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: