Likely lads

20161023-hamish-smith-rowan-209-0234-002-400x400Rowan the Hen Harrier ‘was likely to have been shot’ – likely? That’s an odd phrase and it’s been bothering me (and others, I see).

I tend to start from the supposition that all Hen Harriers are likely to be shot and have to keep telling myself that there are other perfectly natural causes of death too (and a few more unnatural ones). I worry about Finn the Hen Harrier because she feels almost like one of my friends, and I worry about Bonnie because even if she is named after the boss of the Countryside Alliance I certainly wouldn’t want her to be shot.

But when a Hen Harrier is dead, and autopsied by experts, it seems a little odd that those experts cannot do better than ‘likely to have been shot’. I’d be surprised if Rowan were smothered to death with a pillow, or bludgeoned to death with an axe but I’m guessing really.

I thought I’d ask someone and spoke to a very helpful person in Natural England who confirmed that Rowan was dead but didn’t even get as far as saying that he was ‘likely to have been shot’. Apparently saying anything else might prejudice police enquiries although the police are asking for the public to phone in any information about this likely crime of a likely shooting.

Is it the weapon that is in doubt perhaps? Was Rowan shot with a trebuchet or maybe a ballista? If you have seen anyone in the Yorkshire Dales NP with either weapon then the police are likely to want to know about it.

Maybe there is clear evidence of shotgun pellets having passed through Rowan’s body breaking bones and tearing flesh but none remains in the body to be X-rayed. That is possible. Usually in these cases we get to see an X-ray but none has appeared in this case. Isn’t that a bit odd? Let’s see the X-ray and see if any of us can spot any pellets.

Let’s hope that there isn’t someone looking at an X-ray with shiny round dots on it wondering what those pellet-like things are.  Could they be shotgun pellets, perhaps? That seems likely. But even if there is, then I guess that it is only ‘likely’ and by no means certain that the pellets entered Rowan’s body by being shot into him. It is just possible that Rowan was playing a game of ‘drop the shotgun pellets’ which tragically went wrong and he immolated himself while practicing a skydance with pellets.

It seems that the Daily Express is pretty sure that Rowan was shot.

And now, today, we hear of another mysterious disappearance, of Tarras. Likely to be…?




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17 Replies to “Likely lads”

  1. My very domestic cat Oscar was shot on a neighbouring estate that runs driven pheasant shoots (allegedly - there weren't the two independent witnesses to prove it; in fact, there were no witnesses). Oscar was shot from the front and from the back, the patterns of shot showing clearly under Xray. All we got was a vet's discount and sympathy. We had a few more happy years with Oscar, but I think he still died prematurely.

  2. I like the idea someone raised about Springwatch tagging and following one or ideally several hen harriers. That would be the best protection these birds could get and great for awareness

  3. Life span of a HH. Up to 4 years? But alas not young Rowan.

    Mark, you ever go in for brainstorming ideas at the RSPB. It's amazing what can emerge from such things! Even the most apparently ridiculous idea can prompt somebody else to see other possibilities.

    As a starter for 10, we see onboard camera's streaming video from the backs of Eagles from time to time. Is there such a device that will provide a 360 degree panorama. If not could It be invented?

  4. I like the Springwatch tagging idea, too. Pulling the trigger with an audience of 9 million might make anyone pause for a moment - and which HH is the Springwatch HH ?

  5. This probably sounds daft/naive but when a satellite-tagged bird is located on a monitor screen then what is the timescale from the satellite actually receiving the signal to the monitor showing the location?
    Surely there are enough interested people to want to follow these tagged birds and get on to the ground where the signal location shows for each day?
    Would there be less chance of a tagged bird being killed if more people spent more time in the area where the signals were showing?
    And more chance of catching someone 'in the act' if many eyes watched on?
    If I knew that a tagged Hen Harrier was in my area then I would be keen to spend time in the signal locations.
    Who actually does the monitoring of these birds?
    Naive or not?

    1. Not naive at all Andy. I wonder how many people hold back their suggestions because they think they might be too simplistic, obvious etc.

      We had a Montagu's in Glos a few years ago, volunteers monitored it around the clock and not from a screen!

      If the technology is there Im sure the volunteers will be. And if the techno is not there I'm sure it could be invented. Any insights from the scientific community welcome!

      1. The technology now is incredible, plus costs must be dropping dramatically. In a flight of fancy the other day was thinking of a wonderful time when we could have automated machinery going around identifying and removing invasive plants from wild areas - it's a pain in the arse manually. Lo and behold was watching one of Chris Packham's Weird Nature programmes and it showed a new drone that's capable of diving along the barrier reef killing crown of thorns starfish. It's mind boggling.

  6. I too think a spring watch harrier an absolutely great idea, could be followed up on autumn and winter watch. Might just make the criminals pause for thought. We certainly need something current survival rates of winter birds in upland areas is near zero. Better than the DEFRA non plan which is of course going to make no bloody difference at all

  7. Constant surveillance of a tagged bird would present quite a few technical challenges, particularly in an environment within which surveillance is the last thing the local landowner wants. How do you keep a tagged bird under observation when it can travel many miles across "hostile" territory? You'd be in the realms of semi-autonomous "escort" drones and they'd be vulnerable to shotgun attack. The technology is available (ask the Army) but it's horrendously expensive.

    1. If we're fantasising and in the sphere of horrendously expensive military equipment, then fitting harriers with small air-to-ground missiles seems the only way forward 😉

      1. John, I've had it confirmed the 360 deg panorama technology is there. My contact has offered to make enquirys about practicalities for our application. He works for Lockheed Martin.

        Solving the Rowan problem is going to require the involvement of everyone that's concerned about the plight of our wildlife not just the professional conservationists who might think they have all the answers but who so clearly don't! That's why we're where we are!!

        Mark, you appear to be lukewarm what do you think? How about setting up an online "ideas repository" under the grouse tab on you website?

    2. JBNTS, we already see video streaming from live birds on Springwatch as I mentioned above. Even with that technology itd be possible to determine precisely when a bird met its maker. If the camera where 360 deg you might even get the perpetrator.

      As for cost, how much do we spend on crime per annum? Surely this would be a flea bite by comparison.

  8. For the benefit of anybody else that thinks all of this a fantasy

    Don't be put off. My local bird group laughed when I suggested tagging a Turtle Dove a couple or three years ago. Within months the RSPB were asking for money to fund it!

  9. Planet Earth II website is showing 360 deg videos!! Plus footage from the back of a Golden Eagle in the program itself.

    A satellite tag is one thing, a camera would be quite another in terms of evidence of wrong doing!

    Any reason why the RSPB couldn't contact the production team and check out the possibilities? Maybe they could let us know?

  10. Mark is your last line and link correct?
    Shouldn't it be Carroll'
    with this link?


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