Photo: Chris Gomersall/RSPB/PA Wire
Meant to put this up last week, but got way too busy with other stuff...
It's a news story from the Press Association, based on the latest RSPB reports into raptor persecution down in the Peak District.
Makes you want to weep....
Bird of prey persecution "worst on record" - RSPB
The worst year on record for suspected cases of bird of prey persecution in one of BritainÃ¢ÂÂs top beauty spots is revealed in a report out today.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) unveiled a catalogue of suspicious incidents discovered in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District last summer.
The document reveals that goshawks and peregrines are now extinct as breeding species in the north-east Peak moors.
Dr Mark Avery, the RSPBÃ¢ÂÂs director of conservation, urged leading voices in the countryside to join the organisation in the fight to halt such crimes.
He said: Ã¢ÂÂFailure to condemn and tackle illegal prosecution is costing the lives of some of our most spectacular birds.
Ã¢ÂÂStatutory agencies, voluntary groups and landowners should be prepared to take a stand against what, in the 21st century, is a totally-unacceptable blight on one of the UKÃ¢ÂÂs most important places for people and wildlife. The RSPB is proud to be a voice for nature but we need others to rally to this cause.
Ã¢ÂÂThe list of sickening incidents of apparent persecution in the Dark Peak continues to rise. In 2006 we recorded 17 incidents of suspected illegal persecution in the Peak District.
Ã¢ÂÂIt is shocking also to have to report that birds such as goshawks and peregrines are now extinct as breeding species in the north-east Peak moors - an appalling state of affairs that cannot be allowed to continue.Ã¢Â?
The RSPB reported nine incidents of suspected persecution in the area in 2005, eight in 2004, two in 2003, 15 in 2002 and none in 2001, making 2006 (with 17) the worst on record.
Peak Malpractice Update 2007 follows a report issued last year into the plight of birds of prey in the Dark Peak, which showed that during the previous 10 years some species - particularly goshawks - declined dramatically in sharp contrast to other parts of the country.
Among the horrific list of incidents last year, a female peregrine was found dead after being shot on two separate occasions, laboratory tests showed that a raven had been poisoned and goshawk chicks disappeared from a traditional nest site after the tree was climbed by someone using climbing irons.
Dr Avery added: Ã¢ÂÂEven the heartening news that 10 hen harrier chicks fledged from two nests in the Dark Peak was tainted by the knowledge that both adult males suspiciously disappeared.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was only intervention by conservationists providing food and round-the-clock monitoring that enabled the young birds to survive and safely leave the nests.Ã¢Â?
Remarkably on the same day, here's what the Countryside Alliance put out...
Peak district raptors thrive on grouse moors
Two authoritative studies have rejected insinuation of systematic raptor persecution by the RSPB showing that birds of prey are thriving on the moorlands of the Peak District, and that their success is closely linked to management for grouse shooting.
The most recent study of all moorland birds in the Peak District was published by Moors for the Future. It showed that between 1990 and 2004 all species of moorland birds of prey had increased, some dramatically:
Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Peregrine Ã¢ÂÂ from 7 to 25 pairs = 286% increase
Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Short eared owl Ã¢ÂÂ 5 to18 pairs = 260% increase
Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Merlin Ã¢ÂÂ 21 to 31 pairs = 50% increase
Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Raven Ã¢ÂÂ 0 to18 pairs
Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Buzzard Ã¢ÂÂ 1 to18 pairs
Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Kestrel - 64 to 89 pairs = 24% increase
This impressive array of raptors was joined in 2006 by two new nests of Hen Harriers on grouse moors, which produced 10 chicks. These were the first successful Harrier nests in the Peak District for decades and were looked after by a partnership of Natural England staff, landowners and shooting tenants and raptor enthusiasts.
A second report by the Game Conservancy Trust measured how changes in bird numbers were related to how the Peak District moors are managed and concluded that: Ã¢ÂÂSightings of peregrine falcon, short-eared owl and kestrel have all increased in the Peak District National ParkÃ¢Â?. It also said that: Ã¢ÂÂNone of the birds of prey were found to be negatively linked to the area covered by keepered landÃ¢Â?.
Tim Baynes, Moorland Policy Officer for the Countryside Alliance, said: Ã¢ÂÂThe Alliance has always condemned the illegal killing of birds of prey, but allegations of systematic persecution are based on insinuation, not science. These studies show that there is another side to the story. The reality is that ground nesting birds of prey are thriving in the Peak District and they are doing best on managed grouse moors. Gamekeepers control foxes and crows which might otherwise eat raptor eggs and chicks, and grouse moor management benefits a wide range of other birds which are the raptors food supplyÃ¢Â?.
I was going to try and avoid commenting on it, but all I'll say is that publishing figures for raptor breeding levels largely focussed on a period TWO YEARS before the reported persecution took place, strikes me as a bit feeble to say the least.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies....