Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Rowan’ found dead in suspicious circumstances

rowanhhAnother of this year’s young satellite-tagged hen harriers has been found dead.

This time it’s Rowan, a bird that hatched at Langholm and was being satellite-tracked by the Hawk & Owl Trust.

Here’s a joint statement put out by the Hawk & Owl Trust and Natural England:

The body of a juvenile, male hen harrier – named Rowan – was recovered in Cumbria on 22nd October. He was satellite tagged at the Langholm project in the Scottish borders, as part of a joint venture between Natural England and the Hawk and Owl Trust. Following an autopsy, Natural England has passed details to the police for investigation.

We are unable to make further comments or enter into discussion at this time as this may be prejudicial to ongoing investigations.


This press statement is clearly suggestive that criminal activity was responsible for the death of this hen harrier.

We look forward to further details about the cause of death and appeals for information from the Police in the very near future.

We especially look forward to the Hawk & Owl Trust announcing its withdrawal from the DEFRA Hen Harrier Action Plan on the grounds that one of its ‘immoveable provisos‘ for taking part has been broken (again).

UPDATE 7 November 2016: Hen Harrier Rowan ‘likely to have been shot’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park (see here)

36 thoughts on “Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Rowan’ found dead in suspicious circumstances”

  1. You would think that even they would hesitate a little at the moment as the publicity against them is increasing,but apparently not. Are they so confident that their chums can protect them? It is up to all of us to make sure that they cant!

  2. Aye, it will be interesting to read of the Hawk and Owl Trust’s withdrawal from the Hen Harrier Persecution Plan, but there is every chance that another major shuffling of goalposts will take place.

    DEFRA, as well, should now scrap this nonsensical plan, and while we’re at it, it’s about time that all representatives from the shooting industry were removed from PAW.

    They show no signs of changing their criminal ways, so why continue with the charade?

  3. I’ve just been reading on Mark Avery’s blog, “Gems from the written evidence 7-the grouse moor owners, manager,gamekeepers” all united in saying that there is no crime on the uplands, so there can’t be any, and if there is, then it’s to protect livelihoods in rural communities. Reminds me of the arguments used when wildlife crime is defended in Africa/Asia.

  4. Outrageous .. those so called raptor experts who co-operate with the driven grouse lobby should hold their heads in shame.

  5. ‘The Moorland Association, whose members include the owners of most of the 190 grouse moors in England and Wales, has acknowledged that gamekeepers illegally kill raptors, especially harriers.’
    Jonathan Leake, Sunday Times, August 7 2016.

  6. They just won’t stop ? how stupid are these people ? Not only are they making the case for banning driven grouse shooting for us, they are making the case for banning shooting altogether, they have proven that shooters cannot be trusted with guns.

    They either ‘instruct’ the criminals, or know them, or of them…… but there is a ” wall of silence ”

    NOT ONCE have any of these fine ‘upstanding’ people ( SGA, SLE, gamekeepers/factors/estate owners ) EVER informed the authorities of wildlife crime, but they all benefit from it, odd isn’t it.

    We ( the Scottish Government, and the National Parks ) need to stop calling them ‘stakeholders’, and remove them from all meetings. WHY do the authorities hold meetings with the perpetrators and instigator’s of wildlife crime ??

    I do hope that Johann Lamont has the grit to face up to these criminals.

    Increase penalties severely, £1 million on conviction / 10 years sentence, Estate seizure for vicarious liability proven. Make the burden of proof civil, not criminal, otherwise, this will not stop.

    I am incensed, that in the 21st century, wealthy landowners are just laughing at our laws.

  7. How long before some pro-shooting numptie claims that the timing is ‘suspicious’ and suggests that this crime was carried out by “bird activists” to “discredit” driven grouse shooting in advance of the forthcoming debate? In fact, I’d put money on the fact that someone’s already posted as much …

  8. As far as I understand, this is one of the Hawk and Owl Trusts own birds. But I keep forgetting, it doesnt matter to them because their part of the plan has not started yet.

  9. I can’t understand how anyone can do something so deplorable, what is it with these people. This is truly heartbreaking.

  10. I e-mailed my MP about the parliamentary debate on Monday, and also sent him the link from a couple of days ago. I am about to send him the link to this blog too, it is (yet another) very sad incident, but let’s try to make the best use of the timing that we can…

    1. Send him the link to the FoE paper “Grouse Moors in England: Research Monitoring” it’s a corker! via Mark Avery’s What I do like is Mark’s choice of words in his post title: “FoE begins to expose” the suspense will be worth the wait I suspect.

      As for H&OT, NE et. al. I will refrain from comment it’s been said ad nauseum and n’owt changes sorry. RIP Rowan. Carry on campaigning, the critical mass of community effort is having serious impact, this is serious money we are challenging.

  11. Sadly this helps the case for a ban on driven grouse shooting and the estates that partake in this .Talk about head in the sand. Total denial shows how worried they are and that they are on the back foot. The groundswell of opinion against mismanagement of the uplands will prevale.Might take some time but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  12. No doubt Monday will see a fudge over everything as the landed gentry and the judiciary cover up as best they can, while nothing will change as the whole system is geared to protect the landed gentry.

  13. One of the main problems is we don’t know w ho are genuine and who are bent,but its about time this was sorted out once and for all,starting at the top probable in the house of commons, we may be surprised with the outcome, there are to many people in high places that have been getting away with murder for far to long, what a legacy to leave our future generation.

  14. It’s time to make the punishment hurt. The owner(s) of the moor should have their land confiscated if raptors are murdered on their land, or by their staff. They will have proven themselves unfit or incapable of appropriate management. That might focus a few minds.

  15. the landowners are used to having it their way . Just as the fox hunting fraternity are. They feel they have a right………the vicarious Liability sounds very good and Licensing – together………

  16. There are two problems with respect to parliament. First a serious lack any anyone who is remotely qualified to speak on ecological and environmental issues leading to dangerous numpties like Paterson and latterly the laughably incompetent ill-informed Leadsom (“the hill farmers can look after the butterflies”) as environment ministers. Parliament is weighted towards career politicians and those whose prime motive is to represent people wanting to make money. Two or three highly qualified ecologists need to get involved in politics and try and end up as electable Conservative or Labour or SNP politicians. The most effective way to change things is at the despatch box.

    The second problem is the Tory majority with something far more widely-ranging and serious than the grouse issue looming – the watering down/removal of great chunks of the excellent EU environmental legislation – quite a bit of which ironically formulated by Boris Johnsons’s dad

    1. Hi, I have long argued that the House of Lords has never had ecological or environmental experts “raised there”; its a real shame as planners, ecologists, marine and fishing experts etc etc, if the Lords had been used in this way it could be an easier route for the sort of expert knowledge that is so needed.

    2. I suggest we need a lot more than “two or three highly qualified ecologists” to get involved in politics. It could be said that’s just what Mark Avery and Chris Packham have been doing over the past few years, and when it came to the crunch their scientific evidence was overwhelmed with lies and obfuscation by Tory MPs with grouse shooting interests during the Westminster debate. I didn’t think anything would surprise me any more, but I was well and truly shocked at the blatant exploitation of parliamentary privilege used by these people to peddle myths and downright untruths. Let’s be honest, they demolished the scientific arguments simply by ignoring or rebutting them in the most dishonest manner imaginable. I look forward to reading further analyses of their evidence dissected by RPUK.

      I know it’s not considered ‘cool’ to criticise our own side, and I certainly wouldn’t complain about the sterling and brave contributions made by Mark Avery, Chris Packham and the albeit anonymous publishers of Raptor Persecution UK, but certain elements of what we like to perceive as the nature conservation movement might like to think long and hard about their contributions, or to be more blunt, lack of contributions. In order to continue the fight to end the obscenity of grouse shooting and the associated criminal activities we need to build a mass movement. Some 123,000 individuals signed the petition, but we all know, for example, that RSPB boasts of a million members. Where were they in this debate?

      We can’t claim that all one million RSPB members agree with banning grouse shooting, but from those that I know personally I’d suggest that at least half of them do feel that way, and surely 99% of them are angry at the persecution of the magnificent hen harriers, red kites, golden eagles and other raptors at the hands of grouse moor gamekeepers? During the debate, the opponents of Mark Avery’s petition quoted, repeatedly, the mantra that RSPB were not opposed to grouse shooting, which is entirely true and played a large part in effectively killing the arguments of the petitioners. Thanks a lot, RSPB! However at no time did we hear anyone explaining that this is the RSPB’s position primarily because their Royal Charter prevents them from criticising ‘legitimate’ field sports. This paradigm represents an obstacle preventing the RSPB from fulfilling any ambition to protect all birds from persecution, as I would contend is expected of them by the vast majority of their million members. Logically they are hindered from making progress until such time as this particular clause is ditched from the Royal Charter, and if necessary I would say they should throw off the entire shackle if needs be.

      Another group which needs to review its internal policy, which I know is close to RPUK, is the Scottish Raptor Study Group. As a founding member myself, I think I’m in a position to criticise from a long term (approximately 40 years) perspective. Having monitored and researched Hen Harrier breeding biology and ecological requirements for the past twenty years, I have been keen during the past three years to produce a paper using the data gathered over many years by my local branch of the Raptor Study Group. However a number of harrier workers within the Group are so obsessed with secrecy that I have been unable to proceed with an analysis because they will not allow their data to be used for any other purpose than reporting to the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme. Throughout the petition build-up I have wanted to correct many of the misperceptions and misunderstandings of harrier ecology propagated by the grouse shooting industry, and demonstrate the linkages between harrier breeding areas and habitat requirements which are very poorly understood by gamekeepers and politicians. Most of my research confirms much of what is already known, but some of the results are at least mildly ground-breaking and useful towards the conservation and protection of the species.

      I wouldn’t like my criticism to be misinterpreted, and have to say that I have tremendous admiration and respect for the volunteers of the Raptor Study Groups, who carry out the essential fieldwork to monitor the breeding performance and persecution of birds of prey in general. I know from first hand experience that the Hen Harrier is a particularly difficult species to work on, requiring long hours in the field, on rough terrain, during the appropriate season. I understand the importance of confidentiality regarding nest sites, and have no intention of giving these away openly into the public domain. However I feel that suppression of data within the RSG itself is counter-productive, and we need to waken up to reality and realise that gamekeepers don’t need us to tell them where the harriers nest on their patch. One other disappointment I will express was the strange lack of contribution towards the grouse shooting debate by fellow harrier workers. I was the only member of my local group to attend Hen Harrier Day for the past two years. That seems to me to conflict with the hyper-secrecy involved in caring for the birds’ welfare.

      These aren’t the only organisations that could have done better to help Mark Avery’s worthwhile campaign. From a Scottish perspective, bird clubs and the conservation movement in general were uncoordinated and lacking in leadership. Hopefully we can all learn from this, and continue the fight until the wider public and politicians alike fully understand the scientific and ethical arguments against continuation of the barbarity and environmental harm associated with grouse shooting and grouse moor management.

  17. Very very sad news it makes me feel sick to read yet again bad news like this I hope the people are caught and pu ished for what they have done shame on them wicked people.

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