Friday, May 3, 2013

Hen Harriers.......fascinating background information re the Yorkshire Dales.

This afternoon my copy of the Yorkshire Naturalist's Union 2011 Yorkshire Bird Report arrived in the post ( remember our post arrives via ferry or air! ).  A tangible promise of unqualified enjoyment!!  Now, as befits a big County, this is a big report, 248 pages in fact. Indeed, such is the array of unrelenting facts within the report that this can be classed as a book relating to the birds, or associated matters, within a given calendar year!!


I neither receive nor purchase a sufficient number of County Bird Reports to allow me to make any value judgement as to which is best or might act as a template against which others might follow. Suffice to say , this must surely be up with the best! Given the economics of producing such high quality reports nowadays and the need for high volume sales or advertising to influence matters, there is an admirable lack of pages given over to promoting this or that.  This is a solid bird report, end to end, and the YNU must be congratulated at getting the requisite part of the "business plan" affecting this particular aspect absolutely correct!! As a member of the YNU everyone receives a "free" copy, but individual copies can be purchased as well ( see the YNU website   www.ynu.org.uk/birds ).

Within the report is an article entitled " The importance of the Yorkshire Dales to Hen Harriers" by Stephen Murphy ( Natural England, ornithologist).  There is much which is absolutely fascinating within the report provided and the effort put into the work is understated and must be applauded. Having had an association with the Forest of Bowland area before all this work started, I was spell bound within minutes of receiving the report in terms of the detail made available. It avoids the thorny subject of Hen Harrier persecution, areas involved, Estates responsible and so on, but , accepted as an explanation of many things associated with the species, people will find the account utterly fascinating , and in this sense, it is more than a worthwhile success! Whilst I've criticized DEFRA for not releasing the more political elements of the research findings associated with pursuing aspects of Hen Harrier persecution, given that Stephen Murphy is connected with the Department, it must be remembered that this work is also associated with someone's Ph.D . Clearly my resolve to see such data in the public domain remains intact!!  But this is a day to acknowledge the presentation of facts that are interesting, bring relevance to an area of Yorkshire, its importance as an area towards which harriers gravitate regularly and pay tribute to the fact that information and data is there that, ultimately, will undoubtedly prove beneficial  in the fight associated with harrier persecution. Against this, it must be acknowledged, that there is a number of the birds carrying the devices upon which the conclusions are based that have now, sadly, met their end!!

May I end by mentioning the following, which will only be of relevance to, shall we say, the older element of the YNU.  Clive Varty, ( now deceased ), long time supporter of the YNU and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust , member of the YNU Bird Protection Committee and devotee of the Yorkshire Dales, its Peregrines and other birds of prey , would have loved, absolutely, to be aware of this sort of work going on and  associated with a species in which he held a great interest!  Despite the problems and challenges it is good to know such work continues that keeps the fascination of harriers alive and well!

In some ways, we are making progress, it's just that it seems to take so long a time to deliver positive results and changes!! In this respect, may I thank all members of the YNU who signed the E-petition following a recent meeting ( Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers. ) and for the sterling efforts of John Wint in organizing matter.