North York Moors really good for waders but really bad for raptors

North York Moors NPTwo weeks ago the Yorkshire Post published an article about how well waders were doing on the North York Moors, according to the results of a survey conducted by the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA) and Natural England.

According to the North York Moors biodiversity action plan, the North York Moors National Park ‘contains the largest patch of continuous heather moorland in England and holds over 10% of the country’s resource. Most of the moors are privately owned and are managed for sheep grazing and grouse shooting’ [with the Hawk & Owl Trust’s Fylingdales Moor a notable and welcome exception].

The survey suggested that golden plover had reached an 18-year high on these moors, there had been no decline in breeding lapwing and populations of curlew were ‘holding steady, bucking a national declining trend’.

The article included a quote from David Renwick, the Director of Conservation at the NYMNPA:

Thanks must go to landowners and gamekeepers who have not only supported our survey work but are keen to create favourable habitats and conditions for these birds“.

That’s an interesting statement from the National Park’s Director of Conservation, who apparently “is an ecologist by training“. Presumably, his ecology training would have led him to question why these waders are doing so well on these moors. Could it be, perhaps, that all the waders’ natural predators have been eradicated from these moors? Is that what he means when he congratulates landowners and gamekeepers for creating ‘favourable habitats and conditions’?

North Yorkshire has the well-deserved status of being the worst place for reported raptor persecution incidents in the whole of the UK. We’ve blogged about it previously (here and here). It has held this status for six of the last seven years (being pipped to the post in 2011 when it came a close second to Lancashire). Here are the data, sourced from the RSPB’s excellent annual Birdcrime reports:

2013: 23 known incidents of raptor persecution. Status: #1 worst in UK

2012: 34 known incidents of raptor persecution. Status: #1 worst in UK

2011: 33 known incidents of raptor persecution. Status: #2 (Lanacashire #1 with 36 incidents)

2010: 54 known incidents of raptor persecution. Status: #1 worst in UK

2009: 27 known incidents of raptor persecution. Status: joint #1 worst in UK (with Cumbria)

2008: 24 known incidents of raptor persecution. Status: #1 worst in UK

2007: 78 known incidents of raptor persecution. Status: #1 worst in UK

We looked in the biodiversity action plan and on the NYMNPA website for any information about how they specifically planned to address these appalling statistics but couldn’t find very much. We did, though, find an invitation to an open day to ‘meet the countryside protectors’. Marvellous.

14 thoughts on “North York Moors really good for waders but really bad for raptors”

  1. Where is the natural balance? The gamekeepers have made it favourable for the mentioned waders but where are all the other species that should be able to call these moors their home? Killed, poisoned, shot and trapped by the blood lust gamekeepers, with their masters blessing no doubt. DEFRA wont be looking out for them as they have proved that they are the puppets of these land managers, and the North York Moors National Park should be ashamed of themselves for condoning the obvious criminology that has taken place.

    1. To counter the lie that that they “create favourable habitats and conditions for these birds“, I will say that the only species these areas are managed for is the Red Grouse. The possibility that a few species of waders may benefit from this “land management” is a by product of the prejudiced regime, and as a result of the total extermination of all predators, including protected species of bird and mammal.

      The shooting industry is trying to turn this into a conservation success story, but any increase in wader numbers is a by product – nothing more, nothing less – so do not be fooled by the propaganda.

  2. the game keepers, must have been re flooding the areas previously drained and not burning the heather then, for these wetland species to be thriving to such a level.

    or is it actually that they are managing to thrive despite the best efforts of the gamekeepers to make the land unsuitable, because the predators are eradicated in a concerted and systematic manner?

  3. Question (1): given a moorland environment in which man does not make such aggressive management interventions, what key indicator species would one expect to see if that environment were “naturally healthy” (I’m guessing not waders, necessarily)?
    Question (2): When the golden plover & other wading species begin to outgrow the environment’s capacity to sustain them, given that natural predators and carrion eaters have been “controlled”, what will happen to the carcases of starved and diseased “successful” species that will be the consequential casualties of overpopulation?

    1. There never will be an over population, the birds will move off to a vacant territory, and try and breed like any other species, the carcasses of anything dead will be eaten by maggots and broken down by the weather.
      Defras higher level countryside stewardship scheme actually caters for grip blocking, a reversal of upland gripping done many years ago, in an attempt to prevent flooding by fast run off of rain. The golden plover and lapwing seem to like to nest where they can see around, in shorter heather in the first to 3 years after burning.
      The price of timber has greatly increased, this could eventually lead to even more moorland being planted with sitka,
      the price of lamb has also gone up sharply lately, and with an ever increasing human overpopulation on our tiny Island could lead to a call for a lot more sheep,, thus grazing all out of existence .

      1. Please check forestry guidance re applying to plant new forests on peatland habitat……. I will save you the time… it says don’t.

  4. This is interesting information and I concur with the thought the reason they are doing well is because there are no predators – these predators do include raptors but for waders it is the control of crows and mustelids which is more beneficial being ground nesters stoats and weasels are a big threat and I have observed crows watching waders nesting from a vantage point then clearing out the nest of both eggs and chicks. The statistics though do indicate there is raptor persecution but the increased wader numbers and lack of raptors are in this case none consequential i.e. one doesn’t necessarily mean the other

  5. Dear North York Moors National Park, Did your surveys cover merlin? How well are THEY doing? Are THEY bucking a national trend? If not; best not rejoice too much about how well the ‘countryside protectors’ are serving biodiversity. Try to look at the big picture.

    1. The highest density of Merlin territories ever was on a driven grouse moor in north wales. When the moor reverted to sheep the Merlin numbers crashed.

      1. Merlins are doing quite well on keepered ground, because theres not many foxes, a lot less stoats, and the merlin does no harm at all to the grouse.

        1. Hi KB,

          I’d be interested in reading about that; could you provide the source of that information please? The only recent report on Merlin numbers I’ve seen is the rather dodgey one from the MA earlier in the year.


  6. If you had a full compliment of top predators like Goshawk, Eagle, Lynx etc. then the “meso” predators like Corvids and Foxes would be taken care of naturally and waders would exist at their natural densities. The shooting estates have created a glorified zoo that bares little relationship to what a natural functioning ecosystem should be

  7. I often drive or ride in the the northern dales and north York moors and its striking ,like a slap in the face obvious there just are NO raptors in the skies . That’s not a natural state of affairs and it doesn’t take the brain of Britain to know why , they are being klilled by the land owners employees. But then again EVERYONE knows that don’t they.

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