Heads Up for Harriers: Tim Baynes claims illegal persecution an “historical controversy”

Another week and another duplicitous article from Tim (Kim) Baynes, Director of SLE’s Scottish Moorland Group. This guy seems to live in a perpetual state of denial when it comes to the illegal persecution of raptors on driven grouse moors.

This time he’s penned an article for the latest edition of Shooting Times about the ridiculous Heads Up for Hen Harriers project (more on this below).

The front cover of the Shooting Times has a headline banner: “The hen harrier: how much do we really know?”, which laughably infers that the cause of long-term hen harrier decline in the UK is still a bit of a mystery that needs solving, and then inside there’s a two-page spread from Tim (Kim) who suggests that ‘weather’ and fox predation are the big culprits, as recorded by Heads Up for Hen Harrier cameras. Astonishingly, he also claims that the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors is an “historical controversy”.

You can read the full article here: Shooting Times 7 June 2017_HaveYouSeenAHenHarrier_TimBaynes

Perhaps he missed the Government-commissioned 2011 Hen Harrier Conservation Framework, which set out very clearly what the main issue is: Illegal persecution is the biggest single factor affecting hen harriers and it is having a dramatic impact on the population, not only in northern England but also in Scotland:

  • The potential national hen harrier population in Scotland is estimated (conservatively) to be within the range 1467-1790 pairs.
  • The current national hen harrier population in Scotland as recorded during the 2010 national survey is 505 pairs, more than a 20% decline from the numbers recorded during the 2004 national survey.
  • In Scotland, the hen harrier has a favourable conservation status in only five of 20 regions.
  • Two main constraints were identified: illegal persecution, and in one region, prey shortages.
  • The species is particularly unsuccessful in the Central Highlands, Cairngorm Massif, Northeast Glens, Western Southern Uplands and the Border Hills. There is strong evidence in these grouse moor regions that illegal persecution is causing the failure of a majority of breeding attempts.

Tim (Kim) also appears to have missed the video published by RSPB Scotland last month showing exactly what happens when a camera is installed at a hen harrier nest without the grouse moor owner and gamekeeper’s knowledge:

He must also have missed last month’s news that Police Scotland are investigating the illegal shooting of yet another hen harrier on a grouse moor near Leadhills (see here), which incidentally is alleged to have happened on the estate owned by the Hopetoun family – that’ll be the family of Lord Hopetoun, Chair of the Scottish Moorland Group, of which Tim (Kim) is, er, Director.

The only ‘historical’ aspect of hen harrier persecution is that it’s been going on for over a hundred years. Pretending that it’s now stopped, in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is the response of an idiot.

We’ve blogged about the Heads Up for Hen Harriers project many times (e.g. see here, here, here). The idea is that estates give permission for cameras to be installed at active hen harrier nests ‘to help build a picture of why these birds aren’t doing as well as they should be’. The major flaw in this ‘study’ design is that gamekeepers will know on which nests the cameras are pointing, so obviously they’re not going to shoot the adults or stamp on the eggs/nestlings at those sites. Instead, the cameras will record natural failures (e.g. poor weather, predation) and then the grouse shooting industry can use this information to claim that illegal persecution isn’t an issue, but poor weather and predation is. This is exactly what Tim (Kim) Baynes has done in this latest article.

Now, some might argue that having grouse moor owners’ agreement to install cameras at hen harrier nests on their estates is a good thing – at least those nests will be left alone and the birds might be able to produce some young. There is that, of course. But leaving the birds alone long enough to produce fledglings isn’t enough. What happens to those young fledglings once they leave the safety of a monitored nest? You only have to look at what happened to young hen harrier Elwood to answer that question. He survived for approximately two weeks after dispersing from his monitored nest site before un-mysteriously vanishing on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths – funnily enough in an area where many satellite tagged golden eagles have also un-mysteriously vanished.

Tim (Kim) talks about the number of estates that have agreed to participate this year (at least 15) and makes much of the fact that some of these are grouse moor estates. The same thing happened last year, although what was covered up last year was the fact that only three nests were successful and none of those was on a driven grouse moor. This wasn’t a surprise given that most of the driven grouse moor estates that agreed to ‘participate’ were located in the Angus Glens – an area that hasn’t seen a successful hen harrier breeding attempt since 2006.

What would be more interesting to know is not how many estates have agreed to ‘participate’, which is a largely meaningless figure unless they actually have an active nest, but how many estates have refused to participate? Again, this information is not made public, presumably because it’ll spoil the image of this so-called ‘widespread cooperation’ from grouse moor estates.

We’ve got another question for Tim (Kim). In this article he says:

A better idea of current numbers will emerge when the results of the 2016 UK harrier population survey are published, but the overall picture is expected to be broadly the same in Scotland“.

Really? On what basis is he making this claim? The results of the National HH Survey have not yet been released (held back, we believe, due to the General Election, but due out shortly), so what makes Tim (Kim) think that “the overall picture is expected to be broadly the same in Scotland”? Is this based on factual information or is Tim (Kim) just making up some nonsense to suit his agenda?

It’s not like he/Scottish Moorland Group/Gift of Grouse hasn’t done this before (e.g. see here, here, here).

13 thoughts on “Heads Up for Harriers: Tim Baynes claims illegal persecution an “historical controversy””

  1. Aye, that’s Tim … engineering situations so what one sees is not what is actually occurring. The potential abuse of placing camera’s on nests where the main harrier killing culprits, gamekeepers … at least on the say so of court convictions .. know which nests to leave alone takes my breath away. He takes everyone but those bent on kiling these birds as idiots. Fingers crossed that such disrespect rebounds heavily on him and his ilk.

  2. The grouse moors are full of harriers according to Tim and the keepers…… This is not born out out by the raptor study group data or by the paws data. So it is clearly a lie.

    But only 15 estates? I thought SLE and SGA were behind this project? A sham token exercise. If there was true support, all SLE members would invite RSG+RSPB to install cameras…. They have no thing to hide. Ha!

  3. I think we should support Mr Baynes because if he is right then in the future there will be no illegal shooting , no illegal poisoning and no illegal trapping of hen harriers. History will tell if he is right.

    Cnut tried to stop the tide coming in , will Tim be more successful in his quest

  4. Once people discover that what we now call fake news can achieve currency, there is little to stop them, at any rate in the short term, heading further into that world. Look at Trump, look at Putin. The terrifying learning point is that it works. But we can still hope to restrain its extremes in our space, which is why your relentless work is so very, very, important. Thank you, and please keep it up.

  5. What a pile of shit from Mr Kim! The whole debate on their side is turning into a complete farce. However his claim that “weather” and fox predation are the main culprits set me thinking again about how we need to set our own house in order. Despite a general presumption that gamekeepers on grouse moors are the real culprits, based on very good evidence, there is a tendency which I’ve detected among some fellow harrier workers to “blame” weather and fox predation as secondary factors. This is where our cultures start to overlap, between what we like to believe is a scientific approach, and what the grouse managers hold as true according to received wisdom. The only problem we need to remove is grouse shooting. I’m not denying that weather and fox predation are factors affecting breeding success, but the point is these are NATURAL factors, which have existed since time immemorial, and which we should not regard as “problems.” Having personally monitored 68 harrier nests between 1998 and 2011, the estimated failure rate due to foxes was approximately 33%, very close to the failure rate due to suspected human intervention. Even accounting for a possible increase in fox numbers (by no means certain) if gamekeepers were made redundant, that would suggest the success rate for breeding Hen Harriers would be somewhere in the region of 50% in the presence of foxes. This figure would be even higher if moorland habitat management was directed positively towards helping the harriers. Such a success rate would probably lead to a fairly rapid increase in the harrier population, taking into account a number of other ecological factors. The current state of affairs is changing, thanks mainly to RPUK as far as I can see, but with poorly delivered projects like ‘Heads up for Harriers,’ it is still an utter shambles.

  6. All those who peddle such lies,pretending that keepers are not the real problem will be shown up in the not too distant future.
    The available data & ongoing work is already accepted as reality exept by the usual Tory press & their landowning / managing / shooting pals.
    You can’t fool all of the people all of the time …..

    Keep up the pressure !

  7. If Baynes told me the sky was blue, I would need to confirm that it still was myself, the man is, was and probably always will be a liar when it comes to raptors and grouse moor management. He has been for years and years peddling this tripe, he once even wrote an article in the birding press along similar lines. The trouble is that ST is bought and read my lots of folk who will believe this shite, countermanding it is always an uphill journey, hard sometimes very hard but in the end rewarding and counter it we must!

  8. Ah, the poor fox getting it again, as Ian Gibson said it is NATURAL for some foxes to predate ground nesting birds,especially when they appear in UNNATURAL densities. This is the problem,man creating artificial conditions, then moaning when nature acts naturally. Harriers and foxes and Grouse for that matter interacted just fine for hundreds of thousands of years before we stuck our big nebs in.
    The idea that if it wasn’t for our friendly neighbourhood keeper we would be knee deep in foxes ,carrying off our children and decimating our lambs and poultry is of course utter nonsense. All keepers spout this trash (some even believe it) and disappointingly some Raptor workers to my knowledge believe it too.
    If foxes are routinely “controlled” on a moor the result is that more vixens have more and bigger litters, if none are killed then the dominant vixen will have no ,or smaller litters. The overall number of foxes on the moor will remain about the same , depending on prey availability.
    The only way that fox numbers can be really effected is if estates and all their neighbours enter into a regime of extermination, unfortunately some do. This however is hugely expensive and as soon as it it relaxed foxes will immediately return.
    Weather is another matter ,these wetter (and it the wet that kills chicks) springs are having a real detrimental effect, I see this in my own patch with Merlins, I can’t witness it with Harriers because these bastard keepers have killed them all . They are even now taking out Merlin as well ,anybody else noticing this?

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