In conversation with Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland

Jimmi Hill of charity Raptor Aid has recorded a series of fascinating interviews with various raptor experts during the lockdown period, all of them archived and available to watch for free (find Raptor Aid on Facebook and click on ‘videos’ in the left hand column).

One of the early ones was with Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland. If you want a well-informed yet understated masterclass on the ins and outs of raptor persecution in Scotland, you should really watch this.

New SLE Chairman Mark Tennant continues anti-predator rhetoric

It’s all change at Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the landowners’ lobby group, with Dumfriesshire Dave (otherwise known as Lord David Johnstone) leaving and Mark Tennant replacing him as Chairman.

We’ve blogged a little about this change of leadership before (see here) as we were particularly interested in Mr Tennant’s association with Innes Estate in Morayshire where a gamekeeper was convicted for poison and firearms offences back in 2007 (and he was still listed as an estate employee three years later). We were curious to find out what Mr Tennant’s attitude would be now, 13 years later, to bird of prey protection and whether he’d be able to steer SLE away from the constant denials and distortions about ongoing raptor persecution that had characterised his predecessor’s term in office, and the one before that (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

We didn’t have to wait too long.

Yesterday Mr Tennant had a letter published in the Scottish Farmer (here). It’s reproduced here as follows:

Dear Sir,

In the last few months, as the perpetual noise of traffic and of that long line of planes landing at nearby airports has dimmed, those of us living in the cities have heard, some for the first time, the wonderful noise of songbirds. It is a sound that country dwellers take for granted. But in the cities, it has lit up our spring.

Yet we would not be hearing these sounds were it not for the campaigning of organisations like SongBird Survival to ensure these lovely birds’ preservation. Colin Strang Steel, a trustee of SongBird Survival, has written specifically about lapwings on his own farm and the effect of predation on waders by crows, gulls and badgers, the latter species having proliferated from 50,000 in the UK in 1980 to over 500,000 today. If we do not keep predator numbers within sustainable levels, our songbirds will slowly die out.

Nature is the world’s greatest gift, but it also provides our wildlife’s food chain, at whose head sits the human race. In that role we have a duty to ensure that, at no level, predation becomes so excessive that it threatens the smaller species. That is not to condone in any way the persecution of protected birds. To do so is both unacceptable and a crime. After all, who, with any appreciation of beauty, whether gamekeeper or landowner, does not marvel at the sight of the great wings of a hen harrier or hawk or kite catching the thermals as it floats majestically over the moors?

‘Protected status’ was originally accorded to animals and birds which were considered at risk, yet many currently enjoying this status, are no longer at risk. As with other predators we must ensure that they do not proliferate in a way that threatens the lapwings, and curlew chicks on which they feed, as other species such as foxes and crows already do.

If we are to allow our song birds to continue to thrive, we have to do two things: first control the species which are growing at such a rate that they threaten the songbirds’ existence – restrictions on predator control to the extent that it becomes unviable, poses a serious threat to the very species that we all want to protect – and, secondly, continue to increase the amount of natural habitat, which can foster their growth. I hope that this could be one of the outcomes of a future farming support system which rewards biodiversity and the delivery of public goods.

Land managers and farmers are the key to bringing this about. Many are members of Scottish Land and Estates and I would urge them to do everything they can to support SongBird Survival and to ‘Save Our Songbirds’. I also hope the RSPB and other like-minded organisations will join us in this task.

Yours sincerely

Mark Tennant

Chairman, Scottish Land and Estates


For those who don’t know who Songbird Survival is (you lucky, lucky people), without whose campaigning there’d be no songbirds, apparently, take a look at the various entries on Mark Avery’s blog (listed here) for a flavour. It’s not difficult to see from where Mr Tennant has ‘learned’ his (mis)’understanding’ about predator/prey relationships.

Still, waxing lyrical about ‘the sight of the great wings of a hen harrier or hawk or kite catching the thermals as it floats majestically over the moors’ was utterly convincing, right?

Perhaps it’d be more convincing if SLE explained why Leadhills Estate is still a member of SLE and why Lord Hopetoun (Leadhills Estate) is still Chair of SLE’s Moorland Group. These are questions we’ve been asking for some time, e.g. here, and particularly since SNH imposed a three year General Licence restriction on Leadhills Estate in November 2019 following what it described as ‘clear evidence from Police Scotland that wildlife crimes had been committed on this estate’ (see herehere, and here).

Oh, and we’re also still waiting to hear from SLE about whether the Longformacus Estate was a member of SLE last year when gamekeeper Alan Wilson was convicted for a string of utterly depraved wildlife crimes (here) and if so, has SLE since expelled this estate from its membership?

These seem perfectly legitimate questions to ask of an organisation that has a seat on the PAW Scotland Raptor Group and has enjoyed much publicity of its declared ‘zero tolerance of raptor persecution’ (claimed as recently as four days ago (here) in response to the news that two more satellite-tagged hen harriers had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park, here).

To be honest, the other PAW Scotland Raptor Group members should also be pushing hard for answers to these questions. Perhaps they already are? If so, they need to start publishing the responses or reporting the silence.

In conversation with Chris Packham

For those who missed them, here are links to a couple of candid interviews with Chris Packham, talking raptors, TV work, campaigning, Wild Justice, OneKind, mountain hares, politics, banning driven grouse shooting, the obscenity of releasing ~50 million pheasants per annum etc.

These videos are both archived on Facebook and you don’t need a Facebook account to view them – simply click on the links.

This one was recorded on Friday 26 June. It’s an interview with Jimmi Hill of Raptor Aid:

This one was recorded on Saturday 27 June 2020 for OneKind:

BASC’s ‘expertise’ not very convincing

You know, if you’re going to profess to love a bird of prey, it helps your credibility if you’re first able to identify it. Otherwise it just looks like you’re pretending.

Who’s going to break the news to BASC?

It also helps, if you’re going to pretend to be interested in the conservation of a bird of prey, that you recognise the threat to that species includes the intensification of grouse moor management techniques, as evidenced by the 30 years’ worth of data analysed in these recent peer-reviewed scientific publications (here, here) as opposed to the non-scientific drivel about the lack of General Licences spouted by your gamekeeper mates (here), some of whom are believed to be currently under investigation for the alleged persecution of birds of prey on their grouse moors (see here).

It also helps if you understand that ‘the majority of nesting merlins in the UK’ are not reliant on ‘being looked after’ (ahem) by gamekeepers in Yorkshire & Derbyshire – merlins do particularly well in other areas and especially on the peatlands of the Western Isles, where, shock horror, there’s no intensively managed driven grouse moors and no intensive predator control. Imagine that!

Nice try, BASC, but you’re going to have to do much better than this if you want to be taken seriously.

Ps. Free tip – this isn’t a merlin.

UPDATE 4 September 2020: Does BASC know its arse from its elbow? (here)

More White-tailed eagles to be released in Ireland to bolster reintroduction project

Press release from National Parks & Wildlife Service, Ireland (26 June 2020)

The eagles have landed in latest phase of reintroduction of the species in Ireland

A group of young White-tailed Eagles have arrived in the south west, landing today at Kerry Airport from Norway.

The White-tailed Eagles are being released again in Munster by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) as part of a Phase Two project to bolster the small existing breeding population in Ireland.

The new release phase aims to build on the successful re-establishment of this once extinct species over a three-year period (2020-2022) by releasing young eagles at three sites, including Lough Derg, the lower Shannon estuary and Killarney National Park.

The mission involved moving the young eagles – who had been monitored for a number of months – from Norway. They were taken to a waiting chartered flight at Trondheim Airport, for transport to Kerry Airport on a journey of four hours 20 minutes, and arrived this afternoon.

[Eamon Meskell, left holding the crate, Regional Manager, NPWS, and Philip Buckley Divisional Manager, Southern Region, NPWS, watched on by Allan Mee, centre, White Tailed Eagle Project and right of picture Howard Jones, Kerry Airport. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan]

Minister of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, TD, welcomed the new arrivals: “This latest operation, under Phase Two of the conservation project, was an incredible team effort between the wildlife personnel both here and in Norway.

Thanks to their logistical work, bringing the latest influx of White-tailed Eagles to these shores, the future is positive for the eagle, which had been extinct in Ireland for over a century. The latest conservation intervention cements the work already done in bringing these graceful birds back to our skies, and I would like to express my appreciation for all involved in lending this hand to nature.”

In 2020 it is planned to release 10 young eagles collected this summer in Norway split between the three Irish sites. These birds from this second release phase will provide an additional boost to the small Irish breeding population when they reach maturity.

Previously, 100 young White-tailed Eagles were released in Killarney National Park in County Kerry between 2007 and 2011. Birds from these releases subsequently dispersed widely throughout Ireland with first breeding in 2012 on Lough Derg, County Clare. Since then a small breeding population of eight to ten pairs have successfully fledged 26 chicks with an additional six chicks likely to fledged into the wild in Munster in the next few weeks.

Some Irish-bred eagles are now reaching maturity and starting to breed in the wild. However, a scientific review of the reintroduction project indicated the small population is still vulnerable to mortality factors such as illegal poisoning and the breeding population was negatively impacted by Avian Influenza in 2018 and storm Hannah in 2019. Thus it was decided to carry out this supplementary release to bolster the existing population.

Young eagles were collected under licence in June 2020 by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and co-workers. Birds will be held at the sites in Munster before release in early to mid-August. They will be tagged before release to allow the project to monitor their progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population.

An important aspect of any such releases is cooperation with the farming communities in the release areas and where birds settle to breed. During the first phase of the release project, managed by the NPWS and the Golden Eagle Trust, a good relationship was established in the release and breeding areas with the farming community, so much so that farmers helped monitor birds and nests at some sites. The Phase Two release hopes to build on this relationship into the future to ensure that farming and eagles continue to coexist to their mutual benefit.

As well as bringing biodiversity and ecosystem benefits,  restoring this flagship species can deliver potential economic benefits. The re-establishment of breeding White-tailed Eagles at sites like Lough Derg and Killarney has proven hugely popular with local residents.

The positive economic benefits of ecotourism was experienced in Mountshannon, County Clare, when the first breeding pair nested within sight of the village in 2012, attracting thousands of visitors over the next few years. In 2020, a year when physical tourism has been non-existent due to the Covid-19 restrictions, live streaming of a White-tailed Eagle nest in Glengarriff, County Cork, has proven to be a huge virtual nature attraction, even making the recent BBC list of top 20 virtual nature attractions in the world. This programme and further reintroduction is a critical project in terms of Ireland’s biodiversity – reintroducing an iconic wild species that was exterminated by man – and will contribute significantly to the economic, tourism and local communities and indeed to human wellbeing. We are particularly grateful to the Norwegian authorities and colleagues for their generous cooperation.

The Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme is a long-term initiative to re-establish a population of this extinct species in the Republic of Ireland managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and in collaboration with others, including in particular the Golden Eagle Trust.

Releases of birds (Phase One) saw 100 young eagles released over five years (2007-2011) in Killarney National Park, County Kerry. As Sea Eagles breed at about five years old it was expected that the first Irish nesting attempts would be in 2012/2013. In 2012 the first nesting attempt occurred in County Clare, the first breeding in the wild in over 100 years. In 2013, the first wild-bred chicks fledged successfully from a nest in County Clare. To date, 26 chicks have fledged from nests in Kerry, Cork, Clare and Galway with an additional six chicks anticipated to fledge from nests in Kerry, Cork and Tipperary in July 2020.

A live streaming nest camera was set up in 2020 at a nest in Glengarriff, County Cork, by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in collaboration with the Office of Public Works (OPW). This is available for viewing at:


Cairngorms National Park Authority statement on hen harrier persecution

Hen harrier persecution is a National Wildlife Crime Priority and the population in Scotland has suffered a 27% decline in the last 12 years. Losing over a quarter of the population in such a short period is a significant conservation concern and as such, we expect a strong response from the authorities whenever these crimes are exposed.

Earlier this month we learned that two satellite-tagged hen harriers (Wildland hen harrier 1 and Wildland hen harrier 2) had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on two grouse moors in September 2019, one within the Cairngorms National Park and one right on the Park boundary (see here). We don’t recall seeing any statement from the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Yesterday we learned that two more satellite-tagged hen harriers, Hoolie and Marlin, had both ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances from grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park in April 2020 (see here). We also learned that they both vanished on exactly the same grouse moors from where two other satellite-tagged hen harriers had also disappeared without trace (Hen harrier ‘Lad‘ in 2015 and Hen harrier Marci in 2019).

It’s bad enough that these birds continue to be persecuted even though they’ve had legal protection in the UK for 76 years, but when this keeps happening inside a so-called National Park and nobody is ever held to account, you have to wonder, in terms of species conservation, what’s the point of National Park status?

We asked Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, for a statement about these latest two suspicious disappearances and this is what he provided this afternoon:

It’s a strong statement in as much as the CNPA CEO recognises and fully accepts that these wildlife crimes continue in some areas of the National Park, which is in stark contrast to statements made by the grouse shooting industry reps today (more on this later) but it doesn’t offer a solution. It’s more of an exasperated shrug of the shoulders and a heavy reliance on the Scottish Government to respond well to the Werritty Review.

Is that it, then? Is the CNPA so impotent it can do nothing more than bemoan the persistent criminality within its boundary? This has been going on 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? How many more will we have to read about before the criminals are held to account?



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

April: Four geese poisoned and Carbofuran bait found on an estate nr Kingussie (no prosecution)

August: Golden eagle photographed with a spring trap dangling from its foot, nr Crathie, Deeside

September: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Wildland 1 ‘disappears’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal

September: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Wildland 2 ‘disappears’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld


April: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappears’ on grouse moor nr Newtonmore

April: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Marlin ‘disappears’ on grouse moor 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).


39 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed killed since 2018

It’s getting to that time of year when the grouse shooting industry pumps out its patently misleading propaganda relating to hen harrier conservation in the UK. The aim is to hoodwink the public in to believing that the industry loves hen harriers and is doing all it can to protect and nurture the tiny remnant breeding population (but conveniently forgetting to mention that the breeding population is only in such dire straits because the grouse shooting industry has been ruthless in its maniacal intolerance of this supposedly protected species).

And the industry’s pursuit of the hen harrier is not simply ‘historical’ or indicative of past behaviour, as some would have us believe. It is on-going, it is current, and it is relentless.

To illustrate this fact, we intend to keep a running tally of all the hen harriers that we know (because most of these victims had been fitted with a satellite tag) to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been confirmed as being illegally killed since 2018.

Why only since 2018 when we know that hen harriers have been a persecution target for years and years and years? Well, 2018 is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged Hen Harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

We only started compiling this list of dead / missing hen harriers two weeks ago when we learned that all five of last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks were ‘missing’, presumed dead (see here). Having just learned yesterday that two more satellite-tagged hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park during the Coronvirus lockdown (see here), it’s time to update the death list, which now stands at 39. Nobody has been prosecuted for any of these cases. We have every expectation that this list will be updated again in the near future.

For now, here are the 39:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

To be continued……..

Anybody still wondering why the grouse shooting industry wants us to stop fitting satellite tags?

Two more satellite-tagged hen harriers ‘disappear’ on grouse moors in Cairngorms National Park

Press release from RSPB Scotland (25 June 2020)

Two rare hen harriers disappear in suspicious circumstances

RSPB Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to move quickly to introduce the licensing of grouse shooting, following the disappearance of two more satellite-tagged hen harriers on moors in the Cairngorms National Park revealed on BBC Scotland’s Landward this evening. 

As detailed in the programme, Marlin, a young male, fledged from a nest at the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire in 2018, while Hoolie, another male, came from a nest in Easter Ross in the same year.  

Before they left their nests, both birds were fitted with a satellite tags as part of the EU Hen Harrier LIFE project which have allowed experts to track their movements ever since. Marlin flew south after fledging and spent the last two winters in North Yorkshire. Hoolie crossed the sea to Ireland, returning there for the last two winters, where his movements have been closely followed by Irish ornithologists. 

In March 2020 Hoolie returned to Scotland, most likely with a view to finding a mate and raising chicks of his own. However, a month later his tag suddenly stopped transmitting. His last transmitted location was on 5 April and showed he was over an area of moorland intensively managed for grouse shooting near Newtonmore, in the Cairngorms National Park. He disappeared close to where another tagged hen harrier Lad was found dead, with injuries consistent with being shot, in 2015. 

[Hen harrier Hoolie, photo by RSPB Scotland]

Just three days later, on 8 April, Marlin’s tag also stopped suddenly. He too had returned to Scotland, and his last transmitted position was over a driven grouse moor near Strathdon, West Aberdeenshire, in the Cairngorms National Park. Last April, another Mar Lodge hen harrier, Marci, also disappeared suspiciously, less than a kilometre away, on the same grouse moor.  

[Hen harrier Marlin, photo by Shaila Rao]

When a tagged hen harrier dies of natural causes the tag continues to transmit its location allowing for the body to be recovered. Police Scotland carried out searches for the birds but neither the tags or the bodies were found, and neither tag has transmitted further data.  

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

 “Scotland had only just been put into lockdown in early April and yet protected birds of prey equipped with highly reliable technology have disappeared on land managed for driven grouse moors. The fact that these two birds have disappeared very close to where other similar incidents have occurred only heightens suspicions that these birds can be added to the very long list of protected birds of prey killed on grouse moors. 

The Scottish Government’s independent review of grouse moor management, published at the end of last year accepted the need for regulation of grouse shooting but proposed a five year probationary period to allow populations of hen harriers and other birds of prey on or near grouse shooting estates to recover to a ‘favourable’ conservation status. We believe that this approach is unworkable in practice and urge the introduction of a licensing scheme as soon as possible.” 


More on this news tomorrow.

New paper documents history of eagles in Wales

An important new scientific paper has just emerged documenting the history of golden and white-tailed eagles in Wales.

Published in the journal Conservation Science & Practice, this new paper builds on the earlier, painstaking work of the much missed Richard Evans who, along with colleagues (see here), mapped the historical distribution of eagles across Britain and Ireland.

This latest paper, authored by Cardiff University PhD student Sophie-lee Williams et al, thoroughly evaluates the evidence for both species in Wales and maps their likely core distributions. The authors conclude there is strong evidence that both species were widespread across Wales but fell victim to persecution and haven’t bred there for over 150 years.

This paper is open access which means it is freely available to everyone.

Download it here: Williams et al 2020_Past distribution eagles Wales

The significance of this paper relates to a proposed reintroduction of golden and/or white-tailed eagles to Wales. Many blog readers will recall that this prospect has been on the table for a while and whilst there is still a lot more work to complete before licence applications are submitted, understanding the species’ past historical ranges is important.

Some blog readers may recognise some of the names involved in this latest research. They are part of the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project (ERWP) (website here) who we blogged about last year when news emerged that a different team was also contemplating an eagle reintroduction in Wales, but apparently without the careful research assessment being undertaken by the Cardiff University team (see here). Fortunately, so far, that alternative approach hasn’t advanced very far (see here and here).

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see more research results from the ERWP that’ll take us another step closer to restoring these eagles back to Wales.

Natural England silent on suspicious failures of hen harrier breeding attempts

Guy Shorrock from the RSPB Investigations Team published a fascinating blog last week about what he describes as the ‘suspicious failure of two hen harrier nesting attempts near the 2019 brood management site’ (see here).

Unfortunately the locations of these failed nesting attempts are not given, other than them being within 5km of the brood meddled hen harriers, which we believe were on the Swinton Estate in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire.

[An un-meddled hen harrier nest, photo by Mark Hamblin]

The circumstances of the two 2019 suspicious nesting failures are a mystery although Guy reports that the RSPB had been told that one of the breeding males had been shot by a gamekeeper from a neighbouring estate, but without evidence this alleged victim can’t be added to the list of 37 other hen harriers that have either been found illegally killed or have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances since 2018 (see here).

What’s interesting about Guy’s blog is that the news of these two nesting attempts which failed in suspicious circumstances wasn’t publicised by Natural England or DEFRA or any of the other supporters of the ludicrous hen harrier brood meddling scheme. Instead we got a public statement from DEFRA and Natural England (here) pretending that the grouse shooting industry had had an epiphany and was now championing the return of the species it had previously attacked to the verge of extinction as a breeding species in England.

Needless to say, several months later we learned that all five of the 2019 brood meddled hen harriers were ‘missing’ presumed dead, and only one of those was considered to have died of natural causes (see here). And we only found out about their fates because we’d chased Natural England for the info.

There’s more to come on what else Natural England has been hiding….