Tag Archives: Peregrine Falcon

Natural England report confirms breeding Peregrines are missing from the northern uplands due to illegal persecution and deliberate disturbance.

Natural England have recently published:-

 “Definition of Favourable Conservation Status for the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

                                                                                                         Author: Allan Drewitt (Nov 2020)

http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5849435004469248?category=5415044475256832

Peregrine Falcon – Tim Melling

This is part of a wider Natural England project to define the Favourable Conservations Status (FCS) of various habitats and species in England at which they might be considered to be “thriving”.  The project aims to set aspirational levels for species’ populations and habitat conditions that will inform and guide decision makers to help achieve and sustain favourable status.  These analyses are based on ecological evidence and the expertise of specialist groups.

The Northern England Raptor Forum welcomes the report defining the would-be Favourable Conservation Status for the Peregrine Falcon. 

Many of our members have conducted long standing field studies into the fortunes of Peregrines in their area and contributed significant bodies of data to the key published papers that are cited in the Natural England report [Amar A. et al (2012), Melling T. et al (2018), Wilson M.W. et al (2018)].

Whilst the breeding populations of Peregrines in many areas of England have shown a general pattern of increases in recent decades the report makes clear this same trend is not evident in the northern uplands. Here marked losses in the range and population have been experienced and continue to this day. In particular, breeding productivity at sites on or near driven grouse moor estates is half of that found on non-grouse moor habitats.  There are now significant gaps across the northern uplands where Peregrines previously bred and where overall numbers are lower compared to the 1990s and 2000s, for example in the Dark Peak, Bowland Forest and the North Pennine SPA. 

The report concludes that current productivity in these areas is insufficient to allow the population to grow.  Restoration of the Peregrines’ natural range in the northern uplands would result in the presence of 90 pairs (compared with probably less than 20 pairs presently).  Crucially, the report judges that neither the habitat nor food abundance in the northern uplands are limiting to population growth.                                                                                                                                          

The principal reasons that upland Peregrines are faring so badly are given as illegal killing and nest site disturbance and the report makes clear that for a FCS to be achieved in England a significant growth in the northern upland population is now required and these illicit practices must cease.

Natural England have thus defined the underlying problem, which in itself is hardly news to many raptor fieldworkers.  However the FCS report does set an aspirational target for the future which is to be welcomed.  So far so good, the explicit acknowledgement that illegal activities are limiting upland populations is a positive step forward. The FCS has achieved its initial objective but the purpose of the report is inherently limited to just this so action plans with timelines are now needed urgently to deliver the stated goals. We now hope and trust Natural England will lead the way** with a renewed determination.

**Defra defines a key role of Natural England as:- “… delivering the environmental priorities of central government. Its general purpose is to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations    

NERF   January 11th 2021                                                                                                    

References

Amar, A., Court, I.R., Davison, M., Downing, S., Grimshaw, Pickford, T., & Raw, D. 2012. Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations. Biological Conservation. 145:86-94

Melling, T., Thomas, M., Price, M. & Roos, Staffan. 2018. Raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park. British Birds 111:275-29

Wilson, M. W., Balmer D. E., Jones, K., King, V. A., Raw, D., Rollie, C. J., Rooney, E., Ruddock, M., Smith, G. D., Stevenson, A., Stirling-Aird, P. K., Wernham, C. V., Weston, J. M. & Noble, D. G. 2018. The breeding population of Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands in 2014. Bird Study

Licences to take wild Peregrine chicks – Part 2

On the 15th April 2020 Dave Slater, Director for wildlife licensing confirmed that Natural England had licenced the removal of 6 Peregrine chicks from the wild, by three individuals, over the next 2 years. [see here]

Understandably both Raptor Workers, who are committed to monitoring and protecting these magnificent birds, and members of the public who delight in seeing the masters of the skies in both wild places and our cities. NERF was dismayed by this decision and posted this response on the NERF website.

On the 20th April 2020 NERF wrote to Lord Goldsmith of Richmond, the Minister of State for the Pacific and the Environment. His portfolio includes the UK environment and conservation. In the letter we reminded him that the country was currently in lockdown as a result of the Covid – 19 pandemic and that the BTO has, understandably, suspended all Wildlife and Countryside licences and ringing permits for the foreseeable future. These restrictions apply to England’s rarest and most endangered species. At the same time Natural England has licenced the removal of 6 Peregrine chicks from the wild. It is NERF’s opinion that this is both unreasonable and irresponsible at the present time. The removal of these chicks cannot be classed as ‘front-line work’ and the multiple journeys to and from the nests cannot be classed as ‘essential’ under the Corona Virus Regulations.

Accessing Peregrine nests is a dangerous activity and an accident and subsequent rescue would put unnecessary stress on both the rescue and medical services. The British Mountaineering Council [BMC] has warned climbers and hill walkers to curtail their activities during the pandemic and that the Mountain Rescue Teams are also in lockdown and unavailable in case of an accident.

NERF has called on Lord Goldsmith to suspend the licences during 2020. The full text of the letter can be read [here]

Similarly we wrote to Tony Juniper, Chairman of natural England. The full text of the letter can be read [here]

Twelve days later neither Lord Goldsmith nor Mr Juniper have responded to our letters. Time is pressing and we await their responses.

NERF

2 May 2020

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