Bird of prey ‘initiative’ in Peak District National Park fails to deliver

IMG_5764 (2)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.

goshawk-legsInterestingly, 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.

11 thoughts on “Bird of prey ‘initiative’ in Peak District National Park fails to deliver”

  1. The shooting estates will continue to kill any predator mostly in the secrecy of the vast areas they control. They pay lip service to the conservationists and try to show their concern and lawfulness. The majority are liars and hypocrites. Their only targets are raptors…. bang bang.

    It is time to stop driven game shoots, both grouse and pheasant. The regimes behind the cruel activities of the estate owners, gamekeepers, bird breeders and those that go to shoot in the killing fields, must be driven out of business. Why the RSPCA cannot start an action to show the cruelty behind this type of archaic killing is beyond my knowledge. But pigeons were replaced by clay in the 1920’s because of the cruelty. Pheasant, partridge and grouse are treated no better than those pigeons of that era. I do not object to single shooters killing the occasional bird for the pot but killing then dumping must be stopped.
    Then there is the issue of lead being scattered over the ground polluting our precious grounds and waters.


    1. I was under the impression that in the last term the Conservatives threatened the RSPCA with loss of their Royal charter and their charitable status in general if they got “too political”, code for running campaigns against hunting or shooting, and implied they’d pass legislation to restrict access to the countryside. They’ll only have got bolder since, the RSPCA is effectively neutered for the foreseeable future.

  2. Driven grouse shooting must be consigned to the history books, and in particular no National Park should tolerate this wholesale slaughter of our wildlife.

  3. Well nothing is going to change with the Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin’ Party in power. The only thing they like better than shooting the pheasants is killing the peasants.

  4. Thomas really is a loathsome creature. He typifies the useless staff at the Peak Park by giving the usual soundbites that aim to show they are acting and that people should have trust in them to solve these problems. The birds that I know are breeding in the Park, not three miles from Thomas’s office, are nicked every year. A years wages for one nights work!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s