Two of our Hen Harriers are missing

Photo: Jude Lane, RSPB

Photo: Jude Lane, RSPB

Sky and Hope, female Hen Harriers fledged from United Utilities land in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, have gone missing.

Scientists tracking the movements of the young Hen Harriers became concerned when their tags stopped transmitting. Sky’s satellite signal stopped suddenly on the evening of Wednesday 10 September with the data suggesting she was roosting at her last known location, while Hope’s last’s known location was sent on the morning of Saturday 13 September.

Both of the birds had left their nest sites on the United Utilities Estate several weeks earlier but had remained in the Bowland area since fledging. Searches were made but neither Sky nor Hope has been recovered.

Experts think it is improbable that the loss of satellite transmission is due to technical failure. Only a tiny percentage of Hen Harriers fitted with satellite tags since 2007 have stopped transmitting when it was known the tracked bird was alive.

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “In our experience, this satellite technology is normally very reliable and it is rare for them to fail for technological reasons. Losing two birds in such a short time frame and in the same geographical area is strange.

Based on the last known data and our understanding of the technology, Sky appears to have suffered a catastrophic tag failure at roost suggesting either natural predation or human intervention as the likely causes for her sudden failure to transmit. However, we would not expect natural predation to stop the tag transmitting data so suddenly. Hope’s tag was transmitting reliably, with no evidence of any technical problems.”

TV presenter and Hen Harrier campaigner Chris Packham said: “It’s incredibly disheartening to discover that two of this year’s chicks have already apparently failed to survive. It shows how vulnerable Hen Harriers are and that four nests are nowhere near enough. Without satellite tagging, these disappearances might never have come to our attention but technology is on our side and we will keep watching.

Disappearing Montagu’s Harriers and Hen Harriers.  The satellite technology is really pinning down where birds are dying and when. We’ll have to see what, if any, information comes out about these latest mysterious disappearances.

In the meantime, just remember that if the birds have been killed then there is nobody killing Hen Harriers deliberately except game shooting interests. The lack of Hen Harriers in our uplands is primarily, and overwhelmingly, due to criminal action by game shooting interests.  It is time to ban driven grouse shooting – please sign here.

Likes(84)Dislikes(4)
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23 Comments

  1. John Miles says:

    I wonder why the 47 Langholm birds were not all tagged! Too embarrassing may be!!!!

    Likes(6)Dislikes(2)
  2. Terry Pickford says:

    Those individuals responsible for this type of crime will continue to get away with what they do simply because there are no effective means of detection. The use of satellite tags are beginning to confirm what we have known for many years.

    The existing penalties have done nothing to redress what is taking place throughout our uplands, so are not fit for purpose in my view. I doubt even if a mandatory 12 months prison sentence along with a fine of £10,000 for each offence was introduced tomorrow the killing would continue.

    The moorland regions where hen harriers appear to be disappearing are simply too huge to monitor on any regular basis. In addition there will never be the man power resources available to undertake such a task.

    Perhaps if it was possible to monitor the satellite transmissions on an hourly basis this may produce a break through but that would be expensive? Until the hen harriers are afforded improved daily protection the culprits will continue to avoid the justice in court that they deserve.

    Likes(20)Dislikes(1)
  3. Alan says:

    Just in case anyone is not sufficiently depressed by Mark's piece, take a look at:
    http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/

    Likes(4)Dislikes(1)
  4. Jonathan Wallace says:

    If only we could satellite tag the gamekeepers too...

    We are assured that it is only a tiny, rotten minority of the shooting community who kill raptors but if this is so then the law-abiding but tight-lipped majority who never know anything and never saw or heard a thing and can't quite bring themselves to acknowledge there is a problem would do well to ponder the fact that every incident such as this one adds a bit more weight to the case against shooting and will hasten on the day when their sport will be banned.

    Likes(14)Dislikes(0)
  5. Chris Green says:

    How about a transmitter on the gamekeeper's vehicles?

    Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
  6. stella says:

    If the location of the birds demise can be established from the tags, i.e. this location can be established as a fact without the need to produce a corpse, then we should be able to hold the landowner responsible. There should be a special level of fine for those allowing the killing of very rare birds [or mammals] on their land, to a level of say £50,000 per offence or a mandatory 2 year prison sentence for each offence with no reduction for good behaviour [preferably in a high security prison]. The money might reflect the cost and volunteer effort of the NGO's and vols who try so hard to secure a place in our countryside for these wonderful raptors which are an integral part of the diversity of the UK. In my humble view there should be no reason why parliament could not approve an amendment to the W&C Act or Crow Act to allow for such action for specific species. And there must be no wriggle room - dead on your land - you are responsible and guilty.
    Most current wildlife protection is worthless because most the crimes are rooted in the greed and money making activities of a minority who of course perpetrate the crimes on private land. 'Private' land cannot be allowed to hide criminality - its a thin edge of a wedge.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(3)
    • Phil Charleton says:

      A wounded bird prey could travel some distance before it dies. The location where a corpse is found is not necessarily where the crime was committed, so it is not as straightforward as you think.

      Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  7. stevenson says:

    The ground, in Scotland, may be about to shift under the feet of grouse moors.

    Today, in the Scottish Parliament, the leader of Labour in Scotland challenged the SNP government to initiate a radical programme for social justice - starting with land reform. It is likely, in the altered climate after the Referendum, that both parties will now compete to satisfy the demand for social justice which drove the Yes campaign and which may destroy the Labour Party in Scotland over the next two years. The Scottish Government already has the powers to enact very significant land reform. It has detailed recommendations also from the recent Land Reform Review Group. These recommendations would have very progressive implications in urban and rural Scotland but also very negative implications for estates in terms of tax and land values. The lairds are also very isolated politically in Scotland - there are no Owen Paterson's here - and criminal and unsustainable management will not help their case. It is no surprise therefore that land reform is the opening bid in the two-party popularity contest.
    In the long (or not so long) run you will either remove grouse moors, or bring them into line, by removing the political, fiscal and legal advantages which underpin their arrogance. Possibly not imminent in England but maybe now a real possibility in Scotland and it is a dimension to raptors which folk should be alert to and ready to support.

    Likes(23)Dislikes(2)
  8. […] Hen Harriers go missing Two of our Hen Harriers are missing | Mark Avery Very sad state of affairs, hot on the heels of the tagged Monty's Harrier missing in the […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  9. Terry Pickford says:

    Why are we not being told where the transmissions stopped as exposing this vital information would be in the public interest? In view of the lack of transparency, I can only assume the two harriers, like the dozens which have disappeared before them, disappeared on grouse moors. Keeping this information secret, if my assumption is correct, only protects those responsible for what has happened, making the likelihood of it happening again in the future more likely.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(1)
  10. kevin moore says:

    Why dont the RSPB tell us all where exactly these tags stopped working ? who are they protecting? these birds were sattelite tagged amidst much publicity by the RSPB what was the point of it all if they will not disclose where they dissapeared.

    Likes(8)Dislikes(1)
    • Phil Charleton says:

      I'm not certain, but I think the tags currently being fitted will be done by Natural England, so the old problem about getting data remains.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  11. John Stone says:

    This has to stop.

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  12. Robert Pell says:

    It is technically and financially feasible to satellite tag all hen harrier and montague's harrier in England and Wales, as well as a good sample of Scotland and the Isle of Man. I predict that the BTO will encounter significant problems with tighter regulation of their use in the near future, given that they are showing concrete evidence of 'catastrophic failure' on a regular basis in embarrassing locations.

    Likes(12)Dislikes(1)
  13. It wasn't illegal persecution it was those pesky non-native eagle owls of course!

    Likes(1)Dislikes(1)
  14. Terry Pickford says:

    Robert, the reason why all of this years hen harrier chicks were not fitted with satellite tags is understandable. Because of the predictability most if not all of the harriers that fledged this year would disappear on moorland where red grouse are shot, the resulting embarrassment to estates would result in a huge national outcry and widespread hostile publicity towards the shooting industry. Neither Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural England or the RSPB for some illogical reason would wish to see this happen.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(0)
  15. Phil Charleton says:

    I have been involved with protecting and monitoring Hen Harriers since 2006, when we had a breeding pair in Northumberland, so they are my a species close to my heart. If someone, quite probably a gamekeeper, was caught for killing one of these birds I would, like anyone, be very frustrated at the inadequate sentence given.

    However I also look to the future. At the recent National Lottery Awards Blanaid Denman appeared on stage to accept the award, alongside a gamekeeping student to underline the success that the RSPB Skydancer project has had in talking to gamekeepers about Hen Harriers. The lecturer who runs the gamekeeping course at the Askham Bryan College was also present, and similar success has also been achieved with Kirkley Hall and the college near Penrith. These young people are the gamekeepers of the future, and they are much better informed now than their older colleagues. And the larger project that the RSPB has now started will see much greater numbers of satellite tags on young Harriers, so the locations of their demise can be revealed.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(1)
    • Phil Charleton says:

      And here is the link to the RSPB article about the gamekeeper involvement in the National Lottery Awards Show and Skydancer:
      http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/2014/09/23/gamekeepers-at-the-lottery-awards.aspx

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  16. Louise Bacon says:

    Terribly poor coverage of this topic on the Today programme this morning, with no mention of illegality or Grouse moors. It had less than a minute of coverage and a terrible interview with RSPB investigations team, who were doing their best under the circumstances.

    Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
  17. kie says:

    This is a question

    nothing more than a question

    if the satellite tag was on the ground, for example under tree cover, would that explain the loss of signal?

    I'm thinking wattages/power output/battery size and weight, versus tree cover here?

    Likes(1)Dislikes(4)
  18. Terry Pickford says:

    There are very few advantages of satellite tagging any species if then after the species vanishes off the face of the earth we are not told where the satellite tag/devise stopped sending out any signal?

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  19. Joe says:

    Petitions and lobbying politicans is all well and good, but if the law ultimately doesn't work, we may have to resort to legal, anti Badger cull-style tactics of non-violent direct action and patrols with cameras. Disrupting their shoot days wouldn't be too difficult and would get media attention - the dates are well known and such protests would cost them money and prestige. If they kill our harriers, they have to pay the price - for too long they've been left to get on with it unhindered.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(0)

Trackbacks

  1. John Miles says:

    I wonder why the 47 Langholm birds were not all tagged! Too embarrassing may be!!!!

    Likes(6)Dislikes(2)
  2. Terry Pickford says:

    Those individuals responsible for this type of crime will continue to get away with what they do simply because there are no effective means of detection. The use of satellite tags are beginning to confirm what we have known for many years.

    The existing penalties have done nothing to redress what is taking place throughout our uplands, so are not fit for purpose in my view. I doubt even if a mandatory 12 months prison sentence along with a fine of £10,000 for each offence was introduced tomorrow the killing would continue.

    The moorland regions where hen harriers appear to be disappearing are simply too huge to monitor on any regular basis. In addition there will never be the man power resources available to undertake such a task.

    Perhaps if it was possible to monitor the satellite transmissions on an hourly basis this may produce a break through but that would be expensive? Until the hen harriers are afforded improved daily protection the culprits will continue to avoid the justice in court that they deserve.

    Likes(20)Dislikes(1)
  3. Alan says:

    Just in case anyone is not sufficiently depressed by Mark's piece, take a look at:
    http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/

    Likes(4)Dislikes(1)
  4. Jonathan Wallace says:

    If only we could satellite tag the gamekeepers too...

    We are assured that it is only a tiny, rotten minority of the shooting community who kill raptors but if this is so then the law-abiding but tight-lipped majority who never know anything and never saw or heard a thing and can't quite bring themselves to acknowledge there is a problem would do well to ponder the fact that every incident such as this one adds a bit more weight to the case against shooting and will hasten on the day when their sport will be banned.

    Likes(14)Dislikes(0)
  5. Chris Green says:

    How about a transmitter on the gamekeeper's vehicles?

    Likes(5)Dislikes(0)
  6. stella says:

    If the location of the birds demise can be established from the tags, i.e. this location can be established as a fact without the need to produce a corpse, then we should be able to hold the landowner responsible. There should be a special level of fine for those allowing the killing of very rare birds [or mammals] on their land, to a level of say £50,000 per offence or a mandatory 2 year prison sentence for each offence with no reduction for good behaviour [preferably in a high security prison]. The money might reflect the cost and volunteer effort of the NGO's and vols who try so hard to secure a place in our countryside for these wonderful raptors which are an integral part of the diversity of the UK. In my humble view there should be no reason why parliament could not approve an amendment to the W&C Act or Crow Act to allow for such action for specific species. And there must be no wriggle room - dead on your land - you are responsible and guilty.
    Most current wildlife protection is worthless because most the crimes are rooted in the greed and money making activities of a minority who of course perpetrate the crimes on private land. 'Private' land cannot be allowed to hide criminality - its a thin edge of a wedge.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(3)
    • Phil Charleton says:

      A wounded bird prey could travel some distance before it dies. The location where a corpse is found is not necessarily where the crime was committed, so it is not as straightforward as you think.

      Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  7. stevenson says:

    The ground, in Scotland, may be about to shift under the feet of grouse moors.

    Today, in the Scottish Parliament, the leader of Labour in Scotland challenged the SNP government to initiate a radical programme for social justice - starting with land reform. It is likely, in the altered climate after the Referendum, that both parties will now compete to satisfy the demand for social justice which drove the Yes campaign and which may destroy the Labour Party in Scotland over the next two years. The Scottish Government already has the powers to enact very significant land reform. It has detailed recommendations also from the recent Land Reform Review Group. These recommendations would have very progressive implications in urban and rural Scotland but also very negative implications for estates in terms of tax and land values. The lairds are also very isolated politically in Scotland - there are no Owen Paterson's here - and criminal and unsustainable management will not help their case. It is no surprise therefore that land reform is the opening bid in the two-party popularity contest.
    In the long (or not so long) run you will either remove grouse moors, or bring them into line, by removing the political, fiscal and legal advantages which underpin their arrogance. Possibly not imminent in England but maybe now a real possibility in Scotland and it is a dimension to raptors which folk should be alert to and ready to support.

    Likes(23)Dislikes(2)
  8. […] Hen Harriers go missing Two of our Hen Harriers are missing | Mark Avery Very sad state of affairs, hot on the heels of the tagged Monty's Harrier missing in the […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  9. Terry Pickford says:

    Why are we not being told where the transmissions stopped as exposing this vital information would be in the public interest? In view of the lack of transparency, I can only assume the two harriers, like the dozens which have disappeared before them, disappeared on grouse moors. Keeping this information secret, if my assumption is correct, only protects those responsible for what has happened, making the likelihood of it happening again in the future more likely.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(1)
  10. kevin moore says:

    Why dont the RSPB tell us all where exactly these tags stopped working ? who are they protecting? these birds were sattelite tagged amidst much publicity by the RSPB what was the point of it all if they will not disclose where they dissapeared.

    Likes(8)Dislikes(1)
    • Phil Charleton says:

      I'm not certain, but I think the tags currently being fitted will be done by Natural England, so the old problem about getting data remains.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  11. John Stone says:

    This has to stop.

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  12. Robert Pell says:

    It is technically and financially feasible to satellite tag all hen harrier and montague's harrier in England and Wales, as well as a good sample of Scotland and the Isle of Man. I predict that the BTO will encounter significant problems with tighter regulation of their use in the near future, given that they are showing concrete evidence of 'catastrophic failure' on a regular basis in embarrassing locations.

    Likes(12)Dislikes(1)
  13. It wasn't illegal persecution it was those pesky non-native eagle owls of course!

    Likes(1)Dislikes(1)
  14. Terry Pickford says:

    Robert, the reason why all of this years hen harrier chicks were not fitted with satellite tags is understandable. Because of the predictability most if not all of the harriers that fledged this year would disappear on moorland where red grouse are shot, the resulting embarrassment to estates would result in a huge national outcry and widespread hostile publicity towards the shooting industry. Neither Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural England or the RSPB for some illogical reason would wish to see this happen.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(0)
  15. Phil Charleton says:

    I have been involved with protecting and monitoring Hen Harriers since 2006, when we had a breeding pair in Northumberland, so they are my a species close to my heart. If someone, quite probably a gamekeeper, was caught for killing one of these birds I would, like anyone, be very frustrated at the inadequate sentence given.

    However I also look to the future. At the recent National Lottery Awards Blanaid Denman appeared on stage to accept the award, alongside a gamekeeping student to underline the success that the RSPB Skydancer project has had in talking to gamekeepers about Hen Harriers. The lecturer who runs the gamekeeping course at the Askham Bryan College was also present, and similar success has also been achieved with Kirkley Hall and the college near Penrith. These young people are the gamekeepers of the future, and they are much better informed now than their older colleagues. And the larger project that the RSPB has now started will see much greater numbers of satellite tags on young Harriers, so the locations of their demise can be revealed.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(1)
    • Phil Charleton says:

      And here is the link to the RSPB article about the gamekeeper involvement in the National Lottery Awards Show and Skydancer:
      http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/2014/09/23/gamekeepers-at-the-lottery-awards.aspx

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  16. Louise Bacon says:

    Terribly poor coverage of this topic on the Today programme this morning, with no mention of illegality or Grouse moors. It had less than a minute of coverage and a terrible interview with RSPB investigations team, who were doing their best under the circumstances.

    Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
  17. kie says:

    This is a question

    nothing more than a question

    if the satellite tag was on the ground, for example under tree cover, would that explain the loss of signal?

    I'm thinking wattages/power output/battery size and weight, versus tree cover here?

    Likes(1)Dislikes(4)
  18. Terry Pickford says:

    There are very few advantages of satellite tagging any species if then after the species vanishes off the face of the earth we are not told where the satellite tag/devise stopped sending out any signal?

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  19. Joe says:

    Petitions and lobbying politicans is all well and good, but if the law ultimately doesn't work, we may have to resort to legal, anti Badger cull-style tactics of non-violent direct action and patrols with cameras. Disrupting their shoot days wouldn't be too difficult and would get media attention - the dates are well known and such protests would cost them money and prestige. If they kill our harriers, they have to pay the price - for too long they've been left to get on with it unhindered.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(0)

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