Case history: Persecution in the Peak District

The following is an edited extract from the RSPB's <i>Peak Malpractice Update 2007</i>:
Click to follow
The Independent Online

In some areas of the Peak District, magnificent birds such as goshawks and peregrines are teetering on the brink of local extinction. During the last year, the evidence of illegal killing of rare and protected species has increased – 2006 was the worst year on record.

Much of the moorland in the Dark Peak is managed for driven grouse-shooting. Across the UK, the presence of grouse shooting undoubtedly saved a significant amount of heather moorland from post-war tree-planting and intensification of farming, benefiting a number of wading birds and other species. However, the illegal persecution of birds of prey is a blight on some moors.

The 2006 Dark Peaks breeding season: a summary

In parts of the Dark Peak, goshawks, buzzards, peregrines and ravens once more failed to breed, despite the habitat suggesting the birds should thrive and there being healthy populations nearby.

The North-East Peaks

Goshawk: No birds breeding on the moors.

Peregrine: No birds breeding on the moors.

Raven: No birds breeding on the moors.

Buzzard: After gun shots were heard in woods where buzzards had built and lined a nest, both birds vanished. No other breeding attempts in the north-east moorland fringe.

The Derwent Valley Area

Goshawk: Six chicks fledged from two nests but at two other sites both nests failed, with evidence that one nest tree had recently been climbed. At a fifth nest site, a nest was built but the adults then vanished.

Peregrine: Six juveniles fledged from two nests; at another site, where display and territorial behaviour had been seen, the adult birds vanished and breeding did not take place.

Hen harrier: Two nests produced 10 fledged juveniles. But both males vanished and the chicks were only successfully raised as a result of staff and volunteers providing additional food to that brought by the female.

Buzzard: At two sites, four juveniles fledged.

Raven: Despite a nest being built at one site, the birds vanished, but four juveniles fledged from a second site.

Elsewhere in the Peak District Moorlands

Goshawk: One pair failed after the female vanished. Another female paired up with the male, then laid eggs but also disappeared, resulting in the nest failing.

Peregrine: Six juveniles fledged from two sites, another pair hatched young but these failed to fledge. At a further two sites, the territorial pair vanished, including at a location where earlier that year a dead peregrine was found in a pole trap.

Hen harrier: A pair of apparently territorial birds was seen regularly in the south-west Peak but sightings then ceased. An inspection of the area revealed that the ground was criss-crossed with fresh tracks from an all-terrain vehicle.

Conclusion: The evidence points to illegal persecution not only continuing but increasing.