brood-meddling-update
Hen Harrier brood. Photo: Gordon Yates

1. Legal challenge: there is a saying that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and I’m beginning to feel that quite strongly. The RSPB and I, separately, were granted the right to appeal the original judgment over the lawfulness of brood-meddling of Hen Harrier nests in autumn 2019 – yes, 2019. Our appeal was scheduled for March 2020 (but was rescheduled for January 2021 after one of the three Appeal Court judges was taken ill). We have been waiting for a judgment since then and now probably will not get one until the autumn, October.

This is very, very slow and I can only apologise to all those who have supported, morally or financially (or both), the original case and the appeal. It is dragging on interminably and no reasons are forthcoming from the courts for this very long delay.

2. This year: But meanwhile, I am told by Natural England that two nests were brood-meddled in England this year. Here are the details though I have restricted the location details to counties.

Intervention nest 1: Four chicks were taken from a nest near WWWWWWWW, North Yorkshire on 2 June 2021. There was a non-intervention nest at a distance of approximately 700m. The four chicks were successfully reared in captivity and released on 15 July 2021 at a site near XXXXXXXXXXX, North Yorkshire approximately 24km from the intervention nest. The intervention nest and release site were both within North Pennine Moors SPA and each located on a grouse moor/heather moorland landscape. Natural England approved an amendment to the Hen Harrier Brood Management Trial Monitoring and Evaluation Plan to allow for one male hen harrier to be released untagged under the licence. This is because this bird was too small to be fitted with the Microwave Telemetry 9.5g satellite tag in the possession of the licence holder (the tag, harness and BTO leg ring would exceed the ≤3% tag/bodyweight ratio regulation and is not permitted under the BTO permit). No other appropriate alternative was available and therefore it was decided to be in the best interests of the bird to be released without a tag. Natural England is satisfied that the loss of that data point will not undermine this research. This is because all other brood managed birds to date have been tagged.

Intervention nest 2: Four chicks were taken from a nest near YYYYYYYYYYY, Lancashire on 11 June 2021. There was a non-intervention nest at a distance of approximately 2.6km. One egg was also taken and tested, but was found to have been an early failure or was unviable. The four chicks were successfully reared in captivity and released on 24 July 2021 at a site near ZZZZZZZZZZZ, Cumbria approximately 47km from the intervention nest. Neither the intervention
nest nor the release site were within an SPA.

So, just two nests again. And again, against the protocol for the trial, only chicks were taken, not eggs.

It will be interesting to see what the number of nests really is this year, and how many really are on grouse moors, after the Moorland Association put out their spoiler press release which doesn’t seem to be endorsed by either Natural England or the RSPB (but nor is it denied). I wonder whether the poor young Duke of Westminster has piles of Hen Harriers nesting on his land this year – he has been very unlucky with his Hen Harrier numbers for so long now.

3. It’s Hen Harrier Day today! Join Wild Justice for 90 minutes of art, discussion, facts, and music about the uplands in general and Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles in particular. Here’s the link https://youtu.be/hjaeLA9vRfw and the broadcast starts at 10am.

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