The story of Gordon the moron [ alias Bonny ] and his time on this planet Was he killed for a £billi
The RSPB reserve at Geltsdale in Cumbria has a history of harriers. The reserve lies only 25 miles from Langholm. [as the harrier flies!] Langholm ,over the years, has had many Hen Harriers breeding. Several birds try and winter here at Geltsdale but in 2016 a number of birds tried to summer here as well. There was an adult male, a first year male and at least one female. Very little nesting activity took place early on but the preferred breeding area was manned to view for potential display. The adult male disappeared leaving the first year male and the female. Nest building was observed and a 24 hour watch was set up using paid and voluntary staff.
The reserve is bounded by 2 Red Grouse moors with Knarsdale to the east and Croglin to the north. In the breeding atlas for Cumbria a figure of ‘100s’ of Hen harriers were removed from the Knarsdale estate in the 1990s. This followed the maximum count of 24 pairs of Hen Harriers breeding at Langholm and around the area with 5 pairs on Geltsdale. The harriers could not cope with this destruction on Red Grouse moors and soon it was found that no Hen Harriers were breeding in England! This included the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire where birds had been breeding for at least 50 years!
At Geltsdale it was soon clear that the 2 harriers were a pair and that it was hoped that they would settle down with the female laying eggs. The problem was this young male was not providing much food to the female and would disappear for days. Finally 5 eggs were laid and still the male was gone a long time when he should be the sole provider of food for this sitting female. Already young harriers were on the wing at Langholm but still this pair was struggling with even the female leaving the nest. The staff turned on this male and called him ‘Kevin’ after a famous character in the comedy series ‘Kevin and Perry’ for his lack of man hood and not caring for this female.
So bad was the situation the nest site became the first nest site in the UK to be fed before the eggs were hatched! Even this action only resulted in one egg hatching and still the male was not bringing food. The new system of feeding ‘day old’ chicks, mice and rats was put in place with food placed on a feeding station and soon the female was a very happy lady with such a bad partner as Kevin! This new nestling was a male. So he was called ‘Gordon the moron’ by the staff and boy did he love doing nothing! Males can develop faster than females and leave the nest earlier and departing but Gordon knew he was onto a good thing and was going to stick around.
Gordon had a satellite pack and a BTO ring placed on him on 10th August and soon named Bonney from outside the reserve. By the Glorious 12th August Knarsdale was predicting 5000 brace of Red Grouse for the target for the shooting season [10,000 birds to kill!] with the best breeding season the estate had had for many years. This was due to the weather being amazing in May not the amount of predators killed by the estate! With so many birds to shoot the shooting season was also predicted to go on into December.
So Gordon took his time! 6th September and still the shooting could be heard over the hill. A pair of Ravens had taken up residents up on the high ground with a juvenile Peregrine seen mobbing the Ravens. Buzzards floated over and the female and Gordon seemed missing. Around 4 pm hunger drove Gordon out of the heather and sure enough up came the female [probable wondering how long this breeding season was going to last!]. She took food from the feeding station and after feeding Gordon flew down the valley.
Slow but surely Gordon started flying further from the breeding area and by the 13th September he was seen flying down the main Geltsdale Valley where he was photographed showing his pack and aerial clearly. He had a lovely fly around a group of Red legged Partridge and even mobbed one on a cairn before flying off. He stayed around the RSPB reserve for some time and was seen on 21st September actually hunting with his mother again around an area with Red legged Partridge.
26th October was when Gordon became a real star seen by millions on Autumn Watch on the BBC. A great piece filmed at Geltsdale talking about the problems with Hen Harriers on Red Grouse moors including Gordon being rung. The fame meant that Gordon travelled south as far as Warcop, Cumbria and east as far as Plenmellor in Northumberland but generally stayed around the 3 main areas of Geltsdale, Croglin and Knarsdale.
The 2nd December saw him hunting around Red legs again and was seen dropping on a suspected kill. Two Carrion Crows approached him and made him mad as he flew after one and dropped it to the ground as if he had killed or seriously injured the crow. He then flew back to his kill but it looked as if he had not actually killed the subject which this time was thought to be a vole or a mouse. He could not find it and started looking around the area until he gave up and started hunting back up the valley. The crow made a miraculous recovery and went searching for the lost food of Gordon but likewise could not find it!
Sadly by 14th December on Knarsdale Gordon went missing. A search for a body and valuable transmitter was not found where if the bird had died of natural causes the body would have been found as seen from other harriers that have done just that! So this will go down as another Hen Harrier lost on Knarsdale!
What is more amazing is Knarsdale is now owned by a Mr Louis Bacon http://louisbacon.com/ a $billionare who gives generously to conservation in the USA - http://moorecharitable.org/ . So on the one hand he wants to see our planet keep wild areas full of wildlife but when it comes to shooting does not give a toss! He also owns Robin Island in New York where he holds a big pheasant shoot. What is killed here to keep these non native pheasants alive so he and his guests can shoot them!
‘ Louis Bacon is a personal hero of mine in conservation’ said the secretary of Interior - Ken Salazar!
Only on the 27th December this was the headline on his web site - Fire and the Longleaf Pines of the Southern US: A Bright Future for a Magical Forest. The article quotes - With the help of Louis Bacon’s Orton Foundation, we are just beginning? - What? - to kill birds of prey so we can enjoy killing Red Grouse!
All this killing of key species was also killing the chance of wildlife tourism being a major industry in the South Tyne Valley.
If anyone can get to this man surely Gordon’s death can not be justified regardless how much money you are worth!