ERIC Gendle (HAS, Apr 25) wonders where my figure (HAS, Apr 16) of 800 breeding pairs of hen harriers in the UK came from. Well, I can tell him that my figure comes from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) itself.

Table 2 of the RSPB report, Birds of Prey in the UK, lists the latest available (2004) UK hen harrier population figure as 806 breeding pairs, citing this as an increase of 30 per cent since 1988/9.

The same RSPB report shows that, of the UK's 15 raptors, the only one showing a statistically significant decline is the kestrel - which is very common anyway and whose population has been affected by changes in lowland agriculture.

By contrast, some of our wading birds (golden plover, curlew, lapwing) really are in serious decline. Unfortunately for them, they do not have the fundraising potential of the more glamorous raptors, so their last hope is moorland managed by gamekeepers.

It is interesting to note that a recent survey of the North Pennines by Natural England showed much higher densities of waders nesting on managed grouse moors than on the RSPB's own moorland reserve in Cumbria.

Alisdair Mitchell, On behalf of the National Gamekeepers' Organisation, Bishop Auckland, Co Durham.