Slim Chance of survival of Hen Harriers




Yet another satellite-tagged Hen Harrier, this one called Chance, has disappeared – her last known location (when transmitting a strong signal) was on a south Lanarkshire grouse moor.  This sounds as though it must be in the same general area where Annie (pictured above) died. Add in Highlander whose satellite tag stopped transmitting abruptly on a Durham moor and the disappearance of Bowland Betty (shot in the Yorkshire Dales – and found on a grouse moor) and of Sky and Hope (tagged in the Forest of Bowland and both disappearing on a nearby moor)  and  you can see why I advised not getting too attached to satellite-tagged Hen Harriers.  Holly too, has died but hers is a death that appears, fairly surely, to have been due to natural causes.  You have a slim chance of survival whatever your name if you are a Hen Harrier visiting grouse moors, it seems.

Chance was born and died in Scotland – soon to be a former member of the ununitedUK. Just imagine how it will become more difficult to keep an overview of these events when there is a border between us – it won’t happen at once but we will grow apart.

The good news is that the RSPB has simultaneously announced that they have an active Hen Harrier nest at their Geltsdale nature reserve, where there was a nest last year whose male ‘disappeared’ when away from the nest site (as did four other males from active nests in the Forest of Bowland last year).  This is the third in the ‘tiny handful’ of active nests that the RSPB has announced and it is just possible that others might start to nest (although it is getting very late) and there might possibly have been other earlier attempts which might come to light. Whatever the final figure, it’s still a dismal start to the Defra Hen Harrier plan and not nearly good enough.

Let’s hope that this pair of Hen Harriers at Geltsdale fares better than the one last year, and also doesn’t suffer the fate of a bird in that area described by Guy Shorrock in pages 38-40 of Inglorious.  Good luck to the RSPB staff and volunteers watching over the nest 24 hours a day – what a ridiculous state of affairs when the birds are at such grave danger because they eat Red Grouse that people want to shoot for fun. I mean – really!

Here is a female Hen Harrier at her nest with chicks – there is enough suitable habitat for over 300 Hen Harrier pairs in England and yet this year it seems as though the number is three or so, not three hundred.

Hen Harrier - Circus cyaneus - female approaching nest with prey for chicks. Sutherland, Scotland. July 2006.
Hen Harrier female approaching nest with prey for chicks. Sutherland, Scotland. July 2006. scotlandbigpicture

The very best way to stand a chance of seeing more nesting Hen Harriers in England is to get rid of driven grouse shooting, which as well as being underpinned by wildlife crime is also an unsustainable land use that disrupts ecosystem services that benefit us all.

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7 Replies to “Slim Chance of survival of Hen Harriers”

  1. Wow, if you hadn't read Inglorious or RPUK and this blog you would wonder what that RSPB press release is all about. Is the air somehow thinner on grouse moors, are Hen Harriers so stupid that they don't know where they are supposed to be living, are there too many wind turbines or pylons on grouse moors. The fairies?
    The elephant in the room, the unspoken P word.
    Shhh i mustn't mention it but for the uninitiated i have already given the initial.

    The RSPB is getting very good at whispering and the game appears to be to whisper quieter and quieter until ... but hush i think my owl hearing might be hearing the word licensing or was it my imagination.
    A whispering campaign for licensing without using the P word.
    That'll work.
    All i can hear is the grouse lobby champaign corks popping again.

    Christ, RSPB the EU is no longer there start shouting!

  2. The RSPB says in the item:
    "we have spoken to our neighbouring estates about the birds so they can play their part in helping to ensure that the birds are safe when they leave our reserve to hunt."
    I think the neighbouring estates will welcome the news that as last year, they will have plenty time for some target practice for a period to ensure that the nest fails.
    Now if they had asked and received permission to go on to the neighbouring estates to find out the male's feeding areas and to station people there as well as at the reserve, I might have been less cynical. I wonder if they asked?????
    I'm pleased however that the RSPB has now given their estimate of English breeding hen harriers for 2016.

  3. I welcome the RSPB statement making it clear that the nesting attempt at Geltsdale is one of only three. Whilst we can all be cynical about the approach to the nieghbouring estate it is the right thing to do, they cannot now claim in some unfortunate future they did not know and given that the grouse lobby has welcomed the DEFRA non plan this tasks them with helping delivery. That may of course mean nothing more than not killing the male, his loss would put the whole DEFRA plan in total jeopardy with all of us by showing us the grouse lobby cannot deliver.
    As to our satellite tagged birds I think of the English birds Highlander was the last alive from the last four or five years suggesting all the offspring of English nests in that period are almost certainly dead.
    Following on from what I said at Grimwith how many birds are killed to keep english grouse moors free of Hen Harriers and Peregrines? It is certainly more than a few.

  4. Very shrewd move by the RSPB by giving the neighbouring estate a very public stake in the success of this breeding pair. RSPB/Martin should be applauded for this. Let's see, time for the grouse shooting industry to help the deliver the Defra plan. Any suspicious failure of this breeding pair will be seen by many as a total show of contempt, even more than they've shown to date. Kinda feels like a roll of the dice moment.

  5. There is no level of noise or support from the RSPB for the debate that matters ie the @MarkAvery petition. That is despite the good news / bad news - press release today.

    This is absurd from the RSPB, which appears to be clutching at some update that may save them from the utter fail of their present and DEFRAS policy.

    Well it won't - it is the time of all times to put the weight of the RSPB membership behind the DGS petition, whilst there is a chance of a debate, in the turmoil of our fragile democracy.

    It is time for the RSPB and its membership to step up for the DGS debate by supporting Mark and over 46000 other people, by signing and giving publicity to the DGS Petition through its membership.

    Ironically I have no doubt with the suggestion that the RSPB Council have all privately signed Marks petition, but really that is not good enough. The time is long overdue, despite the political and strategic difficulties of the RSPB to support the DGS petition and follow the lead of supporters including high profile people such as Bill Oddie, Chris Packham and many others to stop the slaughter of Nature on Driven Grouse Shoots.

    I really despair at the lack of political action from such a well supported and resourced NGO - you do yourself no justice for the passion of nature, I hope you support Mark to reach 100,000 signs for debate.

    There are really no more excuses on this debate for a #BanDGS3. Personally I have tried to push this as a member, but if this petition does not go through I will resign my membership despite all the good work that is undertaken by many in the society, your strategy has failed, you must now support Mark and his colleagues to at least secure a debate on Driven grouse Shoots.

    Thank you Mark.

  6. The local keepers will be thinking how they are going to get their tax free payments this year if harriers are now going to disrupt the shoots by flying between the guns and the beaters! One keeper had £10,000 + a free 2 week holiday in the Indian ocean with his wife! And that was just 1 keeper!


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