Two of the five brood meddled hen harrier chicks have ‘disappeared’

Well, well, well.

As predicted by absolutely everybody with half a brain, some of this year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks have ‘disappeared’ and it’s not even the end of September. Quelle surprise!

However, if you’d just seen the Moorland Association’s headline and first few paragraphs of their press release you’d never know that two of the five have disappeared in suspicious circumstances. This latest media output is perhaps the most disingenuous we’ve ever seen from the Moorland Association, and that’s saying something from an organisation notorious for distorting the facts!

In fact you have to get down as far as paragraph six before you’re told that two have disappeared, although the text doesn’t actually tell you that they’ve disappeared. Here’s the full press release, just for the record:

It’s quite the masterclass in distraction techniques, isn’t it?!

Mark Avery has already pulled apart some of this press release (see here) including comments about the maps not matching the text.

What we’re interested in is this:

  1. When did these two birds disappear? No dates are provided in the press release.
  2. In which county or counties did these two birds disappear? There is no geographic location provided in the press release. [See update at foot of blog]
  3. On what type of habitat did the last known fix come from for each tag? Was it a grouse moor in one or both cases?
  4. Were the last two locations on land owned/managed by Moorland Association members?
  5. What sort of tags were the two birds carrying and what were the details of each tag’s transmission cycle? (i.e. how many data transfer cycles have now passed without data being transmitted)?
  6. Who is monitoring the tag data?
  7. Have the police been informed? If so, who informed them? Was it the Moorland Association or was it somebody else?
  8. Are these two disappearances the subject of a live police investigation? [See update at foot of blog]
  9. Have the police been given access to the tag data?
  10. Have any police searches been carried out? If yes, were these searches undertaken without giving the landowner prior notification?
  11. Why hasn’t Natural England made a statement?
  12. What is Natural England’s policy for declaring the brood meddling trial a failure? i.e. How many satellite tagged brood meddled chicks have to ‘disappear’ before Natural England makes that declaration? One? Two? Three? Four? Five? This question was actually put to Natural England during a recent meeting between Wild Justice & Natural England’s interim CEO and one of its Directors. Natural England said they didn’t know but would find out. So far they haven’t come back with an answer.
  13. When will DEFRA acknowledge that the grouse shooting industry is completely out of control and unable to self-regulate?
  14. And when will DEFRA do something about it?

For those who might have missed it, here’s what the Government-commissioned science says about satellite-tagged hen harriers in northern England – 72% of those tagged so far [by Natural England] have been done in on grouse moors (see here). We await the results of the RSPB’s five-year tagging data with interest.

And for those who might have missed it, here’s the Moorland Association practically begging its members not to kill any hen harriers this year (see here).

UPDATE midnight:

Police Supt Nick Lyall has tweeted the following this evening:

UPDATE 1 October 2019: Moorland Association’s brood meddling press release amounts to abuse of process (here)

UPDATE 3 October 2019: When will Natural England pull the plug on hen harrier brood meddling? (here)

UPDATE 4 October 2019: Brood meddled hen harrier chick vanished from grouse moor on Bowes Estate, County Durham (here)

UPDATE 8 October 2019: 2nd brood meddled hen harrier chick vanished from grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

UPDATE 15 October 2019: 3rd brood meddled hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances (here)

20 thoughts on “Two of the five brood meddled hen harrier chicks have ‘disappeared’”

  1. This is a comment I wrote for Mark Avery’s blog on this same subject.

    “So a widely-roaming Hen Harrier managed to fly from Hampshire to Cumbria, seemingly without its tag even once being detected ‘en route’, it appears.

    Pull the other one, Moorland Association. That’s what a satellite tag did, removed from one of the harriers your members shot or trapped, ably assisted by a late-model Range Rover. After which it was given to one of RR owner’s chums to drop off from his yacht while it was out cruising the Irish coast.”

      1. It’s meant as a quite plausible scenario, given what happened to one rather famous Golden Eagle last year. Nothing is being “alleged”.

  2. So far, so predictable, although I was wondering if MA members would be watching live transmissions to assist with making sure that these 5 birds survive on grouse moors. That doesn’t seem to have happened. Let’s remind ourselves that it is still September, and 40% have vanished no trace. I think we need another letter from the partners if any are to reach Xmas, never mind adding to the breeding stock.

  3. I find the use of google live scary.
    All you need to share the live data is the code for each bird and anyone can follow the birds movements.
    I used to follow the data of many tracked birds, some in Asia and the RSPB used to allow us to watch certain raptors (maybe they still do) but they were in control of how recent the updates were made to the public.
    I sincerely hope this data is being handled by honest scientists but i have grave doubts about how this data could be ‘misused’ (ahem!).

    1. The data will show roosting locations. That data doesn’t have to be live,or up to date, to be of use to those who wish to harm the species.

      1. Yes. I am seriously worried about this.
        They have put lunatics in charge of the madhouse.
        Bad analogy as that might work (R.D. Laing). Convicts in charge of the prison works better.

      2. An excellent point and well made. The identification and divulging of hitherto unknown roost locations could have a serious, negative, knock-on effect for many years to come. I sincerely hope that it is trusted NE staff who are undertaking the monitoring and that they are not sharing the data with any other group or individuals, apart from the Police.

  4. There is something decidedly disturbing about the Moorland Association’s and the GWCT’s “interest” in the hen harrier. All rather sinister in my view. This feigned interest just doesn’t wash – who do they think they’re fooling?

    1. Any organization that claims that the successful nests in England this year were ‘large majority on grouse moors’ without revealing that the one which was brood-persecuted was, as as far as i am aware, the only one which was on a driven grouse shooting estate. All those in Bowland were on United Utilities land leased for grouse shooting.

      Any one who tries to play down the criminal activity on driven grouse moor estates, should not be allowed anywhere near any committees aiming to stop raptor persecution (PAWS), let alone the actual brood persecution itself and especially the satellite tagged data.
      Fox in charge of the hen coop.

  5. I think MA have funded the tags and they appear to have full access to the tracking data which is, hopefully, being monitored by Natural England in the first instance. As mentioned above it is extremely concerning that roosting sites may become apparent to those with full access to the tracking data.
    The twitter post by Supt. Lyall that I saw, seemed to me, to display a little irritation that MA had made this press release.

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