By Peter Frost in Britain:
Nothing glorious about the Twelfth of August
Friday 09 August 2013
Monday will be the horrendously misnamed “Glorious Twelth,” which marks the start of the bloody grouse shooting season.
Hundreds of well-heeled toffs will don their tweeds, pick up their guns and set out to blast hundreds of carefully reared small birds from the sky.
A day’s shooting on the moor will set each of them back a few thousand pounds. Some will get the day free, paid for as corporate hospitality and set against tax.
The grouse have been carefully looked after since the last shooting season ended and part of that careful care will have involved the legal and illegal destruction and harassment of Britain’s wonderful birds of prey.
I’ve reported here on gamekeepers being prosecuted for such crimes and also on Defra, Natural England, and Environment Minister Richard Benyon‘s attempts to protect the grouse moors from birds of prey.
This video is about hen harriers in Scotland.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has just announced that for the first time since the 1960s, hen harriers, our rarest raptor, have failed to nest successfully in England.
Just two pairs attempted to nest this year in England, but both failed.
The government’s own wildlife advisers say the population had been forced into this precarious position by illegal killing. Now the bird is on the brink of extinction in England.
The hen harrier was once widespread across Britain, but it has endured decades of persecution, which first forced this bird of prey out of mainland Britain by 1900. They survived in a tiny population in the Orkneys and the Western Isles.
Gradually changing land uses and pressures and legislation against landowners and gamekeepers’ persecution allowed them to spread south once more, reaching England shortly after the second world war.
Now the prospects for hen harriers and many other birds of prey largely depend on the attitudes of grouse moor owners and gamekeepers.
The RSPB’s Martin Harper told us: “The hen harrier is one of our most charismatic birds of prey enjoyed by many visitors to the uplands.
“However, managers on some intensive shooting estates have been attempting to remove this bird since it recolonised.
“The latest news is a huge setback and only a victory for those who want to see this bird of prey disappear from England’s skies, but we will continue to fight to ensure that this bird has a future in some of our most iconic landscapes.”
A government study, the Hen Harrier Framework, suggested there is capacity in the English uplands for over 300 pairs of hen harriers.
This study blamed illegal persecution through shooting, trapping and disturbance as the main reason for the hen harrier’s decline in England.
Crimes against birds of prey, including hen harriers, are common. Many gamekeepers end up in court but few if any go to jail. Fines or suspended sentences are little deterrent.
Their bosses, the shoot managers and land owners who condone the persecution are protected by law.
The RSPB has repeatedly called for the introduction of vicarious liability – making landowners legally responsible for the actions of their gamekeepers – to improve protection.
Harper concludes: “We are only a few days away from the ‘Glorious Twelfth‘ – the traditional August start of the grouse shooting season. My challenge to those who run grouse moors is simple – respect the law and allow hen harriers and other birds of prey to flourish again.”
Benyon, Britain’s richest MP and a man who runs game shoots on his huge estate, will no doubt be out to bag a few grouse this August.
So will many of his parliamentary colleagues, ministers, frontbenchers and Tories from the House of Lords.
Can we really expect them and the Defra and Natural England staff they employ and instruct to look after the hen harrier? Frankly, I think you can tell that to the birds.
Wed, 04/12/2013 – 14:48. In recent months, the indiscriminate and unsustainable killing of migrant birds in North Africa has become an issue of public concern in a growing number of countries. There has been widespread hunting and trapping of migratory birds in Egypt and also Libya, especially through the use of mist nets along large stretches of the Mediterranean coast. In response, the BirdLife Partnership, Government Agencies, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds have rapidly moved to address the situation: here.
Illegal bird deaths continue to rise in UK, RSPB report shows: here.
The true scale of bird crime across the UK has been highlighted in the 2013 Birdcrime report published by the RSPB on October 30: here.
A Norfolk gamekeeper was found guilty on 1st October 2014 for the poisoning of at least eleven birds, including 10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk: here.
- ‘Extinction threat’ to hen harriers (bbc.co.uk)
- Hen harrier close to extinction in England, says RSPB (theguardian.com)
- Letters: Nothing glorious about the twelfth (theguardian.com)
- New study shines light on hen harrier (scotsman.com)
- Dismay as charismatic hen harrier on verge of ‘extinction’ after nesting failure (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- VIDEO: ‘Extinction threat’ for hen harriers (bbc.co.uk)
- Irish politician’s hen harrier scandal (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Where have all the falcons gone? (independent.co.uk)
- Friday 1st November (bbray1945.wordpress.com)
- Raptor Persecution: Time to Act! (peteetheridge.wordpress.com)