Posts Tagged ‘Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population’

‘moor’ about?

February 19, 2016

The sun was shining, the skies were blue and the wilderness beckoned again, so Thursday saw another visit to a very wet landscape.  Dressing like an ‘onion’ with three pairs of socks easily kept the cold at bay.

A pair of delightful dumpy Stonechats were the first good birds of the day, colourful gems on a winter’s day.160218 Stonechat hrk 309

Feeding at the edge of the track and returning to a perch before repeating the exercise again an indication perhaps that there was plenty of suitable food for these seasonal specials.  Their ‘tchack’ call, reminiscent of stones being hit together, was heard frequently as the two birds worked their patch for food.  Stonechats are omnivorous and will search out seed and invertebrates both of which appear plentiful at the moment and is no doubt contributing much needed fuel for these delightful chats, with up to eight birds being logged on Thorne Moors recently.

The Marsh Harriers, two males quartered the moor flushing wildfowl and pheasant in their quest for smaller quarry.  A stunning Short-eared Owl appearing as the light waned, working the western periphery for small mammals able to escape the wet and relocate on the drier balks.

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Big skies, space to breath but just about every point of the compass is seeing the ring of steel tighten and destroy the atmospheric vista?  Conversely these metal monsters were ‘sold’ as a tourist attraction to which people would flock to see such iconic structures …. not forgetting the marketing spin of wind energy being free ?

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There is much discussion about an early season with the Blackthorn in flower already.  The first adders have been seen on both Hatfield and Thorne Moors, 10 February so ten days earlier than last year!  How long before we hear the first Chiffchaff and see the first Sand Martin, two of the early migrants?

Will the ‘silver ghosts’ who have graced our local lowland moors this winter return to their upland breeding moors and be able to successfully fledge young birds into the declining English population?  Whilst the politicians postulate the pros and cons of the UK remaining in the European Union, will 2016 see an outcome to the RSPBs complaint to the European Commission about the damage on Walshaw Moor?  The case is not just about Hen Harriers, but about management of upland moors and we might also remember that they are now extremely topical for their role in flood alleviation?

In the interim, let’s carry on enjoying the magic that the Hen Harrier brings on a cold winters day when, if we put in the hours scanning the far horizon and the extensive reed beds we can be rewarded with a glimpse of a charismatic bird who can for the winter months at least enjoy a safe haven here with us.  Get out there, experience the magic before the species is just a memory and another obituary in a natural history paper.  It was as recent as 2013 that the headlines reported imminent extinction as an English breeding bird, its status is still extremely tenuous.

The defra sponsored Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population received mixed reviews and it was Mark Avery who summed it up as the ‘[In]action plan’.

 

 

 

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Defra’s [In]action Plan for Hen Harrier recovery?

January 23, 2016

I was hoping to write a few words about Defra’s Action Plan when it was published recently, but I decided to comply with one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I spent the day on Thorne Moors instead.  The excursion lessened the variety of emotions the documents elicited, for a while ….

It was cold but who cares, the skies were clear and bright and the light just right for watching those magical ‘silver ghosts’ as they quarter the moor in search of a meal.  Also present was a female peregrine and Short-eared Owl, along with the usual supporting assemblage.

But it is the grey male with its white rump and black ink-dipped wing tips that generate emotions like wonder but also sadness as well as a degree of anger ….

To understand the ‘disquiet’ and disappointment about the “Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population” then you need to read it.  An erudite analysis of the document has been written by Dr Mark Avery via his blog Standing up for nature 

It is interesting too to read the comments made via that blog about the RSPB membership of the Upland Stakeholder Group, that is to say as part of the stakeholder group who have published this [In]action plan.  The RSPB’s response to the Action Plan can be found via Martin Harper’s blog.

Hen Harriers breed on upland moors, many managed for grouse.  Leeds University through its EMBER project found issues of water quality etc. This winter has seen astonishing levels of flooding in areas which are downstream of these [mis]managed moorlands.  An epetition to ban driven grouse shooting achieved 33,615 signatures, the RSPB and the WTs collectively failed to get behind this petition and similarly the RSPB have yet to encourage its membership to sign the Ban toxic lead ammunition petition, why?

But, with flooding topical then we should encourage people in power, Ministers, MPs and others that upland moor management needs to be reviewed and where necessary undertaken for the public good not private profit?  Is it right that large estates cause damage and receive public funds as part of land subsidies?  Perhaps the issue of flooding will keep the management of upland moors and public subsidies in the public gaze?  Ministers were quick to be seen out in devastated areas dishing out sympathies and promises, but time will tell if their flood of promises manifest any tangible benefit to the public who suffered from the consequences of failure to take a holistic approach to flood management?

According to George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian  This flood was not only foretold – it was publicly subsidised.

 

 

 


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Mark Avery

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I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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