Scottish Environment Minister visits grouse moor in Strathbraan where two golden eagles ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances

Back in September, Scottish Environment Minister Mairi McAllan was taken to visit a grouse moor in the notorious Strathbraan area of Perthshire.

Regular blog readers will know that Strathbraan is dominated by a number of estates with driven grouse moors and the area has been identified in a Government-commissioned report as being a hotspot for raptor persecution, particularly golden eagles, of which at least seven have ‘disappeared’ in recent years, including one whose tag was found a few years later, wrapped in lead sheeting (to block the signal) and dumped in the river (here).

[Utterly depressing intensively-managed grouse moor in Strathbraan. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

And then there was the suspicious disappearance of a white-tailed eagle (here), an illegally-trapped hen harrier called Rannoch (here), the suspicious disappearance of a hen harrier called Heather (here), the illegally shot peregrine (here), the long-eared owl held illegally in a trap (here), the ~100 corvids found dumped in a loch (here), the failed raven cull demanded by Strathbraan gamekeepers but thinly-disguised as something else (here), the subsequent illegal shooting of two ravens on two separate grouse moors in Strathbraan, the post mortem of one of them showing that not only had it been shot, it had most likely been stamped on repeatedly (here), and most recently the three-year General Licence restriction imposed on a Strathbraan grouse-shooting estate for wildlife crimes (here), a decision based on evidence provided by Police Scotland.

It’s quite the location, isn’t it? How odd then, that Scotland’s Moorland Forum would chose to take the Environment Minister for a visit. What was the purpose?

Judging by this tweet from Hugh Raven, it was to show the Minister ‘the skilled moorland management‘ at Auchnafree Estate, among ‘the beautiful Perthshire hills‘. Good grief.

I wonder if they talked about the ongoing raptor persecution in the Strathbraan area? And did they discuss the suspicious disappearance of the two satellite-tagged golden eagles, Adam & Charlie, who both vanished without trace on Auchnafree Estate on 18th April 2019?

When challenged about the visit on Twitter by the Scottish Raptor Study Group, Hugh claimed the estate had been “fully exonerated“:

Fully exonerated“? Really? By whom?

As I wrote at the time of Adam and Charlie’s suspicious disappearance, there was no evidence found during the subsequent police search to suggest that Auchnafree Estate employees were involved. Is that the same as being “fully exonerated“?

The ‘skilled moorland management’ at Auchnafree Estate was in focus again this morning on the BBC’s Farming Today radio programme. The head gamekeeper was recorded talking about the so-called benefits of grouse moor management on the estate; an opinion that went unchallenged by the BBC presenter accompanying him on the moor.

Funnily enough, I didn’t hear any discussion about illegal raptor persecution on the grouse moors of Strathbraan nor any mention of our two missing golden eagles on Auchnafree Estate.

Fortunately, Max Wiszniewski (Campaign Manager at REVIVE, the coalition for grouse moor reform) was invited on to the second part of the programme and spoke well about the economic, environmental and societal limitations and damage of grouse moor management. Well done, Max!

The programme is available to listen to for 29 days here (starts at 06:15 mins).

Private Eye highlights DEFRA’s inaction on gamebirds in midst of avian flu epidemic

The avian flu epidemic continues to sweep across the UK and is expected to increase as we head into winter, according to the UK’s Health Security Agency.

The situation is so bad that on 7th November 2022, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was implemented across the UK, which means that it is currently a legal requirement for all bird keepers to house their birds to help reduce the risk to captive flocks as well as to wild birds, from this serious and notifiable disease.

That is, all bird keepers except gamekeepers. They can pretty much do as they please with their, literally, millions of pheasants and red-legged partridges, because the status of those birds as either ‘livestock’ or ‘wildlife’ is ridiculously interchangeable to suit the game shooters so once the birds (‘livestock’) have been released from their pens into the countryside, they suddenly become ‘wildlife’ until the end of the shooting season when the gamekeepers want to capture them again for breeding purposes and so the birds magically become ‘livestock’ again (see Wild Justice blogs on this here and here).

It’s good to see that Private Eye is now highlighting this scandalous situation and asking the question about why DEFRA hasn’t brought in any measures to reduce the risk of these gamebirds spreading bird flu to wild birds and poultry (thanks to the blog reader who sent this in):

Things will become very interesting at the end of the shooting season when it’s time to ‘catch up’ gamebirds that haven’t been shot, to bring them into captivity for breeding purposes.

We know that ‘Schrodinger’s Pheasant’ wondrously turns from being ‘wildlife’ back to being classified as ‘livestock’ (see diagram above) to enable this activity to be legal. We also know that avian flu in France, where millions of gamebird poults are sourced for the UK game-shooting market, was badly affected by avian flu this year, causing a ban on the importation of those eggs and poults and given the current increase in avian flu cases there at the moment, the same situation may arise again, which means there may be more pressure on UK game-shooters to ‘catch up’ even more of their wild stock/livestock in preparation for the 2023 shooting season.

But just how sensible, or indeed legal, will it be to ‘catch up’ wild birds in the midst of an avian flu epidemic?

Surely DEFRA has given this some thought and is preparing its position in advance?

Dead buzzard found hanging from a tree in County Down

A dead buzzard has been found hanging from a tree in County Down.

The bird was discovered last Saturday (19th November 2022) in woodland near Clandeboye on the Ulster Way by independent unionist Alex Easton MLA, who was walking his dog. He notified the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) who sent out a forensic team the next day.

Photographs from the scene show the dead buzzard, tied by its neck to the tree by what looks like a plastic bag:

There’s some very odd media coverage of this story in the Belfast Telegraph, where Alex Easton is quoted as saying:

The PSNI forensic guys think it was poisoned and put there to attract other birds of prey who would themselves be poisoned when they fed from it.

They told me they had seen the same sort of incident elsewhere in Northern Ireland. They removed the buzzard and are carrying out an investigation. I hope those responsible are caught.

This beautiful bird should have been left alone to enjoy its life. Other animal life was also put at risk, as the poison could easily have killed a dog.

I’d never seen a buzzard before. I would have much preferred to view this stunning creature in full flight, not hanging dead from a tree. As a wildlife lover, I believe we should be protecting such birds, not poisoning them.”

To be clear, there isn’t any evidence yet that the buzzard has been poisoned and even if it had, hanging it from a tree ‘to attract other birds of prey who would themselves be poisoned when they fed from it’ is the oddest suggestion and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how raptors forage.

The statement from a PSNI spokesperson, as quoted in the paper, is much more circumspect and appropriate under the circumstances:

Police in Bangor recovered a dead buzzard from the Ulster Way area, Clandeboye Road, on Saturday, November 19, following a report from a member of the public.

The bird has been sent for a post-mortem examination and other tests to determine its cause of death. Enquiries are ongoing.”

Alex Easton did the right thing by notifying the police to investigate. If anyone has any information that could assist the inquiry the PSNI crime reference number is 695/19/11/22.

RSPB’s 2021 Birdcrime report reveals second-highest figure on record

Last week the RSPB published its latest annual Birdcrime report covering the period Jan – Dec 2021.

The headlines from this rigorously-compiled data can be summarised as follows:

  • Protected birds of prey continue to be illegally killed in high numbers, particularly in relation to land managed for gamebird shooting
  • Birdcrime report reveals 80 of 108 confirmed incidents were in England alone: the second-highest figure for England on record
  • Norfolk is now the county with the worst record, followed by Dorset. North Yorkshire, which has topped the table for consecutive years, is now third.
  • ‘Nothing will change’ without urgent government action

The RSPB published two press releases about the report – one covering the crimes in England (here) and one covering the crimes in Scotland (here).

In 2021, yet again, over two thirds (71%) of all confirmed incidents of raptor persecution took place on land managed for gamebird shooting, where birds of prey are seen by some as a threat to gamebird stocks and illegally killed.

[Infographic from Birdcrime 2021]

Unsurprisingly, representatives from the game-shooting industry, all claiming to have ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution, have dismissed the data and some have gone as far as calling the RSPB ‘liars’.

The funniest response I’ve read so far is that written by the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, who published this on Facebook:

‘The RSPB has released its Bird Crime Report and once again it predictably focuses an inordinate amount of attention on the gamekeeping profession. Why is the YDMG not embracing the report and working with the RSPB to improve the fortunes of moorland birds? Well to put it bluntly, the report is pure exaggeration, wordsmithing for self-promotion and simply the unjustified stigmatisation of a rural occupation and craft without basis. YDMG will refrain from using too many emotional remarks about the RSPB report but suffice it to say the moorland gamekeeping community is offended by the report and it’s [sic] misrepresentations…’.

It’s worth remembering that members of the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, like so many of the other regional moorland groups, have for years been at the centre of police investigations into the illegal killing of birds of prey. Indeed, raptor persecution is such a problem in this area that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has had to include the tackling of illegal raptor persecution as an objective in the Park’s official Management Plan (here) and last year was so incensed at the continued killing, the Park Authority was moved to issue a press statement about it (here).

Of course, disputing the RSPB’s persecution figures is now an annual pantomime by the game-shooting industry, because doing anything else would mean having to admit that some of their members are still killing these birds, nearly 70 years after it became illegal to do so. It seems it’s far easier for them to attack the reputation and credibility of the RSPB than get their own house in order and self-regulate.

In Scotland, this tactic worked for many years but eventually the weight of evidence against the grouse shooters was so great that the Scottish Government was forced to act and we now see the introduction of new legislation, brought in specifically to take action against those who continue to trap, poison and shoot birds of prey.

In England we still have a Government intent on wilful blindness, largely due to many in power having a vested interest in the game-shooting world. However, I read a tweet by ecologist and author Ian Carter recently, who often has a knack of hitting the nail on the head:

I think Ian is spot on with this and I think he summarises the views of many moderates on this subject, including mine.

The RSPB’s 2021 Birdcrime report can be downloaded below, along with the Data Appendices detailing the crimes:

Leading Scottish raptor researcher wins national award

RSPB Scotland, co-sponsored by NatureScot, hosted the annual Nature of Scotland Awards on Thursday evening, giving recognition to some of the best people working in nature conservation in Scotland.

HUGE congratulations to Scottish Raptor Study Group member Dave Anderson, who deservedly scooped the RSPB Species Champion Award!

This award is ‘to recognise someone who has achieved something extraordinary to conserve a vulnerable or threatened species‘. If you know anything about raptor research and conservation in Scotland, you’ll have heard of the legendary Dave Anderson.

His citation reads:

For over 40 years Dave Anderson has worked at the forefront of birds of prey conservation in Scotland, pioneering new methods to study these much-loved species. His outstanding field skills, determination and sheer force of will have cemented him as one of Scotland’s best birds of prey field workers‘.

He’s all that, and more. There are some outstanding raptor fieldworkers in Scotland whose years of field study have made them accomplished species-specific experts, but very few can match the breadth and depth of Dave’s expertise on so many different raptor species. He’s been involved with so many projects over the years that are frankly too numerous to mention, working in challenging environments in atrocious weather conditions that would defeat even the hardiest of fieldworkers. As well as conducting his own research, he’s always been generous with his time, offering first-class training, advice and support to others, particularly to students and fellow Raptor Study Group members.

His trail camera work has led numerous TV production companies to seek out Dave’s help and his footage has been seen by millions on programmes such as the BBC’s Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch, amongst others.

In recent years he’s been at the forefront of satellite-tagging raptors, particularly golden eagles but other species too, using his vast experience of ringing and handling raptors to help refine and improve the tagging techniques and strict protocols that are quite rightly demanded by the licensing authorities to ensure the welfare of the birds. His expertise in this field has led to Dave being appointed as a consultant on numerous, high profile conservation projects, including several overseas projects.

[Dave satellite-tagging a young golden eagle. Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert]

The data that have been made available from the tags that Dave and a few other experts have fitted to golden eagles in Scotland has transformed our understanding of this species. Or to put it more bluntly, exposed just how little we actually knew. The tag data continue to challenge our long-held theories about the ecology of golden eagles, and this is what I like the most about Dave Anderson – he’s one of just a handful of people who have studied this species in depth for decades and probably knows more than most, and yet he doesn’t brag or blag – he’s still open to learning and embraces new technology and the information it provides with the sole purpose of wanting to help conserve the species.

Of course, his work has brought him to the attention of the raptor-killing gamekeepers who have sought to discredit and smear his reputation with the most appalling and vile online abuse, including attacks on his young family. Dave’s reputation speaks for itself though, and it has been pleasing to see him called as an expert witness in a number of prosecution cases, helping to secure the convictions of these nasty criminals.

I’m sure they’ll be thrilled that his work has now been recognised with this richly-deserved national award. Well done, Dave, long overdue!

People’s Walk for Wildlife 2: postponed until spring 2023

Unfortunately, the People’s Walk for Wildlife 2, organised by Chris Packham and due to take place on 27th November 2022, has had to be postponed due to the impact of rail strikes.

Please note, the event hasn’t been cancelled, just postponed, and will return in Spring 2023 with the ongoing support of many of the large environmental charities, including the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB.

Chris’s team is looking at a new date in either March or April 2023, and the best way to keep informed is by signing up to the campaign mailing list on the People’s Walk for Wildlife website here, where you’ll also find answers to some frequently asked questions.

People’s Walk for Wildlife #2: London, Sunday 27th November 2022

UPDATE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL SPRING 2023 – SEE HERE FOR FURTHER INFO

The People’s Walk for Wildlife is back!

Following on from a successful Walk for Wildlife in 2018 (here), Chris Packham is organising The People’s Walk for Wildlife 2, which will take place in London on Sunday 27th November 2022.

Here’s a video message from Chris, explaining why this event is taking place and some details about what will happen on the day:

In 2018, 10,000 wildlife supporters turned up and walked to Downing Street to send a clear message to our elected representatives that our natural environment deserved better care.

Four years on, the situation is worse than ever, so much so that even charities like the National Trust, not known for its activist stance, has come out fighting against what has been labelled the Government’s Attack on Nature (e.g. see here and here).

Now’s the time to send another message, by joining a peaceful, family-friendly walk, with speeches, music and entertainment at the end.

If you’re planning to attend this event, please can you register on the People’s Walk for Wildlife website HERE, as it’ll help the organisers, police etc to estimate numbers and manage their resources accordingly. You’ll also receive email updates from Chris’s team.

Stewards, infrastructure, acquiring licences to shut roads and public areas for the duration of the walk – all of this costs money to do safely. These walks can only go ahead with your support – if you feel able to, you can donate at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/walkforwildlife2 

Hope to see many of you there.

Court hearing delayed again for Scottish gamekeeper accused of killing sparrowhawk on grouse moor

A court hearing has been delayed once again in the case of a Scottish gamekeeper accused of killing a sparrowhawk.

[Sparrowhawk photo by Markus Varesvuo]

The un-named 22-year-old gamekeeper was charged in September 2021 (see here) for the alleged killing on a grouse moor in Inverness-shire and he was due in court on 30th September 2022.

The case was delayed until 10th November 2022 (see here).

The case has now been further delayed and the next court hearing is scheduled for January 2023.

As this is a live case no comments will be accepted on this blog post until criminal proceedings have ended. Thanks for your understanding.

Ravens illegally shot on two Strathbraan grouse moors

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but it kept slipping down the list. However, it’s timely to write it now because I’ll be focusing some attention on Strathbraan in some forthcoming blogs.

In November last year, RSPB Scotland published a blog about the Werritty Review of grouse moor management and how the Scottish Government had accepted the Review’s findings but hadn’t yet begun to implement any of the recommendations.

Within that blog, the RSPB highlighted the ongoing illegal persecution of birds of prey on Scottish grouse moors during 2021. Two incidents stood out to me, mainly because it was the first time these two crimes had been reported in the public domain. They concern the illegal shooting of two ravens on two different grouse moors in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire. Here is what the RSPB blog says about them:

Ravens continue to be illegally killed on grouse moors with a dead bird found in April, hidden under rocks below its nest high up a hill on a Perthshire estate that had no licence to control them. The post-mortem report indicated that it had been shot, and -previously recovered from its wounds.

The day it was killed, it was again shot, but again this was not immediately fatal. According to the SRUC vet’s report, it then suffered “severe, mostly blunt trauma characterised by broken beak, crushed cranium, fracture-dislocation of the neck, …fracture of the left wing at four sites, fracture of the left leg and massive internal haemorrhage.” As it flapped around on the ground, it appears that the person who shot this bird then stamped on it repeatedly.

Elsewhere, another raven was seen tumbling to the ground after being shot as it mobbed an eagle owl that had been tethered to a post on another moor in February’.

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaefer]

The post-mortem report on that first raven is chilling, and that crime deserves far more publicity than being tucked away half-way down an RSPB blog. As indeed does the shooting of the second raven, where once again the use of a tethered eagle owl deployed as a bait to lure in the victim has been central to the crime.

Regular blog readers will already know that Strathbraan is not only a raptor-killing hotspot, recognised as such in a Government-commissioned report on the illegal killing of golden eagles, but it is also well-known as the location of a five-year raven cull research licence, issued by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to gamekeepers in 2018 ‘just to see what happens‘ but then hastily withdrawn after the threat of a legal challenge by the Scottish Raptor Study Group and an admission by SNH (now NatureScot) that the research licence was was “completely inadequate“, “seriously flawed“, and “will fail to provide any meaningful scientific evidence“.

More on Strathbraan shenanigans shortly…

73 hen harriers confirmed ‘missing’ or illegally killed in UK since 2018, most of them on or close to grouse moors

For anyone who still wants to pretend that the grouse shooting industry isn’t responsible for the systematic extermination of hen harriers on grouse moors across the UK, here’s the latest catalogue of crime that suggests otherwise.

[This male hen harrier died in 2019 after his leg was almost severed in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a Scottish grouse moor (see here). Photo by Ruth Tingay]

This is the blog I now publish after every reported killing or suspicious disappearance.

They disappear in the same way political dissidents in authoritarian dictatorships have disappeared” (Stephen Barlow, 22 January 2021).

Today the list has been updated to include the most recently reported victim, a young satellite-tagged hen harrier called ‘Sia’ that ‘disappeared’ on 10th October 2022 and is the subject of a police investigation (see here).

I’ve been compiling this list only since 2018 because that is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

2018 was also the year that Natural England issued a licence to begin a hen harrier brood meddling trial on grouse moors in northern England. For new blog readers, hen harrier brood meddling is a conservation sham sanctioned by DEFRA as part of its ludicrous ‘Hen Harrier Action Plan‘ and carried out by Natural England (NE), in cahoots with the very industry responsible for the species’ catastrophic decline in England. For more background see here.

Brood meddling has been described as a sort of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ by commentator Stephen Welch:

I don’t get it, I thought the idea of that scheme was some kind of trade off – a gentleman’s agreement that the birds would be left in peace if they were moved from grouse moors at a certain density. It seems that one party is not keeping their side of the bargain“.

With at least 73 hen harriers gone since 2018, I think it’s fair to say that the grouse shooting industry is simply taking the piss. Meanwhile, Natural England pretends that ‘partnership working’ is the way to go and DEFRA Ministers remain silent.

‘Partnership working’ according to Natural England appears to include authorising the removal of hen harrier chicks from a grouse moor already under investigation by the police for suspected raptor persecution (here) and accepting a £75k bung from representatives of the grouse shooting industry that prevents Natural England from criticising them or the sham brood meddling trial (see here). This is in addition to a £10k bung that Natural England accepted, under the same terms, in 2021 (here).

[Cartoon by Gerard Hobley]

So here’s the latest gruesome list. Note that the majority of these birds (but not all) were fitted with satellite tags. How many more [untagged] harriers have been killed?

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here).

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here).

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here).

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here).

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here).

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here).

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here).

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here).

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here).

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here).

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here).

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here).

23 October 2018: Hen harrier Tom ‘disappeared’ in South Wales (here).

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here).

1 November 2018: Hen harrier Barney ‘disappeared’ on Bodmin Moor (here).

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here).

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here).

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here).

26 April 2019: Hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Nairnshire (here).

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here).

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here).

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here).

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here).

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in the North Pennines (here).

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here).

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here).

24 September 2019: Hen harrier Bronwyn ‘disappeared’ near a grouse moor in North Wales (here).

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here).

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here).

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here).

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here).

14 December 2019: Hen harrier Oscar ‘disappeared’ in Eskdalemuir, south Scotland (here).

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

23 March 2020: Hen harrier Rosie ‘disappeared’ at an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here).

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here).

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here).

19 May 2020: Hen harrier Fingal ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Lowther Hills, Scotland (here).

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here).

27 May 2020: Hen harrier Silver ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate, Scotland (here).

2020: day/month unknown: Unnamed male hen harrier breeding on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria ‘disappeared’ while away hunting (here).

9 July 2020: Unnamed female hen harrier (#201118) ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed site in Northumberland (here).

25 July 2020: Hen harrier Harriet ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

14 August 2020: Hen harrier Solo ‘disappeared’ in confidential nest area in Lancashire (here).

7 September 2020: Hen harrier Dryad ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

16 September 2020: Hen harrier Fortune ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here).

19 September 2020: Hen harrier Harold ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

20 September 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2020, #55152) ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire (here).

24 February 2021: Hen harrier Tarras ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Northumberland (here)

12th April 2021: Hen harrier Yarrow ‘disappeared’ near Stockton, County Durham (here).

18 May 2021: Adult male hen harrier ‘disappeared’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here).

18 May 2021: Another adult male hen harrier ‘disappeared’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here).

24 July 2021: Hen harrier Asta ‘disappeared’ at a ‘confidential site’ in the North Pennines (here). We learned 18 months later that her wings had been ripped off so her tag could be fitted to a crow in an attempt to cover up her death (here).

14th August 2021: Hen harrier Josephine ‘disappeared’ at a ‘confidential site’ in Northumberland (here).

17 September 2021: Hen harrier Reiver ‘disappeared’ in a grouse moor dominated region of Northumberland (here)

24 September 2021: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2021, R2-F-1-21) ‘disappeared’ in Northumberland (here).

15 November 2021: Hen harrier (brood meddled in 2020, #R2-F1-20) ‘disappeared’ at the edge of a grouse moor on Arkengarthdale Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

19 November 2021: Hen harrier Val ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria (here).

19 November 2021: Hen harrier Percy ‘disappeared’ in Lothian, Scotland (here).

12 December 2021: Hen harrier Jasmine ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor (High Rigg Moor on the Middlesmoor Estate) in the Nidderdale AONB in North Yorkshire (here).

9 January 2022: Hen harrier Ethel ‘disappeared’ in Northumberland (here).

26 January 2022: Hen harrier Amelia ‘disappeared’ in Bowland (here).

10 February 2022: An unnamed satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in a grouse moor dominated area of the Peak District National Park (here).

12 April 2022: Hen harrier ‘Free’ (Tag ID 201121) ‘disappeared’ at a ‘confidential site’ in Cumbria (here).

May 2022: A male breeding hen harrier ‘disappeared’ from a National Trust-owned grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here).

May 2022: Another breeding male hen harrier ‘disappeared’ from a National Trust-owned grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here).

14 May 2022: Hen harrier ‘Harvey’ (Tag ID 213844) ‘disappeared’ from a ‘confidential site’ in the North Pennines (here).

10 October 2022: Hen harrier ‘Sia’ ‘disappeared’ near Hamsterley Forest in the North Pennines (here).

To be continued……..

Not one of these 73 incidents has resulted in an arrest, let alone a prosecution. I had thought that when we reached 30 dead/missing hen harriers then the authorities might pretend to be interested and at least say a few words about this national scandal. We’ve now reached SEVENTY THREE hen harriers, and still Govt ministers remain silent. They appear not to give a monkey’s. And yes, there are other things going on in the world, as always. That is not reason enough to ignore this blatant, brazen and systematic destruction of a supposedly protected species, being undertaken to satisfy the greed and bloodlust of a minority of society.

Please consider sending a copy of this list of dead/missing hen harriers to your elected representative. Ask them for their opinion, tell them your opinion, and demand action (politely please). We know where these crimes are happening and we know why they’re happening. The Government’s own data, published three years ago, have provided very clear evidence (see here). MPs need to know how many of us care about this issue and how we will not be fobbed off by disingenuous platitudes from DEFRA Ministers (e.g. see hereherehere and here for repeated recent examples of this).

Not sure who is your MP? Click here to find out.

Don’t be put off by thinking, ‘Well my MP is a grouse shooter, he/she won’t bother responding so why should I bother?’. Do not give these politicians an easy option out. As your elected representative they have a duty to listen to, and respond to, constituents’ concerns, whether they agree with them or not.

If you use social media, please share this post.

If you fancy scribbling a few sentences to your local newspaper or even a national one, please do.

Please talk to friends, family and colleagues about these 73 birds. They will be horrified about what’s being allowed to go on.

We MUST increase public awareness. It’s up to all of us.

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