Six more satellite-tagged hen harriers ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances

Six more satellite-tagged hen harriers have gone missing in suspicious circumstances, according to the most recent data published by Natural England last Friday, 4th March.

Natural England’s previous hen harrier update, published in December 2021 (here), identified three other tagged harriers that had vanished in the summer/autumn of 2021.

Now there are six more. Three disappeared in November 2021, one in December 2021 and two in January 2022. Neither the police or Natural England have issued any media press releases or made any public appeals for information about any of them.

[Photo by Dave Soons]

Here are the details of the latest six to vanish, in chronological order:

Brood meddled hen harrier R2-F1-20, female, hatched in 2020 at nest site BM R2 Cumbria, last known satellite tag fix on the edge of a grouse moor (believed to be on Arkengarthdale Estate) in the Yorkshire Dales National Park on 15th November 2021, grid ref: NY959039.

Hen harrier Val (Tag ID 213849), female, hatched in North Pennines in 2021, last known satellite tag fix in Cumbria, west of Coniston Water on 19th November 2021, grid ref: SD256921.

Hen harrier Percy (Tag ID 213847), male, hatched in Northumberland (nest site Northumberland 1) in 2021, last known satellite tag fix in the Scottish Borders nr Fala Moor on 19th November 2021, grid ref: NT410615.

Hen harrier Jasmine (Tag ID 213848), female, hatched in Cumbria in 2021, last known satellite tag fix on a grouse moor (High Rigg Moor, Middlesmoor Estate) in the Nidderdale AONB, North Yorkshire on 12th December 2021, grid ref: SE034733.

Hen harrier Ethel (Tag ID 213852), female, hatched in Northumberland (nest site Northumberland 2) in 2021, last known satellite tag fix in Hexham on 9th January 2022, grid ref: NY936632.

Hen harrier Amelia (Tag ID 213846), female, hatched Bowland in 2021, last known satellite tag fix in Bowland on 26th January 2022, no grid reference provided.

These suspicious disappearances are no longer shocking, not even when six of them are reported at the same time.

The complete lack of media appeals about any of them from Natural England and the various police forces is no longer shocking.

The lack of prominence in the recent update blog that Natural England has given these latest disappearances is no longer shocking.

The zero prospect of any so-called investigation progressing to a prosecution is no longer shocking.

The complete silence from the grouse-shooting industry about this continued organised crime is no longer shocking.

It’s all just so routine, isn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be. It’s up to you, as blog readers, to bring this scandal to the attention of your elected representative(s) and demand that they put pressure on the Government to take action.

I’ll update the ever-increasing list of hen harriers known to have been illegally killed in the UK or that have vanished in suspicious disappearances since 2018, most of them on or close to grouse moors, and will post it here shortly. It would be good if you could then send that list to your local MP so they can’t claim to be ignorant of what’s going on.

UPDATE 9th March 2022: 67 hen harriers confirmed ‘missing’ or illegally killed since 2018, most of them on or close to UK grouse moors (here)

17 thoughts on “Six more satellite-tagged hen harriers ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances”

  1. I wonder if NE think releasing information that 6 birds have ‘disappeared no trace’ in one go will be less of an issue than letting us know monthly or after each loss becomes known.
    Whatever the reason is it shows up NE as an organisation which is not fit for purpose or not fulfilling the role which it is supposed to fulfil.
    It is, however, doing exactly the role which the UK government requires it to fulfil.

    1. This is exactly the problem, that NE is and has been for some considerable time unfit for purpose. That is a government problem, well actually ever since the Tories have been in power NE has had its teeth pulled and been underfunded and on a short leash held firmly by DEFRA. I will of course be sending the updated list to my (Tory) MP.
      Intersting to note Middlesmoor Estate on this new list, an estate I know reasonably well run and owned by the Ben and Stephen Ramsden, Ben sits at the MA top table for Nidderdale. Stephen who I know rather better has for as long as I’ve known him not been harrier fan, indeed in a couple of talks given to natural history groups he has said it is one bird that should not be tolerated on grouse moors. There are of course still far too many folk within DGS with this attitude.
      Arkengarthdale Estate belongs to the Duke of Norfolk, who of course only appears there during the shooting season.

  2. Terrible. For info, Percy, grid ref NT410615 cross checked with original – this is in Lothian (not Borders, or “Edinburgh” as per NE s/s). For context, barely a handful of records annually in our uplands in winter, 3 in 2020 and 1-2 in 2021, even less in breeding season – persecutors showing amazing determination to locate and dispatch the few that still pass through. I was up on nearby Fala Moor for goose counts Oct/Nov, intensively managed, but grid ref c. 1 mile north is in farmland…

  3. If the keepers are so good at dispatching the enemy then maybe they be be sent out to help the Ukranians with their quest to deal with Vlad the Bad.

  4. Yes, I would have thought that all these brave chaps who love killing so much would have forsaken tweed for camo and be out there helping Ukrainians. The problem is the enemy shoot back!

  5. Can I ask that when you email (or otherwise contact) your MP you copy your message to your local paper, your national newspaper of choice, and your local BBC station?

    You give yourself the option of publicising the response…

    The profile of this issue needs to be raised, not just with MPs but with the general public.

  6. I have read the NE blog which outlines that searches have taken place for these birds. I accept as they say that it is going to be a challenge to locate some evidence of their last movements e.g. identify the last roost site, a few feathers / droppings (even if they suffered a purely natural end it will still take time / might fail). I am curious as to the resources and methodology of the people who do the searching and how much time they are allowed to put into it. Have they the use of trained dogs? How quickly after a bird is deemed lost do they set out to look for it? Do they reach out to local birders / concerned public / volunteers, etc for help? How sure can we be that all reasonable efforts to bring in all evidence to inform a firm conclusion in each case have been made? Or that there have not been any stones left deliberately unturned? Genuine question – do NE put in more or less resources compared to the RSPB when one of their tagged birds goes missing?

  7. In the 1930s there was a mass trespass on kinder scout Derbyshire regards to right to roam, maybe similar protests by public, bird groups, environmentalists, councillors etc over a sustained period may draw attention to obvious lack of interest in those in power, probably futile but just might help for wildlife awareness

    1. I have often thought of walking routes that could easily be put together for those ramblers also interested in this issue, taking in the locations where shot, trapped or poisoned birds have been found down the years. eg ‘The Persecution Way’ instead of the ‘Pennine Way’. It would make a point and seriously piss the keepers off by bringing people away from the familiar paths and into their discreet killing zones where few people ever go. Might even inhibit their dirty work and save a few birds.

  8. In my opinion, it is time we stopped looking at the plight of Hen Harriers as simply a conservation issue, but focussed far more attention on their plight as a criminal issue.
    This means approaching the problem from a very different angle from that currently being adopted by NE and the government.
    It means raising public awareness for each and every missing Hen Harrier, and asking for their help to recover missing birds.
    Establishing the cause of death of each recovered bird, and where criminal persecution is suspected, publicising where that criminality is taking place and who is suspected of being involved; and then putting in place proper crime prevention strategies to eradicate the criminal behaviour, such as permitting covert police operations to identify the criminals responsible and bring them to justice, or taking other measures to reduce criminal behaviour.

    If NE don’t change tactics then year after year will see this litany of missing satellite Hen Harriers, public money will continue to be spent on projects such as brood meddling, yet no real progress will be made in improving Hen Harrier numbers over the uplands and moors where they should be free to roam without persecution.

    One only has to look at the current shambles of how the UK is managing the plight of Ukrainian refugees attempting to enter the UK, to realise that there are government officials and departments which simply aren’t capable of doing what they should. That ineptitude can probably be extended to those charged with looking after nature and our countryside?

    1. Same old tired agenda driven misinformation, blame and lack of evidence! Some of us/practioners have moved on. Still to much talk and blame and not enough action all round! . . . . . . Well it was great to see more hen harriers in Suffolk this Winter. Of the 5 that turned up (European birds?) on my patch/locally, 2 were harassed until they left by so called birders thinking they entitled. Such a display of little care, ignorance, arrogance and poor fieldcraft just to get a tick or pic. Unbelievable! Some of these folk were Known/published and should of known better! See this time and time again and more so in recent years. One bird died and was predated /poss killed by crows Those on private land fared better. One that turned up in poor shape was given a whole game cover to itself on quiet part of farm/shoot to recover. Though the wagtails that roosted there took a hit.

      1. Steve
        Thank you for your comment which sums up the position perfectly – “some of us/practioners have moved on”.
        However, the evidence of poisoned or shot raptors clearly indicates that some haven’t moved on, and there are still those who engage in criminal behaviour.
        This evidence is irrefutable, which is why the police and other organisations spend so much time and energy investigating raptor crime. It is why very reputable organisation like the RSPB have investigations teams and publish data on raptor persecution incidents.
        It is why the government have declared raptor persecution a national wildlife crime priority.
        It is pointless enlightened land owners and practioners putting so much energy into helping the plight of the Hen Harrier, when the truth of the matter is that the bird only needs to fly over an area where persecution takes place and it will either die or disappear.

        If I was fortunate enough to own or manage land where Hen Harriers were successfully breeding and habiting, I would be absolutely livid with those who still engaged in illegal raptor persecution, and were responsible for undoing all the hard work and effort I was putting into Hen Harrier conservation.
        I wouldn’t want my profession tarred by the actions of those criminals, and I would want those who persecute and make Hen Harriers “disappear” brought to justice.

        So I have to question why you don’t want a change in tactics so that these criminals are targeted?
        There are bad people in every profession, so surely it is in your best interest to support measures which will identify, prosecute and remove those bad people from managing the land?
        Unfortunately, until the enlightened land owners and practioners openly speak out against the bad people, and help the police and courts bring them to justice for their criminal behaviour, there will always be the suspicion that these land owners and practioners actually condone what the criminals do, because that criminal activity ensures that Hen Harrier numbers never recover to the point where they might have a negative impact on the profitability of game bird shooting.

        The elephant in the room is the way that game bird shooting has moved away from a landowner and a few friends shooting a few birds for their own consumption, to an industry driven by greed and profit, and where the number of shoot days or bag size is the focus. A set up where the game shooting companies which have sprung up to capitalise on this, have absolutely no interest in nature conservation, but only how much money they can make. This inevitably fuels criminal behaviour, as those who manage the land on a daily basis are put under so much pressure to deliver these shoot days or ever increasing bag sizes, that some see no option but to do things they know they shouldn’t.

        This is no way to manage the countryside, and you are right when you say there is not enough action. Action which needs to be targeted at those who are responsible for creating the criminal behaviour, and those who actually carry it out.

      2. You may have witnessed birders behaving irresponsibly and if they were then that is unacceptable, but why do you tell us this? You seem to be implying that somehow the poor conservation status of the hen harrier is the result of irresponsible birds trying to get a tick or a pic. I don’t believe for a moment that you can seriously think this is the case so you are just trying to muddy the waters aren’t you?

      3. Not sure where you are finding misinformation above? Certainly here in Lothian there are fewer Hen Harriers than historically. Last confirmed breeding 1987-89 when it was stated “The species continues to be only a sporadic breeder in Lothian because of persecution.” Any info on the sparse sightings that we have in recent years is held confidentially by me, as local recorder, sadly it cannot be put into the public domain. If things are different elsewhere fair enough but what you infer in your post is far from the case generally…

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