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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 09:46   #1
John B (not the sloop)
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Hen Harrier "quota" a win-win solution say researchers

In todays "Press and Journal" (often a fun place for lively debate on raptor persecution)

http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Art...3266?UserKey=0
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 10:39   #2
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Interesting and timely as I suggested exactly the same thing the other day in this thread, and also in another thread a couple of years ago.

I came to the conclusion that it was the only way forward after listening to a talk by Steve Redpath, the author of the study that the P&J article is discussing.

Unfortuantely there are a lot of obstacles to actually making a quota system work, not least the precedent being set.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 10:47   #3
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There is also woolly thinking about "translocation". Where is the suitable habitat, to which you could you move harriers and where they are not already suffering persecution? It would be nice to be in the position of having so many harriers that a "quota" would be possible, but the reality is that this would mean culling birds or eggs, rather than moving them to a fantasy island somewhere.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 11:28   #4
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quite spooky eh, Capercaillie71?

Makes no mention of any killing or destruction of eggs though, just some vague idea of 'moving' birds. How that would work would be anyone's guess. You can't move adults - they'll probably just fly back, and where are you going to move chicks to? hand-rear and release? What happens when the release areas become full? Do you export birds abroad? How do you stop keepers killing birds anyway? What happens if a fox takes some of your quota - do you then accept harriers from another nest?

It'll be interesting to see what RSPB says about all that. I have a feeling they'll hate it, but might be boxed into a corner. They are somewhat at the mercy of their membership, so any lethal methods would be very difficult for them to accept without major controversy among the troops. But how can that scheme work without lethal methods?
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 11:36   #5
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They seem pretty good at limiting the numbers already. Wonder what the quota would be? Surely more than the current 20 birds in England?
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 11:38   #6
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There is also woolly thinking about "translocation". Where is the suitable habitat, to which you could you move harriers and where they are not already suffering persecution? It would be nice to be in the position of having so many harriers that a "quota" would be possible, but the reality is that this would mean culling birds or eggs, rather than moving them to a fantasy island somewhere.
Culling is a non-starter. Egg removal/replacement would probably be the most acceptable way of limiting the population once the 'quota' has been reached at a national level, but I am interested by the translocation idea.

Several years ago I remember a number of shooting estates suggesting that hen harriers should be translocated from grouse moors in the east of Scotland to moorlands in the west where there is little grouse shooting. This was a nonsense of course, as the western moorlands are where most of the hen harriers are already and presumably their numbers there are largely limited by available prey, so what these surplus birds were going to feed on was not entirely clear.

However, in the early years of a quota scheme there would obviously be many suitable grouse moors where hen harriers would be absent. The logical conclusion then is that 'surplus' harriers from some grouse moors should be translocated to other grouse moors that had not yet been naturally recolonised, until all moors had reached their quota, when egg removal could be used instead.

Quite apart from the practical difficulties involved (would translocated harriers stay where they are translocated to? EDIT: I see KnockerNorton thinks not), this would also be an interesting challenge to the shooting fraternity as a whole (who seem to be generally in favour of quotas) and an interesting question for those conservationists who think that a quota system is 'giving in'. Would grouse moor owners with no hen harriers at present be willing to accept translocated birds to build their harrier population up towards their quota?

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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 11:47   #7
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It'll be interesting to see what RSPB says about all that. I have a feeling they'll hate it, but might be boxed into a corner. They are somewhat at the mercy of their membership, so any lethal methods would be very difficult for them to accept without major controversy among the troops.
I know RSPB employees who would be happy with a quota system, but I often find that the views of RSPB employees are not always the same as the public opinion of the organisation as a whole.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 11:52   #8
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I know RSPB employees who would be happy with a quota system, but I often find that the views of RSPB employees are not always the same as the public opinion of the organisation as a whole.
it's not the employees you have to worry about - it's the membership who bankrolls it all.

Two words send shivers down the backs of RSPB recruitment personnel: Ruddy Duck.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 12:01   #9
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Quite apart from the practical difficulties involved (would translocated harriers stay where they are translocated to? EDIT: I see KnockerNorton thinks not), this would also be an interesting challenge to the shooting fraternity as a whole (who seem to be generally in favour of quotas) and an interesting question for those conservationists who think that a quota system is 'giving in'. Would grouse moor owners with no hen harriers at present be willing to accept translocated birds to build their harrier population up towards their quota?
translocating would be a big problem for Natural England/Defra, who's have to licence it. And also for those managing the scheme. When you get into translocations then you have to deal with welfare and monitoring. It would be much simpler to just start egg-pricking at the earliest stage, and let harriers find other moors naturally. That way, you avoid licences, translocation costs/issues etc.

I still don't see how you'd stop a keeper killing a translocated/quota bird on the side, and thereby having it both ways, if he really wanted to. And then finding/monitoring all these pairs takes me back to the nightmare of recruitment/funding. I just don't see how this could ever be a workable scheme on anything other than a handful of moors. There aren't the people to do it (both in terms of skills and salaries). Would moors be asked to pay? Or the taxpayer forced to pay through the nose to subsidise grouse shooting fun for the private sector at the threat of criminal action if they don't? Sounds a bit like blackmail (pay for it or we'll kill them anyway), seeing as killing hem is illegal anyway. So the taxpayer would be paying for a scheme because the police (which they've already paid for) can't do their job of stopping criminality. Bonkers.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 12:15   #10
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Despite the work undertaken by the Aberdeen Research into Sustainable Ecology (=> perhaps the acronym is appropriate) I have great difficulty with this.

It sets a precedent.

It diverts attention away from the effects of sheep grazing (ticks, habitat degradation, etc).

It will not address the problems being currently experienced on UK Grouse Moors.


So where does it stop -do we introduce a quota for Golden Eagles (after all in some parts of Scotland they exist in higher densities than almost anywhere else in their range)?

Yes, I think it unlikely that the vast majority of RSPB members will swallow this -and why should they? The UK holds far less HH than it should -on the one hand articles in the media refer to it as one of our rarest breeding birds & on the other an open season is being proposed by some.

Only once the sheep grazing/ habitat degradation issues are settled & the Hen Harrier population is rising (if indeed it will) should any discussion of raptor culling be entertained.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 12:26   #11
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I've got a great idea; let's just get rid of these pesky birds once and for all. The way they are interfering with the lives of a minority of people in the running of a business shouldn’t be tolerated. These birds are superfluous to the needs of man and should be eliminated. The UK doesn’t need them at all, they provide no useful requirement to us.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 13:16   #12
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It sets a precedent.
for raptors in the modern era, yes.

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It diverts attention away from the effects of sheep grazing (ticks, habitat degradation, etc).
not really. we can still look at those things.

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It will not address the problems being currently experienced on UK Grouse Moors.
depends on what you mean by 'problems'. Harriers were shown to be taking 40% of the grouse chicks at Langholm, and proven to significantly reduce the bag. That is not a small problem for grouse moor managers, and is the crux of the issue, which everyone accepts.

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Yes, I think it unlikely that the vast majority of RSPB members will swallow this -and why should they?
well, we don't have policy dictated by mob rule (would you want the general electorate to directly dictate economic policy, for instance?), so that's a problem for the RSPB to deal with internally.

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The UK holds far less HH than it should
But that's a bit of a meaningless statement, with respect. The UK holds far more e.g. Blue Tits and Blackbirds and Woodpigeons 'than it should' (judging by the rest of their ranges), directly because of people creating habitat and feeding them. If we're going to introduce some sort of international parity for some species then we must logically do it for others too - and that means bringing their numbers down. I think tat kind of talk is logically flawed and counter-productive, as it's wide open to being easily picked apart by critics.

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Only once the sheep grazing/ habitat degradation issues are settled & the Hen Harrier population is rising (if indeed it will) should any discussion of raptor culling be entertained.
sheep grazing it restricted on grouse moors, exactly because they are a grouse moor and are owned and run by grouse moor managers to produce grouse and not sheep. Moors run by sheep farmers for the production of sheep are where the overgrazing issues lie.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 13:43   #13
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sheep grazing it restricted on grouse moors, exactly because they are a grouse moor and are owned and run by grouse moor managers to produce grouse and not sheep. Moors run by sheep farmers for the production of sheep are where the overgrazing issues lie.

which is of course what grouse shooting moors will most likely be converted to if grouse bags decline to the point that they become uneconomic.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 14:13   #14
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I still don't see how you'd stop a keeper killing a translocated/quota bird on the side, and thereby having it both ways, if he really wanted to.
I think it's more important that the landowners are on board - keepers will (generally) do what is expected of them by their employer. I think most keepers are sick of having the police carrying out dawn raids on their houses and generally being treated like criminals by the general public, and while this is entirely due to the fact that some gamekeepers are criminals, I think the vast majority would play by the rules if they accept that a quota system could work.

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And then finding/monitoring all these pairs takes me back to the nightmare of recruitment/funding. I just don't see how this could ever be a workable scheme on anything other than a handful of moors. There aren't the people to do it (both in terms of skills and salaries). Would moors be asked to pay? Or the taxpayer forced to pay through the nose to subsidise grouse shooting fun for the private sector at the threat of criminal action if they don't?
I'm still not sure it would require as much manpower as you think. The gamekeepers know where the hen harriers are nesting on their patch and it would be in their interest to be open about this. All it would need would be a project officer who could probably cover quite a large number of estates. This would obviously need to be paid for and personally I don't see why the estates shouldn't stump up most of the cash through some sort of levy or contribution.

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Only once the sheep grazing/ habitat degradation issues are settled & the Hen Harrier population is rising (if indeed it will) should any discussion of raptor culling be entertained.
Nobody is suggesting culling raptors.

Whenever anyone talks about quota systems, there seems to be a general assumption that this involves reducing the existing populations. In this case it is the opposite. The first stage of a quota system for hen harriers would be an end to illegal persecution to allow the population to increase. Only when it reached the quota level would any control be carried out (by egg removal or traslocation, not killing adults). In fact some of the results from the Langholm study suggest that on those moors with good heather, it is possible that the quota level might not even be reached in the absence of persecution.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 14:39   #15
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Nobody is suggesting culling raptors.

Whenever anyone talks about quota systems, there seems to be a general assumption that this involves reducing the existing populations. In this case it is the opposite. The first stage of a quota system for hen harriers would be an end to illegal persecution to allow the population to increase. Only when it reached the quota level would any control be carried out (by egg removal or traslocation, not killing adults).
you're being a bit disingenuous there, I think. Culling of some sort (eggs is culling) will inevitably be reached at some stage, sooner or later, as the protected 'quota' population will clearly increase if, as everyone keeps saying, they are being kept artificially low right now. Also if the natural densities are too high for a working grouse moor, as everyone agrees and what the problem stems from, then an artificially low ceiling will need to be maintained.

What if you have your quiota of harrier pairs in spring, and then another 2 'non quota' pairs turn up, and there is nowhere to translocate them to. This is going to be a very real scenario. Suitable, vetted, release sites will soon dry up (assuming it is passed as workable and humane - i.e. they don't fly off back to langholm or starve a week later at release site).
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 15:25   #16
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you're being a bit disingenuous there, I think).
Fair enough, but I think most people would find egg pricking or removal more palatable than killing 'actual' birds.

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What if you have your quiota of harrier pairs in spring, and then another 2 'non quota' pairs turn up, and there is nowhere to translocate them to. This is going to be a very real scenario. Suitable, vetted, release sites will soon dry up (assuming it is passed as workable and humane - i.e. they don't fly off back to langholm or starve a week later at release site).
My understanding of the langholm study (which may be wrong) is that the harriers are only catching large numbers of grouse when they are feeding their young. Therefore to some degree it doesn't matter if there are a few extra adults floating about, the important thing is how many chicks are being fed. Say your quota for a moor is 12 harrier chicks but there are four pairs of harriers (each laying c.4 eggs). You could either ***** all the eggs from one pair, or one egg from each of the four nests (if you didn't want to put all your eggs in one basket). Occasionally a nest might get predated by a fox (although not if the gamekeeper is doing his job properly!), but overall it could work.

EDIT - Hmm. Birdforum obviously doesn't like the word 'pr1ck'
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 17:02   #17
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Perhaps I lack the eloquence (& knowledge) to pursue my argument further but I feel agrieved that I can walk through/drive by extensive areas of heather moorland in East-Central Scotland in Spring & not see a single Hen Harrier; yet within 10 mins of leaving the ferry on Orkney mainland (or Mull or I.O Man) I can come upon HHs. I suppose that this is what I mean by stating that the UK holds less HH than it should.

I still feel that the quality of the habitat is much more relevant for a buoyant Grouse population than raptor predation and that talk of raptor quotas will draw attention away from the obviously increased pressure on grouse moors brough about by grazing sheep (there seem to be more sheep on the Perthshire hills than ever before -including Grouse moor!).

"well, we don't have policy dictated by mob rule (would you want the general electorate to directly dictate economic policy, for instance?), so that's a problem for the RSPB to deal with internally."

-No the elected Government analogy does not hold here. The RSPB has become a powerful enviromental lobby as a consequence of its large membership -the flip side is that RSPB decision-makers must necessarily remain cognizant of the mood of its mob membership!
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 17:38   #18
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Hen Harrier "quota" a win-win solution say researchers
Presumably not for the Hen Harriers...

IMHO the putting of gamekeepers etc. on a pedestal for actually burning off the heather and preventing succession is relatively unjustified. At least around here the moors are so over-burnt and over-grazed that there is basically a monoculture of sheep, grouse, and our good friend calluna vulgaris. I have never seen a raptor about the moors for sure, and, when they are actually about on other moors, to effectively persecute raptors that are already far below the nominal carrying capacity just to keep what is effectively a rich man's pursuit afloat is perverse-especially ones that have been so extensively persecuted and are as endangered as the Hen Harrier.

Why is there little outcry about these quotas, yet when pigeon fanciers rail about peregrines and sparrowhawks, or anglers about cormorants etc., most of the people on the forum get rather cross indeed! If it is merely concerning the actual prevention of succession that causes this dichotomy, then even that is doubtful-I have read papers that showed that biodiversity on moorland is actually being lowered pretty much across the board due to lack of rain-based replenishment of nutrients, and the washing away of carbon stores, due to over grazing and burning.

I always think that if you are going to artifically increase the number of prey somewhere, one mustn't be surprised when predator numbers increase accordingly, which must be treated as a bit of an occupational hazard. Pigeons to peregrines, grouse to harriers, this only happens due to man's influence, and if the industry is unviable without persecution it should be regarded as unviable full stop.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 17:47   #19
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Perhaps I lack the eloquence (& knowledge) to pursue my argument further but I feel agrieved that I can walk through/drive by extensive areas of heather moorland in East-Central Scotland in Spring & not see a single Hen Harrier; yet within 10 mins of leaving the ferry on Orkney mainland (or Mull or I.O Man) I can come upon HHs. I suppose that this is what I mean by stating that the UK holds less HH than it should.
do you feel aggrieved that brown bears no longer roam the moors? Or that the moors are no longer wooded and restricted to being a marginal habitat across most of their current range? If we start talking about baselines then we get into all kinds of philosophical and pointless discussions about what is 'natural' that quickly get daft.

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I still feel that the quality of the habitat is much more relevant for a buoyant Grouse population than raptor predation
but what you "feel" doesn't agree with the science here, because habitat is essentially a constant between grouse moors - rotationally-burned heather. So it's a red herring.

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and that talk of raptor quotas will draw attention away from the obviously increased pressure on grouse moors brough about by grazing sheep (there seem to be more sheep on the Perthshire hills than ever before -including Grouse moor!).
sheep do not have rights to be just anywhere. They can only be on land that is tenanted or let to a sheep farmer. If a moor owner doesn't want sheep there, he can keep sheep off.

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-No the elected Government analogy does not hold here. The RSPB has become a powerful enviromental lobby as a consequence of its large membership -the flip side is that RSPB decision-makers must necessarily remain cognizant of the mood of its mob membership!
again - Ruddy Duck. RSPB polciy is not agreed by referenda of the membership. The leadership can make whatever decisions they want regardless of what the membership thinks. Yes, it may have membership consequences, but unless these were quite large and affected their revenue then they can be ignored if the RSPB wishes. Same with Govt - Darling & Brown can suspend Stamp Duty if they want, as an executive decision. They can do it tomorrow, without asking you or I. They can do this because of the large mandate of their membership (people who voted them in). But that membership cannot get a say on it until our next subscription (election) is due.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 17:49   #20
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Presumably not for the Hen Harriers...

IMHO the putting of gamekeepers etc. on a pedestal for actually burning off the heather and preventing succession is relatively unjustified. At least around here the moors are so over-burnt and over-grazed that there is basically a monoculture of sheep, grouse, and our good friend calluna vulgaris. I have never seen a raptor about the moors for sure, and, when they are actually about on other moors, to effectively persecute raptors that are already far below the nominal carrying capacity just to keep what is effectively a rich man's pursuit afloat is perverse-especially ones that have been so extensively persecuted and are as endangered as the Hen Harrier.

Why is there little outcry about these quotas, yet when pigeon fanciers rail about peregrines and sparrowhawks, or anglers about cormorants etc., most of the people on the forum get rather cross indeed! If it is merely concerning the actual prevention of succession that causes this dichotomy, then even that is doubtful-I have read papers that showed that biodiversity on moorland is actually being lowered pretty much across the board due to lack of rain-based replenishment of nutrients, and the washing away of carbon stores, due to over grazing and burning.

I always think that if you are going to artifically increase the number of prey somewhere, one mustn't be surprised when predator numbers increase accordingly, which must be treated as a bit of an occupational hazard. Pigeons to peregrines, grouse to harriers, this only happens due to man's influence, and if the industry is unviable without persecution it should be regarded as unviable full stop.

is this a plea to allow all moors to return to woodland so we can have more rufous tree rats?
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 17:52   #21
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I always think that if you are going to artifically increase the number of prey somewhere, one mustn't be surprised when predator numbers increase accordingly, which must be treated as a bit of an occupational hazard. Pigeons to peregrines, grouse to harriers, this only happens due to man's influence, and if the industry is unviable without persecution it should be regarded as unviable full stop.
there is quite a long precedent of managing/limiting predators and pathogens for a wide variety of things. It's called farming. Grouse-shooting is effectively the farming of grouse. Just as sheep on hills is the farming of sheep. To a 'farmer', removing a bird that is harrying grouse is no different to removing a fox that is harrying lambs. That's the logic. It's just that some quarters (and I may be one, who knows) attach more value to a certain bird than a fox. You can see why some other quarters might see that as illogical.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 18:02   #22
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there is quite a long precedent of managing/limiting predators and pathogens for a wide variety of things. It's called farming. Grouse-shooting is effectively the farming of grouse. Just as sheep on hills is the farming of sheep. To a 'farmer', removing a bird that is harrying grouse is no different to removing a fox that is harrying lambs. That's the logic. It's just that some quarters (and I may be one, who knows) attach more value to a certain bird than a fox. You can see why some other quarters might see that as illogical.
I understand the need to control some predators to make farming economical, but to cull an already heavily persecuted and threatened bird, not primarily to make farming economical, but to keep a rich man's sport afloat (with the byproduct of very limited numbers of grouse entering the food chain) seems, as I said, perverse.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 18:04   #23
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is this a plea to allow all moors to return to woodland so we can have more rufous tree rats?
Tree rat? But...they're red and fwuffy, not grey and invasive/barbarous/ratlike/good eating! Well, not good, but with every bite comes not only a grimace but knowledge you are helping our native warrior squirrels!

Anyways, I'd be careful what you say, or the chappy to the left will jump out of the screen at you and bite you on the nose!
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 19:16   #24
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I understand the need to control some predators to make farming economical, but to cull an already heavily persecuted and threatened bird, not primarily to make farming economical, but to keep a rich man's sport afloat (with the byproduct of very limited numbers of grouse entering the food chain) seems, as I said, perverse.
think of it this way - hen harriers are very common on a Eurasian scale. Red Grouse (the Brit subspecies) is endemic and vulnerable. So grouse moors are actually preserving global biodiversity by safeguarding the future of that specific form. The by-prodtc of the rich man's sport is widescale habitat management for an iconic and unique form. Without grouse moor management for shooting, red grouse would be in a very bad way.
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Old Wednesday 13th August 2008, 20:25   #25
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"do you feel aggrieved that brown bears no longer roam the moors? Or that the moors are no longer wooded and restricted to being a marginal habitat across most of their current range? If we start talking about baselines then we get into all kinds of philosophical and pointless discussions about what is 'natural' that quickly get daft."

Ehhhh, no! You introduced Brown Bears not me (though they might keep sheep numbers down!).

I'm simply lamenting the fact that my 'local' moorland does not hold HHs. These Perthshire moors hold Grouse but 'shooting bags' have been poor in recent years. Clearly, at least in this area the falling grouse population is not due to HH or GE predation. Yet over the last few years sheep grazing seems to have become almost universal -including on the shooting-estate grouse moors.

You are of course correct in stating that if a moor owner does not wish sheep on the moors then they can be kept off -but the fact is they are on the moors!

I feel that raptors are being used as a scapegoat for falling grouse numbers & yes this is a feeling rather than objective scientific fact. However the Langholm studies have not proven without doubt that HHs ARE responsible for the currently declining grouse bags across Scottish shooting estates. It is surely unwise to propose raptor quotas without such evidence!

KnockerNorton stated: "it's not the employees you have to worry about - it's the membership who bankrolls it all.

Two words send shivers down the backs of RSPB recruitment personnel: Ruddy Duck"

-this is exactly my point. The RSPB decision-makers are not prepared to alienate their membership as members can be fickle. Membership dues are paid annually not every 5 years. The RSPB has to take to its membership's feelings into account whether you or I like it or not!!
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