Satellite-tagged hen harrier Fortune ‘disappears’ at roost site in Northumberland

Another hen harrier has gone ‘missing’, the third to be reported in the last 24hrs.

As with the two most recent reports (see here and here), this information has had to be dragged out of Natural England via a Freedom of Information request.

This time it’s a young female, optimistically named ‘Fortune’, who was tagged (#162150) on 15th June 2020 at a nest site in Northumberland (site 1). In August 2020 she was reportedly in Dumfries & Galloway but on 16th September her tag’s last known fix came from an undisclosed site in Northumberland, listed by Natural England as, ‘Site confidential important hen harrier roost’. She was wearing a tag with known reliability, in contrast to the tag worn by recently-disappeared hen harrier Harold.

There’s no further information.

[A random photo of a young hen harrier by RSPB]

The illegal killing of hen harriers at winter roost sites has long been recognised by raptor fieldworkers as being of huge concern. In 2019 an armed man with dogs was filmed by the RSPB Investigations Team at an undisclosed roost site in Yorkshire (see here). The day before, satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘River’ vanished from the same roost site (here). Imagine that!

So that’s three satellite-tagged hen harriers that all vanished in September 2020, one next to a grouse moor in Yorkshire, one on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and one at an undisclosed roost site somewhere in Northumberland.

And they’re not the only ones – more details are yet to see the light of day.

14 thoughts on “Satellite-tagged hen harrier Fortune ‘disappears’ at roost site in Northumberland”

  1. Natural England should be ashamed of their inertia. The more reluctant they are to speak out and make demands of the shooting industry for this criminality to stop the more it looks like collusion. If they are being prevented from speaking out by instruction from the government / DEFRA then they should be speaking out about that.

    As with the badger cull, Natural England are a disgrace to the name and are not fit for purpose.

    1. Yes. It is a sickening thought, but it seems unlikely that the bastards who kill these birds would stop at one if they have located an important roost.

  2. Your list of missing or dead Hen Harriers has now recorded nearly 50 victims over a short time period. During this time the claimed £2bn shooting industry has repeatedly indicated that it either has or will be putting its house in order. It clearly and demonstrably hasn’t.

    How has it been possible for it to recruit NE to support it during these times. It is outrageous that NE only divulge information sparingly or under the threat of FoI requests. In correspondence that I have had with them they nearly always indicate that they are “open and transparent” They are not but should be as they are taxpayer funded. I will excuse Mr Green’s daughter at this time from any criticism and I hope she gets promoted to director level asap.

    Well we have Ruth, Wild Justice and FoI’s on our side. I just hope that Ruth’s list of nearly 50 dead hen harriers gets tabled at the Parliamentary debate later in the month. Facts rather than fiction should assist the debate!

    Keep up the great work.

  3. Interestingly since the start of this lockdown I have been able to get out into areas where game bird shooting takes place and where the countryside is managed by game keepers. An area adjacent to grouse moors.
    I understand in winter Hen Harriers move from the moors to lowland farmland, heathland or coastal marshes, where there will be more opportunity to find food.
    Just the sort of area I am able to get to.
    On two occasions I have seen the keepers on their quad bikes, and watched them ride off into wooded areas. On both occasions after the short passage of time, there was the sound of a shotguns being discharged.
    On other occasions I haven’t seen the keepers but heard the sound of shotguns being fired elsewhere on the estate.
    I can only conclude that on every occasion I heard the sound of the shotguns being fired- some poor creature was being killed.
    Whether this was legal or illegal activity I can not comment on, as I never saw what was actually killed.
    Was this the keepers trying to reduce the number of pheasants which had been released, but now can’t be shot during shooting events due to Covid restrictions? Doubtful.
    Without knowing what was actually being killed, I can only speculate.
    But, I suspect we are back to the position which were in in March during the 1st national lockdown, and some are taking advantage to go on a killing spree.
    Winter is challenging enough for most wildlife. So I find this activity utterly despicable.
    Whilst most decent people put out food to try and help wildlife survive through the winter months, these objectionable individuals fill them with lead shot.
    No wonder there is so little wildlife in our countryside.
    How some of those involved in game bird management can claim to be carrying out wildlife conservation totally defeats me.
    It’s too easy for the wildlife criminal to get away with their horrendous crimes when the law puts no constraints on the killing of wildlife throughout the year. Why isn’t there a closed season, when the killing of any wild creature in the countryside is forbidden?
    That might be a step towards stopping these horrendous crimes against birds of prey- as during a closed season there would be no lawful excuse for being in possession of a shotgun. That might help identify those behind the killing of these Hen Harriers or any other bird of prey.
    The wildlife laws and their enforcement in the UK is a total shambles. It does very little to actually protect wildlife, and allows those who wish kill protected species get away with their horrendous crimes without risk of being caught or punished.

  4. I am boiling with anger at the news of the latest three hen harrier “disappearances”.

    The organisation is completely morally bankrupt, as well as being functionally useless. They published a brilliant report on hen harriers in England in 2008 that could have been used to effect real change, and to enable actual protection of hen harriers. Instead, 12 years on and they are continually hiding the ongoing killing of hen harriers, which just leads to more harriers being killed, and makes the job of anyone that gives a **** about the uplands, birds of prey and hen harriers in particular so much harder.

    I think it’s time that people openly and vocally stop any cooperation with NE until they can demonstrate honesty, accountability, and a commitment to tackle the actual issues that hen harriers face – crime driven by grouse shooting.

  5. What possible reason(s) can there be for NE being so reluctant to provide information on ‘disappearances’? One might imagine that, given that the organisation and the tags are funded by the taxpayer, they would wish to be totally open about the attrition which the birds are suffering and the cost to public funds through the losses of tags and staff time invested in the tagging operation. But no, the opposite is the case. Who is pulling the strings here?
    I had hoped that Tony Juniper would bring some sense of accountability and transparency to NE’s operations. It’s disappointing that, at least in this respect, he is falling short of expectations.

  6. NE is continually failing in its duties to protect nature. Its outrageous that they are still not ‘protecting’ these beautiful birds. 50 is a Huge Figure of loss. I’m appalled on a daily basis by this inertia by them.

  7. Recently a top Gamekeeper (I think it was the head of the SGA) stated that gamekeepers have been doing important conservation work for over 150 years.

    Well during those 150 years, the White Tailed Eagle and Osprey became totally extinct from Britain. The pine marten and otter was eradicated from the majority of the land. The Wildcat is teetering on the brink of extinction.
    Numerous species of raptors have seen major population declines.

    I hope during the government debate, when the guardians of the countryside are mentioned that their track record on conserving key species is also brought up.

    1. Nicely put , we in Britain also have plenty of exotics hanging from stately walls or stuffed into draws in the back of museums everyone should really see our leaders don’t give a shit.

  8. Juniper is a waste of space just like the rest of natural England, they took the blood money and now they are keeping quiet and turning a blind eye, and before you tell me there are some good people at natural England don’t because these people should be standing up and being counted.

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