Are Raptors Deliberately Being Culled?

IMG_3788 (2)Banded Demoiselle Damselfly on Yellow Water Lily at High Batts Open Day

Some very worrying observations from Jon Burge, “In 2009 I saw my first red kite in Birstwith, as the introduced population expanded from Harewood; and appearances gradually increased over the years. In the last two years, seeing three red kites at once and three buzzards at once has been commonplace, even daily; and on rare occasions all six were visible at once. This has been very good news for people who enjoy the sight of these birds. This was the population that patrolled the Nidderdale area that I can see – bounded roughly by Burnt Yates, Hampsthwaite, Darley, Thornthwaite. Of course these particular birds range farther away and I see them when sunlight and the prevailing winds provide an updraft on the north side of the river towards Burnt Yates and they get a free ride. Such sights are very bad news for the shooting industry. The buzzards do not exclusively dine on live rabbits, and the kites dead ones. They pose a real danger to the young of game birds and waders. As the game birds are worth scores or hundreds of pounds each to hunting estates, the sight of large raptors sailing around in unprecedented numbers has to be worrisome. I have not seen a single buzzard or red kite in Birstwith for the last two months. The nearest red kites I have seen recently are the population that flies between the Bilton side of Harrogate and Killinghall/Hampsthwaite. The population that patrolled the Hampsthwaite-Darley area has vanished, but given the news of systematic shooting of raptors in the area, they have been wiped out. Of course the incidence of raptor shooting/trapping/poisoning is many times the reported cases because a great many dead birds are undiscovered for each one that has been found and reported. The shooting industry is the prime suspect. While I have some sympathy with the shooting industry and their land management, it is shameful that they are denying me, and the public in general, the sight of these splendid raptors. Hunting should be prohibited in the estates near where killed raptors are found for a year or two. This will put economic pressure on the estate managers to protect the raptors. In the likely event that this cannot be made possible legally, activists should disrupt hunting on these estates.”

Illegal Activites

Doug Simpson, the ‘Red Kite’ man is better able to respond to this than I am. “The concerns you have expressed regarding missing kites are also reflected in some other areas which I monitor. I agree entirely with you that there are bound to be more shot kites out there than the six so far discovered. This has been a factor of great concern for many years in relation to illegal poisoning, we having long suspected that those found undoubtedly represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg. However, it would appear that the perpetrators are now becoming more brazen in their illegal activities by not only shooting kites, but leaving them to be found when I’m sure that some of them, at least, could have been retrieved and disposed of without anyone knowing. This suggests that they are seeking to make a point – that kites are not welcome. The Police and the RSPB are fully aware of these shooting incidents and of the further three kites which are currently being tested for traces of poisons which could have been responsible for their deaths. I’m increasingly coming across people who tell me that there are too many kites. I ask them what they mean by ‘too many’, only to have the same thing repeated. The truth is that they have no answer. There is a further factor at play here, though, and this relates to the overall food supply, year round, which is essential to maintain a significant population of raptors, particularly the bigger ones such as kites and buzzards. I am aware that there is currently a shortage of rabbits in some areas due to disease and this is bound to have a knock-on effect on species for which they form part of their regular diet. Ultimately the populations of kites and buzzards will find their own sustainable levels based on the regularly available amount of food. There is no easy answer. During the 35+ years in which I have been involved in bird of prey monitoring and protection in Yorkshire, I have only twice been directly involved in cases which have resulted in successful prosecutions. Both involved peregrine falcons in the Dales and were results of lucky breaks. Realistically, I feel that we need more of the same if we are to catch whoever the people are who consider themselves above the law in this respect. People out and about in the countryside can play a major role here. I keep a breakdown of figures showing the means by which illegally killed kites have been discovered. Top of the list are walkers who have reported suspicious findings, resulting in confirmation of the causes of death.”

Be Vigilant

Can I appeal to anyone out and about, ramblers, bird watchers, dog walkers, anyone who sees anything suspicious such as a bird that has been poisoned or shot or that its nest has been illegally destroyed then please contact the Police on the new nationwide non-emergency number immediately, where you will connected to your local force: Police 101. To report sick or injured birds, please contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234999. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing.

Lime Hawk Moth - Roger Litton

Lime Hawk Moth at High Batts Open Day – Roger Litton

High Batts Open Day

Roger Litton “went to the High Batts Nature Reserve open day on Sunday, 3 July. The many volunteers were welcoming and informative. I spent some time in the smaller bird hide which overlooks the river and was delighted to have four or five sightings of kingfishers. The river was quite high and I and the volunteer manning the hide saw them both flying and diving for fish. The reserve had two mist nets rigged which enabled them to undertake bird ringing and there was also a moth enthusiast present who was showing the results of the previous night’s moth trapping (fewer than he would have hoped as the night and morning were chilly but still an impressive selection). At the far end of the reserve two volunteers were organising pond dipping; there were damselflies around the ponds but few dragonflies were around – mainly by the paths rather than by the ponds. The reserve was offering free refreshments and had organised a portaloo! There were displays by various natural history organisations plus another volunteer making bird boxes. This was an excellent day out, particularly as the weather was good.” Tony Knowles tells me “it was the best attended Open day ever”. I have just discovered that High Batts have a web site, so visit to find out more and maybe even consider joining. It’s a great place to chill out amongst nature.

Pond Dipping – Open to Public

On Saturday 9th July 2016 you are invited to attend a pond dipping session at the Rossett Local Nature Reserve. Come along and see if you can find some of the amazing wildlife inhabiting your local ponds. The session will be running from 10am to 11am. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Equipment will be provided. Please note, this event is free and you do not need to book but depending on the popularity of the event there may be a short wait to get on to the dipping platform.


Pond Dipping is only available at one of our public events organised by people licensed to deal with Great Crested Newts. Please do not pond dip on your own. If you are a group or organisation and wish to pond dip then please get in touch with us using our contact form.

Biodiversity in Danger – Our Declining Flora and Fauna

I have been invited to give a talk on the above subject to Nidderdale Climate and Environment Group at the Broadbelt Hall, Glasshouses on Monday, 11 July at 7:30pm. It would be great if you could come and support me and our biodiversity. Just a quick taster, The 2013 State of Nature report tells us that 60% of species have declined over the past 50 years, 35% have declined strongly. Find out why and let’s see what we can do about it.

Email Problems

I don’t understand why but I am getting a number of rejected emails and would request that if you wanted to ensure receipt of my blog that you consider following me by clicking the follow button on the blog, inserting your email address and responding to the subsequent email asking for confirmation. Alternatively if you are sick of the blog then just email me asking to unsubscribe.

Ringlet - Roger Litton

Ringlet Butterfly at High Batts Open Day – Roger Litton

Your Sightings

Morrison’s White Crow

Edna Barker writes, “I do not know much about crow behaviour but they generally seem to be pretty solitary. I have never seen the white crow, which lives near Morrisons, when there have been any other crows to be seen. Last night (beginning of June) the white crow sat on a tree on the old railway embankment for a considerable time on the branch immediately above a black one. They then sat side by side – I think it was the black one that moved – for an even longer time until the white one flew to a tree 20/30 yards away. The black one flew nearer to the white one but did not rejoin it. As far as I could see they did nothing apart from sit fairly motionless, turn round occasionally or do a bit of preening.” Is this crow love life in the raw?

Rare Butterfly

Mike Barnham, our local butterfly expert tells me, “The most interesting finding in the district so far this season has been a perfect male Silver-washed Fritillary flying and settling at High Batts NR on 3 June by Brian Morland. This is very early in the flight season for the species, and I know that several of my colleagues are of the view that specimens seen this far north are generally to be considered as unofficial releases by breeders. We have had occasional individual records of the species – a Yorkshire resident back in Victorian days – in several of the last few years within the district. I had one in my own garden in Knaresborough on buddleia in August 2013. It is a strong flyer and seems to be moving northwards in England over the last few years; this latest record came during a time with strong immigration of Painted Ladies (I have seen 20-30 of those already myself around here) and of Diamond-back moths, so the butterfly might possibly have come in from the Continent with them.”

Anne Smith writes, “One (if one can say good) thing about this weather (16 June) is the number of birds we have in the garden. All plants growing like mad. Apple tree enormous. We have always had a good number of wrens but more this year and also tree creepers. We used to have starlings but I have not seen one for many years. We also used to have a number of bats but sadly do not see any now. We back onto a quarry and have a lot of pigeons and pheasants visiting. I will not say where we live as a while ago we had a wounded (gunshot in the head) badger in the garden which was crying in agony. This was in the middle of the night. We found it and it did not suffer long as it died as we got to it. It is a long time (thank goodness) since we have seen anyone with spades and a dog. I have reported them in the past. Sadly I have no butterflies to report but the buddleias are not out yet so here’s hoping.”

Swallows Back

Bernice Ferguson, “Just to say that since the 70s we have had swallows nesting every year – until the last three years when they came for a quick look and then flew elsewhere. However, much to our joy a pair have come to nest. We thought they would never come again. We have had more orange tips than usual this year and several thrushes. Last year we had fencing put up around where the ragged robin naturally grow, to avoid being eaten and trampled by the sheep. It’s paid off as they’re flourishing now unmolested and they can now also seed and spread. So pretty good news here!”

Red necked phalarope Greenhow 2-6-2016 (3 of 23)

Red-necked Phalarope – Tony Knowles

I recently mentioned the red-necked phalarope at Greenhow, on 2 June. Tony Knowles writes, “Remarkable little bird!” and sent this great photo.

Visit my monthly How Stean Wildlife Blog for July


See website for full details of these events and to confirm no changes.

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday, 12 July Thorne Moors NNR

Harrogate RSPB Group

Wednesday, 13 July 11:00am Trip to Bempton Cliffs