News archive

July 2017

Monday, 10 July 2017

Conservationists alarmed by killing of protected birds in Lancashire

Conservationists alarmed by killing of protected birds in Lancashire

Large numbers of a protected bird killed on a grouse moor
RSPB calls on Natural England to take urgent action

The RSPB has learned that large numbers of protected birds are being killed on a grouse moor in Lancashire.

A RSPB staff member working in the Bowland area discovered two estate workers shooting nesting lesser black-backed gulls - on a grouse moor managed by the Abbeystead Estate - leaving their chicks to be either killed by dogs or left to starve.

Lesser blacked-backed gulls have been nesting on the moors of Lancashire for more than 80 years. The recovering colony in Bowland is one of the most important in the UK and is protected under British and European law, having once been in excess of 20,000 pairs. Lesser blacked-backed gulls are declining across the UK and the RSPB is becoming increasing worried about their future in the UK.

This species can only be legally culled if they pose a threat to human health, risk spreading disease or are having a negative effect on other species of conservation concern. The RSPB understands Natural England - the government agency for responsible for protecting the countryside - granted consent for the cull. But while the nature conservation organisation has repeatedly asked Natural England for scientific evidence which would justify a cull, none has been forthcoming.

Although the RSPB has yet to see the full details of the consent, it has reason to believe that the landowner may have breached both the letter and the spirit of the agreement, and is calling on Natural England to investigate the matter urgently.

Graham Jones, RSPB Conservation Area Manager for North West England, said: "We are devastated that this cull of a protected species has been taking place, apparently without any justification.

"Although it may occasionally be necessary to cull a small number of large gulls for conservation and health reasons, there is absolutely no evidence to support it in this case.

"We want Natural England to tell us why they think the gulls at Bowland met the legal criteria for a cull and also want them look into whether the terms of an already flawed agreement have been broken.

"Bowland should be a safe place for this declining species and Natural England should be focussing on helping the colony's recovery."

"We believe the only reason these protected birds are being killed is simply to satisfy the requirements resulting from the ongoing unsustainable approach to grouse moor management."


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

RSPB Leighton Moss celebrates 30 years of iconic bird of prey

RSPB Leighton Moss celebrates 30 years of iconic bird of prey

Thirty years ago this summer, RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve in Silverdale made history. For the first time in well over a hundred years, one of Britain's rarest birds, the marsh harrier, returned to nest in Lancashire, choosing the reserve's vast reed beds as its home. They have nested ever since and the site is encouraging visitors to come and witness these spectacular birds in action.
In the early 1970s just one pair of marsh harriers was known to nest in the whole of the UK but thanks to conservation efforts these spectacular birds slowly increased in number. In April 1987 a pair arrived at Leighton Moss and successfully raised three chicks at the RSPB's flagship reserve.
Marsh harriers are large and impressive birds of prey which usually spend the winter in Africa, returning here in the spring. It is thought that there are now around 400 pairs breeding in Britain every year. Unfortunately the recovery of marsh harriers has not been mirrored by the widely publicised decline of their close relative the hen harrier, which is perilously close to extinction as a breeding bird in England.
Since their return to Lancashire thirty years ago, marsh harriers have nested at Leighton Moss annually; raising in excess of 200 youngsters over three decades. Staff and volunteers have been keeping a close eye on the two nests at Leighton Moss this year and on 30 June they were thrilled to see the first chick taking its inaugural flight.
Over the coming weeks, the young birds will be stretching their wings and learning to hunt for themselves, so it's the perfect time to visit Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve to see them. The parents are continuing to provide food for the hungry fledglings and visitors may see several harriers in the air at one time!
Jarrod Sneyd, Site Manager at RSPB Leighton Moss said "When these superb birds first nested on the reserve in 1987 we were thrilled. The success of marsh harriers at Leighton Moss over the last thirty years has been astounding and it goes to show just how valuable our precious wetlands and reed beds are to the wildlife that makes its home in these special places".
For the chance to see these iconic birds, pop along to the visitor centre at Leighton Moss between 9.30 am and 5 pm, where staff and volunteers will happily direct visitors to where the birds might be.
To find out more about the other amazing wildlife on the reserve and the range of events being held over the summer, visit