The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative has today published its annual report for 2018, showing improvement in the breeding success of several raptor species within the Peak District National Park compared to 2017, in parallel with an increase in the number of gamekeepers and estates engaging positively with the Initiative. The report also highlights a number of incidents which show, however, that significant problems remain. Overall numbers and breeding success were fairly typical of the 7-year period of the Initiative, and remain well below the targets based on populations in the late 1990s.
Following last year, when Peregrine Falcons failed to breed successfully in the Dark Peak for the first time since they recolonised in the early 1980s, this year has seen 9 occupied territories, of which 3 pairs successfully raised young. The Initiative’s aim is to have 17 breeding pairs, of which about 11-12 pairs would normally be expected to successfully raise young. Numbers of its smaller cousin the Merlin were roughly in line with recent averages and returned to several historic sites where they have not bred for some years.
Goshawks continue to be absent from many of their past haunts in the Dark Peak, though the overall breeding success was better this year, whilst Short-eared Owls had a good season although determining exact numbers remains difficult.
What would have been the most noteworthy event of the year- the successful fledging of 4 young Hen Harriers from a nest on moorland owned by the National Trust- was tarnished latterly by the knowledge that two satellite tagged young both subsequently disappeared in the autumn – one in the Peak District National Park and one in the North York Moors National Park – under circumstances which led to suspicions that they may have deliberately come to harm and the tags destroyed.
Two events of particular concern were the reported shooting of a Red Kite in the northern Peak District in June and the shooting of a Short-eared Owl on Wessenden Head Road in September.
The Bird of Prey initiative has a shared ambition, set out in the National Park Management Plan published earlier this year, to restore populations of birds of prey to at least the levels present in the late 1990s, with the addition of Hen Harrier as a regularly successful breeding species. The improvements this year are a welcome step in this direction, but there needs to be a commitment to eradicate wildlife crime and build on that progress year on year across the National Park, and across our range of target species, if the Initiative is to continue.
The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative is made up of the Peak District National Park Authority, Natural England, National Trust and the Moorland Association, with support from local raptor groups and land managers. It was set up in 2011 after its members recognised the need for collective action to tackle illegal persecution of birds of prey. The RSPB ended their involvement in the Initiative in January due to the lack of progress with bird of prey populations, and the lack of a full consensus by all Initiative members that ongoing illegal persecution is the main reason for the continued low numbers.
To read the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative report see here
Anyone with information to report about wildlife crime should contact the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.