In 2011, a five-year ‘Bird of Prey Initiative’ was launched which aimed to restore declining populations of some raptor species in the Dark Peak region of the Peak District National Park.
This ‘initiative’ was deemed necessary following years of evidence of wide scale raptor persecution within the region (e.g. see RSPB summary reports here and here).
The members of the ‘Bird of Prey Initiative’ comprised five organisations: The Moorland Association, The National Trust, Natural England, Peak District National Park Authority and the RSPB. Two local raptor study groups (the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group and the South Peak Raptor Study Group) were also involved.
Targets were set to increase the breeding populations of three key raptor species for which the area had been given Special Protection Area status, i.e. it was considered a nationally important site for these raptors.
The targets were set as follows:
Merlin: increase from 22 breeding pairs to 32 breeding pairs by 2015
Short-eared owl: maintain the average breeding population of 25 pairs to 2015.
Peregrine: increase from 13 breeding pairs to 15 breeding pairs by 2015.
These targets were not unreasonable – they reflected the number of breeding pairs that the SPA should have been able to support.
Interestingly, the group failed to set any targets to improve the breeding populations of local goshawks and hen harriers; there was just an ‘expectation’ that these species would be encouraged to breed. Sure, neither are an SPA-qualifying species in this area but nevertheless the area used to hold historically important populations which have since been reduced, through illegal persecution, to an occasional successful pair, so why exclude them?
Anyway, the ‘initiative’ has now ended and surprise surprise, the targets set for merlin, short-eared owl and peregrine have not been met. And goshawks and hen harriers are still largely absent with just a couple of exceptions. You can download the project report here for details: PDNP-Birds-of-Prey-Report-2012-15
In response to the report’s findings, Rhodri Thomas, an ecologist with the Peak District National Park Authority, is quoted in this BBC article (here) as saying the report’s findings are “concerning and disappointing“. Mark Avery has described the findings as “entirely predictable and totally unacceptable” (see here).
Rhodri Thomas goes on to say that the decline in peregrine numbers (now at only four pairs) was the hardest to explain as numbers in other parts of the Park were increasing and there was no obvious reason why they were staying away from the Dark Peak. He said he was determined to “bottom-out” what was causing the decline.
Here’s an easy starting point for him – try reading the provisional results of the most recent National Peregrine Survey (see here) as well as the recent paper documenting peregrine declines in another region dominated by driven grouse shooting (see here).
Sorry, Rhodri, but it’s not that difficult to understand.
In a press release from the Peak District National Park (see here), there’s talk of ‘renewed commitment’ from the project partners as well as ‘new rigour and energy’ to restore the breeding success of raptors in the Dark Peak. This is, of course, utter bollocks.
Mark Avery has picked up on this in his blog from this morning (see here), and as he says, it’s just an opportunity for the National Park authorities to hide behind a failing project for a few more years and avoid taking any real action, like, for example, banning driven grouse shooting within the National Park.
We’re so tired of all this ‘talking’ and so-called ‘cooperation’. It hasn’t worked and nor will it work. How do you move on from a conversation that goes something like this:
Conservationists to the grouse shooting industry: “Stop illegally killing raptors”.
Grouse shooting industry to conservationists: “We’re not killing them”.
Meanwhile, the killing continues and The Untouchables remain untouchable. The time for talking is over.
Sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting here
This dead goshawk (photo above) was found in the Peak District National Park in 2014 – both legs were broken and its injuries were consistent with being caught in an illegally set spring trap.