<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Fighting to save the hen harrier in the Forest of Bowland

PUBLISHED: 00:01 06 September 2014 | UPDATED: 18:17 06 June 2016

The hen harrier

The hen harrier

not Archant

These magnificent birds have been breeding again in Lancashire but their fragile future has drawn in everyone from Chris Packham to the bosses of M&S. Mike Glover reports

The moorland landscape (picture: Neville Turner) The moorland landscape (picture: Neville Turner)

Amanda Anderson doesn’t have to go far to see the enormity of the job she has taken on. She just has to look out of the windows of her barn conversion home office near the three counties borderland.

From one window she can gaze across Lancashire’s Bowland Knotts. From another she sees Yorkshire’s Pen Y Ghent. And on a clear day she can see the Lakeland Fells.

Not only does she have amazing views, she is also in touch with the landscape she passionately fights to preserve. Amanda has recently taken over as the first woman director of the Moorland Association, which over 850,000 acres of globally-recognised heather moorland, swathes of it in Lancashire.

While the 42-year-old mother-of-two will be looking after the interests of some of earth’s most fragile landscapes, the new job also pitches her into the middle of a heated debate about shooting estates and their impact on bird of prey populations. This is because her role also means she represents the English grouse shooting industry, worth £67 million a year. The shooting of red grouse, a major part of the activity carried out in Lancashire, has been headline news with wildlife presenter Chris Packham spearheading a campaign to ban certain types of grouse shooting to protect hen harriers from persecution by over-zealous gamekeepers.

A merlin chirch being ringed (picture: Steve Round) A merlin chirch being ringed (picture: Steve Round)

Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer is refusing to sell red grouse this season. ‘These are challenging times, not just for our organisation, but the countryside as a whole,’ says Amanda.

Opponents claim there has been a decline in raptor numbers and this has been caused by the actions of landowners. She refutes this, saying official figures have show an increase in bird of prey numbers. She accepts that there have been times when what she describes as a handful of moorland gamekeepers have over-stepped the mark and been prosecuted.

However, she believes the hen harrier is a special case and she is adamant that the conflict can be resolved. She and the association are supporting a proposed scheme where landowners accept one pair of hen harriers per 20,000 acres and, if this number rises, chicks would be taken under licence to an aviary and the reared birds would be released into areas with suitable habitat but few grouse moors.

‘Moorland management for red grouse is excellent for all sorts of ground nesting birds, with waders being up to five times more abundant on grouse moor compared to moors without gamekeepers. Breeding records for merlin - our smallest bird of prey - are four times more numerous.

Amanda pictures on the moors (picture: Tony Bartholomew) Amanda pictures on the moors (picture: Tony Bartholomew)

‘The abundance of these species, including grouse, can be attractive to birds of prey along with the habitat which is carefully managed to provide a mosaic of different heights and types of vegetation benefiting different species. They are very good places to go and see birds of prey.

‘I live on the edge of the Forest of Bowland surrounded by grouse moors and am lucky enough to see buzzard, red kite, sparrowhawk, merlin, hen harrier, kestrel, barn owl, short eared owl and little owl. That assemblage is, in my book, the best indicator of good conservation and gamekeeper attitude.’

The country’s first hen harrier chicks for two years recently fledged in north Lancashire, with two of three successful nests on grouse managed land, producing 11 young .

Amanda said her organisation welcomed the spotlight on harriers and condemned wildlife crime. ‘We need to build on this year’s successful breeding to springboard a wider recovery. The Defra-led Joint Recovery Plan, if implemented, would see the growth of a sustainable population of hen harriers without jeopardising driven grouse shooting, along with the environmental, social and economic benefits it delivers. The RSPB has yet to give it their full support. ‘Three parts of the recovery plan tackle any wildlife crime against the birds and three parts deal with the sustainable growth of the harrier population.’

Another key element is the nest management scheme taken from tested conservation techniques in France. ‘This would see hen harrier chicks in nests 10km from another nest reared in an aviary and released six weeks later in suitable habitat. This will help ensure harriers nest without impacting on ground nesting birds on which they prey, especially red grouse. The English grouse shooting industry provides vital income for conservation and supports over 1,500 jobs.’

Not only has Government realised how precious the marshy peat-lands and heather-strewn uplands are for wildlife, landscape and local employment, but there is an awareness of how the various ecologies fit together.

Last winter’s high profile floods across great swathes of the South of England gave extra evidence of the repercussions of getting rid of bogs, flood-planes and other water-absorbing features up in the hills.

Anyone managing land has strata of rules and regulations to meet national and European standards, which are particularly onerous when Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Sites of Special Scientific Interest are involved. This is just sort of land owned by members of the association. And Amanda knows that there are still battles to be fought: over maintaining habitats for birds of prey; the ancient tradition of burning off heather; and the use of chemicals on bracken.

‘I fervently believe that careful management of heather moorlands, with grouse shooting as the lynchpin, can produce the best benefits for wildlife, landscape and local economies,’ she says.

‘This iconic land has safeguarded three quarters of the world’s remaining heather moorland and is a haven for exceptional and endangered species. Without the grouse industry this landscape would just not exist.

‘The sport of shooting grouse is unique in the world. That is the driver of all the habitat management that goes on.’ She urges people not to ‘dismiss all the good that comes from that just because we don’t like the method of harvest.’

‘The gains are enormous - water in the taps; vital ecosystems; essential habitats and the protection of flora and fauna.’

The MA’s ambitious aims include seeing 250,000 further acres of heather moorland regenerated, boosting birds, plants and animals. Amanda believes this will help Britain reach its Biodiversity 2020 goals.

Her great grandfather Archie Ritchie was the first game warden of Kenya in East Africa, and pioneered the idea of wildlife national parks.

Amanda gained a Masters degree in aquaculture, honours degree in zoology, plus a further degree in post-16 education. For 15 years she was partner in a marketing and communications company, based near Clitheroe, and she has managed courses at Myerscough College.

All of which has prepared the way for her to lead the fight for the preservation of the landscape just outside her office window.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

There are many forces of nature to witness in the Lake District, we pick six of our favourite waterfalls.

Read more
Lake District
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rebekka O’Grady and photographer John Cocks meet some of the new independent businesses calling Southport home

Read more
Southport
Monday, February 12, 2018

How many of these local landmarks can you recognise?

Read more
Quiz Spring
Friday, February 9, 2018

Plans for around 600 new houses to be built in pretty Wyre village

Read more
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

John Lenehan toasts the re-opening of a Lancashire engineering landmark and notes an invention to revive any walker.

Read more
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Kirkby Lonsdale sits on the spot where Lancashire, Yorkshire and Westmorland meet, making it a great base to explore the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. All these walks start of within a ten mile radius of Kirkby Lonsdale, making them a perfect day trip for anyone staying close to the historic market town.

Read more
Kirkby Lonsdale
Monday, February 5, 2018

From businesses selling banjoes to bridalwear from a former New York costume designer, Colne is a town for all seasons. Mairead Mahon reports.

Read more
Colne
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lake District walks dominate the top ten of Britain’s 100 list.

Read more
Lake District Lake District Walks
Friday, January 26, 2018

Barrow was built on hard graft but there’s plenty of beauty to be found as well, as Mike Glover reports

PHOTOGRAPHY BY SANDY KITCHING

Read more
Thursday, January 25, 2018

Despite its bad reputation, the cuckoo has been a great and clever survivor in the wild. However, numbers have dipped since the 1970s. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright investigates this iconic spring bird.

Read more
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Many of us are frustrated by our inability to swim well. Sarah Hill did something about it and now helps others. She spoke to Roger Borrell.

Read more
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Celebrate the historic waterways of Lancashire with one of these canalside walks that allow you to enjoy the countryside and witness echoes the the county’s industrial past.

Read more
Canals
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Their football clubs both wear navy blue and white strips, but how well can you identify landmarks in Bolton and Preston?

Read more
Preston Bolton Quiz
Friday, January 12, 2018

Spring is not too far off and that’s the time when the birds start getting noisier in our woodlands. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright investigates a couple of the stars of the Dawn Chorus.

Read more
Spring
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search