Bird Watching (UK) - - Conservation Hen Harrier -

The ques­tion of Hen Har­ri­ers on grouse moors has be­come in­creas­ingly con­tro­ver­sial and an­tag­o­nis­tic re­cently. As a mem­ber of the RSPB for 60 years, I have ob­served this po­lar­i­sa­tion of views with some alarm. There is a dan­ger that in our ef­forts to pro­tect the Hen Har­rier, we may be do­ing more harm than good. I re­cently spent a won­der­ful morn­ing birdwatching on a grouse moor in the north of Eng­land. The air was filled with the calls of ground nest­ing waders in­clud­ing Lap­wing, Oys­ter­catcher, Snipe, Curlew, and Golden Plover. In ad­di­tion, we also saw Red Grouse with chicks and were able to lo­cate the nests of a num­ber of Ring Ouzels and Wheatears. Later, we met the game­keeper and dis­cussed the birds with him. Lit­tle we said was new to him as he knew his moor well and clearly cared for its wildlife. His liveli­hood de­pended on the driven grouse shoot and he made sure that ag­gres­sive species of wildlife were kept un­der con­trol. It was clear that with­out his ef­forts the ground nest­ing birds (in­clud­ing sev­eral of cur­rent con­cern) would be greatly at risk. It is for this rea­son that I feel that con­ser­va­tion­ists should be much more care­ful be­fore we con­demn game­keep­ers and seek to ban driven grouse shoot­ing. Not only are the liveli­hoods of lo­cal peo­ple at risk but we also run the risk of en­dan­ger­ing some of those birds that we are cur­rently try­ing to pro­tect. We must con­tinue to pro­tect Hen Har­ri­ers. How­ever, we must never for­get that bird pro­tec­tion needs sup­port of those in the coun­try­side. We must in­sure that we do not alien­ate them. James Kay Ed com­ment: Ben Mac­don­ald on the Hen Har­rier – see page 30.

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