Conservationists fear for safety of Bearded Vulture on notorious Peak District grouse moors

The young Bearded Vulture that has been roosting in the Peak District National Park is causing concern for conservationists who fear for its safety on the notorious grouse moors.

[The young Bearded Vulture, photo by William Bowell]

It just happens to have chosen to hang out in ‘one of the worst 10km squares for raptor persecution in the UK’ according to Mark Thomas of RSPB Investigations (e.g. see here) and there are fears that it could be targeted by ruthless gamekeepers in the run up to the start of the grouse shooting season on 12 August.

Only last month police appealed for information after the discovery of a dying buzzard found inside the National Park (see here). It had suffered horrific gunshot injuries and a post-mortem revealed it had previously been shot but had survived those earlier injuries.

[The vulture has been roosting at an old raven nest site, photo by Tim Birch]

Tim Birch from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has been quoted in a number of media articles (e.g. here and here):

It “couldn’t have come to a worse spot in terms of bird of prey persecution” amid fears the vulture could be poisoned or shot. “I don’t think people realise it’s happening in the national park. The bearded vulture is of international importance, so if anything happened to that bird it would bring into sharp focus what is happening here.”

It’s a pretty shocking indictment when a rare bird of prey shows up inside one the country’s most famous national parks and the big story is whether it’ll be left alone or killed.

Fortunately, so far it’s been left alone, presumably because so many birdwatchers have been flocking to see it.

[Birdwatchers viewing the Bearded Vulture, photo by Indy Kiemel Greene]

UPDATE 16th October 2020: Bearded vulture flies out of UK (here)

24 thoughts on “Conservationists fear for safety of Bearded Vulture on notorious Peak District grouse moors”

  1. Need to get all the stink pits covered. Being a vulture, it’ll be drawn to them.
    hate to say it, but I wonder what will get it, a stink pit or a gamekeeper!

  2. I live in the Peak District the persecution of Raptors is a disgrace which seems to be out if control, it makes you wonder why the rangers and police are so ineffectual at stamping out this dreadful crime, time that more resources were made available to stamp out this persecution by catching those committing these terrible crimes by imposing hefty fines and possible imprisonment. Here’s hoping that the beautiful vulture currently soaring over the Hope Valley is kept safe by the publicity it is receiving.

    1. Unfortunately some of the police are pro hunt and have connections with gamekeepers and the Hunt fraternity, so they’re very good at turning a blind eye to wildlife crime committed be gamekeepers. I was told by one of the Moorland monitors (who monitor animal persecution in the Peaks) that the police passed on the personnel details of the monitors to gamekeepers after a failed police investigation. They cant be trusted I’m afraid.

    2. I think the authorities know who the people are that are responsible, but it is difficult to collect sufficient water tight evidence in such remote locations. The only way really is to film the crime directly. An added difficulty is that often these crimes are committed on private estates, being there to film is also against the law!

  3. I have not seen the vulture yet but hope to catch sight of it in the next few days. From the first sighting I have worried about this bird falling victim to guns, traps or poison. Surely given the huge amount of media coverage and bird watching interest the usual psychopaths I mean vermin control expert gamekeepers will give this vulture a free pass?

  4. One would hope that the local, national and international opprobrium that would descend were this vulture to die by nefarious means would stay the hand of raptor haters. However, in that dreadful eventuality, you can be sure that gamekeepers and shooting interests would all claim that it was a ‘false flag’ operation by birding/conservationist/animal rights “activists” (probably adding with the encouragement of Chris Packham) to make them look bad.

  5. Well done Tim Birch for using this opportunity to highlight what is going on out of sight on these moors. I presume this lammergeier will be left alone since there is a lot of interest in it. However the intelligence of the raptor killers does leave a lot be desired (elimination of the brood meddledbirds for example).

    This will seriously affect any shoots , the grouse are hardly going to fly high with this in the skies. But if it does suddenly disappear expect the usual no proof of foul play, it just flew back to the alps ( at night Presumably , since nobody saw a barn door flying south across England).

  6. It’s a very big bird! Some game keeper could be ‘biting off more than he could chew’ ! Sorry but I flit to cartoon mode at the thought.

  7. This situation is infuriating and horrifying. Absolutely disgusting. I love Bearded Vultures so much. If this bird gets killed it would really shine a light on the fact that nothing has changed in many people’s minds since Bearded Vultures were persecuted to extinction in the Alps.

  8. I noticed that BBC TV news covered this in much detail, but in contrast to their web site article, edited out of the broadcast any comments on raptor persecution:-(

  9. I suspect that this bird may be most at risk from snares set around stink pits – it has to get bones from somewhere. I hope, perhaps, that local, concerned individuals are monitoring such sites where they can find them.

  10. It is such high profile, I doubt any keeper would dare to have a shot at it. More conceivably it could pick up a poisoned carcass meant for the usual British birds of prey.

  11. Due to scarcity of this bird, it is protected in Europe.

    “The species is listed as Vulnerable (SPEC 3) under criteria C1 and C2a(i) in the European IUCN Red List (BirdLife International, 2016), and is listed in Annex I of the EU Council Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC, ‘Birds Directive’), in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), in Appendix II of the CMS and in Appendix II of CITES.
    The species is legally protected in all European range states covered by the plan. “- Report commissioned by: The European Commission Directorate General for the Environment.

    It can easily be argued that with “global warming and climate change” the range of this bird will spread further north into other countries where it has in the past not usually been seen. Hence, this could explain the presence of this bird in Peak District?

    One only has to read how seriously many European countries take the protection of this bird to realise that should the UK authorities fail to take appropriate action to protect this bird, and something bad happen, then it could seriously tarnish the reputation of the UK as regards its commitment to conservation and nature.

    Due to the historical problems suffered by raptors in the UK, then it is doubtful that the landowners in the Peak District, without state intervention, can be trusted to offer this bird the protection it deserves?

    Should not Natural England and the National Park Authorities now become involved to ensure the bird is properly monitored and protected, with serious sanctions against any landowner who thinks come August 12th that grouse shooting will have priority??

    Perhaps, it’s a shame we don’t have the equivalent of the SEPRONA – the part of the Guardia Civil which deals with wildlife crime, as I suspect that with their military status, they would be far less tolerant of game keepers and their shenanigans, than the “policing by consent” model followed by the UK police service?

    But the reality is that the welfare of this bird, will no doubt fall to the dedicated public and bird watchers, who know the truth about what happens in our countryside, and will just want to ensure something so precious, has some chance of staying safe. ..and this is a sad reflection on UK conservation legislation and its enforcement!

  12. Sadly I think there’s a fair chance this bird will be lost to a general shooter with a grievance even if the gamekeepers show unusual good sense and leave it alone (although I suspect the pallid harrier that was on the moors a few years ago ‘disappeared’ with the help of keepers). A little bustard in Norfolk and a red footed falcon that were delighting birdwatchers a few years ago were both shot and no culprits were ever found. Extremely hard to believe this was general vandalism rather than specific targeting to piss off the conservation community. I actually had a lammergeier fly right over my head, and it was carrying a bone, in Kazakhstan in 1993. It was bloody fantastic and we also saw Egyptian and black vultures. Even if the UK is too far north to provide a long enough breeding season for these species to become resident here successful conservation projects in Europe could mean these would become regular and spectacular visitors here. A black vulture settled down at the Oostvaardenplassen reserve in the Netherlands until it eventually strayed and was sadly killed on a rail track. Vultures will definitely be venturing north and how absolutely effing terrible is it that rather than look forward to this we have to view it with dread thanks to home grown illegal persecution adding them to the pile of trapped/shot/poisoned buzzards, falcons; kites and harriers.

    1. A healthy population of vultures over the moors would probably clean out the stink pits in a few days. So they would most likely get labelled a problem, especially if their presence and legal protect rendered traps close to stink pits illegal.

  13. Young birds are always wandered especially males; this area is worse than Malta for endemic wildlife crime; the utter disgrace of the Peak District Moors is increasingly a national issue; why are national farm subsidies still being handed out to the estates in question and what are their names ?

  14. This article is descriminating against gamekeepers and the shooting community on a whole by claiming that a few bad people out of thousands mean a portion of ground or even a shooting community is against raptors when in fact a large majority of the people I shoot with including myself are very active in conservation efforts and research into alternative methods for management of predation on estates and other such areas of shooting ground

    1. How can you reconcile Shooting with Conservation, especially in light of the environmental damage being done to the grouse moors, with the muirburn, medicated grit, Mountain hare slaughter, lead poisoning of birds and other animals, plus the damage to the peat hags themselves, causing flooding and carbon pollution? In my opinion, it just doesn’t add up.

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