Killing red kites is de rigueur in Nidderdale AONB, North Yorkshire

Today the RSPB’s Investigations Team has published a blog focusing on red kite persecution in North Yorkshire.

Many of you will already know that North Yorkshire is consistently rated as the worst county in the UK for recorded raptor persecution crimes and in recent years there has been a steady report of illegally-killed or injured raptors, particularly red kites, being discovered in this region. (Photo: M Ruddock)

In fact in the last ten years (2007-2017), twenty six red kites have been confirmed as victims of illegal persecution in North Yorkshire (18 poisoned, 8 shot), and these are only the ones that have been found. How many other victims were there? (Graph: RSPB)

But North Yorkshire is a huge area and has two National Parks (Yorkshire Dales & North York Moors) as well as two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Howardian Hills & Nidderdale). When the average member of the public hears of a poisoned or shot kite being found in North Yorkshire, they probably think of it as a one off, random, & isolated killing. They’d be wrong.

The RSPB has created a map of where these confirmed red kite killings took place and it’s really quite obvious to see where red kite persecution is de rigueur; parts of the eastern side of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and parts of the Nidderdale AONB. Oh, and guess what the major land use is in these two areas? Intensively managed driven grouse moors. (Maps: RSPB)

Here is a closer view of the Nidderdale map, showing that 22 of the 26 red kite victims were killed here:

When you look at these maps it’s worth remembering that they are only showing confirmed incidents of red kite persecution. These maps do not include other confirmed crimes such as illegally-killed or injured buzzards, illegally-killed or injured hen harriers, illegally-killed or injured peregrines, illegally-killed or injured kestrels, illegally-killed or injured marsh harriers, poisoned baits, illegal poison caches, and illegally-set traps. Nor do they include ‘probable’ crimes against raptors, particularly ‘disappearing’ satellite-tagged raptors, especially hen harriers.

A couple of weeks ago, Police Superintendent Chris Hankinson (who leads the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group in England & Wales) wrote a comment on this blog (here). He said that the RPPDG was ‘working towards publication of a national map showing raptor persecution incidents with the aim of triggering activity from the local police force and community who can assist with information and intelligence to capture those responsible‘.

With the greatest respect, Supt Hankinson, the national maps are already available and have been for years (thanks to the diligent recording work of RSPB Investigations staff and their annual BirdCrime reports) and yet there hasn’t been a single prosecution for red kite persecution in the Nidderdale AONB (or the whole of North Yorkshire) for over ten years. Stop wasting your time pandering to those organisations in the RPPDG ‘partnership’ who are probably contesting every single incident and get on with leading the group to the known hotspot areas. The Nidderdale AONB would be a good start.

UPDATE 16.51hrs: Meanwhile, local business owners are putting up their own money towards a reward to catch the kite killers. Great stuff – the local fight back is on. See article in Harrogate Advertiser here

33 thoughts on “Killing red kites is de rigueur in Nidderdale AONB, North Yorkshire”

  1. This seems to be a standard reply of “we are compiling maps/facts/evidence for the publication of a report. A complete stalling tactic. As stated in the article the maps/facts/evidence are all readily available and have been for many years. It is exactly the same up here in the Highlands. Time is running out for the shooting lobby, we know it and they know it. Time action was taken and prosecutions made.

  2. Ban the casual ownership of shotguns. Nobody needs them: it is an affectation and accessory in so many criminal activities that their ownership should be banned.

    1. I’ve put my name to the last two petitions to ban DGS. Every time I read this blog my heart sinks deeper with despair, not only at the continual, utterly depressing reading of the loss of yet more birds of prey, but more recently at the opinion that all who shoot are equally responsible and are all secret raptor shooters. If I ever see or hear of any evidence that someone I know who shoots has targeted a raptor (or any protected species) I would not hesitate in reporting them to the authorities. I shoot to put food on the table, I’ve never taken part in any form of organised driven bird shooting, nor would I ever want to. Some of the comments I read on here are as disturbing as some of the headlines. Yes, by all means label those of commit these abhorrent crimes as the dregs of humanity, I’ll fully support you in that viewpoint, but be mindful of alienating those who’re not only as passionate and determined as yourself to see the end of raptor persecution, for some (sadly not me, at least thus far) they’re also some of the most likely to be able to obtain accurate information on the perpetrators.

      I suppose I’d best don my hard hat and and ear defenders for the onslaught.

      1. My family were all shooters, like you for the pot rather than ‘Lets have fun blasting as many out the sky as we can’.

        The problem comes when it becomes a business, and retrunrs are based on maximising ‘targets’. then anything that threatens that becomes ‘vermin’

        1. Nailed it. When business gets involved with anything then everything else suffers.

          1 Timothy 6:10

        1. I accept that not all shooters are lawbreakers, which is fact, but morality does enter into the debate. I think you have to accept that many people, albeit not everyone, find shooting abhorrent and a waste of each individual animal’s life. To them the act of violently bringing some beautiful creature’s life to a bloody end, simply to provide some pleasure to satisfy our predatory evolutionary instincts, is unethical in the modern world. You have the choice to decide whether you are willing to participate in an activity which is fundamentally primitive, causes offence and often distress to fellow human beings, and has an associated knock-on effect on wildlife conservation, animal welfare, and actions which are against the law of the land. My primary recreational pursuit is birdwatching, but I do it in the knowledge that it should not cause offence to anyone or involve associating with a criminal element. I’m not naive enough to think this argument will change anyone’s opinion, but there is another dimension to this blog than simply lambasting people and throwing insults. Essentially it is about being compassionate, rational and responsible towards nature, through better understanding.

          1. I agree. I have always had more pleasantness from watching birds than shooting. Mostly taken rabbits, foxes,mink,carrions, and pigeons, but as life goes on the primitive desire to do that has now almost left me.

  3. Good positive action by the local business owners, shame on Superintendent Hankison, who’s nowhere up to speed and consequently the kites are being slaughtered.

  4. The centre of this killing is ironically close to where it was originally proposed to release them in the Washburn Valley on Yorkshire Water land. When the Environment council thing on harriers was still going but not long before it collapsed I can well remember the then Moorland Assoc person Martin Gillibrand telling me Kites were “a problem”on both Bingley Moor but primarily on Blubberhouses Moor. Some months later Kites seem to decline significantly on Blubberhouses and it around this moor that most have been found poisoned and more recently shot. The local police were on the ball and a keeper has been visited a number of times and been subjected to a search but nothing incriminating was found.

    Grouse apparently won’t drive with a kite over the area!!!

    In 2012 I found a poisoned Kite in the more northern part of the Nidderdale AONB usually more associated with Hen Harrier losses, it was on the boundary of 3 estates with a small rabbit which was the bait i.e. the kite carried it off and fed in flight. The poison was a strange mix of Carbofuran ( as ever) and two other carbamates, the same mixture had been used to poison a WTE previously in Scotland, I wonder which keeper or keeper associate/ agent was connected to the two incidents.

    Other kites have just “disappeared” two wing tagged birds from Scotland disappeared in the northern part of the AONB before we had kites locally and two birds have been found so long dead that analysis was not possible ( one was from Hampshire!) all on the same estate.

    To put it into context we had 15 harrier nesting attempts between 2000 and 2007, only one failure since, a number of satellite tagged harriers have disappeared here notably Bowland Betty. Peregrines have not bred in any of our three grouse moor sites since 1994, we used to have Goshawks but they too are long gone and there are fewer pairs of Buzzards on the moorland edge than there were 20 years ago when we had just been recolonised. The Nidderdale AONB is truly the heart of darkness

    1. “Grouse apparently won’t drive with a kite over the area!!!”

      Interesting, it explains the targeting of species that are not an obvious threat to grouse

      1. “Grouse apparently won’t drive with a kite over the area!!!”

        Heard this excuse used with Eagles and Harriers too, strange though that in Falconry, dogs can flush them with a Peregrine circling directly over head, another lame excuse

        1. I am only guessing but i thought that the ‘problem’ was that having any life but grouse on the moor could prevent the grouse being driven exactly where they want them, i.e. onto the guns.
          I presumed that raptors of any kind could cause chaos with grouse flying over the beaters. You would think, the addition of some risk would make make it more ‘sporting’ (i hate to use that term) whereas it is in fact a slaughter.

          1. I can’t imagine any raptor hanging around when beating is in progress anyway.

            Am I alone in thinking there may be a slightly more subtle reason for the use of gas-guns on moorland ?
            OK there may have been the initial desire to discourage raptors, in particular, from staying in the area. This will also condition Grouse and other birds to the sound of gunfire. What if raptors, in particular, do hang around and become acclimatised to the regular noise of “gun-fire”. It then enables the opportunity for persons unknown to more easily commit the raptor shooting offence we’re hearing about – and less conspicuous, under cover of the operating gas-gun.

        2. One of the main reasons for despising harriers, often cited by grouse shooters, is not that the grouse won’t drive, but that if a harrier happens to fly across the moor before a shoot, all the grouse panic and evacuate onto a neighbouring moor. This is just a ridiculous idea, and even were it true, ignores the obvious benefit if the harrier was to fly over the neighbour’s moor.

            1. Get your point anand, but I’d say that either way it’s all in the imagination of the shooters.

    2. I think grouse would drive over a moor, they would have no choice if a line of beaters was approaching, and then any kite would also soon fly away, especially when theres
      gun fire in the area.

      1. Falconry is different the bird has a choice of in its eyes being caught by the pointer or risking the falcon so they take the risk. Many grouse if a kite or harrier is low over the moor between beaters and guns, ( remember some drives can be 2 or 3 km long) either fly out of the required path and avoid the guns because of the raptor , others fly back over the beaters whatever flag waving they do and some just sit tight as the beaters pass. even in a ” good drive not all birds fly over the guns and indeed some always sit tight. I’m not excusing what keepers do, far from it but some seem not to understand how a drive works.

  5. It’s possible that an individual gamekeeper is waging a one-man war against Red Kites in North Yorkshire, but far more probable that there is collusion between an organised group of them. With a large enough army of birdwatcher boots on the ground it should be possible to catch them out eventually, or at least reduce their illegal activities. In the early days of Raptor Study Groups, I can well remember sitting out on remote hillsides, working with fellow members on a shift system watching individual Peregrine nests. There was a noticeable positive effect on the birds’ success rate, not 100% but far lower than when they were faced with multiple enemies, mainly gamekeepers, egg collectors and chick thieves. Nowadays Peregrine workers seem to concentrate on monitoring success, ringing and tagging, which also produces great results but does not necessarily afford the degree of protection really required. This is not a criticism, merely an observation; people in general seem to be very busy working to survive these days and have little free time.

    However another contributory factor to the changes is that it is simply not fashionable to birdwatch on moorland (that combined with a shortage of energetic youths taking up the hobby). Modern birdwatchers concentrate on ‘birding’, which involves mainly visiting honeypots with hides and paths, or migration hot spots at the coast. Hillwalking is more popular than ever, but tends to be of the mountaineering or ‘munro-bagging’ variety, rather than struggling through deep heather on grouse moors. I’m not wholly au fait with the situation in England, Wales and Ireland, but in Scotland we have a right to access open private land. Yet even here when I venture out into my harrier study area (which is an SPA and a Regional Park), I can spend a whole day on the moor and see hardly any other person. There lies the dilemma; should we encourage greater recreational access of the harriers’ habitat, with more eyes looking out for wrong-doing, or would the added human disturbance lead to less favourable conditions? It would appear to me that encouraging birdwatchers with the added incentives of watching scarce raptors (at a distance) and casual public ‘policing,’ could ease the pressure on the birds and hopefully lead to far greater reporting of the crimes, the vast majority of which currently never see the light of day.

    1. In the days when we were loosing the Peregrines we needed landowner permission , now on moorland and most unwooded upland we don’t but the Peregrine sites are either totally unoccupied or just have odd birds in late winter. A keeper told me that it is done in jan or feb on a filthy night mid week with a rifle and presumably now night vision stuff and they know to kill the big one. It is indeed hard to get people out now not so hard 10 or 20 years ago when there were birds to see ( once 10 years ago I saw 10 species of raptor in a day on one moor) even our Merlins and Short-eared Owls have declined hugely so you might be lucky to see a kestrel and a buzzard on a whole day on the moors and people are discouraged by that, even I go less than I used to.

  6. I was going to add a comment along the lines of ‘great stuff RSPB’ then i read the blog.
    No mention of the word ‘grouse’! Is that a herd of elephants i hear stampeding across the moors?

    Last month i spent some time in the Forest of Bowland. The RSPB has made beautiful signs specially for this area for Curlew, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe. They are posted on the gateways onto the fells.
    But again no mention of Red Grouse, Hen Harrier, Peregrine or even Merlin or Short-eared Owl.
    I simply don’t get it. Now it is possible that someone has removed any raptor posters but somehow i have my doubts.
    I wrote a blog about it.
    The previous blog was a photo of some of these North Yorkshire Red Kites from the previous week.

  7. Secret Squirrel you may not think red kites are an obvious threat to grouse, but a gamekeeper on an intensively managed grouse moors has a different perspective, which tends to be zero tolerance of all birds of prey, plus all other predators and scavengers.

    1. they are a threat to grouse they have to live on something so do all birds of prey and any one who thinks diffrent is wrong what prediters have red kites apart from man what prediters have all these birds of prey apart from man i dont agree with killing them but i dont agree with letting them go all other the shop

      1. An interesting albeit rather late interjection, Allen Daniel. However you’re showing some slight confusion about how nature works. In general predators do not pose a threat to their prey species; if they did they would drive themselves to extinction due to shortage of food. It is certain that Red Kites do not threaten Red Grouse. In fact the only predator which does is Man, but you must know that of course. Glad to hear you don’t agree with killing raptors, but it would be interesting to hear just how you would intend to prevent them from “going all over the shop.” It is a fundamental principle of ecology that predator distribution relates to their occupation of a suitable habitat niche which provides a sustainable supply of their prey items. The particular ecological niche varies from one species of raptor to another.

  8. Re all the above comments – Ban Driven Grouse Shooting – it is the only answer. Don’t let the bending of parliament by the shooting establishment, as we saw last time, make us despondent. Keep at the lobbying….also, don’t ever let any of these criminal gamekeeper ameliorate their very real crimes by trying the, “Ive got to keep the vermin down or I’ll lose my job ” line. How many of us would break laws where you can get 6 months jail, for an employer??…I would be ashamed to be a keeper, grouse shooter or anything associated with driven grouse shooting at the present time. You are part of a criminal conspiracy.

  9. no way are they going to stopshooting grouse and pheasants as to many mps do it and they have to protect these birds from hawks and birds of prey as to much money is made and as most of these birds of prey have no prediters only man they will control them regardless of the legality of it as its impossible to cach these people shoting them over a vast area they no they have no chance of been caught so how are they going to cach them impossible

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