Today started early and dramatically!!
The bull from the adjacent farm had forced its way through the fence into the field adjacent to the house and a battle royal then ensued with the resident "bruiser". Protracted lowing from the attendant cows (C'mon, big boy!)caused any early morning slumber to be abandoned. At a ton each, at least, a continual joust of head to head pushing for two hours left both beasts exhausted. Finally, they parted, only to then occupy vantage points eyeing one another up from a distance following the transgressor's return to home ground!! The solution seems to be stringing an electric wire along the fence line to deter both of them, a job I guess the farmer could have done without.
Given the day then turned foul, with mist and rain until late, I spent quite a period looking at recent reports of persecution of Peregrine and Hen Harrier, which appear to have risen dramatically during 2009. Various press releases issued by the RSPB and others provide details of the infinite variety of methods employed and the wide distribution of localities involved, one of which is very close to my heart and memory.
During the period 1979 to 1999 I worked for the RSPB and had responsibility for the Forest of Bowland area in Lancashire. Such is known as an English stronghold for Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin. It mostly comprises large, private upland estates including that held by United Utilities ( formerly North West Water ). Except on one tenanted portion little shooting is carried out nowadays over the latter's area. The remainder, however, are exclusively managed for grouse production.
Within the above twenty years a lot of time was spent cajoling the water company into adopting conservation measures and abandoning less sympathetic land management. To their credit, this they have done such that their Bowland Estate now virtually provides the last bastion of hope in North Lancashire for the raptor species mentioned. Now, as years ago, the breeding success such birds enjoy on the private shooting estates is minimal at best.The greatest tragedy of all is that, having retired ten years ago, the situation today is no better than at the point when I first started the job thirty years ago!!
Given the Hen Harrier is a rare breeding bird within the UK, and enjoys special protection such that its persecution carries heavy penalties, why then should this arise? Sources advise me that each year sees nests mysteriously fail and adult birds disappear. Cries of innocence are raised, alongside attention directed at the token presence of odd pairs of birds which, in my view, is little more than outright arrogance and a self-regulated "contribution" to the requirements of law. It is sad that, in this day and age, our natural heritage can be set aside so peremptorily in the interests of a minority within which, one suspects, are those whose influence, wealth and position could bring about such positive change to the contrary. Here on Islay, where we have very few Red Grouse, no conflicts arise as the quite abundant harriers, and other raptors too, pose little or no threat to the interests of the Estates.
For ten years I've willingly espoused the hope that new approaches would secure change and improvement. Well, enough is enough, things aren't improving and the time to be heard and for independent pressure has arrived, unshackled by the niceties of corporate protocols. As a start may I encourage you all to read
and to continue reading it. Passionate, yes, but laced with the frustrations and sheer desperation that people feel for our declining raptors, it also contains commentary about the apparent inadequacies within our law enforcement in certain areas.
From time to time I'll update everyone on this theme, as it's unlikely to go away, like me, even in the medium term!