

This is not wholly unexpected since the concept featured in Defra’s six point Hen Harrier Emergency Action Plan issued in January 2016.

The Northern England Raptor Forum was not consulted by the overseeing Upland Stakeholder Group during the plan’s evolution and NERF was refused a seat at the table. Nonetheless NERF has to date been willing and able to directly support certain features of the Defra plan; in particular, Action 1 – monitoring populations, Action 3 – the work of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group hosted by the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and Action 4 – nest and winter roost protection.   Indeed NERF members, along with other groups, have devoted endless hours of entirely voluntary fieldwork in monitoring & protection effort towards these aims.  Despite little acknowledgement from the Defra Stakeholder Group the reality is that the Hen Harrier’s status in the uplands of northern England would be far less well understood without NERF’s contribution.

Whilst ensuring that evidence-based data on the Hen Harrier’s true status is available as a fundamental input to the process, NERF throughout has been resolutely opposed to the inclusion of Brood Management in the Action Plan.   We have previously set out our reasons, In the following public statements “Statement on Hen Harrier Brood Management”“The Defra Hen Harrier Emergency Action Plan – Assessment of Year 1” and “Response to the publication of RSPB Birdcrime 2016” .

To recap on NERF’s reasons for opposing brood management and the initial research trials:-

  • The Hen Harrier is near extinct as a breeding species in England (an average of just 3 successful nests per year over the last 9 years, ranging 0-6 nests annually) and is threatened thoughout the year as the pattern of disappearance of satellite tagged juvenile birds confirms.
  • Bowland and the North Pennine Special Protection Areas {SPAs} are both designated for their supposed breeding populations of Hen Harrier at 13 and 11 pairs respectively. In 2016 and 2017 there were none in either.  The UK government has a legal responsibility to correct these serious infractions and restore the species to a favourable status.
  • Given the species’ fragile status we would expect Natural England to be focused on protection and addressing the known principal reason for the species’ demise which by their own admission (‘A Future for the Hen Harrier?’ NE 2008) is that of illegal persecution.
  • Recent nesting pairs have only occurred on land which is not used for driven grouse shooting. As such breeding birds cannot possibly impact on the overall economics of driven grouse shooting estates. To contemplate interference via brood management with potentially the very first nesting pair to repopulate any one or more estates is outrageous and an affront to sound species’ conservation.
  • Research has shown the natural carrying capacity of Hen Harrier habitat in northern England to be 300+ pairs! Therefore as a minimum we would expect to see the upland SPAs, protected under EU Directives, demonstrably supporting their designated populations of Hen Harrier. Across the whole region we’d also expect to have at least 70 breeding pairs, below which published reports show there would be no economic impact on Red Grouse numbers. Only when these thresholds are reached should the case for brood management be considered anew.
  • Adequate protection against illegal persecution must be evidenced first and a growth in breeding numbers seen. There is no point in expending an estimated £0.9-1.2 million, to release young birds after hand rearing, into a dangerous environment where continuing illegal persecution severely diminishes their chances of surviving their first winter.

In respect of the Defra / Natural England announcement, made on 16 Jan 18, confirming the intention to pursue brood management (subject to nests being found),  NERF continues to see brood management chiefly as a tool to increase grouse bags and little to do with the committed conservation of Hen Harrier in England. In our view it is certainly not, as its title suggests, a ‘help to Hen Harriers’ nor does it represent ‘the best possible outcome’ for them.  We cannot accept legitimising the removal of Hen Harriers from our moors given their tenuous status. The announcement amazingly gives no recognition of the underlying issue of illegal persecution.  Worryingly there is no suggestion within the terms of the research trial of a limit being set on the number of nests that might be targeted during the research period.

NERF is left dismayed that Defra and Natural England, as protectors of our natural environment should promote this untimely and unnecessary intervention which is seems wholly contrary to the best principles of conservation.  As such NERF members are now intent on re-evaluating areas of cooperation with Natural England.

18 Jan 18

2016 Annual Review – available to Purchase

There are a limited number of copies of the 2016 Annual Review available for purchase, at the fantastic price of just £5.00 plus £1.58 postage.

Please note conference attendee’s should have received a free copy of the report on the day of the conference, if anyone who attended didn’t pick a free copy then please do let us know using the link below.

Please use the form available here to request copies or email