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

Nine days ago I blogged about the suspicious disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier called ‘Fortune’ who had vanished from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland in September 2020 (see here).

Well guess what? Another one has gone, also from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland.

This one was called ‘Rosie’, who was tagged (#57278) at a nest site (Northumberland 1) in July 2019 and the tag’s last known fix was 23 March 2020, also in Northumberland. Natural England has this marked in its database as ‘Missing fate unknown. At roost (site confidential)‘.

[Hen harrier Rosie when she was being tagged. Photo by Natural England]

Some of you may remember Rosie. She was previously reported as ‘missing’ in October 2019 (here) but then was reported to be alive and well later in the month (see here and here) and just wearing one of those Lotek tags whose limited functionality has proven to be problematic for tracking hen harriers (e.g. see here). I think it’s reasonable to assume that, ten months on and as there still hasn’t been a signal from her tag, then this is likely to be more than a tag reliability issue this time.

To be fair to Natural England, Rosie’s suspicious disappearance in March 2020 was not concealed – it was included in Natural England’s September 2020 tagged birds update but I didn’t spot it until now. Although perhaps if Natural England had bothered to publicise her suspicious disappearance at the time….

So, along with missing tagged hen harrier Fortune, that’s two gone at an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland this year. Whether that’s the same roost site only Natural England knows. Why can’t the roost sites be numbered, like the nest sites are, to disguise the actual location for security reasons but at least indicate positional proximity?

BASC’s £10K bung to Natural England to help fund winter roost monitoring doesn’t seem to be working very well, does it?

Rosie will now be added to the list of confirmed illegally killed/missing suspected killed hen harriers in the UK since 2018 – the running total is currently 50 but there’s more to come….standby.

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

  1. “BASC’s £10K bung to Natural England to help fund winter roost monitoring doesn’t seem to be working very well, does it?” or..if you were a “conspiracy theorist”, it seems to be working very well for certain people?

  2. The persecution if these beautiful birds is relentless. Whatever protection measures and penalties are currently in place are clearly not working. There needs to be change. My suggestions: Grouse Moor closure or at a minimum licensing, tighter shotgun control, much tougher penalties for offenders and their employers.

  3. Most people carry a mobile phone. Why is not possible for the police to triangulate who was in the area of the roost at the time Rosie went missing?

    I can’t help feeling with some game keepers that it is a “badge of honour” to have no raptors on their estate.
    Any new land subsidies on the basis of biodiversity and no suspected illegal activity.

    1. It is! If a landowner happens to see a raptor on his estate, if
      you are a gamekeeper you are in trouble.

  4. How much longer do Hen harriers have to be subjected to the wishes of the grouse shooting community? What will it take for a government to properly intervene?

  5. It beggars belief that these “disappearances” continue relentlessly without anything being done to investigate thoroughly. There should be a ruling that when these occur on a grouse moor, or an estate where grouse shooting is conducted, then the presumption must be that unlawful acts have taken place. The estate, or owner, is then liable for a massive fine, plus grouse shooting is banned for the next 20 years.

  6. I would be very very very very very very very very cautious, if I was in a raptor monitoring group, about disclosing the locations of roost sites to NE, especially considering the bung from BASC.

  7. Given the need to protect these birds from criminals’ activities. And in appreciation for what ruth tingay represents, it’s odd that Unnatural England doesn’t give Ruth Tingay these secret locations, first and foremost. It’s in the best interests of the creatures that are the focus of the protection.
    Suspicious, one would think.

    [Ed: Hi Lance, I’ve never asked NE for these locations and never would. It’s my view that they should remain a secret from most people, however well intentioned they might be, with the exception of local raptor study group fieldworkers and others directly tasked with protecting them. Roost sites on public land/protected reserves are well known and provide opportunities for public viewing with minimal threat. But I do think the sites on private, less protected land should be coded, just like eagle sites are in Scotland, so that analysis can take place without compromising the security of the sites]

    1. Sad to report Ed that even roosts on NNRs have been subject to disturbance by Natural England management works and also failure by NE to notify contractors of birds presence on a number of occasions in recent years. These are sensitive birds and surely winter roosts should take priority in terms of ensuring safety not adding to the problem by moving them on?

  8. So if the sat tag data throws up the location of a hitherto unknown roost, and NE want someone to monitor or check the site, do they notify or ask for permission from the landowner, and who eventually gets to know about the sites?

  9. This should be a total embarrassment to the government.
    The fact that so many Hen Harriers are being reported illegally killed or missing is a testament to the complete failure of the governments conservation policies, the actions of Natural England with its brood management and satellite tracking program, and any action by the shooting bodies to stamp out criminality within the industry.

    According to the BTO there are less than 1000 breeding pairs of Hen Harriers in the UK.
    Contrast that with Kenya’s conservation program for elephants, where in the last 30 years the elephant population has doubled to approximately 34,000.

    It’s time the UK government stopped pissing about, realised that current measures to tackle the criminality are a failure, took a leaf from some of the African countries and protected Hen Harriers, and other endangered raptors and their habitat with armed rangers. This approach appears to have worked in Kenya.

    The criminals who kill UK raptors are worse than the poachers who kill elephants. The elephant poacher may claim poverty and lack of other realistic economic opportunities as to why they kill. The UK wildlife criminals have no such excuse and are just despicable scum.
    It’s high time these criminals faced the realistic possibility that if they go out to kill birds of prey something very bad is very likely to happen to them.
    Enough is enough!!

  10. Seems strange to some that a tagged bird goes missing but does know one think that flying round with a harness carrying a transceiver will not impede a bird ability to feed to the best of its abilities .as this bird is lost in the worst weather of the year and if a bird is under weight due to excess baggage it will be at a disadvantage to one that isn’t carrying anything.also ticks can hide under the straps.

  11. This problem will never go away with the pathetic penalties that are administered to the perpetrators.
    In 99% of all cases the land owners are fully aware of what is going on, and fully endorse the persecution of these birds of prey.
    There are of course ways in which this could be stamped out instantly. Make the punishments so severe that both the perpetrators, and the landowners face instant prison terms.
    Furthermore if these birds are killed on a grouse shooting ground then a lifetime ban from ever holding a grouse shoot on that land should be implemented.

  12. It’s sad some old wrong keepering beliefs have been passed on to a few idiots. They are few and far between now with the magority. Talking too neighbouring farms and estates are key to the solution. However we must learn the facts before we blame. Any shooting establishment are out of their minds should they allow any old fashioned ridiculous beliefs to be carried out on their estate and think this helps future grouse shooting.

    1. Nigel
      I suspect the problem is greater than you think.
      It’s not just old fashioned beliefs which are a problem, but the commercialisation of game shooting where the number of game birds to be shot is paramount.
      Most shoots are businesses, humans are naturally greedy, so “money calls the shots”.
      That will add pressure to those managing the shoot to ensure there is an abundant supply of game birds. Keepers will be under pressure to ensure game stocks meet the land owners or syndicates expectations.
      Keepers that don’t perform are likely to be dismissed.
      Let’s to be totally honest here – there is a difference between someone who goes out hunting and shoots one or two game birds for his or her own consumption, and those people that enjoy killing wildlife simply for fun and want to blast away at as many birds as possible.
      The latter are not likely to be nice people in many other aspects of their life, and a keeper who works on an estate where the owners are of that mentality will have a hard time if he can’t supply a sufficient quantity of birds to meet the demand for this massacre of wildlife.
      There is also the commercial incentive if an estate has an agreement to supply game birds for the restaurant industry. That will also put pressure on keepers to provide high numbers of game birds to be shot, as this will in turn increase profits.
      The root cause of the problem is greed and money.
      A problem which effects so much of human activity in almost every other industry.
      Game shooting is no different.
      Sadly this greed leads some to criminal behaviour. Something we also see in other industries.
      However, this criminal behaviour has a massive impact on wildlife and endangered species.
      It has to be stopped.
      Just like we need to stop the poaching of elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins etc etc.
      We also need to stop the killing of Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles etc etc
      This illegal killing isn’t taking place in some far off land, where the rule of law is questionable, but in the UK, a country that proclaims itself as a beacon of democratic law.

  13. Speculation is not proof.Nothing will satisfy either party in this ongoing war,try working together without prejudice and a satisfactory outcome may be achievable.

    1. Michael,
      I agree that multi agency partnership working is more likely to achieve better results.
      But one of the major stumbling blocks is that some of the “partners” will not accept they have a problem with embedded criminality. This denial not only undermines their credibility, it creates mistrust and prevents effective partnership working.

      Your response clearly highlights this issue- “speculation is not proof”.- no it isn’t proof, but until there is an acknowledgement from all those involved in game shooting that the most likely cause of most of these disappearing birds, and of most of the birds found illegally killed is criminal behaviour by some parties involved in game shooting, then there is little realistic chance of tackling this issue.

      There shouldn’t be a “war” regarding those who participate in game shooting and those involved in conservation in wanting to rid our countryside and moorlands of criminals.
      Criminals are the scourge of all societies and the responsibility of tackling this criminality rests with all of us.

      Unfortunately this wildlife criminal behaviour benefits the game shooting industry as it reduces raptor numbers, which in turn reduces predation of game bird stocks.
      Like all industries, the game shooting industry operates on a financial basis, so anything which effects profitability is seen as negative and detrimental to the industry itself.
      If the game shooting industry chose to tackle the criminality would it be committing financial suicide, by reducing the number of game birds available to be shot by a fee paying cliental?

      So the question that has to be asked is: “Does the game shooting industry turn a blind eye to the unlawful activities which are taking place, and thus in the process destroys its credibility as a partner agency?”

      Not an easy question to answer?

  14. Is this slaughter ever going to end ?
    Obviously those committing these crimes feel they can act with impunity
    I know it’s difficult to obtain forensic evidence against individual offenders – but it must be time to prosecute the ‘industry’ & it’s barbaric practices.
    Why should devotees of one pursuit (grouse shooting) be allowed to act illegally to the detriment of other pursuits (bird watching) ???
    I can’t see footballers being allowed to damage rugby pitches ? Or curling being allowed to damage the ice for figure skating
    Why do grouse shooters get away with this ? Well we keep getting told it’s a multi million pound business & keeps people in jobs
    So does the illicit drugs trade – doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to make drug dealers redundant
    If any other industry causes harm by acting illegally – then the consequences are wide ranging. Time to bring these criminals to justice – it’s long over due

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