Raptor intolerance, writ large!

I don’t really know what to say about this.

The letter was published in The Telegraph today (thanks to the blog reader who sent it to me).

If ever you’ve wondered why birds of prey are killed so frequently in the UK, here’s your answer.

Bill Makins is 89 years old. I wouldn’t be surprised to find he was a fully signed-up member of Songbird Survival.

For those who want a more up-to-date perspective on the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to England, based on scientific evidence and hard-earned experience instead of wild hysteria and 200-year-old rural myths, you might be interested in this presentation by Dr Tim Mackrill, who is one of the conservationists behind the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to the Isle of Wight (here) and is advising on the proposed reintroduction to Norfolk (see here), where fortunately there are a fair few more enlightened landowners these days.

Tim delivered this presentation three days ago to the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and they’ve made it available for everyone. Let’s hope someone shows it to Bill Makins.

33 thoughts on “Raptor intolerance, writ large!”

  1. Like a white-tailed eagle is going to give tuppence about a thrush. Who are these morons? Worse still is the grouse-moor-loving Telegraph giving a platform to these imbeciles. But of course they want to spread propaganda about eagles…

    1. Oh dear, the complete lack of understanding of basic ecology and the unjustified prejudice against Raptors is simply gobsmacking! How do these people think the food chain works? Does this guy even know what a Sea Eagle’s diet is? What is demonstrated here, apart from sheer ignorance is some human being’s intolerance for anything that kills other creatures to live, without any sense of irony that these people are the ones who very often kill creatures for fun!

      I do hope the Telegraph is deluged with letters emails etc. pointing out firmly and politely just how wrong and lacking in credibility this xxxxxxxxxxxxx view is.

    2. I think the reference to thrushes was actually a digression from WTE to try and suggest that all birds of prey are “a bad thing”. Very depressing though perhaps unsurprising that the Daily Telegraph printed this rubbish.

  2. 89 years old: and attitudes 189 years out of date. Just goes to show that with age does not necessarily come wisdom but usually more entrenched ignorance and intolerance.

  3. Interesting, the link between “flying barn door,” and large “destructive capacity.” It’s almost as if it was so badly written deliberately, although I’m not surprised the Telegraph published it.

      1. I know right?! Let’s hope the next time Bill M needs to do some work in one of the barns on the estate/reserve he claims to be a trustee for, that one those dangerous barn doors doesn’t accidently “hit him in the ar*e” on his way through;) Hopefully someone WILL convince him to at least extend his education, perhaps even a grandchild, by watching this video. I enjoyed it so much that I ‘shared’ it via email to myself so as to have ready easy access to it again, and able to continue sharing it via my own social media accounts, as so many of the people I interact with, are as passionate about Wildlife, including Rehab, Protection, Conservation and especially Raptors; and contrary to propaganda, many are also ethical, responsible hunters, especially those like myself, raised in a US state (Michigan) with a strong, deeply respected North American Indian culture. It can be a sensitive topics for me to share after moving/living in the UK, with the hunting cultures so extremely different, indeed at times I often wish to share thoughts on a forum, and after a few words into a comment, I reluctantly, sadly delete it, fearing backlash, usually from a few uneducated or strongly opined, avid, anti-hunting persons that refuse any sort of flexibility to learn how conservation with scientific studies are reliant on ties with carefully licensed, controlled hunting. I’ve made a few cautious comments here, as this is my dearest, whilst bittersweet, heart felt/breaking forum, and my passion as such that in spite of being able to legally resume owning my guns/hunting, I willingly retired, sold my collection before moving, respectful of the differences in US/UK culture, whilst expanding my former wildlife rehab/rescue activities here. I will share that the culture re US hunting is that DGS is abhorrant to us, viewed with contempt as nothing more than a “canned hunt”, and whilst trophy/farmed hunts exist in the US, they are predominantly ridiculed, as ethics ingrained from childhood in most hunting families is strictly embraced, with Food, Conservation, Respect of all animals, use of ALL, not just best bits, as well as avoiding anything less that a clean, swift, humane action. It goes without saying that if any one of these hunters were to spot someone disturbing or harming a bird of prey, especially eagles, that idiot would potentially require a visit to the nearest ER, to have a bum full of buckshot picked out. Indeed, the Bald Eagle, similar to the White Tail, is the US National Bird, as such illegal to possess any part of one without appropriate permission. Raptors especially are highly cherished, with most hunters sharing awestruck tales of how otherwise non-productive days out became exceptionally special after sighting a bird(s) of prey. When I was a young gal, my own long, cold, spring days spent in a tree in Canada became the highlight of my trips (and years), made extraordinarily special as it was very near a bald eagle nest, one I joyfully observed from the same spot for 3 years in a row. Watching the couple soar up & down the river next to me, hunting (fish), and to my delight, the nest had 2 youngsters. Nothing compares to the joy of having a Bald Eagle, (except 2 or more!), fearless, displaying, hunting, living their glorious lives just a few yards away, at eyes height with you. That started my love affair with raptors, birds of prey; and 50 yrs later, in my cottage on a farm in the UK, a female kestrel in obvious need of attention, revived my desire to become involved with helping, protecting them again. She became comfortable and familiar, accepting supplementary feed, (but NOT tame, I prefer to first try helping any wildlife that doesn’t require intensive, captive treatment in/on their own space), and as I was helping her, she, Robbie, was helping me heal from PTSD and a brain injury. Last I heard from farm staff after I moved, was she was a regular still seen around the farm, and successfully fledged a youngster the spring after I left. I’ve been able to rehab a few song birds since in my new home, but had to stop. Now after intensive cancer treatment has finished, I hope I may resume wildlife rehab work, and with permission gladly given from my landlord to build a flight cage, and other necessary facilities, my husband has his work order plans set for this spring:) Apologies as always for rather long comments, most know it’s a post brain injury quirk, and as I rarely dare to share, they can become a bit lengthy. That said, the welcome and kindness I’ve received here has been very appreciated, I am more grateful that I can express, Thank You. warmest regards as always, R elizabeth aka ladybudd

  4. Any sane and normal publication receiving such outmoded outdated and uninformed ecologically illiterate drivel would have consigned it to the waste bin. Sad to say that in C21st UK this gets published read and probably there are lots of colonel blimps out there nodding sagely at its sentiments. It is utter tosh and should be treated as such.

  5. In other news relating to species reintroductions I see that GWCT (alongside various angling organisations) is promoting its ‘position statement’ about beaver reintroductions in which it is seeking to suggest beavers pose a threat to populations of migratory salmonids. Are they not aware that beavers and salmon and trout co-existed for millenia across many European countries before beavers were extirpated (and continued to do so in those countries where humans failed to drive beavers to extinction).

    1. Did you see the ‘feature’ in their latest newsletter? They didn’t say beavers would bring down plagues of locusts, but not far off. Beavers can be aggressive towards dogs and people! Well only if the dog is off the lead being allowed to harass wildlife. A dog that jumped into the river Otter was indeed quite badly bitten by a frightened beaver, but then again in the same spot ducks have been killed by dogs jumping on them. And anybody bitten by a beaver or any other wild animal that they’ve interfered with gets little sympathy from me or I suspect anybody else. They also tried to throw doubt on the findings of the River Otter Beaver Trial, and with their partners have funded research on potential conflicts between beavers and the finny things they like to pull hooks into. Yes I’m sure it’ll be very professional. They actually want a moratorium on even new enclosed beaver populations being set up! They’ve got the knives well and truly out for the beaver, one of the most positive things that’s ever happened re helping wildlife, improving water quality and reducing the number of homes and businesses hit by floods – the motivation for a lot of the beaver trials being set up. Sadly some people are as selfish and ludicrous about hooking a salmon as others are about bagging lots of grouse.

    2. Really? Clearly they aren’t aware that beavers are entirely herbivorous. The eat the leaves and bark of trees (particularly young willow and birch) and for a treat they enjoy carrots and sweet potato. Salmon need not fear them.

      1. “Clearly they aren’t aware that beavers are entirely herbivorous”

        I don’t think that is the issue: it is to do with damming the head waters of migratory species. I suspect. But Jonathan is correct: they have successfully coexisted for millennia, and in far greater numbers until the human species and GWCT posed a threat to their populations.

  6. This isn’t large raptor specific although this ridiculous letter certainly typifies the thinking. It would appear any predatory species will be vilified with bogus claims of everything from chicken killing to carry off your children, just look at what the fox has had to put up with. These islands used to have all sorts of predators but they have been systematically eradicated by system of intolerance and those tired old attitudes still exist, perpetuated by the hunting/shooting/farming brigade in an effort to justify a lot of that they do or indeed because they know no better and refuse to learn.

  7. You might expect to read this sort of thing in the north-west Norfolk weekly paper (if there is one) but in the Telegraph……they should know better. Or perhaps it was published to stimulate debate?

  8. One worry about this is that these sort of people are allowed to walk about unsupervised with a loaded gun!

  9. Bill Makin set up, ran, managed and directed Pensthorpe Naturereserve, he remains as a consultant.
    Bill Makin is responsible for a remarkable wetland reserve, often visited by Mr. Packham and with the BBC Spring Watch programme.
    Bill Makin is highly respected, here in Norfolk – perhaps not by those who seek to wrest management and control from the current teams.

    1. Full respect to Bill Makins for his work creating the wetland reserve. But that’s not what we’re discussing here. We’re discussing his views on raptor ecology and conservation, which don’t deserve any respect whatsoever because they’re based on hysteria and old wives’ tales.

      1. Once again it’s all about the imposition of human will. At one extreme we have those shooters who seem to believe in their ‘manifest destiny’ to kill anything whilst at the other there are those who respect the sanctity of all living things and would not injure any creature. What this event confirms for me is that we all have our place on that ‘spectrum of will’ and I am not surprised that some, including Bill it seems, have a more selective approach than others to what should be conserved with implications for other species deemed to be predatory.
        I am currently reading a inspiring book called ‘Wilding’ by Isabella Tree which illustrates time and again how nature, if left to its own devices, finds ‘its own way’. The extent to which we are willing to let it is what is at the heart of not only how well we serve nature but of the politics of the ‘conflict’ both between the two main camps and within them.

    2. One of the Isle of Wight White-tailed Eagles has spent a substantial amount of time in west Norfolk since August last year. But there have been no reports that I am aware of, of panicking sows smothering their own litters. Other WTEs from this project have travelled widely over various parts of the country including areas with significant concentrations of outdoor pig production but again their have been no reports of problems.

      Makins’ letter comprises a lot of scaremongering assertions that have no basis in fact. His confident statement, for example, that “There is no doubt that even smaller predators already cause huge problems for endangered farmland birds” is completely unjustified. There is, on the contrary, very considerable doubt that predation is a factor in the decline of farmland birds which is much more driven by the deterioration of farmland habitat.

    3. Can you explain what relevance that has to the objective nonsense he’s written in the above letter, which further perpetuates myths and hatred towards a species that is already heavily persecuted in the UK? He knows this but he chose to send it anyway. He’s a disgrace and anyone associated with that reserve should be embarrassed.

    4. One would hope that someone with such a respected name and history of good work could comment accurately on Raptor issues. This brings his reputation and record into question.

    5. This reminds me of the sad debacle with an ageing Prof David Bellamy, who loudly pronounced global warming a fiction… “My argument [about climate change] . . . is based on the past record of natural climatic change, and questions how a rise in the tiny amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere could have such a drastic effect when water vapour makes up some 96% of all the greenhouse gases.”

      Of course, any semi-competant physicist can easily point out the gross error in the Prof’s thinking.

      Ditto for predator-prey relationships in nature, as partially expressed in Bill’s fallacious letter.

  10. There’s a lot of freshwater angling in Norfolk, there’s also a lot of complaining about the supposed deprivations the fish stocks suffer from otters and cormorants. Well sea eagles occasionally eat cormorants (so do otters as a matter of fact) and probably more importantly would help disperse any flocks that have settled on specific stretches of water. The closer and closer we get back to having the full guild of predators that we would have had before human interference then there’s less and less likelihood the claims that other wildlife is being threatened by predation have any credence. Since my last comment on this page about otters I found out by accident that rangers in Kielder noticed mink numbers plummeted with the return of the otter. That gave them the confidence to do some pro water vole habitat creation and do a big reintroduction of ratty. Whether it was the better habitat, the otters or both it’s been a success and the rug has certainly been pulled from under the hysteria that said the otters would kill off pretty much everything else as they moved back. Where have we heard that before? We need more predators not less.

  11. Lets not be ageist. The the patron of the RSPB, who incindentnley has a residence in Norfolk, is reported as indicating that she is in favour of the re introduction of this magnificent bird to Norfolk. So am I.

    Only the cynic in me would suggest that her grandsons’ might be lousy shots and therefore need a larger target!

  12. As he, himself, claims, Bill Makins has been an opponent of White Tailed Eagles in East Anglia for a very long time. Such anti-predator prejudices have no place in nature conservation.

    1. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being 89, but do you not see the issue with someone like that having such a disproportionate influence compared to younger generations who have to live with this decimated biodiversity? I don’t see any of their views given a platform in large publications like this. He should be stepping aside, not being such an unnecessary obstacle.

  13. What beggars belief is the wholesale level of ignorance and prejudice that is prevalent in our society

    1. Thanks, David.

      I think it’s premature to conclude these peregrines have been poisoned. It’s certainly a possibility, of course, but my local contact advises that there have also been cases of avian flu recently. We need to wait for the toxicology results before reporting this as a confirmed poisoning.

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