Blog Post: Introducing a Bonny wee hen harrier

With the notable exception of Henry , few living hen harriers manage to achieve national celebrity status. But at barely six weeks old, our young male, Bonny, is already well used to the public eye, after the fitting of his satellite tag by trained and licensed RSPB staff was filmed and featured on the national BBC Six News last week, as well as a radio edit on BBC R4's PM programme (available here until 17th Sept).  Bonny with his newly fitted satellite tag being held by RSPB's Guy Anderson. Photo: Mark Thomas Bonny was the only chick to hatch from a clutch of five eggs on RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve this year, marking the first successful nest on the reserve in since 2006, and only the second successful nest in the whole of the North Pennines in the last 10 years. He is one of a number of hen harriers to be satellite tagged as part of RSPB's Hen Harrier LIFE Project across England, Scotland and the Isle of Man this year. Bonny in his nest at one week old. Photo: Steve Garnett His name was selected by Chris Packham from over 2,300 entries into the #nameandsave competition, run by LUSH cosmetics, to celebrate the incredible £122,000 raised by their skydancer bathbombs to support hen harrier conservation. Watch Chris announcing the winner here:  (Please visit the site to view this video) Right from the beginning, Bonny's life has been a rollercoaster journey. His mother, a mature female, arrived on the reserve back in May and it quickly became apparent that she was eager for a mate, skydancing (a trait normally reserved for males but used by females in times of desperation) and building dummy nests, but all to no avail. There were no males to be seen. Several weeks later, when a male finally did appear, it's safe to say she appeared to be deeply unimpressed - he was young and immature, still very brown and yet to earn his adult grey plumage. Normally in a healthy population of hen harriers, a young male like this wouldn't get a look in. But with so few birds in England this year, the female had little option but to accept his advances or leave breeding to another year. Bonny's mother - a beautiful mature female hen harrier. Photo: Mark Thomas As soon as the nesting attempt was confirmed, dedicated RSPB staff and volunteers mounted a 24/7 watch, special remote monitoring cameras were placed near the nest, and supplementary food was provided under licence, to ensure that this family of hen harriers had the best possible chance of survival and success. As it turned out, had the supplementary food not been provided, our immature male's inexperience could have proved disastrous. Though a reasonably effective hunter, he was hopelessly inattentive of his now-dependent female, frequently heading off for days at a time before reappearing with another small food offering. The extra food provided by RSPB thankfully ensured that the female never had to go far from the nest to feed herself or her chick.  RSPB Moorland Warden, Steve Garnett, placing day-old chicks and white rats on the supplementary feeding post. All supplementary feeding is carried out under appropriate licence from Natural England. Photo: Mark Thomas Having received his satellite tag on the 15th August, Bonny is now busily testing his wings and practicing his hunting skills around the reserve, under the continued close watch of our staff and volunteers. It won't be long before he starts venturing further afield and when he does, you'll be able to follow his movements online at rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife or @RSPB_Skydancer . Good luck, Bonny, and stay safe! 

Blog Post: Guest Blog: Aalin, the sat-tagged Manx Hen Harrier takes to the air

Neil Morris is the Managing Director of Manx BirdLife. Here he shares his thoughts and hopes for Aalin, the second hen harrier to be satellite tagged on the Isle of Man as part of a partnership between Manx BirdLife and RSPB's Hen Harrier LIFE Project.  I’m a complete convert to Manx culture and the beauty and character of the Manx countryside, having relatively recently exchanged the blistering heat of the Qatari desert for the cool climes of the Isle of Man..  On just my third day on the island while tidying up the garden, I looked up to see a Hen Harrier drifting over the hills behind our house. This was my introduction to ‘Manx’ Hen Harriers. Roll forward eighteen months and my family loves the place. To the south, rugged heather moorlands drop spectacularly to dramatic granite cliffs. While to the north, rolling green hills akin to the Malverns give way gently to low sandstone cliffs and long pebble and sand stretches of coast. With a healthy Manx population of Hen Harriers, it’s possible to see them on the way to work, on the school run and even while doing the shopping. The rural, compact nature of the island gives an omnipotence to the Hen Harrier and other ‘high value’ species such as Peregrine, Hooded Crow and Chough. They are always just around the next corner. And so it was that I was delighted to swap my marketing career, with all the thrills and spills of a London commute, for my new role as Managing Director of Manx BirdLife. I have always been passionate about birds and wildlife. Indeed, the formative years of my career were spent at RSPB HQ in Sandy and I have been itching to ‘get back to my roots’ ever since. Aalin with her newly fitted satellite tag. Photo credit: Sean Gray This year’s satellite tagging of a young female Hen Harrier offers the chance to make up the ground lost when last year’s tagged Hen Harrier, Hetty, suffered an early demise. Like Hetty before her, Aalin has been named by the Society for the Preservation of the Manx Countryside and Environment, sponsors of the Manx Hen Harrier tagging project (part of RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE programme). Fittingly, Aalin means ‘beauty’ in the revived Manx language. She was tagged in July and has since left the nest, though appears reluctant to stray too far. We await with baited breath her first forays farther afield – perhaps down to the coast like many other local Harriers, or perhaps she might attempt to cross the Irish Sea to England, Wales, Scotland or even Ireland. On a clear day, we can see all four countries from that same hill behind our house. Whatever she decides to do, Aalin’s wanderings will provide valuable data which will add to the overall understanding of Hen Harrier behaviour across the British Isles. Our local community is excited by the project and eagerly awaits updates on the satellite data. But like everywhere, the Manx countryside is threatened by over-population, development and disturbance, though thankfully wilful persecution appears to be rare. Aalin - the future of Manx hen harriers. Photo credit: James Leonard Keeping Aalin in the public eye and maintaining the islanders’ desire to look after the precious Manx countryside and the wild birds to which it provides a home is so important. While it’s tempting to dream that the island might get back to the heady days of 60 Hen Harrier nests each season, it’s vital we focus our energies on the 30 or so nesting attempts we have had this year. We must do all we can to learn about Aalin’s needs and vulnerabilities. That way we can devise conservation plans to protect her and future generations of this magnificent ‘sky dancer’. My thanks are due to the RSPB LIFE team, the Manx Ringing Group, the Society for the Preservation of the Manx Countryside and Environment and James Leonard. Fingers crossed, Aalin will be digitally signing in for a long while to come!

Hen Harrier missing over…guess what?…a grouse moor © Mark Avery

August 18, 20164 Comments

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The RSPB announced today that a young male Hen Harrier, fitted with a satellite transmitter as part of the Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project, has gone missing on a grouse moor in the Monadhliath Mountains, south-east of Inverness.
The bird, named Elwood, was the only chick to fledge from a nest in Banffshire, which was being monitored under the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland ‘Heads-up for Harriers’ scheme.
Tues 23 June 2015 CopyThe transmitter’s data, being monitored by RSPB staff, indicated that Elwood fledged in the first week of July, but stayed close to the nest site in the hills above the River Spey until 20 July, when he began to travel more widely. By the 27 July, Elwood had moved 20 miles to the south west, and had settled in the hills around Tomatin.
Elwood remained in this area, with the transmitter providing detailed information about his daily travels until suddenly, transmissions ceased abruptly on 3 August. His last recorded position was on an area of managed moorland a few miles from the Slochd summit on the A9.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, said: ‘This latest disappearance of a satellite-tagged bird is deeply concerning, and joins the long list of protected birds of prey that have been confirmed to have been illegally killed or disappeared suddenly in this area. The transmitters being fitted to these birds are exceedingly reliable, and illegal persecution is therefore the most likely explanation of the disappearance of these birds of prey. The absence of typical breeding raptor species from areas of suitable habitat, or at traditional nesting sites, in large parts of the Monadhliaths is further supporting evidence of a major problem with wildlife crime in this general area.
This case is all the more depressing as the nest from which Elwood successfully fledged was monitored as part of a partnership project between PAW Scotland and the local landowner. It proves, yet again, that despite there being a good number of enlightened estates who are happy to host and protect nesting birds of prey – as soon as they move away from these areas they are being illegally killed.
The denials and obfuscation from representatives of the land management sector, and their consistent failure to acknowledge and address this problem, is one of the main reasons why our bird of prey populations are struggling in the central and eastern Highlands. We repeat our call to the Scottish Government to introduce a robust system of licensing of game bird hunting, where the right to shoot is dependent on legal and sustainable management of the land, in line with approaches adopted in most other European countries.‘.

One disappearing satellite-tagged protected raptor disappearing suddenly over a grouse moor is suspicious – the more that disappear, the more suspicion turns into certainty.  Add in those we know for certain were killed deliberately, and it adds up to a damning indictment of the way that driven grouse shooting is carried out in the UK. Driven grouse shooting depends on big bags of birds, a high kill rate, and cannot afford to let raptors survive, even though they are protected by law, and have been all your lifetime unless you are a bit older than I am.
Generations of birds of prey have been subjected to systematic, routine and ruthless illegal persecution because people want to shoot Red Grouse for fun.
The RSPB wants grouse shooting to be better regulated – I’d like to sweep it away altogether through a ban. If you agree with me, and I think most Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles would, then please sign here to add to the strength of our voice as we head to a debate on the future of grouse shooting in the Westminster parliament.
We’ll see what that comedy double act of McAdam and Baynes have to say this time – it sounds as though the RSPB expects more denial and obfuscation from shooters.

Blog Post: Elwood Blues: First tagged hen harrier of 2016 goes missing

Ian Thomson is RSPB Scotland's Head of Investigations, whose team help to monitor the data from our satellite tagged hen harriers. Here he shares some upsetting news.  We knew it would happen sooner or later, I just hoped that for once it might be later... It’s very disappointing to have to break the news that one of our satellite-tagged youngsters has already “gone missing”, on a grouse moor in the Monadhliath Mountains, south-east of Inverness. We’ve barely even had the chance to properly introduce you to our new group of hen harriers which fledged from nests in England and Scotland this year before we have to announce this terrible news.   Our male bird, nicknamed Elwood by RSPB staff, after the Blues Brothers, was the only chick to fledge from a nest in Banffshire. With a tough start to life due to apparently limited food, this nest was carefully monitored under the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) “ Heads-up for Harriers ” scheme. Recently tagged Elwood, back in his nest. Photo credit: Adam Fraser Elwood was tagged on 27 June when he was about four weeks old and was our first bird to be fitted with a transmitter this year. He fledged from his nest in the hills above the River Spey in Banffshire in the first week of July, but stayed close to the site and home as hen harriers often do in the early days, getting used to their wings and practicing their hunting skills over familiar ground. Eventually on 20 July, he began to travel more widely and seven days later, Elwood had moved 20 miles to the south west, and had settled in the hills around Tomatin. He stayed in this area for a while, with the transmitter providing detailed information about his daily travels until suddenly, transmissions ceased abruptly on 3 August. His last recorded position was in an area of managed moorland a few miles from the Slochd summit on the A9. It’s been a tough few years for birds of prey in this region, with news emerging last week that eight satellite-tagged golden eagles had also disappeared in the same area as Elwood; the northern Monadhliaths. In the last five years, three of these golden eagles, whose transmitters were functioning normally, suddenly and abruptly went “off the radar” this spring. Elwood showing off his satellite tag. Photo credit: Adam Fraser This latest disappearance of a satellite-tagged bird is deeply concerning, and joins the long list of protected birds of prey that have been confirmed to have been illegally killed or disappeared suddenly in this area. The transmitters being fitted to these birds are exceedingly reliable. If there’s a problem with the battery for instance, it is immediately obvious from the data received and we would expect to see a slow and gradual decline in transmissions over time. In Elwood’s case, as in so many others, the signal was coming through loud and clear and there was absolutely no indication of any technical fault. For the transmissions to stop so suddenly and without warning, something catastrophic must have happened to that tag. Illegal killing is therefore the most likely explanation of the disappearance of these birds of prey. The absence of typical breeding raptor species from areas of suitable habitat, or at traditional nesting sites, in large parts of the Monadhliaths is further supporting evidence of a major problem with wildlife crime in this area. The denials and obfuscation from representatives of the land management sector, and their consistent failure to acknowledge and address this problem, is one of the main reasons why our bird of prey populations are struggling in the central and eastern Highlands. We repeat our call to the Scottish Government to introduce a robust system of licensing of game bird hunting, where the right to shoot is dependent on legal and sustainable management of the land, in line with approaches adopted in most other European countries. It’s increasingly depressing to note that despite there being a good number of enlightened estates who are happy to host and protect nesting birds of prey, as soon as they move away from these protected and safe areas they are being illegally pursued and killed. The nest that Elwood successfully fledged from was monitored through one of those positive joint partnerships between PAW Scotland and the local landowner. It proves, yet again, that there is a desire by many to see the success of a breeding Hen Harrier population but due to a few pernicious bad apples, we are unable to follow and learn from Elwood, instead we morning the loss of achieving a simple goal; of keeping a Hen Harrier alive for more than a few months. From next week, follow the fortunes of our remaining tagged birds by visiting the Hen Harrier LIFE Project website at www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife  or on twitter @RSPB_Skydancer . 

The grouse shooters aim to kill: the first casualty is the truth © George Monbiot

Their campaign against the RSPB is a shameful example of ‘astroturfing’. The public should beware  

Grouse shooter in Highlands
‘Grouse are cosseted at the expense of other life forms. Predators must be eliminated.’ Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA


This is how, in a democracy, you win when you are outnumbered: you purchase the results. It’s how politics now works. The very rich throw money at the parties, lobby groups and thinktanks that project their demands. If they are clever, they keep their names out of it.
Here’s an example: a campaign fronted by the former England cricket captain Sir Ian Botham, called You Forgot the Birds. It appears to have two purposes: to bring down the RSPB – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – and to get the natural history presenter Chris Packham sacked from the BBC.
It likes to present itself as “... a network of people who are passionate about bird habitat. Some of us are conservationists or self-confessed birders, some are farmers and landowners, some work full-time in the countryside while others are volunteers from the cities.” And this is what it revealed in a footnote at the bottom of one of its press releases, that has since vanished from the web: “The You Forgot the Birds campaign is funded by the British grouse industry.” Ah, the grouse industry. Who would have guessed?
To shoot grouse you have to be exceedingly rich: it costs around £7,000 per person per day. The owners of grouse moors, who are also exceedingly rich, justify these fees by ensuring that there are vast numbers of birds to shoot. This requires, across great tracts of our uplands, the elimination of almost everything else.
Grouse are wild birds, but cosseted at the expense of other life forms. Predators and competitors must be eliminated, either legally or, in the case of protected species such as peregrine falcons, golden eagles, red kites and hen harriers, illegally. Many grouse moors are black holes for birds of prey. They disappear and their satellite tags stop working in the same places, again and again. Alien abduction? Russian black ops? No: shooting, trapping and poisoning by the gamekeepers employed to maximise grouse numbers, most of whom, on these remote moors, get away with it.

Producing as many grouse as possible also means burning and draining the land, to create a monoculture of the young heather the birds eat. Sure, this releases the carbon in the soil, pollutes rivers and helps to flood the towns downstream. But to hell with the plebs. To rub our noses in it properly, we pay them for the privilege: grouse moors are subsidised by us. At the height of his austerity programme, as essential public services were cut to the bone, David Cameron’s government raised the subsidy for grouse moors by 84%, to £56 per hectare. Some owners now harvest hundreds of thousands of pounds of our money every year.
Cameron also tried to close the national wildlife crime unit, which would have pleased his friends no end. It was saved only by a public outcry. Conservationists have called for a law of vicarious liability, making the owners of grouse moors responsible for the wildlife crime they commission, rather than leaving only the gamekeepers to take the rap. But this proposal was struck down by Cameron’s environment minister, Richard Benyon. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that he owns a grouse moor.
But through the efforts of wildlife campaigners (like Packham and the RSPB) and people whose homes have been flooded downstream, the grouse industry is now being called to account. Last week, the petition posted by the conservationist Mark Avery calling for an end to driven grouse shooting – where wild birds are sent towards the guns by “beaters” – passed the 100,000-signature threshold: the issue is now likely to be debated in parliament.

The result is You Forgot the Birds, championed by the Daily Mail, which describes it as “a grassroots campaign by farmers and conservationists”. It is, of course, coincidental that Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, owns a grouse moor.
We know who’s in front of this “grassroots campaign”: Botham, who runs a shoot in North Yorkshire. But who’s behind it? Only one funder has so far been identified: the billionaire hedge fund owner Crispin Odey. We also know that the campaign is run by a lobbying company called Abzed. It boasts that “a besieged grouse moor community turned to Abzed. Our approach was to turn the spotlight on to the RSPB.” Very grassroots, I’m sure.
Claims made by the campaign keep falling apart. Last year the Telegraph had to issue a humiliating correction and apology to the RSPB after it repeated statements in a You Forgot the Birds press release that seem to have been conjured out of thin air. Last week, in the Mail and on the Today programme, Botham recited figures for the rare birds found on grouse moors during a survey by the British Trust for Ornithology. The BTO says it has conducted no such survey.
The purpose of the countryside, for people like Botham, Odey and Dacre, is an exclusive playground for the rich. For them, authentic country people are those who own or rent significant tracts of land, many of whom live in cities, and those who work for them, as long as they wear tweed instead of Gore-Tex. As for the RSPB and its members, they’re bipedal vermin. Never mind that many of them live and work in the countryside; they are interlopers with no right to a voice in rural life.
The media collaborates. News reporters describe shooting and hunting lobbyists as “countryside groups”, anointing them as the authentic rural voice and casting those who oppose them – who often seem to possess a far greater love for and knowledge of the countryside – as interfering townies. Documentary-makers seek a stereotyped rusticity which, though politically charged, is presented as the neutral and immutable spirit of rural life. The co-presenter of the series Clarissa and the Countryman was Sir Johnny Scott, a baronet who owns 5,000 acres in the Scottish borders: that’s what the BBC means by countryman. Where is he now? Ah yes, fronting up You Forgot the Birds with Botham.

When opposition is seen as illegitimate, it appears to be legitimate to cheat and bludgeon. That’s how the lords of the land have long maintained their pre-eminence. Today you can no longer call out the yeomanry, sit in judgment then have dissenters hanged. But there are other means of bypassing democracy. You buy yourself a crowd, or at least an outfit that looks like a crowd. You demand, from your position of comfortable anonymity, the silencing of people who contest your claims, like Packham. You use a corrupt and partisan media to hound them.
This is how politics works these days: astroturf groups (fake grassroots movements) and undisclosed interests are everywhere. The same forces are at play in the tobacco industry, fossil fuels, junk food, banking, guns, private health provision, in fact throughout public life. They recruit celebrities to front their campaigns. The astroturf groups confuse and obfuscate, make up stories and grant their anonymous backers plausible deniability.
They are a threat to democracy. Call them out, expose them to the light, and don’t believe a word they say.

Blog Post: Guest Blog: Researchers develop forensic DNA kit for hen harriers

Dr. Arati Iyengar is from the School of Forensic & Applied Sciences at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), who have recently developed a forensic DNA kit, SkydancerPlex, which allows individual hen harriers to be identified from tiny samples of blood or feathers. To celebrate this research, UCLan have sponsored one of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harriers, Hermione, who was named via an online poll. What is the SkydancerPlex? This exciting new development is an extremely accurate DNA based identification kit for hen harriers. In humans, DNA is routinely used to match an evidence sample collected from a crime scene to a sample from a suspect, thus linking the suspect to the crime scene. In wildlife species, there are very few DNA based identification kits, particularly ones which have been tested to the rigorous standards needed for forensic casework. The SkydancerPlex is the first such kit, making it a real step forward in the fight against wildlife crime. Hermione, the young female hen harrier from Mull, named by UCLan, and satellite tagged by RSPB's Hen Harrier LIFE Project. Photo: Paul Haworth How was it created? Unlike in the case of human DNA where extensive information is available, there was nothing at all available for the hen harrier when we started. It’s one thing to distinguish hen harrier DNA from that of other species but identifying individual hen harriers was a much bigger challenge. To do this, we needed to look at areas of DNA called short tandem repeats (STRs). These are where strands of DNA start to repeat themselves and it’s that pattern of repetition which is unique to each individual, like a genetic fingerprint. The more of these STRs you analyse, the more accurate the identification. After much hard work from a research intern and some MSc students, we selected 8 STRs along with another section of DNA to tell us the sex the bird. These were then all combined into a single identification kit, or an a STR multiplex. Hence the name 'SkydancerPlex'. How does the SkydancerPlex work? By focusing on these specific areas of hen harrier DNA, we can simultaneously amplify and analyse small samples of genetic material to create a DNA profile for each bird.  How do you individualise hen harriers using SkydancerPlex? If two DNA samples (e.g. a sample taken from shot bird and one obtained from a suspect) have the same alleles across all STRs, what you have is a ‘match’. Of course, without DNA from every single hen harrier out there you can never be 100 % certain that a DNA profile is from a particular hen harrier. So instead, what we do is to calculate the probability of the DNA profile being present in a random unrelated individual in the population. The smaller this probability, the more likely it is that the sample came from the individual concerned. By calculating the frequency of the various alleles within the hen harrier population you can then calculate the probability of this match. Using the Skydancerplex, the probability of matching a DNA profile to the wrong bird can be as small as 1 in 188 million. So if a DNA sample had been recovered as evidence and matched to a suspect, it would be hugely powerful evidence against him indeed. What next? The development of the SkydancerPlex is certainly not the end of our interest in hen harriers. It is very much the beginning of more exciting projects. What we really want to do next is use the SkydancerPlex to understand the population dynamics of hen harriers from across the UK and Europe. Analysing DNA from hen harriers from across this range will tell us about their movements and breeding patterns which is vital information to inform future conservation efforts. Find out more about UCLan's exciting research by visiting their website here  and can download the abstract from their published research paper here . From the end of this summer, you can follow Hermione's movements on the Hen Harrier LIFE Project website at rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife .

Blog Post: The ordinary 12th

Today is the traditional start of the grouse shooting season – the ‘Glorious 12 th ’ to some; the Inglorious 12 th to others. To be honest, it’s just another day to me – I’ve never been grouse shooting and I doubt I ever will. It’s a Friday so I guess that’s good. I suppose for me it’s just the ordinary 12 th . If someone brings cake in it might stretch to the pretty decent 12 th . But behind that slightly flippant introduction is a serious question – does grouse shooting matter and perhaps most pertinently of all, does it have a future? In 100 years’ time, will there still be a Glorious 12 th , or will it be looked back on as an odd quirky footnote in the history of our countryside? I’m sure we’ll hear lots of perspectives on that today from all angles, but from my perspective the only answer to the question “should grouse shooting have a future?” is a clear... definitely, maybe . Driven grouse shooting can’t have a future unless it shows it is capable of evolving to tackle the problems it faces. These issues clearly start with the illegal killing of birds of prey , which must end. It is absurd this is still going on – we shouldn’t have to remind people to obey the law! But the problems also extend further, from the inappropriate burning on peatlands to drainage and the creation of damaging tracks . In addition, emerging issues such as mountain hare culling and medication of the grouse , are only now coming to the fore. Some moorland management is certainly good for some species, such as curlew and golden plover, but that can’t come at the price of the other environmental damage it causes. One way of tackling these issues would be a rigorous licensing system, such as those found in many European and North American countries, which recognises and builds on existing good practice. Self-regulation has clearly failed, so tougher steps must be taken. The UK has been unusual in having no statutory form of shoot licensing and given the intensity of management on some shooting estates and its environmental impacts, this seems, to put it mildly, a bit odd. We all need a modern scheme, with licensing of shoots and powers to remove the opportunity to shoot gamebirds where wildlife crimes have taken place. Loss of shooting rights is widely available as a sanction and deterrent to law breaking in other countries, so why not here? Licensing is not about tarring everybody with the same brush – law-abiding estates have nothing to fear. Those that have clean licenses could be celebrated for doing a good job. The details of a licensing scheme would need to be worked out through a public debate. But there could be a sliding scale of penalties, ranging from the most severe penalties (loss of the right to shoot) for the worst offences (eg illegal killing) through to lower penalties (fines, suspended loss of licence?) for offences such as burning on deep peat or creating damaging tracks (although arguably these are just as ecologically damaging and potentially more difficult to reverse). There could be a points based system, as on driving licences. We think it is vital that licensing requirements are compulsory, as voluntary approaches have patently failed, and that licences apply at the shoot level. Licensing could have value anywhere intensive management for shooting is causing environmental problems. This would mean a focus on the intensive driven grouse moors of northern England and southern and eastern Scotland, but the same approach could be used to drive up standards in other areas too. Clearly monitoring and enforcement would be required to check estates were abiding by the rules and laws set out in any licence. This might sound bureaucratic or expensive, but it is delivered perfectly straight forwardly in other areas and I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t be replicated here. A good option for administration and enforcement would be via the statutory nature conservation agencies, who could have the necessary access powers and support for enforcement from the police forces. This combination seems to work well in other examples, like the fishing rod licensing system, which is enforced by the Environment Agency working in partnership with the police and other organisations. A modern online system for licence administration and reporting could help save costs. A nominal fee could cover costs of administration. Again, similar to the EA rod licensing system, licence fees could potentially be a significant source of funding for conservation work. With high levels of compliance achieved as a result of effective enforcement, the rod licensing system raises over £20m a year to support fisheries . The shooting community too have a lot to gain from a robust licensing system. Such a system could improve public confidence in the industry, providing a means to demonstrate the sustainability of shooting sports, driving up standards, and giving us an opportunity to celebrate the best shoots where nature thrives on the land. There are no doubt a lot of other details to be worked out. For example, would estates automatically get licences and then have them taken away if they break the rules, or would they have to prove they’d reached certain criteria before being allowed a licence? What I’ve suggested here is in no way a formal RSPB submission on how a licensing system would work. It is merely a few thoughts and suggestions for how it could work. As ever, the details would need to be worked out through a long overdue public debate and consultation with all stakeholders. This is clearly something the public care about, as can be seen in Scotland where the debate is well underway. While it is appalling that yet another golden eagle has disappeared , the words of the Scottish Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, clearly show that she is serious about tackling the problem. Her statement is pretty clear - “the Scottish government is prepared to introduce further regulation of shooting businesses if necessary. It will be unfortunate if the activities of a few bring further regulation on the whole sector, but that is the risk those who defy the law and defy public opinion are running". This is good news – progress is being made. Hopefully we can deliver similar progress in England too. The challenge is clear and it’s a great opportunity for clear leadership. That leadership doesn’t just have to come from politicians though. It can and should come from the law-abiding and forward-looking elements of the shooting industry itself. Licensing has huge potential as a tool for driving up standards across the shooting community. Shooters, as well as our wildlife will benefit. Driven grouse shooting is not an inherent right. It is something a small minority of people enjoy, yet affects the management of large swathes of our uplands. It doesn’t seem unreasonable in that context to expect that minority to abide by some basic rules of not damaging the environment in exchange for being allowed to practice their hobby. Will there be a ‘Glorious’ 12 th in 100 years time? Only if grouse moor management reforms, that’s for sure. The status quo is not an option. The RSPB is not anti-shooting. But we are anti-wildlife crime. We are anti-illegal killing. We are anti-damaging land management practices. The ball is firmly in the driven grouse shooting industry’s court to show it is capable of addressing its problems. Licensing is the best option for it to do this. There are plenty of people out there calling for a ban on driven shooting. If the industry embraces licensing as the way to counter these calls and show it can evolve, then there could be many Glorious 12ths to come. If responses to the very real issues it faces continue to be characterised by spin and denial, then the 12 August could become just another summer’s day. But at least there will always be cake!          

Hen Harrier Day © Treshnish Wildlife Diary


 
The Forest of Bowland is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and used to be the last stronghold of the Hen Harrier in England. When you drive into the area you are welcomed by a sign illustrated with a Hen Harrier (alternative sign here and a wag has made a point with this one). The symbol is is now quite ironic and a continual reminder of the embarrassing fact that there are now no Hen Harriers breeding in the Forest of Bowland. The Hen Harriers used to breed on North West Water / United Utilities land and recently not at all on the estate owned by Gerald Grosvenor, one of the richest people in the UK and who some people refer to as the Duke of Westminster. Incidentally but not co-incidentally there were also no Peregrines breeding on the Forest of Bowland this year and as Terry Pickford writes, that to his knowledge, this is for the first time.
In the 1990s my sister’s neighbour used to say he saw a Hen Harrier every day around the farm on his way to work and he worried about them taking his hens. Sadly no more.
The Forest of Bowland also used to have several pairs of Peregrines. One pair bred for a few years in an abandoned quarry on my sister’s farm but only when disturbed at its territory in a nearby working quarry. One year at least, that I know of, it was disturbed by the local working quarry owner’s son using the quarry for ‘target practice’ – only a caution was given, naturally. I myself even discovered an alternative walk-in nest-site which this pair used one year. It was a terrible choice as it was basically nesting on the ground with a slight ledge and so the pair must have had good reason to desert the perfect site in the working quarry. By that time my sister’s old quarry was too overgrown with trees for the Peregrines.
So the situation is, to say the least, dire and has no doubt pushed many people to sign the petition for a ban on driven grouse shooting. Here is a summary of the situation in 2012 by John Armitage. In 1991 there were 18 successful nests and even as recently as 2009 there were 17 successful nests. So what is happening? Well it is obvious but here is a description of what happened to 22 Peregrine breeding attempts this year. That might give a clue.
I am sure that there are those who would like the sign for the Forest of Bowland changed but it should stay as a permanent reminder of the state of affairs and perhaps in the not to distant future it will not be a symbol, not of failure but success. I notice the official site for the Forest of Bowland, which even has the symbol of a Hen Harrier as its logo, doesn’t even note the existence of Hen Harrier Day in spite of several events in the area.

The Bowland Brewery makes a pale ale called Hen Harrier and is promoting the cause of the missing Hen Harriers. For this it has been rewarded with internet abuse. That was enough for me and I (and many others) ordered a case. Very good beer it is too.
Slainte!
 photo 3 Aug 2016 009.jpg

Flies

The garden is full of flies, hoverflies and bees, they are especially fond of the marjoram and thyme and we noticed this fantastic fly looking more like a bumblebee. We think its Tachina grossa apparently it takes caterpillars for its young to feed on. Lovely.


Update - I now have a pet fly! Like bees it love s sugar water.



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Hen Harrier Day

BAWC_Slider_Hen_Harrier_Day

Hen Harrier Day: Sunday August 10th 2014


 

Hen Harrier Day was initiated by Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC), and organised and coordinated by a coalition of BAWC, former RSPB Conservation Director and leading activist Mark Avery, broadcaster and conservationist Chris Packham, the country’s leading wildlife charity the RSPB, and the North West Raptor Protection Group.

Hen Harrier Day attracted support from a wide selection of organisations and activists, including the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Hawk and Owl Trust, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Peak District National Park, South West Peregrine Group, Birdwatch magazine, Rare Bird Alert, Bird Information, Birdguides, Welsh Ornithological Society and Quaker Concern for Animals.
And of course we can also add a huge following of supporters on Twitter and Facebook. Our thanks go to everyone who – like us – wants to see an end to the illegal persecution of this beautiful bird

Background:
Hen Harrier Day 2014c Just a few hundred years ago the Hen Harrier was a common and widespread bird of prey. Massive changes in land use meant they lost many lowland breeding sites, and they retreated to breed on upland moorland. Relentless persecution by gamekeepers employed on shooting estates followed. Numbers have declined markedly in recent years as intensification of grouse moors has stepped up, and Hen Harriers have been identified as a priority species by the UK Government in terms of combating wildlife crime.
Peer-reviewed research suggests that good habitat remains for Hen Harriers, but there are 962-1285 breeding pairs of Hen Harrier ‘missing’ from Scotland and 322-339 pairs ‘missing’ from England. A 2011 report clearly stated that in England illegal persecution is “such a constraint that the Hen Harrier is threatened with extinction as a breeding species”.
In 2013 – for the first time since records began – no Hen Harriers fledged young in England.
In 2014 just three pairs have bred – all have required 24 hour protection. No-one knows what might happen to their young when they leave the natal areas.
On the 10th of August – when the media’s attention was turning towards grouse moors and the start of the ‘Inglorious 12th’ – we highlighted the scandal of the widespread illegal persecution of Hen Harriers on upland grouse moors and celebrated one of our most iconic birds of prey.
For BAWC, Hen Harrier Day was primarily about raising awareness of wildlife crime – the persecution of a protected bird of prey. We felt then (and still do) that to move on from the current situation, there has to first be a full and clear acknowledgement from the shooting industry that illegal persecution has been widespread and is a limiting factor on Hen Harrier populations. Next there needs to be a commitment from the industry to ensure that all legislation protecting our wildlife is rigorously enforced, and that lawbreakers – current and historic – are reported to the proper authorities immediately.

A selection of external news/posts published in the run-up to Hen Harrier Day
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Blog Post: A thought for this year’s hen harrier chicks

With only a few days to go until the third annual Hen Harrier Day, my thoughts are inevitably with this year’s newly fledged chicks and the challenges facing them as they stretch their wings and take to the air for the first time over the previous and coming weeks. Despite RSPB’s recent departure from the Defra-led Hen Harrier Action Plan, we remain fully committed to securing a sustainable future for these birds and the Hen Harrier LIFE Project has been, and will continue to deliver on-the-ground conservation through nest protection and winter roost monitoring (in partnership with NERF and SRSG), investigations work, and importantly, satellite tagging. This year, thanks to cosmetics company LUSH, and sales of their fabulous Skydancer Bath Bomb, we’ve be able to double the number of satellite tags the project can fit. So far this year, we have fitted satellite tags on birds as far north as Banffshire in Scotland, and soon hope to tag a chick on our Geltsdale reserve in Cumbria, the first hen harrier to hatch at that location in ten long years.  Tags have also gone on birds at National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire, amongst other locations. From the end of the summer, you’ll be able to follow the fortunes of 11 of these birds on the LIFE Project website here . I sincerely hope they fare better than our previous satellite-tagged birds. Bowland Betty – fledged in 2011, found shot dead on a grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales in June 2013. Sky – fledged in July 2014, disappeared in Forest of Bowland in September 2014 when tag suddenly and inexplicably stopped transmitting Hope – fledged in July 2014, disappeared in Forest of Bowland in September 2014 when tag suddenly and inexplicably stopped transmitting Burt – sibling to Hope, fledged in July 2014, disappeared after tag showed signs of battery failure with transmissions slowly fading and eventually stopping in December 2014, near Exmoor Highlander – sibling to Sky, fledged in July 2014, disappeared in April 2016 when tag suddenly and inexplicably stopped transmitting Chance – fledged in 2014, disappeared in South Lanarkshire in May 2016 when tag suddenly and inexplicably stopped transmitting Lad – fledged in July 2015, found dead with injuries “consistent with shooting” in September 2015, in the Cairngorms National Park Nile – fledged in July 2015, died of unknown causes in Northern France in November 2015, body not recovered Hetty – fledged from Isle of Man in July 2015, found dead of natural causes in August 2015 Holly – fledged in West Scotland July 2015, disappeared in Central Scotland in October 2015 I look forward to sharing the stories of our new birds with you on our website and @RSPB_Skydancer. In the meantime, I'll be speaking at Hen Harrier Day Northeast this Sunday, hosted at RSPB Saltholme, which is one of many events being held across the country this weekend.  See you there? 

Bowland Brewery Subjected to Hate Campaign

Bowland Brewery subjected to hate campaign for supporting hen harriers

Bowland brewery HHEarlier this year, the Bowland Brewery in Lancashire committed to donate a proportion of the proceeds from the sale of its Hen Harrier beer to the RSPB’s hen harrier conservation projects (see press statement here).
James Warburton, owner of Bowland Brewery said: “The hen harrier is a living symbol of Bowland Brewery’s intimate connection with the landscape where we produce our beers.
The very real prospect that this beautiful bird of prey may disappear from the skies above the Forest of Bowland is unthinkable. That’s why we are committing to donate a significant sum of money each year to safeguard the future of one of Bowland’s most iconic residents.
As the harriers return to the Bowland Fells to nest this spring, we hope to see nature-lovers visiting the area to marvel at their amazing skydance and celebrate with a pint of the beer these rare and precious birds inspired.
By buying Hen Harrier by the pint or in bottles, locals and visitors alike will be making a positive contribution to hen harrier conservation in Bowland – and ultimately helping the population to grow.”
bowland breweryRecently, this photograph of Chris Packham and Mark Avery enjoying a pint of Bowland Brewery’s Hen Harrier beer, was posted on the Bowland Brewery’s social media platforms (twitter and facebook). As a result, some individuals from the grouse-shooting industry have launched a hate campaign aimed directly at the Bowland Brewery.
Bowland Brewery’s facebook page was targeted with a torrent of fake reviews, resulting in a drop in their overall review rating. Comments posted on facebook by the grouse-shooting trolls included:
“Get this off tomorrow or we will hound you”.
“They drink with the devil. Destroy the business!”
“Side with Packham and the knife comes out”
“They thought going with Packham was good. Now they must feel the pain”
“Shut them down. Anti shooting”.
“You can run but not hide. Hammer em!”
“Shut down the business. Shut down, boycott, whatever. Get Bowland Brewery outed”.
“Get hold of the boss and tell him to mend his ways. Otherwise we will crush em”.
Nice guys, eh? Wonder how many of them making threats have a shotgun/firearms certificate? There are some known gamekeepers involved in this hate campaign, including the Head Gamekeeper of Millden Estate in the Angus Glens, Bert Burnett from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (who wrote “Well done everyone”) and some of the comments have been ‘liked’ by the official facebook page of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.
All slightly ironic from an industry that has recently accused Chris Packham of ‘celebrity bullying’ (see here) just because he’s politely asking Marks and Spencer to be transparent about their claims that their red grouse are produced ethically and sustainably (see here).
It’s also ironic that this hate campaign against the brewery comes from an industry that purports to be interested in protecting rural jobs. The Bowland Brewery is a small business, employing local people, in a rural community.
If you want to show your support for the Bowland Brewery and their ethical and charitable support of hen harrier conservation, please consider buying their beer. It’s available in various local outlets (see here) and can also be bought online (see here).
If you want to support the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting, because it’s the only way hen harriers will be allowed to thrive in the English uplands, then please join 65,000 others and sign THIS PETITION.

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RSPB

RSPB walks away from Hen Harrier Action Plan

hh LAURIE CAMPBELLThe RSPB has decided to ‘withdraw its support for DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Action Plan’. See Conservation Director Martin Harper’s blog here for the full explanation.
This is very welcome news – well done RSPB!
Some will say the RSPB should never have supported it in the first place (and we’d be in that camp). The Hen Harrier Action Plan was never a plan to help hen harriers, even though it was dressed up as such. What it actually was/is, is a plan to help remove hen harriers from driven grouse moors so that there are more red grouse available to be shot by wealthy gunmen (see here).
Others will say that the RSPB has played a clever game by initially supporting the Action Plan, knowing full well that the grouse-shooting industry would never be able to deliver on its promises to stop the illegal killing of hen harriers. By giving the industry the time and space to fail, and then by walking away from it, the RSPB is able to make a strong political statement and still come out of this looking like the reasonable and rational organisation we all know it to be.
By supporting this ridiculous Action Plan, the RSPB came in for quite a lot of criticism from ‘our side’. Many of us were frustrated that, at best, the RSPB was sitting on the fence and at worst, legitimising the ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting and all its associated environmental damage. The dark side used the RSPB’s involvement with the HH Action Plan as a PR stick with which to beat detractors of the Action Plan: those of us who support a ban on driven grouse shooting were painted as ‘extremists’, a bunch of unreasonable radicals unwilling to engage in partnership working to find a solution. There’s an element of truth in that, because, unlike the RSPB, our patience with the grouse shooting industry expired a long time ago. We already know that this industry is either incapable of, or unwilling to, abide by the law and so negotiation with them is futile. But we wouldn’t describe that as being unreasonable or extreme; rather it’s more of an obvious next step in the face of blatant ongoing criminality (and subsequent denial) from the grouse shooting industry. It’s good to see the RSPB catching up.
Although, the RSPB hasn’t caught up entirely. Now it has withdrawn its support for the HH Action Plan, it looks like the RSPB has at least swung its legs back over to our side of the fence. But it still hasn’t jumped from that fence. With its steadfast refusal to support a ban on driven grouse shooting, the RSPB is still perched atop that fence and is looking down at the ground trying to judge whether the distance to jump is too far. The RSPB thinks licensing is the way forward, rather than an outright ban. There are merits in that approach, of course, but to be successful, licensing will require effective enforcement AND a willingness from the grouse shooting industry to abide by the licensing rules. We’ve seen no evidence to suggest that either of these two elements will work.
But for now, let’s applaud the RSPB’s withdrawal from the HH Action Plan, let’s enjoy the increasing isolation with which the grouse shooting industry is bringing upon itself, and let’s push on with our aim of getting 100,000 signatures on THIS E-PETITION to trigger a Westminster debate on the future of driven grouse shooting.
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Blog Post: Leaving the Hen Harrier Action Plan: a personal perspective

Jeff Knott is RSPB's Head of Nature Policy. Here he shares his own personal perspective on the decision to walk away from Defra's Hen Harrier Action Plan.  It’s always disappointing when you invest a lot of your time and energy into something and it doesn’t work out as you’d hoped. Whether it’s work, sports or relationships; nothing stings quite as much as the disappointment of unfulfilled potential. The Hen Harrier Action Plan, created under Defra’s Upland Stakeholder Forum has been like that for me and has had a bit of all three. The potential of a positive opportunity. The misplaced optimism of an England football campaign. And ultimately the disappointing realisation that it’s just not working out. Four years. That is, to coin a technical phrase, a bloody long time! Four years ago we were gearing up for the London Olympics – seems an age ago doesn’t it? But four years is also how long discussions went on to try and hammer out an agreement that all parties could agree on and that most importantly, would deliver the recovery of hen harriers. I was the RSPB representative in most of those meetings. While discussion was often difficult and debate was usually forthright, it did feel like there was potential. Getting everyone – conservationists, shooters, landowners, the Government - around a table to try to agree on how to save England’s hen harriers (and only that) was always going to be challenging, but it was a prize worth fighting for. And that’s what kept me going through years of meetings. When the plan was published earlier this year, we welcomed it . Not because it was perfect – it wasn’t (but then I’d argue no compromise agreement ever is) – but because it represented the potential for progress. Unfortunately, that potential has proved to be as fleeting and as unfulfilled as that of Roy Hodgson’s men at Euro 2016. I’m not going to repeat the evidence for the lack of progress. For that, give Martin Harper’s excellent blog from last Monday a read. It is clear that the opportunity the action plan presented has not been grasped. The events of this season have made it abundantly clear that the people I spent years sitting round tables with are unable to deliver the real changes we need to see on the ground. And when it’s clear a partnership can’t deliver what it needs to, then it’s time to separate. And let’s be abundantly clear. The action plan has not failed to deliver because of the RSPB. It has failed to deliver because illegal killing has not ended and hen harriers remain in danger. What’s my over-riding sentiment to this? Anger? Depression? Disappointment? No – its determination. Determination that this will be the last failed process. Determination that we will all, especially law-abiding shooting estates, grasp the real opportunity presented by licensing. Determination that we will continue to work with partners on the ground to protect the birds. Determination that we will save our hen harriers. And licensing really does offer an opportunity. It’s not a blanket approach, but targeted specifically at driving up standards. Progressives in the shooting community should be looking to embrace licensing as a way to identify and marginalise illegality and bad practice. There are plenty out there calling for a total ban on driven grouse shooting. Over 64,000 have signed this petition . For me, taking licensing seriously provides the grouse shooting industry with an option to avoid the failure of the Hen Harrier Action Plan being seen as another milestone on the way to ever increasing calls for an outright ban on driven grouse shooting and the land use and practices that support it. It’s an opportunity they mustn't let slip by. Have I wasted the last four years working on an action plan that has failed entirely? I don’t think so. Because much like failure in sports, in relationships, indeed in life, with hen harriers if we learn the lessons and move forward to achieve our goals in the future, ultimately it will all be worth it. If you share my determination, please attend one of the upcoming Hen Harrier Day events on 6 th /7 th August and, if you live in Scotland, sign this petition supporting calls for licensing.

Elizabeth Mills 2016-07-21 21:34:00

We recycled old tractor tyres to make into flower beds and the wildflowers have really romped away. The little pond we made from an old water cistern has two resident frogs and a visiting toad who like to sit in the cool shade near it.

Cornfield wildflower mix in tractor tyre filled with molehills.

Looks so relaxing!

Wildflowers love the gravelly area under the trees.

Friends of Bowland walk

Friends of Bowland organized a "Wildlife Wander" from Cross of Greets bridge. The weather fined up and it was lovely and sunny which brought out the grasshoppers, dragonflies and beetles. Lots of Meadow Pipits and Whinchats and possibly saw a Hen Harrier circling above. Found Bog Asphodel and Sundews.


















Blog Post: Let’s take the opportunity for a better future for our upland wildlife.

We’ll be blogging regularly in the run up to Hen Harrier Day 2016 and as a prelude here is an analysis by Stuart Housden, our Director of Scotland, reviewing the issues facing the uplands in Britain and the fate of its hen harrier population and the work we are doing to tackle them. We believe fundamentally that intensive driven grouse shooting needs to reform or sooner or later it will die. We want actively to pursue constructive options - but our support is conditional on progress. This will be a topic we will return to over the coming weeks. We’ve never been afraid to tackle difficult issues, where powerful interests have much to lose, whether that’s those who profited from the world trade in birds’ plumage, or developers who pursue profitable developments at the expense of wildlife sites.  The RSPB has been actively stating the conservation case, and winning the arguments throughout our long history. Our passion for the cause that drives us – to see a world richer in nature – is at the heart of what we do. To this we add a calm evaluation of facts, data and information which we use to inform our policies. And, of course, our extensive network of nature reserves roots us in the practical issues of managing land and working in communities. A long running and currently very topical issue concerns the management of land for grouse shooting, particularly the intensive land management that now supports driven grouse shooting.  This happens on moorland and hills, places made special by the upland heaths and blanket bogs that are home to so much wildlife.  The management aims to produce extensive areas of heather which is regularly burnt to provide young shoots favoured by red grouse and where gamekeepers undertake the control of generalist predators such as crows and red foxes. Grouse moors are quite good for some important species (other than grouse) such as curlew and golden plover not least because of the legal reduction in numbers of generalist predators that would otherwise have an impact on ground-nesting wading birds as was found in this study carried out by GWCT.   But, there is strong scientific evidence which links intensive grouse moor management with illegal practices that result in fewer hen harriers, peregrine falcons and other protected birds of prey that should be found on these open landscapes.  Here’s our recent scientific review of the benefits & costs of grouse moors.. This illegal persecution of wildlife, when added to the intensification of the management of moorland (more burning, track construction, damage to peat areas, catching up and medication of grouse, killing mountain hares) is causing a number of serious questions to be posed to the grouse moor managing community. Female hen harrier - photo credit Andy Hay RSPB Images The RSPB’s Council has carefully considered the science and evaluated the impact that illegal persecution of protected species is having, alongside the damage to eco-systems, weighed against the benefits for some bird species.  We have also looked at other models of management and regulation in other countries, to see what we can learn.  It is apparent that the management of large sporting estates across the UK enjoys ‘light touch’ regulation compared with many other land use sectors (at home), and sports shooting in other countries. It is also apparent that the illegal killing of birds like hen harriers, red kites, golden eagles and peregrines on some upland areas is having a population and range-level impact . This was earlier revealed in the influential Hen Harrier and Golden Eagle Framework documents. In response, many have joined calls to ban driven grouse shooting, whilst those in the grouse moor community continue to challenge the evidence and wish to work in a voluntary capacity to improve practice. What is the RSPB doing to address this critical issue and where does it stand ? We are vigilant and remain absolutely committed to rooting out crime against protected species – often investigating and working with the police and other enforcement agencies to bring these cases to trial, and supporting the necessary action to pursue perpetrators through the courts Our annual BirdCrime report (here’s 2014) and our recent Scotland 20 Year review give further details.. Along with our partners, we are working on the ground to satellite track birds and give them the best possible chance of year round protection, for example through our Hen Harrier Life project . 2.         We believe the regulation of grouse shooting should be subject to a far more rigorous process, that ensures estates and their staff manage land in the public interest and within the law. Self-regulation has clearly failed.  A licensing system, with serious sanctions for breaches, including a sanction prohibiting sport shooting for periods, should now be pursued.  We'll be returning to this issue over the coming weeks.   While we believe a licensed based approach has utility across the UK, we are currently focussing on the opportunity to develop its implementation in Scotland, where significant improvements in regulation are already helping to hold perpetrators of environmental crimes to account 3.         We continue to offer help to those managers who adopt progressive management, and will work constructively with them to find solutions to problems. For example, the diversionary feeding of hen harriers, trialled at Langholm, and which has proved to be successful in reducing grouse losses to predation. 4.         We do not support a ban on driven grouse shooting because we see this as unlikely to achieve the desired objectives as in our assessment it will not get political support without first showing that other approaches do not work. We also believe it focuses on the wrong area through highlighting the style of shooting (‘driven’ vs ‘walked up’), rather than the real problem – the desire to produce (and shoot) ever more grouse which is associated with increasingly intensive and sometime illegal management practices. Experience tells us it will also be extremely difficult to bring about a ban without first exhausting all regulatory approaches.  In short, if people break the law and kill protected wildlife (and this happens in many areas beyond driven grouse moors), such activity will not stop if driven grouse shooting is prohibited across the board. 5.         We have supported the Upland Stakeholder Forum’s joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population ( the Hen Harrier Action Plan ) as the best current option for delivering progress in England. However, we believe so-called ‘brood management’ option still has significant questions to answer before any trial of the technique can be considered acceptable.  We made this clear as long ago as 2009 .  6.         So what might the future hold for the uplands?  It is increasingly evident that our uplands and the people and wildlife they support face an increasingly uncertain future.  The combination of a changing climate, unprofitable industries (e.g. farming and forestry) and heightened awareness of the importance of the uplands as a carbon store and source of drinking water all serve to remind that the way we use and manage the uplands is of vital importance.  And the connection between the uplands and communities downstream is also increasingly evident with major flood incidents increasingly the norm.  We urgently need to find new ways of restoring degraded habitats, restoring bog and heath, establishing new areas of woodland, restoring floodplains and finding ways to sustain High Nature Value farming systems, vital to the maintenance of meadows and pastures and a suite of priority species.  We know that many landowners who shoot, share our passion for the uplands and the wildlife they support.  And yet we are also aware that some continue to flout the law with no apparent understanding of the consequences of their actions either on the environment or indeed on their own community.  It is surely time for a change.  A change that embraces wider societal needs and puts grouse shooting on a more environmentally sustainable footing.  In the absence of a demonstrable change in behaviour, better regulation is now required to achieve change. We must also think about how to deliver the desired management of such large areas of the uplands.  How will the habitat of curlews, snipe, golden plover and other species for which these areas are very important be managed in the future (especially as populations of some of these key species have virtually gone from the lowlands).What role have the shooting community to play.  Will more intensive sheep grazing see the loss of heather ground, or will commercial forestry become the preferred land use? Something will fill the vacuum. We must ensure any new management properly addresses issues such as flooding caused by runoff from the hills, or damage to peatlands from drains or burning are addressed, rather than risk replacing one environmentally damaging form of management with another. Our Chairman of Council, Professor Steve Ormerod recently set out the RSPB’s position in a guest blog on Mark Avery’s website.  I hope you find this summary and the links to our ongoing work helpful in understanding the RSPB’s position on this issue. In essence, our approach is no different to that employed in dealing with any other land use – we want to promote good practice and eradicate bad, both through effective regulation and direct support for those who wish to work positively. We want to give hope to moor managers, by supporting them as they introduce best practise. But we will not flinch from exposing the illegal killing of protected hen harriers and other birds of prey, and will continue to do all in our power to combat wildlife crime.