‘Missing’ hen harrier Brian: official responses from Environment Secretary & Cairngorms National Park Authority

Two days after the news that young satellite-tagged hen harrier Brian has gone ‘missing’ in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), we now have official responses from Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and from the CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Grant Moir.


Well done to journalist Christopher Foote (STV news) for publicising this incident (here) and for managing to get these official responses.

Let’s start with the response from the Environment Cabinet Secretary:

I take this issue very seriously and it shows the need to establish whether the disappearance of these birds is indicative of criminal activity. 

It is clearly suspicious, but we must ensure that a robust statistical analysis of all the data from over 200 tagged birds supports any conclusion. 

I will consider what action to take in the light of the full evidence, and I am not ruling out any options.”

Well, at least she didn’t trot out the usual Ministerial line that we’ve heard repeatedly from successive Environment Ministers over a period of several years (e.g. “I’m very disappointed” and “I will not hesitate to bring in further measures if they are deemed necessary“). And at least she has acknowledged this incident, which is better than remaining silent about it. But other than that, this is just yet another holding statement.

We’re partly sympathetic to her position. She has recently instructed a review of raptor satellite tag data (which we fully support) but that review is not expected to be finished until March 2017. That six month delay is not her fault, and nor is it the fault of the review’s authors. They need to conduct a thorough interrogation and analysis of the data and their methods will need to stand up to potential legal scrutiny depending on the Secretary’s subsequent decision to act. We’re well aware (as Roseanna will be) that the well-financed grouse shooting industry will take whatever legal action it can to prevent any Governmental challenge to its current practices, so this review does have to be robust and that will, inevitably, take time. On that basis, a holding statement at this stage is probably the best we could expect.

However, we’re also partly unsympathetic to Roseanna’s position. As we’ve said before, many, many, times, the evidence of criminal activity on grouse moors is already overwhelming and has been available for several decades. It has built and built and built. We don’t need to wait for yet another study to reach the same conclusion. It’s hugely frustrating that we have to put up with the constant stalling tactics from the Government before any action is taken. Again, Roseanna Cunningham isn’t entirely responsible for the stalling – every other Environment Minister has played their part in that, and some more than others – but eventually, a point is reached where the stalling and inaction is no longer tolerable.

Let’s now look at the statement from Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority:

We are working with Police Scotland, SNH and Scottish Government to look at next steps around wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park.”

Really, Grant? 48 hours of thinking time and that’s the best you can offer? You needn’t have bothered. No, really, you needn’t have bothered.

Photograph of hen harrier Brian by Jenny Weston


18 Responses to “‘Missing’ hen harrier Brian: official responses from Environment Secretary & Cairngorms National Park Authority”

  1. 1 Stephen Wilkie
    September 29, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    The Scottish Daily Express has also consistently highlighted these issues

    Fourth rare hen harrier missing A SATELLITE-TAGGED hen harrier chick has “disappeared” in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging its nest.

    The chick, named Brian, hatched in a nest on an estate in Perthshire within the national park, and was tagged in July to track its whereabouts.

    After fledging, the young male stayed within the park boundary until its signal “suddenly and without warning” stopped transmitting last month, a few miles from Kingussie.

    Searches for the bird and its tag have proved fruitless.

    Search The raptor is the fourth satellitetagged hen harrier to disappear off radar this year alone, and the second from this year’s Scottish fledglings.

    Bl¡naid Denman, manager of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project, said: “I’m sorry to have to report that we have lost another of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harrier chicks.

    “Despite a thorough search of the area with landowner cooperation, his body could not be found.” The hen harrier is the most persecuted bird of prey in the UK and features on the red list of endangered species.

    Hunted to the verge of extinction in Victorian times by gamekeepers and skin and egg collectors, the last count in 2010 revealed just 505 breeding pairs in Scotland.

    Brian’s disappearance is just the latest in a string of lost satellitetagged hen harriers.

    Hen harriers named Highlander and Chance, which hatched in 2014, vanished in County Durham and South Lanarkshire respectively this spring, while last month 2016 bird Elwood disappeared in the Monadhliath Mountains just to the north-west of the park.

    The Scottish Government ordered a review of satellite tracking data following reports of the disappearance of a number of golden eagles in the Monadhliath Mountains.

    This review has recently been expanded to include data from hen harriers and red kites.


  2. September 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    The fact that the body could not be found indicates foul play. Ospreys who have died are usually found at the last gps location and often the tag can be reuse on another individual. The tags cant just ‘disappear’ without human intervention.

  3. 5 Lucy
    September 29, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Working with police scotland and Snh……..really.

    There success and track record in this field speaks for itself.

    I would be worried if I ran a national park principally for the benefit of the public who wish to appreciate the wildlife and countryside and it was continually being exposed that the most sensitive species were being illegally killed by paying tennants

    Isn’t that what vicarious liability was brought in to combat.

    • 6 ian rubery
      September 29, 2016 at 6:00 pm

      The fact that the Environment Secretary is changed from time to time cannot be an excuse for us “having to put up with the constant stalling tactics from the Government before any action is taken”.
      The current Environment Secretary carries responsibility for the department’s whole performance on all its current cases, of which this is one.

  4. September 29, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    I think Grant Moir’s “steps around wildlife crime” rather sums up his position.

  5. 8 Jack Snipe
    September 30, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Roseanna Cunningham may as well have sent a letter to the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association stating “You have until at least March 2017 to kill as many Hen Harriers as you wish, without fear of serious investigation. Following that a further period of prevarication will be introduced as we continue to ponder what to do next. As you are clearly the defenders of the countryside and experts in the field of wildlife management, any suggestions are welcome.”

  6. 9 Ian rogerson
    September 30, 2016 at 7:55 am

    You guys are brilliant. Keep up the good work

  7. September 30, 2016 at 8:10 am

    this is yet another tragedy for our diminishing wildlife … constantly under attack from the worst of the human beings. in glos a badger was found in a snare sit right over the entrance of its sett. it has been there for 15 hrs. set by a company. the badger was cut out and taken to a wildlife rescue where it died. here in the glos badger cull we see that shoots are being given licences to shoot our buzzards too. And the usual vile people are now out teaching their young fox hounds to kill our fox cubs. I have no faith in this tory government who take the side of the landowners and only appear to be interested in money and supporting those with this stuff. feeling very down this morning.

  8. 12 I C T
    September 30, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Why haven’t the SSPCA been given the necessary powers?

    • 13 Chris Roberts
      September 30, 2016 at 9:46 am

      This ICT is something we all can’t fathom. The only conclusion that I can think of is that the SNP, like the Tories in Westminster, are not serious in tackling wildlife crime (with the exception of poaching) and upsetting the landed gentry.

    • 15 lucy
      September 30, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      Sspca have not been granted powers because the scottish government are not willing to upset landowners.

      They are deflecting negative PR by claiming its still under a consultation…….2 years later……

  9. 16 Me
    September 30, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    And the people in the area know SFA as usual .What a flipping surprise. The freak/ freaks that are getting a ” buzz ” from their criminal activity must be absolutely tormented that they can’t share their adventures/ stories with anyone else for fear of being ” grassed on “…..aye right…..we all know who they go axxx licking too and that axxx can’t fire them in not if their paying the wages or giving gifts out for a job well done.

    • 17 Thomas David Dick
      October 1, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      Some of them do tell their adventure stories of bop killing down the pub…they get overheard and it gets passed on..and some of us have very long memories………………………………….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 4,784,941 hits


Our recent blog visitors