Animal rights activists killing thousands of hen harriers

HH by Gordon LangsburyThe long-awaited publication showing the results of the UK 2010 Hen Harrier Survey is finally here. Published in the scientific journal Bird Study, the paper (see here) documents significant declines across many parts of the UK.

No surprises there then.

England had a heady 12 pairs in 2010 (a country with sufficient habitat to support an estimated 323-340 pairs, according to the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework).

Scotland had 505 pairs in 2010 (a country with sufficient habitat to support an estimated 1467-1790 pairs).

Wales bucked the trend with at least a 33% increase to 57 pairs (none of which were found on habitat classified as grouse moor).

It should be remembered that these results are from 2010; there have been further documented declines since then, including just two (failed) breeding attempts in England this year and a consistent downward trend of breeding success in Scotland, according to the latest report from the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme (see here).

The paper also documents a severe decline on the Isle of Man (49%) and bizarrely suggests that ‘there are no obvious drivers for this’. Eh? Could it possibly be anything to do with the systematic elimination of harriers on the mainland, reducing the number of birds available to travel to the Isle of Man? Just a thought.

So, where are the missing 962-1285 breeding pairs of hen harriers in Scotland?

And where are the missing 322-339 breeding pairs of hen harriers in England?

Widespread declines are indisputable. The relationship in England and Scotland between areas of reported declines and land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting is also indisputable. But what happened to all those birds? Those with a vested interest in the grouse-shooting industry will tell you it’s all down to climate change/habitat change/lack of prey/cold spring/wet spring/late spring/early spring/being eaten by golden eagles/too many foxes/too many buzzards/too many ravens/too many sparrowhawks/the work of animal activist extremists hell-bent on killing hen harriers to make the gamekeepers look bad…in fact they’ll blame anything except the blindingly fucking obvious.

Hen Harrier photo by Gordon Langsbury

10 thoughts on “Animal rights activists killing thousands of hen harriers”

    1. Jo..if you really didnt know the answer to that, having stumbled on this site…please look at the archive section on the right…and youll see why the blogmeister thought it “blindingly obvious…”

  1. In this article I’d like to pick up on just one of your comments with regards to the Isle of Man hen harrier population declining by 49%.You talk about ”systematic elimination of harriers on the mainland, reducing the number of birds available to travel to the Isle of Man”.

    Surely If this was happening on the scale you’re suggesting then why is the Orkney hen harrier population increasing?

    In 2012 conservationists were hailing the breeding success of hen harriers on Orkney as the population recorded a 20 year high of 100 breeding females.

    Modern technology with current satellite tracking clearly highlights the wide range of movements of both adult and immature birds.

    I personally feel that the problem with hen harriers is multifactorial in that persecution is only one piece of this very complex jigsaw.

    1. RPUK may be able to give a better reply, but my understanding is that the Orkney Hen Harriers are mainly resident, staying on the islands throughout the year. As they are relatively unpersecuted, the importance of recruitment from elsewhere is less important for sustaining the population than on mainland UK. Whether the same applies on Isle of Man I don’t know, but it seems less likely due to its geographical position in the Irish Sea. It is highly likely that lack of recruitment due to low productivity on most grouse moors is an important factor in depressing the natural population level of Hen Harriers, and can make recovery very slow even in unkeepered areas. The sink effect is at work. I believe it should be possible to prove this conjecture by analysing Raptor Study Group data. I have offered to attempt to do so, but have been unable to proceed due to being denied access to sufficient nest record data.

  2. Driven grouse shooting is the main cause of decline for so many of our birds of prey, not to mention mammals such as the wild cat. The more we keep saying, this the more likely that the general public will realize it.

  3. I’m no prude but I wish you wouldn’t use the “f” word in your items. For me, it detracts so much from the strength of your argument.

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