The Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group (PDRMG) has already reported the failure of a peregrine nest in the Peak District National Park, and the breeding season’s only just got underway!
You can read the group’s report here.
[Three abandoned peregrine eggs on the nest ledge, photo by Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group]
Of course, an abandoned nest is not a clear indicator that a wildlife crime has occurred and if viewed as an isolated incident, it could easily be argued that reporting this incident to the police is an over-reaction. Indeed, that’s exactly what we’d expect grouse shooting organisations to say. It’s what they do: play it down, make out that everything’s fine, that the persecution issue is “tiny“ and that there’s really nothing to worry about. And that’s a convincing argument, when viewing an incident like this in isolation.
However, incidents like this that happen on grouse moors in known wildlife crime hotspots (like the Peak District National Park) should never be viewed in isolation. Instead, they should be viewed as being part of a well-established pattern of failed peregrine breeding attempts in this region, and in every other region in northern England where grouse moors dominate the landscape.
We see it happen over and over and over again. In the Peak District, a so-called ‘partnership’ has consistently failed to address peregrine persecution (e.g. see here) and there have been several scientific papers making a direct link between grouse moor management and peregrine persecution here and across the UK, e.g. here, here, here, here.
It was only last month that we watched covert footage of a load of armed gamekeepers hiding close to a plastic peregrine decoy, on a grouse moor, er, in the Peak District (here).
[This peregrine was found shot next to a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park in 2016. It didn’t survive. Photo by RSPB]
And yet still it continues.
The police are investigating the latest suspicious loss of two breeding adults but to be honest there’s not much they can do unless they happen to stumble across a couple of shot peregrine corpses stashed under someone’s driving seat or chucked in the back of a Landrover, but even then it would be virtually impossible to prove who’d killed them and the charge would be for the lesser crime of ‘possession’.
In the meantime, this case will be hotly disputed at so-called ‘partnership’ meetings, the grouse shooting reps will come up with 101 reasons why the breeding attempt might have failed and not one of those reasons will be the probability that someone linked to the grouse moor has killed the breeding adults.
When you hear the inevitable denials and protestations, its worth remembering what happened to the poor Bleasdale peregrines and the grouse shooting industry’s response (here & here) when the RSPB’s video evidence was ruled inadmissible and the trial collapsed.
Hats off to the peregrine fieldworkers in the uplands who volunteer to monitor these breeding attempts, year after year, knowing full well what is likely to happen. Fortunately for us they’re willing to document these failures so everybody can see the pattern for themselves.