Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Manu’ disappears in North Pennines

RSPB press release:


Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following the disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier near Carlisle.

The harrier, named Manu, was one of a nest of two chicks monitored and protected by the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership and tagged as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project in July this year.

Manu’s tag had been functioning perfectly until it suddenly stopped on the morning of 18 October 2017. Data from Manu’s tag indicated he had been in the same location near Denton Fell, on the Cumbria/Northumberland border, for around three weeks. The last signal was sent from Blenkinsopp Common at 0958hrs and he has not been seen or heard of since.

A search was conducted by RSPB Investigations staff but no tag or body was found. Northumbria Police were informed and have made enquiries but with no leads forthcoming.

Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest raptors with only three successful nests recorded in England in 2017.

Tim Jones, RSPB Assistant Investigations Officer said: “Hen harriers are facing an uncertain future: these spectacular birds should be flourishing in places like Cumbria and Northumberland but we are down to just a handful of pairs. So it’s alarming when yet another bird unaccountably vanishes like this.”

Andrew Miller, Head of Programmes and Conservation at Northumberland National Park, and Chair of the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership, said: “With so few hen harriers breeding in England the loss of even a single bird is devastating. The Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership, along with many other organisations and individuals across the UK, is putting considerable effort into helping this struggling species recover.”

Don Churchill, Wildlife Co-ordinator & Planning Officer, Northumbria Police, said: “We are very concerned at the disappearance of one of these iconic birds of prey. Hen harriers are fully protected by law and raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. We urge you to come forward if you have any information about the disappearance of this bird.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Northumbria Police on 101 or contact them via their website HERE. All calls are anonymous.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.


Here is a map we’ve created showing the position of Manu’s last known position (as identified from his satellite tag). This location is just outside two protected areas: Northumberland National Park and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

This general area is a well known raptor persecution hotspot, which isn’t a surprise given how much of it is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting. Last December hen harrier Bonny ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor just a few miles south of Blenkinsopp Common (Manu’s last known location), near to the RSPB’s Geltsdale Reserve from where Bonny had fledged.

Over the years, there have been five confirmed hen harrier shootings in this area (the killing of one of these was witnessed by RSPB investigators – see pages 38-40 in Mark Avery’s book Inglorious for a detailed description), there have been at least four attempted shootings of hen harriers, and another hen harrier was found poisoned. In addition, there have been poisoned ravens, poisoned buzzards and some shot peregrines.

Some of these crimes happened on the RSPB Geltsdale Reserve (safe to assume this wasn’t the handiwork of the RSPB wardens) and some of the crimes happened on nearby grouse moors.

We don’t know what’s happened to both Bonny or Manu, and if each case is taken in isolation it might be reasonable to conclude a failed satellite tag. These satellite tags are not perfect and do sometimes fail (e.g. see here), although overall they have a very high 94% reliability rate (see here). So it might just be possible that Bonny and Manu’s tags have suffered a technical malfunction, within that expected 6% failure rate, and that’s the story we’ll be hearing from the grouse-shooting industry over the coming days as they try to suppress any notion of criminal activity. However, what the criminal apologists will fail to mention is that when a tag suffers a ‘natural’ technical malfunction, there is typically a very clear indication several days prior to failure, from the tag’s engineering data, that a technical malfunction is imminent. What we’re seeing from the majority of these ‘missing’ sat tagged hen harriers (and golden eagles) is an abrupt, unexpected failure, often mid-way through a transmission cycle, which points to highly suspicious circumstances.

When you consider the disappearance of Bonny and Manu alongside all the other satellite-tagged hen harriers that have ‘disappeared’ without trace, many of them on or close to driven grouse moors, (at least 45 missing hen harriers since sat tagging began in 2007), and the fact that hen harriers haven’t bred on any English grouse moors for a number of years, then the picture becomes sinisterly clear. Add in the number of missing satellite-tagged golden eagles that have disappeared on or close to driven grouse moors in Scotland (41 of 131 tagged eagles) and the evidence of illegal persecution becomes compelling.

It’s no wonder the grouse-shooting industry objects so strongly to the satellite-tagging of raptors, and wants to control the public release of the data these tags are producing. The shooting industry can see what everybody else can see – they might be better at hiding the corpses these days but there’s absolutely nothing they can do to hide the results of the satellite tag data.

Well done to Northumbria Police and the RSPB for putting out a detailed press release, and especially for including the details of Manu’s last known location. We saw this happen two days ago when North Yorkshire Police revealed the last known location of hen harrier John, another satellite tagged harrier that has gone ‘missing’ on a grouse moor, this time in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing this NEW e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. The Westminster Government continues to turn a blind eye to this carnage and continued public pressure is required to show them that we’re on to them and we’re not going away until they take appropriate action.

67 thoughts on “Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Manu’ disappears in North Pennines”

  1. “It’s no wonder the grouse-shooting industry objects so strongly to the satellite-tagging of raptors, and wants to control the public release of the data these tags are producing”.
    It seems that their wishes are the same as Natural England.
    Strange, that.

    1. Firstly you must listen and want to be educated , these fkrs think its US that need educated. The candle lit vigil days are long gone . Pro active, direct action is the only way forward now I am afraid or you can wave goodbye to the HH as a breeding bird in England and a very rare bird elsewhere. Get angry!

  2. The Grouse shooting fraternity have demonstrated quite clearly that they have no intention of sticking to the law. Is it now time for conservationists to contemplate doing the same? Civil dis-obedience from HS seems to produce the desired results, with both fox and stag hunting having a tough time to keep operating.

  3. This is apaulling that such ignorance and lack of morals still continues These birds are protected for good reason and money over nature should NEVER be accepted to the detriment and downfall of a species

  4. This is apaulling that such ignorance and lack of morals still continues These birds are protected for good reason and money over nature should NEVER be accepted to the detriment and downfall of a species

  5. Tragic – these beautiful birds should be treasured and more importantly still around for future generations.

  6. Oh no not again 😩 ! This news is so upsetting, and I fear that this poor ,beautiful bird has been blasted out of the sky, as has happened before to others……

  7. The sad irony is that these deaths at the hands of keepers are the best argument to stop driven grouse shooting.
    The more documented deaths of the species of raptors that they target, the more our argument is strengthened & the more the public is educated about the criminality of the industry.
    I look forward to further updates as the raptors continue to be killed.
    Not forgetting of course that vast numbers of raptors are killed without any trace of the crime – not even a satellite tag that stops transmitting.
    The wider public needs to be reminded that the tagged birds are a tiny % of those that are killed.

    Keep up the pressure !

    1. Let alone their plight, the wider public needs to know what a hen harrier is! They won’t care if they don’t know.

  8. “Some of these crimes happened on the RSPB Geltsdale Reserve (safe to assume this wasn’t the handiwork of the RSPB wardens)”

    I’d certainly hope not, but the way the pro-raptor shooting side has been so closely following the old Fifth Column playbook on infiltration these last couple of years, I’m no longer as certain of that as I’d want to be. I’m sure that having already infiltrated the boards of many former conservation groups and turned them pro-bloodsports, that getting some of their armed thugs into the rank and file must be on their agenda.

    1. I had a bizarre experience earlier this year when I joined a local conservation group. After the practical task, building barn owl and kestrel nest boxes, was finished another member ‘kindly’ offered to drive me home. We’d never met before and knew nothing about each other – he certainly wouldn’t know I have strong opinions on illegal raptor persecution and the way they are maligned in certain quarters. I had barely plonked my arse in the passenger seat and shut the door, when without any prompting what so ever he turned and told me ‘you know grouse moors are really good for waders’ at which point the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Then ‘there are RSPB reserves with only 5% of the waders that grouse moors have’. He wasn’t for one minute justifying grouse shooting of course, no not at all, but well ‘you need balance’. I kept my mouth shut all the time as he predictably went to mention a researcher studying the decline in kestrel numbers and it seemed it was down to buzzards, the researcher, I was told, had actually seen a buzzard pluck a kestrel out of mid air as it was hovering! Then more anti RSPB guff – the way they are supposedly making a mess of the feral goat situation at Inversnaid, ‘farmers on Orkney hate them because the RSPB are telling them what to do’. etc, etc, etc. went on right until he dropped me off.

      The only reasonable explanation I can come up for this surreal lecture, it wouldn’t have been stranger if he’d spontaneously started talking about ground sloths, was that he was trying to do a PR job for the grouse shooters. His spiel was already familiar from what I’ve seen on various pro shooting/anti conservation fb pages and sites, standard of what they try to get the general public to swallow. I reported the incident to a raptor study group member outwith the group as I felt I had to mention it to someone. The driver now knows I don’t like grouse moors so I’m not expecting a repetition of that, but I’m even less skeptical about claims of the lengths the opposition will go to now. If there’s a perfectly innocent explanation for that conversation I would genuinely love to hear it, it was very unsettling and a tad creepy.

        1. I met one of these chaps raising funds for and campaigning for new members for a well known Scottish conservation organisation. He took a similar line to the one Les describes. I maintained my cool and put across the other side before sending a letter of complaint to the organisation detailing what had happened and pointing out the errors and omissions in the gentleman’s spiel. Funnily enough he also told me he was an ex policeman. I wonder how many unwary and uniformed members of the public he encountered during the time he was supposedly working for this organisation (of which I am a member). I received a reply acknowledging my complaint and telling me that it was being looked into but no more. This is the grassroots type of operation that is being conducted to support the ramblings of Tim (Kim) Baynes and his ilk.

      1. What a disturbing tale. Was he a mole from the nasty brigade? As you’ll know, the RSPB triumphs in Orkney thanks to the late Eric Meek and his successors. I’m sure the farmers have stopped bumping their gums with wildlife tourism pulling the cash in. And it’s a great place to see our magnificent hen harriers of course.

        1. I’m keeping my eye on him. This new group happens to have a strong focus on raptors – not why I’m in it, my old group had to fold 3 years ago and it happened to be the most convenient one to get involved in. Occasionally talk of raptor persecution crops up, but pretty rare to be honest. He’s never said anything as far as I recall. Yeah this one about ‘they tell the farmers what to do’ is an old chestnut the usual malign twisting of what the RSPB actually does which is provide advice (and ask for it). If any farmers are actually complaining about the RSPB why is it them that must be at fault never the farmer?

      2. Les. I reckon you have to give a certain amount of leeway for birders etc. just being eccentric/rebellious or contrarian whatever you want to call it. A few years ago i was out with a Golden Eagle ringer. He didn’t think grouse moors were a problem for Hen harriers. In the Lake District he seemed to blame all problems on badgers or some such nonsense. He didn’t think the old Duke of Westminster could be responsible for the Hen Harriers ‘disappearing’ in the Forest of Bowland because he owned a fantastic nature reserve in Africa! I was too flabbergasted to argue.

  9. Leave our wildlife alone, you want to kill something, why don’t you chase each other and bloody well practice your shooting, you people are with out doubt the lowest form of life!!

  10. Organised walks on certain moors at certain times. All perfectly legal and peaceful, but just a bit awkward if we turn up on a shooting day. Not going to be difficult to get a car full. Time to get more proactive.

  11. The area in question is not a Red Grouse moor and it should have been made clear in the article. It will have keepers crossing the ground and it is suspected that a certain estate was responsible.

    [Ed: John, re-read the article. The RSPB’s press release and our blog does not suggest anywhere that Blenkinsopp Common is a driven grouse moor]

    1. Yes they will be caught and they will get off with a technicality like they always do because they are backed by the powers that be. Until someone grows some balls and stands up to them and does the RIGHT thing Harriers will continue to die

  12. Despite continuing and repeated publicity of these probable offences, it is clear that they’re going to continue for as long as the perpetrators have the opportunity and think they can get away with it. This was clearly demonstrated in the North Yorkshire Marsh Harrier attempted shooting case caught on video earlier this year – if you are new to this blog,see here:
    The perpetrators of these offences, whether identified or not, must be total dunderheads if they can’t see that each of these deaths represents another nail in the coffin of driven grouse shooting. You would think that those organisations which represent their employers would be getting this message out loud and clear. The fact that it keeps happening would appear to suggest that this so-called ‘sport’ is rotten all the way up to the top. It is a total disgrace that the Government isn’t getting a grip on the matter.

  13. We all know it is the gamekeepers protecting their precious grouse so the toffs can go and shoot them.They are a disgrace to their profession ang to the welfare of the countryside

  14. Makes me feel sick to see yet another beautiful bird persecuted, they take away the pleasure of many for selfish pursuit’s that that should be stopped immediately, Have those in there privileged positions who have the ability to make the changes required have no conscience, You should have as it makes you just as GUILTY

  15. I can tell you how to protect them and increase their numbers. Stop fucking tagging them! Your interference is killing more than nature would. I doubt the grouse moors have anything to do with it, just your assumptions and giving false info to the antis to rile them up.
    Grouse moors do way more for many bird species than any RSPB reserve ever would.

    1. What bollocks. Go and read the research Badger and then comment; without sounding like a buffoon. The few species that ‘happen’ to do well on a grouse moor only do so by circumstance; not by intention. If these species are grouse they would be as absent as the hen harrier – yes, the hen harrier – superbly evolved to thrive on a grouse moor but it isn’t – thanks to the bell ends in tweed!

    2. I really don’t know where to start ,you really should stop ingesting all those lead fragments in your diet its making to turn logic on its head . If you don’t like the tags stop breaking the law and killing protected species that is why we have to tag them, to try and catch you murdering bastards at it. Grouse moors are a wilderness for any wildlife except grouse (there is a clue in the name ), this nonsense that they are good for waders etc is utter crap and to suggest that more wildlife is evident on grouse moors than on a RSPB reserve , and that Grouse moors have nothing to do with HH deaths , well you really shouldn’t write this stuff after too many Pimms.

  16. With commendable balance you acknowledge that:
    “These satellite tags are not perfect and do sometimes fail (e.g. see here), although overall they have a very high 94% reliability rate (see here)”
    This is not transmitter failure. From 245 deployments of Satellite tags to monitor migratory #bustard mortality, I can say with certainty, sudden stop is mortality, unit failure occurs after some years and is preceded by low battery and intermittent data:

  17. Apologist for the GWCT & Natural England, Ruth Kerr, attached this comment to a post on the recent suspicious disappearance of two Hen Harriers in the north of England.

    “Looking at facts and evidence of this year’s report on Natural England’s (NE) research into hen harrier dispersal, rather than assumption and supposition, most of the 158 hen harriers tagged 2002 – 2017 that are known to be dead have died from natural causes (inc predation and emaciation). 133 are listed as ‘missing’, but then when you read the criteria for missing, that’s to be expected. The missing category includes birds that simply left the study area; NE say this is not surprising given the small study area, the mobility of hen harriers, and the fact that most of birds regarded as missing have radio tags and not satellite tags. The 133 missing birds also includes tagged birds that were recorded after the battery ran out or transmissions had stopped (they only transmit for 10 hours; they need 48 to recharge). And the 133 missing birds includes satellite tagged birds that have died in a way that left the transmitter hard to locate and recover; when a bird dies there is only a small chance the death happens while the transmitter is transmitting with enough charge to transmit coordinates and a signal to enable recovery of the body. If a bird dies when the transmitter is recharging it could travel a long way since it last transmitted coordinates. If it dies in long vegetation, or is on its back, it’s unlikely to transmit. Bearing all that information that the people who are carrying out the research have published in mind, and that some birds reappear after being presumed dead because their transmitters had failed and ceased transmitting, it’s clear that not all ‘missing’ birds are dead let alone killed illegally. Knowing this is very, very good for the future of keeping an open mind when looking at how to support our uplands and their communities.”

    1. Strange that Ms Kerr doesn’t mention poison used by gamekeepers. The CRRU and various shooting organisations set up training courses after the HSE issued tighter controls in 2015. According to BASC anticoagulents are found in “key wildlife species including red kites, tawny owls, kestrels, stoats, weasels, polecats, foxes, badgers and even hedgehogs”. Even though BASC acknowledges the problem created by gamekeepers and others do they instruct their members to stop using these products? Of course they don’t!

      Rat Control and Game Management

      “2. Anticoagulants and wildlife

      It has been known for some time that a side-effect of the use of anticoagulant rodenticides in the countryside is that some barn owls carry rodenticide residues in their bodies. An annual record of this contamination is kept by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) through the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) (

      For the last few years it was thought that the percentage of barn owls exposed to anticoagulants had reached a peak at about 40%, however a recent switch to more sensitive methods of residue analysis (mass spectrometry) by the CEH chemists has shown that the percentage of exposed barn owls is actually closer to 90%.

      It is important to note that only about 10% of the birds examined contained potentially lethal quantities of the poisons, and most had actually died from other causes, such as collisions with road traffic and starvation. We are unaware whether there are sub-lethal effects of low-level contamination by pesticides, but the fact that the owls are contaminated shows that, at some time in their lives, they have taken rodents that had eaten rat bait.

      It is not only barn owls that are affected.

      Anticoagulants are found in a wide variety of our key wildlife species including red kites, tawny owls, kestrels, stoats, weasels, polecats, foxes, badgers and even hedgehogs. This makes anticoagulants one of the most widely distributed contaminants of UK wildlife.

      Does this matter if the levels of these residues are generally very low? The answer of course is “yes”.
      That is because, we do not know if these low-level residues are having any adverse effects. But they may have and the fact that they are there is a matter of concern for rodenticide manufacturers, for government departments which regulate rodenticide use in the UK, for conservationists and for everyone who has an interest in the health of UK’s wildlife and countryside. Gamekeepers certainly fall into that category.
      How is this contamination happening? A breakthrough in our understanding of this came when it was found that almost 70% of kestrels carry rodenticide residues. At first this was a puzzle because we know that kestrels rarely eat Norway rats and house mice, the rodents targeted during rodenticide treatments. Kestrels feed almost exclusively on voles and wood mice, so it must be through these, non-target rodents, that most are being contaminated. The same is almost certainly true of barn owls, tawny owls and several of the other species involved.

      So we now know that some of our wildlife is becoming contaminated with rodenticides when these chemicals are applied where wild small mammals, such as mice and voles, live side-by-side with the target rodents.”

  18. What a load a pish always blame the shooting community could be lots of things that could have happined am no expert but annoys me why our sportsmen and women always get blamed

    1. Cameron – your very own pro game keeping / shooting organisations acknowledge the scale of wildlife killing/injuring by gamekeepers! See above reply to ptarmigan.

  19. These rare birds need protecting. It is vital we do all we can to stop their persecution. We are the only voice they have. Signing and sharing these petitions is so important. …

  20. what has any of this got to do with shooting and management of grouse moor ?
    Are you really this retarded ?
    Deal with the fact, that this obtrusive and cruel technology, is flawed and often fails.

    1. Your aggressive style does nothing to advance any reasonable point of view you may have. The technology is necessary, sadly, because many with access to firearms choose to use them to kill harriers. Without tracking devices, the scale of those missing would be unknown. Much of this illegal activity does take place on grouse moors, as I am sure you know already.

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