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)
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.