In middle March I was walking up Roeburndale in the Forest of Bowland hoping to get a photograph of Little Owls. Unfortunately none were seen at the barn near Thornbush. The windows have been closed on this barn but pretty sure I’ve seen them since that was done. So tried further up near High Salter where I have also seen them in previous years. Unfortunately this barn has been removed so no luck at all.
This second site is a just a couple of hundred yards from where two Hen Harriers, Sky and Hope ‘mysteriously’ (if you have no imagination) ‘disappeared’ in 2014. Two birds just DON’T stop transmitting at the same spot!
As an aside: Little Owls are an introduced species although they are native just across the channel and it is possible that the odd one has crossed over. They are beautiful birds and along with English Hares are probably the only species I would regret losing if I had a magic wand to remove all alien species. But wave it I would. No more Mink, Pheasant, Rabbits, Red-legged Partridge, Rhododendron, no hesitation. Abracadabra.
I only walked along the edge of the moorland. It is great right now for Lapwing, Curlews and Snipe.
The Lawings really do bring joy to the heart. It is also great that the RSPB is finally trying to get the hill farmers involved in their protection. Further down in the Lune valley I am sure nothing has changed and the chicks will be mown down during silage making but in Roeburndale there is one farmer in particular who should get a medal. He goes around marking the nests so he can avoid them when harrowing and later when making silage. It sounds like he is inspiring others, with of course some added financial benefit no doubt.
But I couldn’t help wondering if the grouse moor gets all the good PR resulting from this. There were many Lapwings just on the edge of the moor and on the in-by fields but they appear to be scarce to rare on the moor proper. I didn’t see any at all on the moorland.
My thoughts were reinforced by the RSPB signs on the access gates to the moorland.
These are specially made signs, mentioning specifically the Forest of Bowland. At both entrance-ways I passed there were signs for Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe
but strangely not for Red Grouse and Hen Harrier. In fact no raptors, no Short-eared Owls, Merlins or Peregrines. How strange. Why not? The elephant on the moor?
This is one of the contentious issues which many, including me, are so critical of. It seems that yet again the grouse moors are profiting from this publicity; good wader advertising but at the price of not mentioning raptors. This kind of diplomacy appears to be an undercurrent of the way in which the RSPB deals with the driven grouse lobby. The fact that the Peregrines only had one nest on the Forest of Bowland last year and that the Hen Harrier was totally eradicated, is relegated to below the importance of waders. These really are the killing fields. I am not anti RSPB. They are excellent in so many respects and there are some very outspoken raptor defenders but the overall protocol seems to be incredibly lame and I can’t help feeling they are being taken for a ride. We really don’t need ‘lame’ when fighting the grouse lobby because one thing is for sure they are not weak. They use every dirty trick in the book as can be seen from this weeks attack on the RSPB. Unfortunately our media is too stupid to see through their propaganda.
I wasn’t really looking for Hen Harriers, I was trying to get Lapwing and Little Owl photographs but I had heard that there had been some recent sightings so it was good that in my last evening I saw a female. Unfortunately it appeared out of nowhere over a wall so I didn’t get a decent shot. It seemed to have an aberrant white pigmentation in the outer-tail feathers so should be possible to track without a satellite tag. Good luck to her anyway but it isn’t luck she needs it is to not shot at, that will do nicely, thanks.
OK, here is a terrible photo of her anyway.