Hen harrier Marci ‘disappears’ on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park

RSPB Scotland has issued the following press release this morning:


RSPB Scotland are appealing for information following the sudden disappearance of a young hen harrier in an area notorious for bird of prey persecution.

The female harrier, named Marci, was satellite tagged as a chick in 2018 as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project. She fledged from a nest on National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, and the project had been tracking her movements until the tag stopped transmitting on 22nd April 2019.

[Hen harrier Marci, photo by Shaila Rao]

In August 2018, another young satellite tagged hen harrier named Margot vanished on a grouse moor just a few miles from Marci’s last recorded position.

Like Margot, Marci’s tag was functioning normally until it suddenly stopped transmitting. Marci had been exploring a wide area of north east Scotland with her last recorded position in an area managed intensively for driven grouse shooting near Strathdon, west Aberdeenshire, in the Cairngorms National Park. Marci had been in this area for the previous three weeks with no indication of any technical issues with the tag. Follow-up searches by Police Scotland and RSPB Scotland uncovered no trace of the bird or her tag.

This comes just weeks after Skylar, another hen harrier tagged by the project, disappeared on 7th February 2019. Her last recorded position showed she was close to a South Lanarkshire grouse moor.

The most recent UK hen harrier population survey revealed a worrying decline of 13 percent between 2010 and 2016 to an estimated 545 pairs. While Scotland is the UK stronghold for the population with 460 of these, numbers here were down by 9 percent since 2010, and 29 percent since 2004.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager said:

These sudden disappearances of our satellite tagged hen harriers are depressingly frequent; Marci didn’t even get to make it through her first year before vanishing. The satellite tags are highly reliable so a sudden stop in transmitting gives us immediate cause for concern. If Marci had died of natural causes the tag should have continued to transmit, allowing our team to find her.

A recent published study indicates that 72% of hen harriers are being illegally killed on Britain’s grouse moors, while another study found 31% of tagged golden eagles in Scotland were illegally killed. Something has to change in the way our countryside is looked after, to help protect our iconic birds of prey in Scotland.”

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said:

This is the latest in a string of similar incidents in western Aberdeenshire, and is further strong evidence of the systematic targeting of protected birds of prey on Scotland’s driven grouse moors. In just the last few years, the illegal killing of a buzzard, three goshawks and a hen harrier have been witnessed within a few miles of where Marci vanished. There have also been several confirmed poisonings; the filming of the illegal setting of traps; and the suspicious disappearances of several satellite-tagged eagles and other hen harriers. It is abundantly clear that current legislation is completely failing to protect our birds of prey, and robust regulation of the driven grouse shooting industry is both vital and long overdue.

If anyone can provide information about Marci or any illegal killing of birds of prey please contact Police Scotland on 101, or the RSPB’s confidential raptor crime hotline on 0300 999 0101.


The news that yet another satellite tagged hen harrier has disappeared on a grouse moor in suspicious circumstances is no surprise whatsoever. That another one has vanished inside the Cairngorms National Park is also wholly unsurprising.

Why are we not shocked by the news? Have a look at this, and you’ll understand:

[RPUK map showing raptor persecution incidents in and around the Cairngorms National Park since 2005. The red circle highlights the Strathdon area from where hen harrier Marci is reported to have vanished]

The following list, which we’ve compiled from various data sources but predominantly from the RSPB’s annual persecution reports, documents over 60 illegal raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) since 2002. (The Park wasn’t formally established until 2003 but we’ve included 2002 data as the area had been mapped by then). This list includes just the crimes we know about. How many more went unreported/undiscovered?


Feb: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Mar: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 rabbit baits. Cromdale (No prosecution)


Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie (No prosecution)

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch (Successful prosecution)


May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich (No prosecution)

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)


Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett] (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee (No prosecution)

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul (No prosecution)

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)


May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo (No prosecution)

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)


Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater (No prosecution)

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon


Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee (No prosecution)

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater (No prosecution)


Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn (No prosecution)

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat


Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty (No prosecution)


Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore (No prosecution)


May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld (No prosecution)

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ ‘disappears’. Kingussie


Mar: Satellite-tagged golden eagle #338 ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ ‘disappears’. Ballater


May: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle Blue T ‘disappears’. Ballater

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Athena’ ‘disappears’. Nr Grantown on Spey

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Margot’ ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Sept: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Stelmaria’ ‘disappears’. Ballater


April: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Marci’ ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).

Rampant criminality continues while we carry on waiting for the Scottish Government to act.

UPDATE 31 May 2019: Political silence in response to wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park (here)

25 thoughts on “Hen harrier Marci ‘disappears’ on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park”

  1. How disgusting to learn that cruelty and greed are still prevalent amongst certain landowners and their staff.

  2. I’ve just sent a request to a Scottish organisation that deals in animal welfare issues to see if it would take the first step in organising direct lawful and safe actions that are within the law and safe on the grouse moors with the worst record for these ‘disappearances’ as a form of protest. I think somebody, somewhere has to take the lead and then plenty of people would be happy to get involved. If I thought I was anywhere near having the experience or ability or experience to do so I would have done so myself so pissed off at this, but I’ve offered to help as much as I can. Shooters may not be quite so keen to part with a few thousand quid for a days shooting if they suspected protestors might be there – nothing unlawful, threatening or compromising anyone’s safety given that will be present, just something that will sour the day and take the shine of it. The worse an estate is the greater the chance a couple of van fulls of the ‘anti brigade,’ will turn up. They clearly don’t care and maybe they’re even going out of their way to give us the two fingers. I would certainly be up for taking part. Periodically we debate this, be good if something happened this time.

    1. Les, I’m in Aberdeenshire and I’d be up for some non-violent direct action. I am sick to the back teeth of this.

      1. I’m down in Falkirk. One of the things that would need doing is organising transport to the chosen grouse moor to get people there, or if they have transport getting people to pick up others, find ways of giving drivers petrol money etc. This definitely needs doing, I think even just a significant presence on a shooting day would spoil it for their ‘guests’. I know the organisation I approached had been thinking of organising a protest at a grouse moor last year – I don’t believe it happened but I’m sure they are interested in doing something like this. I’ve seen a mink hunt that was disrupted – lawfully – by hunt sabs and it really pissed off the followers of the otter hounds. Are they ‘just’ killing raptors for the sake of a few more grouse or is it more to do with spite against us lot now? It certainly isn’t intelligent re their own survival. Will see what the organisation says, but I think this new development is necessary, a new weapon and also good to raise public awareness. If an estate knows the more birds of prey ‘disappear’ there the greater the likelihood they’ll be shortlisted for a protest on a shoot day they might not be quite so blasé about wildlife crime. Establishing what can and cannot be done legally would be a good start.

  3. “Rampant criminality continues while we carry on waiting for the Scottish Government to act”.

    And wait we will. The Sc. Gov. will have endless meetings, receptions and presentations ad nauseum. All just a smokescreen to disguise their lack of intention to do anything.

    “On this broken merry go round … and …round … and … round we go,
    Where it stops nobody knows”

    1. Too right, Dougie! Gamekeepers on Scottish grouse moors have decimated the hen harriers, and now their control of that species maintains it at a permanent low, even more so In England. They are arrogant and carefree, ignoring the legal protection afforded to the harriers, and are proud to boast to their peers of their own contribution to the illegal cull. We need to stamp this out for good.

  4. This is a news item from the current Bird Guides, “In February 2016 two birds [Step Whimbrels] were found with a wintering population of 30 Whimbrel in Maputo Bay, Mozambique. One was estimated to have departed on 28 February of that year, while the other was tagged before setting off on 25 March. Unfortunately, the tag fell off the bird in Yemen so the breeding destination of the Steppe Whimbrel found in Maputo is still to be clarified.”

    GPS trackers work in the Yemen but fail in Scotland!

    1. How do they know it failed? Because they could track it. How do we know Scottish trackers fail? Because they can be tracked? How do we know when birds are killed? Because the birds can’t be traced.

  5. How about a mass camp-out and vigil for Marcie over a weekend very soon to draw media attention? At the location where she disappeared?

  6. Roseanne Cunningham turned down the offer of assistance in wildlife crime by SSPCA in favour of appointing half a dozen special constables in the National Park.

    This was a cinical attempt to treat the public like idiots.

    A sticking plaster on an amputated leg!

    When will the scottish government actually do something to slow this slaughter down.

    1. “A sticking plaster on an amputated leg.”

      Precisely correct – the sticking plaster was applied to the severed limb leaving the stump to haemorrhage.

  7. I wonder how the culprits hide the sat tag – burning or dismantling?
    I’m sure that the killer(s) of Marci are known to many so how come they keep getting away with their natural heritage-destroying ways? I guess it’s the “Best not tell coz I have to live and work in this area” mentality that protects the Harrier killers.
    I used to imagine that being a gamekeeper would be a fantastic way of life but what I’ve learnt of their methods of working since I began to follow RPUK has sickened me.
    I’ve actually carried out grouse beating in previous years, then I read Mark Avery’s “Inglorious” and that set me on a path to supporting the quest to rid our fragile moorlands of the killing brigade.
    If the public REALLY knew what went on in the uplands, if they could actually see for themselves the trapped and snared and shot predators suffering their fate then grouse shooting would soon be dumped forever.
    Time to sat tag the gamekeepers whilst we all wait for their certain demise.

    1. Considering the mentality of some land owners and managers, how else would they get rid of a sat tag but by putting two barrels of shot through it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s