Four of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harriers already dead or ‘missing’

Earlier today delusional Natural England issued a press statement (along with two organisations that have zero credibility when it comes to hen harrier conservation, the Moorland Association and GWCT) proclaiming this year’s hen harrier breeding season was a ‘wonderful result’ (see here).

The RSPB published its own view, separately (here), pointing out, as if it was necessary, that illegal persecution continues to be ‘the most serious threat’ to hen harrier conservation.

Meanwhile, Natural England, having been justifiably criticised today for publishing inaccurate and ambiguous information about hen harriers (e.g. see here) has quietly updated its spreadsheet on the number of satellite-tagged hen harriers and their fates (see here).

Natural England has fitted satellite tags to 23 of this year’s cohort of 60, but according to the data, four of those 23 are already either dead or ‘missing, fate unknown’.

Here are the details of the four:

Tag #57266, female, Harriet, tagged in Yorkshire Dales on 4 June 2020. Last known fix in Cumbria (actually in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, grid ref NY770031) on 25 July 2020. Listed as ‘missing fate unknown’.

Tag #201118, female, unnamed, tagged in Northumberland (site 1) on 15 June 2020. Last known fix on 9 July 2020 in Northumberland, ‘site confidential nr goshawk nest’. Listed as ‘missing fate unknown’.

Tag #201126, male, unnamed, tagged in Northumberland (site 2) on 15 June 2020. Last known fix on 6 July 2020 in Northumberland, ‘site confidential nr goshawk and peregrine nest sites’. ‘Remains of bird and tag recovered near the nest site post-fledging – most likely avian predation’.

Tag #201119, male, Solo, tagged in Lancashire on 31 July 2020. Last known fix on 14 August 2020 in Lancashire ‘in nest area (confidential)’. Listed as ‘missing, fate unknown’.

It’s not known how many of the three ‘missing, fate unknown’ hen harriers are being investigated as suspicious incidents by the police and without knowing the details or circumstances of the disappearances, it would be unwise to speculate at the moment. We’re not aware of any appeals for information in any of these three cases. We’ll be asking the respective police forces for information on each of them so that the running total of ‘43 dead or missing hen harriers in the last two years‘ can be updated if necessary.

It’s also worth pointing out that one of the ‘missing, fate unknown’ birds was fitted with a Lotek tag rather than the usual MTI tag….we’ve blogged about the apparent unreliability of this tag type previously (see here) and another blog will be published shortly with even more damning commentary on its suitability for tracking hen harriers.

Perhaps the biggest question to ask right now is why Natural England (and its ‘partners’ in the grouse shooting industry) failed to mention in this morning’s press statement the disappearances of three of this year’s cohort?

Can we trust anything Natural England tells us about hen harriers?

Multi-award-winning author Gill Lewis has neatly summarised the view of many of us with this rather telling cartoon:


9 thoughts on “Four of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harriers already dead or ‘missing’”

  1. Why are NE so determined to destroy any semblance of credibility or respect, this is so grossly unfair on their own staff who work hard to protect birds of prey never mind the dedicated raptor workers who try to work with them.

    There needs to be a serious review of the accountability of their managerial structure as well as their remit #FitForPurpose ?

  2. Why does it matter if the LKF is near another breeding raptor?
    I understand holding back data on the one in Lancashire because it ‘went missing’ only 2 weeks after being tagged but the others would have been roaming for a while so without them telling us, no one would have any reason to think there was anything special about the LKF. A suspicious person might wonder if they are hiding something.

  3. Given this is a vole year and many species are still feeding on them in September when will SSSIs turn to look at managing areas for voles? Certainly cutting heather rather than burning keeps grass seed alive. Add on cattle rather than sheep and grass is a win win situation for voles as seen here in the Pennines this year. Remember the status of many of these upland SSSIs are for Hen Harrier management which must take in THEIR PREY which again this year, shows lack of preying on Red Grouse with a record year for them and waders on a well managed reserve.

  4. May I suggest others visit the Natural England press release page and tell them what is wrong with it (sadly it is only a one liner). Eventually they may get the message!

  5. I note Tag #201126 states “‘Remains of bird and tag recovered near the nest site post-fledging – most likely avian predation’.

    Was this a bird which had been subjected to the brood management process?
    Was it a bird which had been relocated away from its parents birds?
    Is the post suggesting the young Harrier was most probably killed by another bird of prey?

    The reason I ask is that I have been made aware of a sighting of an adult female Hen Harrier hunting with two juvenile birds.
    Would parent Harriers offer some protection to their juvenile offspring?
    Are birds of prey territorial like most other predator species, and would adult birds attack or drive away other birds if they strayed into their territory?
    Would parent birds share their territory with their offspring and thus offer some form of protection from other raptors?
    Could this explain the fate of bird Tag 201126?

    If so, is Natural England in its brood management program, by relocating juvenile birds in other birds territories actually placing them at risk of attack?

    I would be grateful for any help on improving my knowledge of these birds behaviours.

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