Putting two and two and one together in one small corner of the Bowland Fells

The locations of five Hen Harriers whose satellite tags have mysteriously ceased to transmit in and adjacent to an SPA set up to protect Hen Harriers:

  • SD596621 tag id 94591 tagged by NE 23 June 2010, ceased transmitting 18 Aug 2010
  • SD617605 ‘Hope’ tagged by RSPB summer 2014, ceased transmitting 13 September 2014
  • SD624632 Thor tagged by RSPB summer 2018, ceased transmitting 3 October 2018
  • SD634615 ‘Sky’ tagged by RSPB summer 2014, ceased transmitting 10 September 2014
  • SD673604 tag id 58870 tagged by NE 12 July 2010, ceased transmitting 21 August 2010

The furthest distance between these five locations is about 5 miles – most are within a couple of miles of each at least one other last resting place.

On which note, don’t the red markers look a bit like tombstones? They might as well be.  Very short lives – none of them got to the end of the grouse shooting season let alone Christmas, let alone their first birthdays, let alone their first nesting attempt, let alone their first successful nesting attempt.

Will ‘manda be sobbing into her hankie and saying ‘It’s so sad, it’s so sad. So many tragic and unexplained accidents’.

Will Andrew Gilruth be retweeting YFTB nonsense or addressing the ills of shooting for once?

Will the Natural England senior management and Board be able to look themselves in the mirror tomorrow morning? Brood meddling is the solution to any of this?   The hell it is!

Will Richard Benyon cough with embarrassment at the fact that he rejected  vicarious liability for wildlife crime when he was a Defra minister?

Will Rory Stewart blush that he did nothing to end wildlife crime in his tenure at Defra?

Will Therese Coffey say anything about raptor persecution?

How long will the tombstones gather on the map? How blindingly obvious do the patterns have to be before someone gets a grip of wildlife crime in the uplands?  When we talk about wildlife crime hotspots there are few that are as closely gathered into a single spot and are so very hot.

Now, I wonder whether NE and the Lancs police have twigged yet that there is something serious going on here?

Driven grouse shooting? I’d ban it tomorrow if i had the power.

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18 Replies to “Putting two and two and one together in one small corner of the Bowland Fells”

  1. In may 2014 I cycled across the Salter Fell Road. A gamekeeper came out of the Mallowdale Fell track in his Landrover. He had guns (normal). I took a photo of the LR and he jumped out and was agressive. I wonder why.I am just a cyclist

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    1. Michael, why should anyone be surprised at such behaviour. My vehicle was severely damaged by someone who had kicked in the side panels wearing spiked boots several years ago. At the time my vehicle was parked in a pub car park while I was attending a joint raptor group / gamekeeper meeting convened to discuss hen harrier persecution in Bowland.

      On a second occasion I was maliciously accused by a gamekeeper of attempting to run him down while driving my vehicle on an estate road. The evidence which I was able to produce proved this accusation to be false and unfounded. When I threatened to take the matter to court the gamekeeper withdrew his accusation [Mark writes: small section removed because it alleges things about individuals which I cannot possibly know to be true]

      One of my most interesting encounters in Bowland occurred when my wife and I were walking along a forest track, a known goshawk territory. The track was positioned adjacent to one of the two grouse moor area where Mark Avery has attached the 5 grid reference on the map above. I recall it was snowing as we approached the end of the track close to the edge of the moor to our left. At this point we encountered two men on the track in front of us walking down towards my wife and myself. One of the two men I identified as a gamekeeper from the adjoining estate. As we walked towards the two men, now about 50 metres in front of us, I saw the second much younger man holding something in his hand before he quickly moved what he was carrying behind his back out of sight. It was at this point the older man appeared to walk briskly towards my wife and myself blocking our way in an aggressive manner, asking loudly what we were doing. It was my wife that noticed the younger of the two men disappearing into the wood on our left taking with him whatever he had been holding with him. The individual who stopped us then made a determined effort preventing my wife and I walking past him. Eventually when we were allowed to pass we tried to follow the second man's footsteps from where he had disappeared into the wood. Despite a determined search following the footsteps the best we could into the wood, they completely disappeared below the forest canopy the deeper into the wood we walked, we never saw this man again.

      I am unable to say what the second man had been concealing behind his back, but whatever it was it was something both individuals definitely did not what my wife and I to see.

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  2. Nick Lyall said in his blog which talked about Thor today "Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association said: “We join this appeal without hesitation and it is vital the police receive any possible information. This year we have been hugely encouraged by the best hen harrier breeding season in a decade and the fact that 60% of this year’s successfully fledged chicks had help from gamekeepers. At this stage it is not known if anything has happened to Thor beyond that the tag has stopped transmitting. It is widely recognised that that there is a high natural mortality rate for young hen harriers with only two out of every ten expected to survive their first year. We all know that collaboration is the key to successful conservation. As such, enhanced transparency and greater sharing of satellite tag data from the outset of birds’ lives would be a huge step in the right direction.”"
    I don't think she will get much traction at the RPPDG for her desire to get (and for gamekeepers to get) current sat tag data but she may get an easier hearing at Natural England. I'm surprised that she wants greater transparency though. Perhaps that is why NE has released location information. Surely that is not linked to Amanda's previously expressed desire for access to current data?

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  3. There are two gamekeepers employed to manage the areas depicted on your map, one on each of the two estates. It is no coincidence in my opinion that two of the three historic peregrine territories on both estates have not contained an active peregrine nest since 2006. In 2010 one of the three peregrine territories was found occupied, the nest containing two chicks in May. This may have had a connection with the fact that the resident gamekeeper who managed this area left the estate taking up duties elsewhere at the end of 2009. This left a gap of five months months allowing a new pair of peregrines to take up residence at the site, laying a clutch of eggs in April before a replacement gamekeeper had been appointed towards the end of May. When I examined the nest for a second time in the first week of June I discovered the nest was empty, and both chicks I had seen in in May along with the breeding pair had disappeared. This territory along with the other two remain vacated to the present day, I wonder why?

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    1. Keep up the great work Terry. You and your wife are obviously seen as a threat. And thanks for your informative blog.

      On my local estate, there's a similar story.

      The badgers occupying 14 setts (yes 14 setts) disappeared within one season following the (iirc) tripling of the number of gamekeepers on the estate. The badgers have not re-located to the setts or re-established setts elsewhere on the estate (thousands of acres) in the intervening 10 years or so, yet the habitat remains the same.

      Similarly, the raptors pretty much disappeared over the same period - apart from temporary appearances on the edge of the estate.

      By coincidence the boundaries of the estate are where bird traps and stink pits are used, together with shooting of 'vermin' on the estate and spring traps along all the waterways and snares in all the woods. It's a deadly place for wildlife that try to enter the estate.

      In my opinion, this is a concerted, coordinated campaign of predator extermination of all species, regardless of legal protected status or otherwise, and it's happening across the board on the more 'productive' shoots. It stinks.

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      1. Lizzybuzy, I appreciate your words of support, as you probably know yourself it's very frustrating having to stand back and watch nest after nest being destroyed on a patch of Lancashire's moorland I have been involved with since 1973.

        Peregrine license for use in Bowland which members of our group had held since 1974 were withheld by Natural England in 2010 because of the damaging detail of destroyed nests, missing eggs and young, together with adult breeding birds that vanished with regular frequency throughout the Forest of Bowland each season. It is easy to understand why these criminal acts being uncovered embarrass estates and their gamekeepers, who would not wish to see the detail made public because of the bad publicity such information would cause.

        Finding an occupied peregrine nests these days on any of Bowland's privately owned estates is most unlikely. To my knowledge there have been no records of an occupied peregrine nest on any private estate in Bowland since 2014, let alone a successful nest.

        If you examine Mark Avery's map above depicting the five grid reference where satellite tagged hen harriers had disappeared at Roeburndale and Lowgill, it is understandable why the three peregrine territories once established in these areas are no longer tenanted, a result of systematic persecution. Despite reporting incidents of persecution from both regions to the police and wildlife Crime Officer, even asking if the WCO would speak with each of the keepers responsible for managing these areas, nothing has changed. I can confirm in the rare event of a peregrine turning up at Roeburndale and Lowgill at one of the historic territories in the spring, the ones I have seen quickly vanish before settling down to breed.

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  4. Great little map Mark....to the point, a real wildlife tragedy, particularly on the basis that absolutely nothing is being done by the 'now informed' powers that be to remove the insidious threat to raptors by the shooting brigade. What will it take to stop this happening...depressing!!

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  5. Public interest in this topic is taking off. Perhaps it's time for an article without acronyms and jargon, explaining in simple terms the facts and the background.
    For me the killing of the little owls has really got my attention and probably many many others. Do you smell a turning point?

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  6. How many gamekeepers work in that rural area? How many shotgun owners live in that rural area? It wouldn't take long for one of them to squeal if they were all taken into custody in the early hours of the morning and questioned about the killings - unless the police aren't really interested in finding the culprits that is.

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  7. Dave J, that would be illegal for good reason.

    "Let's take all the Muslims/Black people/ Teenagers in the area and lock them up until one of them squeals... "

    I agree entirely that the Police should pull their finger out and investigate this properly, as organised crime, but they need to act within the law themselves when they do so.

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  8. This will never stop until there are Ministers in Defra who do not suck up to the large estates, their associated income streams (of benefit to the overall economy(?)), or more likely their voting potential and realise that their Departmental acronym contains the word Environment. Most are too thick(skinned) to be easily embarrassed but the more this abuse is publicised, and challenged, the more we can hope for progress.

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  9. The deafening silence from Coffey and Gove gets louder by the passing days. I don't suppose we have to struggle too hard to understand why! If they had any real interest, other than that vested in the continuation of driven grouse shooting, we would surely have heard from them by now. Not a word not a peep from either so we must draw our own conclusions.

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  10. I understand of the thirteen or so hen harriers that have fledged this year only three were tagged. Of these, how many are they still transmitting ? Surely a species that has such a tenuous hold within the Trough should merit a blanket surveillance programme. I fear for the tagged birds.....the rest well !!!

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    1. That really is disappointing. It would need all the English chicks to be tagged to get through to the pubic what is going on. I am sure there are limits to resources but a crowdfunder could have sat-tagged all of them .

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      1. Totally agree with this what you are proposing. Had this been undertaken in Bowland this year we may have been looking at a figure of 13 tagged birds lost, not just the ones that were in fact tagged; think of the bad publicity this would have generated. The cost although high, may have proved a sound investment, proving once and for all what we all know has been taking place on red grouse moors for decades.

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    2. I have been wondering about the total number of chicks tagged but there is no public information of which I am aware. Do you know otherwise?
      For instance, Mabel was tagged by NE (and I'm glad that they stated the fact) when it was announced as disappeared no trace. I'm not aware that they have stated that they satellite tagged any number of birds. You could always ask Amanda, as she is quite close to NE, I believe, and may know. She has asked for current satellite tag information a few times on the grounds of transparency (and possibly other reasons), I believe.
      Also Thor (now sadly disappeared no trace) was tagged by the RSPB but was not listed on their website as a tagged birds only 12 of which were selected to be on the website listed birds. The RSPB said that was only a proportion of the Hen Harriers tagged.

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  11. Sorry for cross posting (from RPUK) but this is important.
    I made a map with a 1 mile radius (as the RSPB did for Sky and Hope) for the 6 killed Hen Harriers. I put Thor directly between Sky and Hope as the RSPB stated in their statement.
    https://i.imgur.com/PZwd14k.jpg
    Notice how close id94591 is to a public road and farms
    https://i.imgur.com/GJ8hNZ4.jpg

    I want to know what the police have done and why this cluster still isn't being mentioned by the police even this week with another fatality. NE told me they informed the police about their [dead] birds and that they have searched for them. So why is no one talking about this? I have asked Nick Lyall (raptor PPDG) why he hasn't mentioned the NE birds.

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