Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hen Harriers again, I'm afraid!

Well, after all the rumours , enquiries and , even, despondency, it seems that Hen Harriers may have bred successfully in England this season. Indeed, the rumour still persists that another nesting attempt was made , but , as yet no details have emerged. I say "may" above as I'm intrigued why such an event has not been officially confirmed or celebrated following the situation earlier in the year when it seemed all was lost.
Where is Natural England in all this?  We are led to believe that the above nest saw five young being raised  to fledging stage,  previous to which one assumes they would be fitted with satellite transmitters as a continuation of Natural England's Hen Harrier Recovery Programme. Why is the concerned public being left out of the loop? After all the previous fuss one would at least have expected some form of press statement.  Or would this constitute a "red rag to a bull " utterance to the shooting fraternity which DEFRA, as Natural England's Ministry, appears so keen to protect. I for one feel such matters to be important in conservation terms and am dumbfounded the Government ( that Greenest Government ever remember ) and its advisory body appear to feel otherwise. It might possibly relate to the fact that the shooting fraternity, according to one spokesman, seemed hurt by the fact that the word "extinct" was being used and that such extreme language was uncalled for. Well perhaps the extreme language included in the " nudge nudge" conversations held by that fraternity about "the harrier problem" ought possibly to have been less explicit and then we wouldn't have been in the desperate situation now being experienced currently with the species having being  " dramatically reduced by indiscriminate persecution".  Now then, feel better?

And where too is the RSPB in all this?  After a couple of broadsides, letters to papers or similar, things have gone quiet again.  Nothing has happened in the Forest of Bowland this season and the forlorn female   ( 74843), after searching across half of England and Scotland for a mate, has returned to the Yorkshire Dales, a season of potential lost and wasted.  I hear increasing criticisms that the Society has " lost focus", is too broad based and is becoming less successful in its mission. All such is nonsense of course, as a close examination of its contributions across a wide front would prove. And let's not forget that conservation comes in far more guises than previously and is also demanding of a much higher level of response and input than ever it was. However, even I feel that more profile should be assumed on key issues and that, on particular "fronts", of which the harrier issue is one, the Society could maintain a clearer, regular and more publicly sustained position from which we can draw comfort! Action is all and I think we can presume those who's actions we condemn are not sitting quietly in the bylines. I think we all realise what the cost of  "the harrier problem" must be, but don't ever abandon the cause!

Clearly now is the time to commence sorting out what is to happen in the future. Undoubtedly, given the apparent sentiments of the Tory influence within  Government towards land owners, and the shooting fraternity in particular, such will not be an easy task.  However, in this time of transparency, the Big Society and other similar nebulous commitments that only appear to work in part, may I put forward a suggestion? As part of the Natural England Hen Harrier Recovery Programme might we, the taxpayer in all this , request a bit more profile is given to the problem and that Natural England makes clear what it is doing, what it intends doing and what its objectives and milestones ACTUALLY  are. As a further suggestion might it be an idea for Natural England to operate a web site similar to that involved in the Raptor Track project in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland.  The movements of various species fitted with transmitters were made available on maps and some interpretative commentary given to each ( see  Raptor Tracking Project.)  This sort of facility must be operated by the research worker involved and , therefore, the details could be readily made available to all. Why not?

A whole selection of birds are involved in the Raptor Tracking project, or in the case of Hen Harriers, were involved, as they seem to surprisingly disappear after a while. Surely it's not beyond the wit of man and DEFRA  to come forward with something about which there is so much concern. Or would it perhaps pin point too clearly the undoubted "black holes" of  reduction, and ownership of course, that would cast an all too precise picture on what has happened and will continue to happen until the Government stands up to its responsibilities and vilifies those within its natural supporters who are responsible.