Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Beater’ is lost, presumed dead

Another of the 2016 cohort of satellite-tagged hen harriers has been reported as ‘lost’, presumed dead.

This time it’s a bird called ‘Beater’, a young male who hatched on the admirable Glen Feshie Estate in the Cairngorms National Park. According to the most recent blog update from Blanaid Denman (Project Manager, RSPB Hen Harrier Life Project):

Sadly, no data has been received from Beater since his tag last transmitted on 14th November. His last known location was on an area upland pasture in the central Scottish Borders. We have no information to suggest anything illegal has happened, the transmissions did not stop abruptly as in other recent cases, but we do now think it most likely that he has died” (read the full Skydancer blog here).

Photo of Beater shortly before fledging (photo by Ewan Weston)

The class of 2016 are not doing very well. In addition to Beater, here are some of the others that haven’t survived past November:

Hen harrier Elwood – ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging.

Hen harrier Brian – ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging.

Hen harrier Donald – missing in northern France, presumed dead.

Hen harrier Hermione – found dead on Mull, believed to have died from natural causes.

Hen harrier Rowan – found dead in Yorkshire Dales National Park. Cumbria Police said ‘likely to have been shot’. There is no ambiguity – this bird was shot (more on this soon).

Hen harrier Tarras – ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park.

Also ‘lost’ this year were two birds from the 2014 cohort: Hen harrier Highlander ‘disappeared’ in Co Durham in April and Hen harrier Chance ‘disappeared’ in South Lanarkshire in May.

At least eight of the 2016 cohort are still alive (Aalin, Bonny, Carroll, DeeCee, Finn, Harriet, Wendy and Sorrel). Thanks to regular updates from Blanaid and her colleagues (thank you – much appreciated), these birds’ movements can be followed on the project website (here) with the exception of Sorrel, whose movements are being monitored on the Hawk & Owl Trust website (here). How many will make it to Xmas?


19 Responses to “Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Beater’ is lost, presumed dead”

  1. 1 JohnM
    December 15, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    There will always be some HHs that die from natural causes – if they live long enough to do so, that is.

  2. 2 Greengrass
    December 15, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    The RSPB seem to be open minded to what’s happened. No matter what evidence was available, the SGA would conclude it was suicide.

  3. 3 Chris Baines
    December 15, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Worth mentioning that although Hen Harriers are a protected species winter roost sites have no protection. A roost I found in SW Scotland was disturbed by people walking into the roost hunting Deer. This was on Forestry commission land and under the right to roam ( trample) law nothing can be done about this. In fact the Forestry commission was ordered by the Scottish Government to take down any private signs. I am Just glad this stupid law is more restrictive in England.

    • 4 Nick Kempe
      December 15, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      This is a total misrepresentation of the law of access in Scotland. There is a right of access for activities covered in the Land Reform Act but these do not include hunting. In this case therefore the hunters who walked over the roost must have other hunting by agreement with the landowner, ie FCS, or they were poachers, and poaching is of course illegal. In fact rights of access in Scotland make it easier for illegal activities to be detected (whether by landowners or poachers) and a significant number of cases of illegal wildlife persecution each year are detected by people exercising their rights of access.

      • 5 Paul V Irving
        December 17, 2016 at 2:50 pm

        Without open access in England and Wales on most upland we would still have very restricted access to grouse moors which in many cases are just large wildlife crime scenes. The true extent of both wildlife crime and its effect on raptor populations would still be largely hidden without such access rights.

    • December 16, 2016 at 12:06 am


      The hen harrier is protected from harassment at all times in Scotland, not just in the breeding season, since March 2013 when it was added to Schedule 1A of the Wildlife & Countryside Act. See:


  4. 7 Paul V Irving
    December 15, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    The trouble is even if it is a natural event , with the persecution as well so few chicks survive their first winter. That is what is really driving the population decline in England winter killing!

  5. 8 Muriel green
    December 16, 2016 at 1:02 am

    How much sat tag data relating to missing birds are the police currently sitting on and not making public.

    FOI to Tayside police would be interesting for a start.

    I smell widespread suppressing these crimes by police.

  6. 10 mairi
    December 16, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Just a query, please. I understand that if a bird is killed suddenly i.e. shot, this is detectable from how the tag info stops moving suddenly. But what would be the tag info if a bird was poisoned? Would this seem to be a natural/unknown death?

    • December 19, 2016 at 6:15 pm

      As i understand it the transmitter will keep on transmitting until it is broken so if a bird is poisoned but the transmitter isn’t destroyed it can be located by tracking it.
      It makes me think that game-keepers on driven grouse moors might prefer to shoot more and poison less as the number of tagged birds increases and the risk of being caught increases.
      Or it could be that they know that nothing will happen even if the bird is traced so don’t give a shit, probably the latter as the recent posts on East Arkengarthdale demonstrate.

  7. 12 dave angel
    December 16, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Am I the only one with concerns about the locations of these birds being in the public domain?

    • 13 Frank Scott
      December 19, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      What’s your point Dave? Protection of the birds or the killing cohort?
      If it’s the birds I can assure you that the killers know where they are long before you (presumption) or I (definitely) do. I doubt if the hunter-killers need to use welfare/supporter sites to track or locate birds.
      If it’s to protect the identity and locations of the killing cohort then I’m afraid the only way nowadays to get any form of justice for the wildlife is to name and shame.
      Naming and shaming, and applying pressure to their subsidy-providers and mates in the ‘establishment’ is probably the most effective method for the ordinary Joe (like me) to make any impact, and to try and do something positive to stop this selfish slaughter continuing; if I know who they are I can lobby their mates and the organisations that support and benefit them.

      • 14 dave angel
        December 19, 2016 at 4:21 pm

        I’m referring to the location information on the RSPB site. If it’s accurate (ie hasn’t been ‘smudged’ to disguise the true locations) then it’s letting the bad guys know stuff that they might not already know and which would be of assistance to anyone minded to get rid of the birds.

        • 15 Iain Gibson
          December 20, 2016 at 3:06 pm

          We need to be realistic and be aware that on grouse moors gamekeepers are just as likely to know harrier nest locations as are enthusiastic members of the Raptor Study Groups. Hence the not uncommon practice of leaving at least one nest for the harrier watchers to keep an eye on while the ‘keepers “remove” as many of the other nests as possible. It makes me unpopular but I feel that too many (not all) RSG members working on harriers are too exclusive, and secretive even within their own groups. I am familiar with only one group so cannot generalise, but my own experience has been quite frustrating, even unpleasant at times. I believe quite strongly that if there was better trust within groups, and consequently greater involvement, we could do far more to benefit the harriers. Having monitored birds on my own study area (along with several colleagues), I have felt for some time that we now have sufficient data to write up some interesting results from within our local RSG area. However having put forward the proposal to the Group as a whole, I was rather taken aback to be refused access to vital nest record data to test various hypotheses. That was despite an assurance that no nest location details would be published. I truly believe we have sufficient evidence to highlight important flaws in the Defra Harrier Plan, with particular relevance to the “brood meddling” aspect of the project. Most harrier workers are aware of these flaws, but as far as I’m aware no-one as yet has analysed their potential consequences, which let’s just say are not good for the future of Hen Harriers in the UK.

  8. 16 Trapit
    December 16, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    If by the”behaviour”of this satellite tag a natural death can be proved,it should help in the argument with the sceptics over the sudden disappearances we are all too familiar with .

  9. 17 Iain Gibson
    December 17, 2016 at 12:20 am

    The Hawk & Owl Trust website is amateurish and embarrassing, and minimalist in terms of information provision. Do they really think they are going to learn anything meaningful from two satellite-tagged harriers? It reminded me of the Woodcock research described on the GWCT website, making a great puff about the use of modern technology but coming up with nothing new to learn about Woodcock migration. Or their current feature about how Robins (yes, Robins) benefit directly from game management, by bumping off their predators, of course. Do we have to suffer these organisations pretending to be interested in science or conservation? I suppose we do in a ‘free’ society, but unfortunately some in high places are easily duped, and it provides spurious evidence for their counter-truth arguments. Perhaps it’s time to become more ruthless and expose these frauds for what they really are, utter charlatans.

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