Two more hen harriers ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in & next to Cairngorms National Park

News has emerged that another two satellite-tagged hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on two separate grouse moors, one in the Cairngorms National Park and one right next to it.

The source of this news is unusual, in that it isn’t in the form of a police appeal for information, it doesn’t come from the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project and nor does it involve hen harriers tagged by Natural England south of the border.

This time the news is from an organisation called Wildland (see website here). This is a collection of estates in the Cairngorms and Sutherland, bought by the Polvsen family and being managed with an impressive vision for conservation. Wildland is also a pivotal partner in the wider conservation project called Cairngorms Connect (see website here) which ambitiously aims to restore ecological processes, habitats and species across an enormous area of the National Park.

Wildland has been involved with satellite-tracking golden eagles for a while now, and last year it also fitted tags to hen harriers that had hatched on its estates. In a beautifully-produced blog that was published on Friday, the fates of three of those hen harriers have now been publicised.

You can read the blog here

Anyone who knows anything about hen harriers in the UK uplands will not be surprised to learn that two of the three young hen harriers have since ‘disappeared’ and the last known transmission locations of the tags were both on driven grouse moors – one at Dalnaspidal on the SW edge of the National Park (last signal on 5 September 2019) and the other one at Invercauld, Royal Deeside, on the east side of the park (last signal on 24 September 2019). Regular blog readers may be familiar with these areas.

The third hen harrier didn’t disappear in suspicious circumstances over a grouse moor – this one was found dead in a field in Aberdeenshire although the cause of death has not been published.

[An overview of the movements of the three satellite-tracked hen harriers and their last known locations]

Interestingly, the Wildland blog also provides information about the functionality of the three tags with details given about the tags’ battery status (all working perfectly well) – this is a key indication that the ‘sudden stop no malfunction’ scenario of the two tags/hen harriers that vanished is indeed suspicious and not simply a predicted engineering malfunction, which researchers can identify by a steady decline in battery charge (e.g. see here).

The Wildland blog doesn’t provide any information about a police investigation in to the suspicious disappearances of the two young hen harriers, and nor have we seen any publicity about these disappearances even though the birds vanished nine months ago in September 2019. That’s disappointing, especially as the RSPB was publishing information about a suspected shot hen harrier and two others that had vanished on Scottish grouse moors in autumn 2019 (see here).

Nevertheless, now the news is out we can add these two Wildland hen harriers to the ever-expanding list of hen harriers (at least 33 now) believed to have been illegally killed since 2018, the year when grouse shooting industry reps would have us believe that hen harriers were welcomed back on the grouse moors:

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: A 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: A 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 (this post)

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

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

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 a 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)

There are two more satellite-tagged hen harriers (Tony & Rain) that are reported either confirmed or suspected to have been illegally killed in the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Report but no further details are available.

And then there were last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks that have been reported ‘missing’ but as they’re carrying a new type of tag known to be unreliable it’s not known if they’ve been illegally killed or if they’re still ok. For the purposes of this mini-analysis we will discount these birds.

So that makes a total of at least 33 hen harriers that are known to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been witnessed being shot or have been found illegally killed in the last two years. And still we’re expected to believe that everything’s perfect, that the grouse shooting industry is not riddled with armed criminals and that hen harriers are doing just fine, thriving even, according to the shooting industry’s propaganda.

21 thoughts on “Two more hen harriers ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in & next to Cairngorms National Park”

  1. Well what a shock! Not. I visited xxxxxxx Estate as part of university studies a few years ago and the factor was giving us his spiel. Part of that spiel was that “Peregrine and Merlin are not always welcome“. Reading between the lines he obviously meant that all predators were not welcome. Some things are so deeply rooted that it may take many generations to pass before things for predators change for the better. Getting rid of the dinosaurs and their notions of how the countryside works.

    [Ed: Comment edited as potentially libellous]

  2. What a thoroughly disheartening catalogue of death’s. No I shall correct that. MURDERS. How can we take the SG seriously when they can continue to allow this industrial scale persecution continue unabated. They seem to be all rhetorical spin like others with no action. Any previous correspondence I have written to them including the FM on the disappearance of a Golden Eagle near Braemar on or near Invercauld lands has gone unanswered. A national disgrace.

  3. And so it goes on in depressingly familiar mode, harrier after harrier clearly showing that the decline is being driven by juvenile mortality after and pre breeding season. No wonder recruitment into the population is so poor and of course statistically the untagged birds meet the same fate. I have no time for the criminals that do this in the belief it benefits presumably DGS, there is no excuse for it whatever they claim these birds have been protected for over 60 years. One day we will win no ifs buts or maybes and the unemployable criminals who did things like this will be part of history, frankly I cannot wait to put two fingers up to them as they join the dole queue.
    We should not forget any one of these birds or the thousands of other buzzards, Peregrines, Red Kites, Eagles, or other protected species killed so a few morally bankrupt folk can shoot lots of game birds for entertainment. The shooting cabal organisations give us nothing but spin and untruths about how good a conservationists they are and that there is zero tolerance of illegal killing, does anyone still believe them? I think the opposite is true that those who don’t persecute are shunned by many of their peers within shooting or told they are letting the side down. Bloody handed apologists the lot of them.

    Sadly there are still unbelievably conservationists and birders who believe the shit shooting pedals, as wilfully blind as the authorities in some places. We will win but in the mean time while politicians vacillate, look the other way or go shooting, our precious birds die. Our day will and must come soon.

  4. As Anders Polvsen is now the largest landowner in Scotland, maybe he’d like to speak to the Scottish Government. They seem to listen to money far more than voters.

  5. We only know about the apparent demise of most of the 33 because they had trackers on. How many untagged birds have met a similar fate? I don’t know what proportion of each year’s young are actually tagged – it will vary from year to year – but I would imagine that it is considerably less than those which aren’t. A total figure of 100 or more victims per annum would not surprise me.

    1. Tagged birds act as a sample of all so what ever proportion of tagged birds are killed, that is the proportion of the whole years young that are killed.

  6. It seems the more that are tagged, the more sad obituaries we read, but it is critical to know their fate and I personally think tags are the best weapon in this war. Just think if every buzzard was tagged, I bet nationally we would easily have a hundred losses a week to put on the news! For me it gets complicated trying to interpret the figures for “losses” of tagged birds as numbers of birds tagged varies each year and some tags are better than others…but a question please (I am a bit thick regards statistics)…when a harrier chick is tagged (by any organisation), roughly what proportion mature enough to make a breeding attempt?And how does highland scotland compare with lowland scotland and england? Just best estimate ball-park figures would be great. Thanks to anyone who can help.

  7. Why are you telling me this. Scotland is an independent country. Once again you have no evidence only conjecture. I live in southern England and bird and wildlife organisations are in co- hoots to aid and abet the concreting of my neighborhood with mitigation schemes that are pathetic and useless. I am living a wildlife emergency while you engage on a class.war.against owners of the land the size of Holland thinking you can replace their business with ecotourism. Wake up and smell the reality

    1. As is usual with comments from criminals apologists, a mixture of misconceptions, hypocrisy, speculation, blatant falsehood and dodgy spelling/typing. What the hell is a “class.war.against”?

  8. Every time I see a another one of these reports I’m no longer surprised and had started to think “oh well, another nail in the coffin of DGS” hastening it’s well deserved demise but now I’m thinking that their coffin is more nails than wood.

  9. “The Wildland blog doesn’t provide any information about a police investigation in to the suspicious disappearances of the two young hen harriers, and nor have we seen any publicity about these disappearances even though the birds vanished nine months ago in September 2019. That’s disappointing ……… ”

    More than disappointing. It needs an explanation.

  10. No surprise where they disappeared indeed. Has the CEO of the Cairngorms Grouse, I mean National, Park issued a statement? Then again, he didn’t know how many breeding pairs of hen harriers were in the park so…
    Something needs to be done about those Estates – too many occurrences in their areas…

    1. Yes Paul, something does need to be done.
      Many times it has been mentioned what needs to be done and it has long been clear what is required to bring it about.
      Those who are responsible for setting the means to address the criminal activity and driving it to a successful conclusion are located in Holyrood. They have comprehensively failed and the outlook is that they will continually fail.
      One has to ask whether the government has the resolve to attack the villains.

    2. Raptor persecution is abhorrent. However, I am uncertain of the post’s geography and headline. The Wildland Blog map shows the last recorded position, red dot, of Harrier 1 as being on an estate outwith the National Park (The Harrier 2 position is certainly in the CNP). Accuracy is important.

      [Ed: You’re right, thank you. Text amended to show one grouse moor inside CNP and one right on boundary]

  11. I am aware that on an estate near to me tagged raptors are disappearing quite frequently. This is owned by one of Scotland’s premier Dukes and no investigation ever seems to be undertaken despite clear evidence of the deaths of these birds.

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