The RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project has just published a rather excellent layperson’s report and a link to it can be found at the foot of the summary on the Skydancer webpages.
Unfortunately, it is already out of date. If you look at page 19 of the report and check out the class of 2019 you can see that Ada is missing the tell-tale red cross. Ada has today been reported missing over a grouse moor near Allendale – her tag was functioning reliably up until the 10th October but suddenly stopped and there has been no sign since, see here and here.
This project is yet another fabulous project that has received funding from the EU Life programme (c£1million), and I think it’s fair to say that it probably wouldn’t have gone ahead, at least as comprehensively as it did, without that EU funding. Please take time to read the summary report (see above link) it outlines the key achievements and successes and takes about 10 minutes to read thoroughly – the lay out and photographs are stunning too.
For me some of the stand out points from the report are as follows (my two penn’orth in brackets):
- “We monitored historical roost sites and discovered over 150 new roost sites. Together with raptor workers and landowners we were able to monitor these roosts and protect the birds using them, with the contribution of over 10,000 volunteer hours from the Northern England Raptor Forum and Scottish Raptor Study Groups.” (Congratulations to NERF & SRSG, that’s a huge amount of volunteer effort).
- “This is the largest tracking study of Hen Harriers in Europe. We originally planned to tag 24 birds, but increased this to over 100 birds, thanks to the hard work of the project team and generous donations from LUSH customers and a range of other donors.” (If you’re buying smelly stuff for Christmas presents in the next few weeks, maybe consider getting them from LUSH).
- “Whilst we have lost birds to natural causes, we found tagged birds like Rannoch who died caught in an illegal spring trap, Carroll and River whose bodies were found to contain lead pellets from shot guns, and Kathy and Lia who were found with unexplained injuries, consistent with shooting.” (Not at all unexpected but adds to the wealth of evidence that Hen Harriers are illegally persecuted).
- “We surveyed local business and people living in and visiting SPAs. 81% of those surveyed said they would prefer to have more Hen Harriers in their local area and felt this would have a positive impact in the UK.” (Who on earth were the other 19%?!).
- The Hen Harrier heroes listed on pages 12-15. (Hats off to every single one of them, but not a single representative from a statutory agency or national park).
- “…..the main factor limiting their recovery is the illegal killing associated with management of moorlands for driven grouse shooting. These management practices are also negatively affecting other birds of prey including Golden Eagles, Peregrines, Red Kites and Goshawks.” (Sounds organised and systematic to me).
- “Self-regulation of the UK’s grouse moors has failed.” (Time for a ban on driven grouse shooting but licensing would be a step in the right direction).
- Within the 20 pages of the report, I couldn’t find a single mention of Defra, Natural England or Scottish Natural Heritage which is very telling.
One has to wonder how the next UK Government will replace this fantastic source of EU funding. EU Life funding has breathed new life into many threatened species programmes in the UK, but I can’t see that being replicated by a Westminster Government – can you?
Photo credit: images taken from RSPB Skydancer social media