Conservationists and the shooting lobby are at loggerheads. Could a country estate manager have the answer to the problem?
Sunday 05 April 2015
Two weeks ago, Jake Fiennes witnessed a rare sight: a male hen harrier flying across the country estate he manages in south Norfolk. “It was a beautiful sight,” says the brother of the actor Ralph Fiennes as he drives his Land Rover down a narrow track on the 5,000-acre Raveningham Estate. “I’ve seen all sorts of raptors here and 90 species of other bird. We have wild hares, of course. But a hen harrier – I was very lucky indeed.”
The tale of the hen harrier is a grim one. There is enough habitat in England and Wales to support 300 breeding pairs, but only three or four pairs remain.
The birds’ plight has triggered one of the countryside’s fiercest debates. Conservationists accuse gamekeepers on upland grouse moors (and elsewhere) of slaughtering the birds on sight to protect grouse chicks.