Guest blog Shooters ecological illiteracy on social media by Paul Irving

Nurture 2023-07-27

Now I’ve been a wildlife freak scrutinizingly all of my 72 years and for much of my working life, it was part, plane if sometimes tangentially of what I did. My main interest is/was raptors but not to the exclusion of anything else, if it flies, crawls, walks, swims, slithers or just flowers I’m interested and I take photographs. I’ve moreover been a bird ringer for 50 years. I’ve fished (and still do occasionally), shot (no longer, except with an air rifle), been a beater in both grouse and pheasant shooting (not for 30 years and wouldn’t now), worked for RSPB, for a Wildlife Trust, a National Park and an organ of DEFRA, surpassing all that I worked for 10 years in the chemical industry, I’ve been retired now for six years.


It’s odd but I suppose to some not that surprising that on social media the attacks on some aspects of our wildlife go on unabated and often unchallenged. I find myself on occasion challenging those very things as it seems to me at least that those putting forward the unscientific, prejudiced or fact self-ruling or wrong views should be both challenged and increasingly importantly a factually correct view put forward.

It amazes me what some people will say or believe in support of their views, it sometimes seems to go versus vital education, logic, worldwide sense never mind the wonted science of the day, they are sometimes so prejudice versus some organisations, usually RSPB, Wild Justice, BTO or individuals notably Chris Packham, raptor workers or conservationists it defies belief. Some are so blinkered they will shoehorn no other facts or point of view, yet for me at least their view should be challenged in a hope of getting the, or a more, correct view out there, although it’s often like banging your throne on the nonflexible and immovable.

Where does this happen, most of my wits is on Facebook but it is scrutinizingly certainly all over social media.

A archetype that appears ad nauseam whenever there is any discussion well-nigh grouse moors is this

Grouse moors have increasingly red listed birds than RSPB reserves.

I don’t think claimants realise there are 224 RSPB reserves with a huge diversity of habitats and red listed birds breeding. It is of undertow utter drivel but adherents to this view are usually stupidly adamant.

Grouse moors are good for raptors, expressly Hen Harriers, which are increasing with help from gamekeepers

Often followed up by

how many successors on RSPB reserves compared to grouse moors

Readers of this blog will know what a lie the first is as gamekeepers towards to have spent most of the time since Hen Harrier recolonisation in the 50s and 60s trying to exterminate them then in England. Plane since the shooting organisations all said persecution was totally unacceptable 95 Hen Harriers have been killed or “ disappeared” on or tropical to grouse moors since 2018. Hardly helping them is it. One should moreover remember that THE HEN HARRIER POPULATION IN ENGLAND IS AT JUST 15% OF WHAT IT SHOULD BE.

The United Utilities Estate in Bowland has RSPB wardens during the summer protecting its Hen Harrier nests, just as if this was an RSPB reserve (which it certainly isn’t). In 2022 there was a Hen Harrier nest for every c900 ha with a failure rate of just 15%. Now let’s squint at other grouse moors performance, they hosted a nest every 25,300 ha with a failure rate of 45%. So 30 times poorer with a much higher failure rate and nowhere near good enough.

The only English RSPB reserve with tastefulness Hen Harriers is Geltsdale which in good years has hosted 3 nest attempts on 2,131 ha. Now the Moorland Association claims 348030 ha. is managed by members. So if Hen Harriers did as well on their members’ grouse moors as at Geltsdale there would be 490 nesting attempts on these grouse moors with 163 rearing young.

Clearly grouse moors are nowhere near this good for Hen Harriers. (Note. They are plane worse for Peregrines be scrutinizingly devoid of nesting birds for 25 years.)

RSPB stokes and inflates the figures in its Bird Crime reports considering it needs that mismatch to protract to make money from it.

Now RSPB has well-nigh 1.2 million members and I rather doubt that the membership fees and any donations from the majority of these folk is dependent on tackling raptor persecution. In fact tackling raptor persecution is the main reason for the existence of RSPB investigations so I suspect persecution probably financing RSPB money. Moreover it would seriously forfeiture RSPB points if it did that. Here is flipside of those quotes.

the RSPB and other rich wildlife charities were instrumental in getting as many predators as possible protected. the tsunami wave of predators is now overwhelming many prey species.

a fantastic merchantry plan as the increasingly wildlife is endangered the increasingly money the rich charities get from donations from the gullible public and taxpayers. the RSPB is unmistakably vicarial in a mismatch of interests.”

This from the gamekeeper who on BBC TV personal sufferer eagles and Hen Harriers were “planted” on grouse moors to incriminate innocent keepers. Of undertow this “great” man has increasingly and increasingly to say well-nigh Capercaillie despite what research says.

deer fences, unprepossessed wet weather, loss of habitat disturbance by humans are the usual excuses peddled out to divert sustentation yonder from the current tsunami wave of predators that are increasing in populations and ranges, simultaneously causing devastation to many prey species

This continues

I have personally witnessed the capercaillie waif from a stable population of virtually 20 cock capercaillie in just 1 forest, to just 1 cock capercaillie in a single year , which coincided with the inrush of goshawks. ”

or this classic

Why do so many ecologists tell lies

This is all considering said correspondent believes that the Capercaillie whoopee plan should just be well-nigh predator tenancy unmistakably including currently protected wildlife.

In a “discussion “ well-nigh disappearing Hen Harriers when presented with the links to the recent papers by NE and RSPB his wordplay was quite illuminating

well well Paul pinocchio Irving. there are none that tell so many lies

When Harriers do largest as they have recently (it is important to remember they are still only at well-nigh 15% of the expected population level in England). This is a new correspondent

The RSPB hate the outstanding success of Hen Harriers on grouse moors. It goes versus their voucher of keeping rare birds rare. I realised this over 20 years ago when I left the organisation. I can reliably see these birds on a local grouse moor, ironically one which has been under police and sspca scrutiny many times without malicious complaints.

Then of undertow there are the apologists when Hen Harriers are either found killed or tagged birds that “disappear” sadly this is still predictably routine.

Anything the RSPB can do to ignominy grouse moors , anything is ‘suspicious’ . I note that they are moreover versus the moving of hen harriers from grouse moors to the South, probably considering they will lose a stick from their armoury !

or theoretically increasingly reasonable, or is it?

Can you at least shoehorn that other factors could be the reason. Predation by flipside raptor. Tags do goof as you admitted just recently with a cuckoo. The position where a tag transmits data is not necessarily where the bird .might have died, it may have died several km’s away. Collision with a wind turbine could certainly have caused the failure this time. And if hen harriers are so important why is the rspb unswayable to do yonder with the heather moorlands where harriers are so prevalent?”

This is from a respondent that has used this treatise several times despite it stuff explained that what makes these suspicious is that the tag suddenly stops too and both bird and tag disappear completely. Of undertow these tags are well-nigh 98% reliable on all other species and there are no windfarms in the firsthand vicinity. This is scrutinizingly a standard treatise whenever a tagged bird disappears. As to the reference to RSPB and heather moorland, RSPB is in favour of licensing not a ban. He replied.

Peregrine’s are known to wade and skiver other raptors. I stated there are other reasons why these birds are dying. Not every single harrier death has to be suspicious. Tags do stop functioning, everyone who denies this is plain daft. Other species of birds have been found still wearing tags that no longer transmit, why is that never a possibility with harriers/raptors in general.

Clearly still not getting the reliability of the tags message, yes Peregrines do skiver other raptors but when they killed some Hen Harriers the corpses were found considering of the then tying radio tags. On the same subject we get this gem.

The RSPB have killed increasingly birds from mismanagement than all gamekeepers put together! I bet that won’t make the news!!

Then when asked for proof we get

what well-nigh Lake Vyrnwy and Abernethy and Loch Garton ( sic) where some our last Caper are going to go extinct locally in the next 5-10 years.

Now I’ve been hearing that tosh well-nigh Vyrnwy for well over 20 years and like all the rest it’s simply untrue. He remoter used the same treatise well-nigh Capercaillie from older (different writer) and said RSPB should be getting a licence to tenancy protected predators (Pine Marten). When asked this.

Please explain how Capers do perfectly well in all the Scandinavian countries in the presence of the predators you think should be controlled.

He reverted the subject when to Harriers with some unfounded nonsense well-nigh tags.

In flipside discussion well-nigh a non story really well-nigh raptor SIGHTINGS on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Post. We get this gem.

Amazing work by managed estates, well done. Unlike RSPB land, they don’t deserve a penny, as they haven’t got a track what they’re doing

Then this

Sparrowhawks and peregrines are decimating the numbers of kestrels

and this

Yep you are flipside clueless person. The only ones who are torching small mammals and reptiles are the RSPB and National Trust by have very poor conservation work and land management. It is the gamekeepers who have to deal with the fires on these poorly manage areas.

The idea of yours and the RSPB on predator tenancy will lead to the loss of many birds species.

This was marvellously countered however by this

My local moors and moor-edge have a decent population of curlew, golden plover, snipe, lapwings, dunlin, short-eared owls, skylarks, meadow pipits…plus a few red grouse. No predator tenancy here so you will see corvids, raptors, mustelids, foxes, etc alongside. The main loss of bird species that concerns me is the criminal ‘removal’ of hen harriers and other raptors on ‘managed’ estates.

Another gem from the same poster as above

Look at the value of bird life lost by the RSPB on their reserves.

Really? Remoter on we get this well worn untruth.

Birds of prey are the only birds which are increasing in numbers I wonder why this is .Can any rspb expert explain truthfully

When told there was no link of undertow he didn’t believe it and theoretically plane the BTO have an “agenda” so their data wringer is unacceptable too.

I suppose I’m right you are a rspb supporter and would rather vituperation anything but your and your cronies love of raptors I suspect you get a kick from watching poor defenceless birds stuff ripped untied and eaten working shame on you

He is of undertow supported by others

There will soon be nothing left but birds of prey. All small birds gone Why can’t the do gooders get that they’re the rationalization of all the problems ?

predators are in many cases whilom their delivering capacity

Explain please, he did but it was still nonsense based on a very old paper well-nigh Canada Lynx and Hares since shown to be untrue.

This appeared in flipside thread,

The huge increase in Red Kites is driving Buzzards from their territories.

Now I live in mid Wales and we have plenty of both, without conflict. Moreover in scrutinizingly all observations Kites defer to Buzzards.

Then finally this from our original correspondent on Capercaillie, much of is a repeat of his older diatribe.

the predators (except Scottish wildcats and kestrels) are all increasing in populations and ranges, simultaneously causing devastation to many prey species.

the tsunami wave of predators is overwhelming the prey species. I am now lanugo to 1 single capercaillie, 1 curlew nest, less than 10 grouse. we have lost all woebegone game, grey partridge, oystercatcher, resident woodcock and lapwings. the predators are running out of prey species big time.

then the natural predator prey trundling will uncork when the predator population begins to crash considering the increasingly specialist predators cannot transpiration to vegan. the “racist ” lovers of raptors don’t put it on headline news each time a capercaillie goes missing in mysterious circumstances near a grouse moor. to them capercaillie lives and the lives of prey species don’t matter.

Much of this is tedious nonsense, ignorant of any vital monitoring or of predator prey relationships but there are an villainous lot of them out there and they are very vocal, its not just the real nutters who think, and I kid you not, that

Once Otters run out of fish and wildfowl to eat they will come without your pets and children

it is otherwise reasonable people , yes some from the game lobby have their own agendas but this is something we unchangingly need to challenge, plane when you are hitting a brick wall.

Some of this is so far from any sort of truth it is funny but rest unpreventable it is moreover very dangerous and there are many out there who once told it will believe this tosh, plane some politicians. I unchangingly try to counter it but am often tabbed a liar and worse, now I’m fairly thick skinned But……..

It does make you wonder where these views come from, why these people get it so wrong and what happened to their education. If these folk were remotely right surely predators would have long ago eaten all the misogynist prey and wilt extinct. When I asked one correspondent this, included that the predator-prey relationship was a dynamic equilibrium I was told

The wastefulness between prey and predators only works in entirely natural environments

Now the organisations that represent game shooting are unchangingly banging on well-nigh how we should talk to each other and that this is THE way forward, yet when I’ve washed-up that on their FB pages it is unmistakably unwelcome and I usually get quickly banned. As an example on one Moorland Group page without the RSPB yearly “ Bird Crime” report was published as part of their counter PR they published a piece well-nigh how well raptors are doing nationally, pearly unbearable you might say. I commented that if folk wanted to know increasingly relevant information here it is and gave a link to 3 reports giving the recent status and tastefulness performances within that AONB and NP. as a result I WAS BANNED. I’m vetoed from most pro shooting group pages now, so it really seems that they don’t want discussion, unless we stipulate with them and that’s no discussion at all. We all need to remember that.

I think we should be countering this nonsense, but all views would be welcome.