Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative hanging by a thread

Earlier this week the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative published its Peak District Bird of Prey Report 2018 and issued the following press statement:

Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative highlights mixed fortunes for birds of prey in the National Park

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative has today published its annual report for 2018, showing improvement in the breeding success of several raptor species within the Peak District National Park compared to 2017, in parallel with an increase in the number of gamekeepers and estates engaging positively with the Initiative. The report also highlights a number of incidents which show, however, that significant problems remain. Overall numbers and breeding success were fairly typical of the 7-year period of the Initiative, and remain well below the targets based on populations in the late 1990s.

Following last year, when Peregrine Falcons failed to breed successfully in the Dark Peak for the first time since they recolonised in the early 1980s, this year has seen 9 occupied territories, of which 3 pairs successfully raised young. The Initiative’s aim is to have 17 breeding pairs, of which about 11-12 pairs would normally be expected to successfully raise young. Numbers of its smaller cousin the Merlin were roughly in line with recent averages and returned to several historic sites where they have not bred for some years.

[Graphs from the Peak District BoPI 2018 report]

Goshawks continue to be absent from many of their past haunts in the Dark Peak, though the overall breeding success was better this year, whilst Short-eared Owls had a good season although determining exact numbers remains difficult.

What would have been the most noteworthy event of the year – the successful fledging of 4 young Hen Harriers from a nest on moorland owned by the National Trust – was tarnished latterly by the knowledge that two satellite tagged young both subsequently disappeared in the autumn – one in the Peak District National Park and one in the North York Moors National Park – under circumstances which led to suspicions that they may have deliberately come to harm and the tags destroyed.

Two events of particular concern were the reported shooting of a Red Kite in the northern Peak District in June and the shooting of a Short-eared Owl on Wessenden Head Road in September.

[Photo of the shot short-eared owl via RSPB]

The Bird of Prey initiative has a shared ambition, set out in the National Park Management Plan published earlier this year, to restore populations of birds of prey to at least the levels present in the late 1990s, with the addition of Hen Harrier as a regularly successful breeding species. The improvements this year are a welcome step in this direction, but there needs to be a commitment to eradicate wildlife crime and build on that progress year on year across the National Park, and across our range of target species, if the Initiative is to continue.

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative is made up of the Peak District National Park Authority, Natural England, National Trust and the Moorland Association, with support from local raptor groups and land managers. It was set up in 2011 after its members recognised the need for collective action to tackle illegal persecution of birds of prey. The RSPB ended their involvement in the Initiative in January due to the lack of progress with bird of prey populations, and the lack of a full consensus by all Initiative members that ongoing illegal persecution is the main reason for the continued low numbers.

Anyone with information to report about wildlife crime should contact the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.


For those new to this blog, it’s perhaps worth reading about the history of this pseudo-partnership and it’s long term failure to meet any of its targets (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here).

After last year’s fiasco and virtual collapse of the ‘partnership’ (see links above) we were told by the Peak District National Park Authority that as the Initiative had yet again failed to meet any of its targets (in 2017), and with evidence of more confirmed raptor persecution in the National Park, it would be reassessing its commitment to the Initiative after the 2018 breeding season. In other words, if there wasn’t drastic improvement, the Initiative would probably be dissolved.

So has there been drastic improvement during the 2018 breeding season? The project has failed to meet any of its targets for the seventh consecutive year, but while there are undoubtedly small areas of improvement, these are offset by the continued illegal killing, which isn’t subsiding and isn’t resulting in improved raptor populations.

Make no mistake, there are some fantastically dedicated conservationists (and at least one shooting tenant and his gamekeeper) who are trying to make things safe for birds of prey in the Peak District National Park but their efforts are being hindered by this Initiative, not helped. Surely it’s now time to boot out the persecution deniers and form a genuine partnership that isn’t constrained by grandstanding propagandists whose sole intent seems to be to shield the criminals, not just from view, but from justice.


9 thoughts on “Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative hanging by a thread”

  1. It is at least notable that you did not need to correct the press statement in any way, but stated the obvious in addition to the statement.
    Will the authority act as you have suggested?
    Surely they realise by now that their actions or lack of action make them complicit in the failure?
    Are there people in the authority in responsible positions holding them back?
    I’ve an obvious suggestion, if that is what is happening.

  2. I know some of the raptor workers involved and their commitment to monitoring and protection is second to none, however having said that there is still room for massive improvement in success rates, recolonization ( probably in part dependent on success rates) and a real decline in persecution. Merlins are obviously doing well, a bird that has never had an impact on grouse stocks ( although that doesn’t prevent some persecution elsewhere). My own view is similar to my view of the RRPDG that unless the shooting representatives, in this case Moorland Association are making a positive and vital contribution they should not be part of the initiative. Surely any liaison required between estates/ keepers and raptor workers could be done through NP staff and/or the one good estate.

  3. It is? Hang on, I have a pair of scissors here somewhere.

    “Anyone with information to report about wildlife crime should contact the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”
    Because that will make the cover up run much smoother? I’d post my opinion on how to actually achieve action, but it would only be censored anyway.

  4. Did anyone decide a target for the number of years that failure to reach targets would be tolerated? In other words, how much effort are the Moorland Association’s associates required to put in order to legitimise their estates? If the time and effort that raptor workers put in were common knowledge, the park authority would be at risk of appearing to offer the Moorland Association a free lunch, by comparison.

    1. The Moorland Association are experts at getting a free lunch ask RPPDG or anyone involved in any other forum with them. Do nowt, get to eat and wear the T shirt, that right Amanda?

  5. Its a measure of how depleted many of our National Parks are of raptors that the breeding Falcon population within a few miles of my house in south west London is larger than an entire national park (Sutton, Merton/Modern, Kingston, Fulham and possibly Battersea, not counting any other nests not in the public domain).

  6. I can see pitfalls in naming and shaming individuals but it would be useful to know who the one estate and keeper is that you say is bucking the trend.

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