Crowdfunding appeal for new raptor satellite tag project

The campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime has launched a crowdfunding appeal to help support a new project to fit satellite tags to raptors in northern England, set to begin later this year.

Satellite tagging has revolutionised efforts to detect raptor persecution crimes, and has also helped draw public attention to the illegal killing of raptors. The power of satellite-tagging was really first realised in 2009 when a young satellite-tagged golden eagle, ‘Alma’, was found dead on a grouse moor on the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. She’d been poisoned. It’s highly unlikely her corpse would have been detected had she not been fitted with a satellite tag, which allowed investigators to pinpoint her body as she lay face down in a vast expanse of heather moorland. The resulting publicity about her death was phenomenal, and even though nobody was ever prosecuted, this crime turned the spotlight on to an industry that had escaped scrutiny for so long.


Since Alma, there have been many other illegally-killed raptors, including golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, hen harriers, Montagu’s harriers and red kites whose satellite tags have given the game away. These days, the raptor killers are wise to the game and now it’s far more common for a sat-tagged bird to simply ‘disappear’, with all the evidence (carcass, sat tag) simply destroyed to avoid detection, although occasionally there won’t be a ‘clean kill’ and the wounded bird is able to move some distance before succumbing to its injuries and investigators are able to collect the corpse, conduct a post mortem and record it as a confirmed persecution crime.

Some within the grouse-shooting industry have recently been trying to discredit the use of raptor satellite tags, and it’s not hard to see why. They’ve slurred the professional reputations of highly experienced and licensed raptor researchers and have used some photographs of a young golden eagle with what appears to have a ‘slipped’ tag harness as evidence that the tagging experts don’t know what they’re doing. Now, of course, it’s possible for a sat tag harness to slip, and it does happen on occasion, but it’s a rare occurrence. What the accusers don’t mention is the circumstantial evidence that suggests tagged raptors are being caught inside crow cage traps, providing an opportunity for the trap operator to cut one of the harness straps before releasing the bird, with its tag now dangling and looking like it has been badly fitted. There is also evidence of at least one tagged hen harrier being trapped, its harness removed and transferred to a free-ranging corvid, presumably with the intention of disguising the fact the hen harrier was illegally killed.

Strangely, the grouse shooting industry has not tried to vilify the satellite tagging of non-raptor species, such as woodcock (GWCT project) or cuckoos (BTO project); it’s only the tagging of raptors they seem to object to. Can’t think why.

Here’s a photo (taken by Stephen Murphy) of Bowland Betty, a sat-tagged hen harrier found dead on a grouse moor on the Swinton Estate in Yorkshire in 2012. A post mortem revealed she had been shot.


The new raptor satellite-tagging project in northern England is being undertaken by highly experienced and licensed experts in an independent research consortium (all voluntary – no salaries are being paid). The beauty of this independence is that sat tag data will be put in to the public domain very, very quickly. No more waiting for weeks/months/years to find out what happened, which will allow timely and targeted publicity every time one of these raptors ‘disappears’ or is found shot/trapped/poisoned. Greater public awareness of raptor persecution is key to bringing it to an end.

The crowdfunding target is to reach £10,000 by mid-March. It’s ambitious but it’s do-able. If you’d like to make a donation, however small or large, please visit BAWC’s crowdfunding page HERE

Thank you


16 Responses to “Crowdfunding appeal for new raptor satellite tag project”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    January 22, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    What are the consequences for the battery life/tag durability for incorporating a small camera to picture and upload if the straps are cut or if the bird remains in a small area/same location for more than a couple of hours? I’m sure wiser minds than mine are looking at this as a way to defeat the tag-defeat methods.

    Anyway, I shall be glad to make a donation.

  2. 2 dave angel
    January 22, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    ‘The beauty of this independence is that sat tag data will be put in to the public domain very, very quickly.’


    Does ‘data’ include the location of potential nest and roost sites?

    • 3 crypticmirror
      January 22, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Having the nest sites be public knowledge from the word go might be a good thing. Get large numbers of people up on the moors watching them, keeping eyeballs on the lordship’s men too. You can get relatively cheap nightvision gear these days too, and drones. I bet gamekeepers would hate all that happening. It helped the osprey, although it was egg thieves and anglers after it, but still it was enlisting the public as watchers that helped.

    • January 23, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Hi Dave,

      It is our understanding that sensitive information such as nest and roost sites will be protected. Local raptor workers involved with the project will be key to this decision making.

      • 5 dave angel
        January 23, 2017 at 6:37 pm

        I’d prefer that there was no accurate location information on the internet. I can’t see how the birds benefit from it being there, and I can see a possible risk to them from it being there. So why do it? General indications of how the birds move about should be enough.

  3. 6 Doug Malpus
    January 22, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Done it. Let us hope that this effort will put the shivers up the criminals. We know where you work and sat tags will tell us when and where you do the dirty work.

    I’ve posted on FB to spread the word.


  4. 7 Andrew
    January 23, 2017 at 10:44 am

    I would be happy to support this, and will, but I suspect many, like me, will want to know what 10k will do. Omitting this information IMO will cause some people to hold back or be less generous with donations. Just a basic figure of cost per raptor tagged will help and if they raise 30k have they the resources to tag three times the planned number.

    On another subject, what has happened to the reward money given for the Ross-shire red kite massacre?

    • January 23, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Hi Andrew,

      The cost of tagging an individual bird will range between £2-3K, depending on the type of tag the researchers decide to use.

      The more money raised, the more tags can be bought and fitted (yes, they have the resources to fit as many tags as can be bought!).

      Hope this helps.

      Re: the reward money for the Ross-shire Massacre. We intend to ask questions about this once the 3-year anniversary has passed (in March). After March, the case becomes time-barred which means even if a suspect is identified it will not be possible to prosecute. Therefore, the reward funds should be released.

  5. 9 Geoff
    January 23, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Will BASC, GWCT & NGO be contributing? It would be an excellent opportunity for them to show their support in the face of continued persicution from ‘rouge’ eliments within their industry.
    I sure a big PR use to all their members could exceed the target many times over and help promote the strong conservation message that these groups espouse.

  6. 10 Alister J Clunas
    January 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Great idea to crowd fund satellite tags. Could the scheme be extended to include Scotland?

  7. 12 Alex Milne
    January 23, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    I’m really keen on satellite tags, not because they will allow an insight into the life of the birds but they are our only hope in convincing English MPs that there is an issue. I have some concerns as to this particular crowdfunding however, although I’m inclined to contribute.
    The RSPB has indicated that they will do much more satellite tagging of Hen Harriers. If the intent is to tag Hen Harriers I would not be so keen as there may be no harriers available for this group in North England, and I now trust the RSPB to do this.
    The intent may be to tag Goshawks and or Peregrine Falcons. Are suitably light tags available for these species? If so, I’m happy to contribute.
    I would understand if my questions cannot be answered at present.

    • January 23, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Hi Alex,

      Given the precariously small breeding population of hen harriers in England (3 nests last year), and DEFRA’s intention to begin brood meddling this year, and the fact that RSPB & Natural England are both already tagging HHs, it’s quite unlikely that this project will be tagging HHs.

      For obvious reasons, the researchers involved would prefer not to say which species will be tagged, and where.


  8. 14 alan
    January 23, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    In principle, I think this is a great idea. Tagging and the death of Alma stopped poisoning almost over night. But have a few reservations. What type of tag is being used? Will it be the same as on the woodcocks and Cuckoos?
    Will there be any means of measuring heart beat etc, so that position at site of death can be established. Or will we still be in a position where the actual location of death is pure supposition. Will there be follow up visits to the nest sites where the chicks are tagged to check that the nest site is still being used the next year? I think you are clutching at straws, claiming the keepers are deliberately damaging harnesses. There is up to 3 damaged harnesses in my area, but I cant see 3 separate eagles going in to corvid traps. Ive never heard about a harness being swapped to a corvid. Do you have any details of this? Will there be follow up visits to the nest sites where the chicks are tagged to check that the nest site is still being used?

    [Ed: Alan, for what should be blindingly obvious reasons, the answers to your questions will not be provided on a public site like this]

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

  • 4,162,317 hits


Our recent blog visitors