Satellite-tagged Montagu’s harrier Sally ‘disappears’ in Norfolk

If it’s not news of a hen harrier being persecuted, or a marsh harrier being persecuted, then it’ll be a Montagu’s harrier.

The RSPB has just published a blog detailing the ‘disappearance’ in Norfolk of satellite-tagged Montagu’s harrier ‘Sally’ on 6th August 2017.

Sally was an adult female who had featured on the BBC’s Autumnwatch programme when presenter Martin Hughes-Games was given the privilege of releasing her post tag-fitting in July 2016.

Photos from RSPB

Sally had bred successfully in Norfolk for two years, including raising a brood of three this year. She (along with partner Roger) was one of only four breeding pairs in the UK and the only breeding pair in eastern England.

Her last tag signal came from near Bircham Tofts in Norfolk on the evening of Saturday 5th August 2017. She was reliably seen near her nest site at midday on Sunday 6th August 2017 but the scheduled tag signals from Sunday evening onwards never materialised. Since then, silence.

Sally’s ‘disappearance’ comes almost 3 years to the day when another tagged Montagu’s harrier (called Mo) ‘disappeared‘ in the same area, reported at the time to be on land bordering the Sandringham Estate.

If anyone has any information, please contact Norfolk Police (Tel: 101) and quote ref #12815082017.

UPDATE 17th August 2017: Good coverage in The Sun newspaper here


33 Responses to “Satellite-tagged Montagu’s harrier Sally ‘disappears’ in Norfolk”

  1. 1 lothianrecorder
    August 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    To clarify then, the “last tag signal” on 5/8/17 itself is not suspicious as there were no more signals due within a certain time period? Otherwise the sighting on 6/8/17 suggest tag failure?

  2. 4 John Turner Shropshire Peregrine Group
    August 15, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Very sad. Is there any investigation into the disappearance?

  3. 6 Mike Haden
    August 15, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Bricham toffs isn’t far from Sandringham (as the Montagu’s harrier flies, to coin a phrase).

  4. 7 lothianrecorder
    August 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    OK, I see now, not only a lack of signal but no sign of the bird…points to persecution and deliberate destruction of the tag to avoid crime location being detected.

  5. August 15, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Why oh why would anyone jump to the same conclusion time after time, that the tag has failed, unless they were deliberately blind to the far more obvious cause?

    • 10 Gordon Milward
      August 15, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      Tag failure is a response from those who are seriously, well and truly p*ssed of with these beautiful birds being killed (I am one of that group). It’s not about being blind, it’s about having hope, albeit misplaced.

  6. 11 Paul V Irving
    August 15, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers, this is becoming so utterly predictable but each time I am as angry, despondent and determined that we must not let the bastards win. however i am going to need anger management lessons to keep the blood pressure down!!!

    • 12 Dave J
      August 15, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      You missed off the Pallid Harrier that went missing near Dunlop Bridge earlier this year, allegedly shot.

    • 13 Iain Gibson
      August 15, 2017 at 6:46 pm

      I agree we must not let the bastards win, but we have to face up to the fact that they are winning, until we take the argument to another level. I know I’m not the only RPUK supporter who dips into the dark recesses of Facebook to read what the opposition has to say, but I’d warn anyone who has the slightest tendency towards depression to think twice before doing so. On their insular blogs they have carte blanche to reinforce as much mythology and as many lies as they like, and they really go way over the top! Mark Avery and especially Chris Packham are regarded as legitimate targets for outright libel and personality destruction, and RPUK is dismissed as a bunch of cranks who make up false evidence and tell lies in abundance. Scientific credibility is frequently dismissed as irrelevant ramblings being manipulated by subhumans who allegedly have never set foot in the countryside, and are devoid of all wisdom. Whether we like it or not, mud sticks and although an objective dispassionate reader might see right through their vile personalised attacks, the hunting and shooting community take great pleasure in hurling the most incredible insults imaginable. The more ‘respectable’ nonsense uttered by their representative organisations, like the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, sounds more sensible but are still dismissive of good quality science that doesn’t confirm their traditional beliefs. The amount of over-the-top propaganda put out by the grouse shooting industry during this particular Inglorious 12th was hopefully an indication they see us as a serious threat, but they have a lot more cash to spend on publicity than we do. We desperately need more unity among the conservation charities and ornithological societies, many members of which can feel excluded by the elitist nature of raptor study groups. I fully understand the need for security regarding individual nest sites, but greater transparency could make the topic of harrier persecution more open to a wider public.

  7. 14 Gerard
    August 15, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Collect the evidence, push for custodial sentences, then drive a split between keepers and their paymasters when one is sent to prison. Just keep going.

    • 15 dave angel
      August 16, 2017 at 10:11 am

      It must be tricky trying to drive a wedge between employee and employer when it’s the employer who is paying for the employee’s lawyer.

  8. 16 Andy page
    August 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    I suppose this is a grouse moor too!
    How many grouse moors in Norfolk?

    • 17 Simon Tucker
      August 15, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Not all wildlife criminals are on grouse moors: there are plenty of pheasant / partridge shoots with criminal gamekeepers.

    • 18 George M
      August 15, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Your a bit pedantic Andy! Persecution is persecution and although maybe no grouse moors are in the location there IS plenty of shooting around that area. Maybe I am missing a hidden subtlety in your comment and you have another probable cause? I’m all ears.

    • 19 lizzybusy
      August 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      [Ed: Comment deleted. Sorry, we can’t publish that in its current format as it would be libellous]

    • 20 lizzybusy
      August 15, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks RP I appreciate you looking out for mis-statements. This is the amended comment…

      There have been a number of incidents regarding raptors in Norfolk. This is a reasonable summary below but RP of course covers these incidents in tremendous detail.


      For info, this is the shooting industry’s description of Sandringham Estate which is in the area.

      Sandringham, Norfolk
      Wild pheasants, stunning grey partridges and wildfowling, all with a Royal pedigree – formal days in the company of kings, queens and smartly dressed keepers. “Rabbiting with an army of keepers strengthened one’s resolve to shoot straighter, as the insults flew. Ferreting the hedgerows, tickling the trout and being one of the guns for the annual field trial defines the breadth of the sport available,” said Charles Loyd of Strutt & Parker.
      Read more at http://www.thefield.co.uk/shooting/the-50-best-sporting-estates-22216#QuZ4d6bSJiZCHAZx.99

      SANDRINGHAM, Norfolk, the Queen
      The shoot
      The 8,000 hectares that make up the Sandringham Estate provide an excellent shoot based on wild birds. The Duchess of Cambridge was given private lessons by Prince Charles’ loader in preparation for the Boxing Day pheasant shoot that is a famed Sandringham tradition.

      • 21 Mike Watts
        August 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm

        Yeah, mention Norfolk and I automatically think of Sandringham Estate, eight thousand hectares and all.
        I bet a lot goes on there that we never read of. Victorian privilege, as though they are all enveloped in some sort of time warp where criminal illegality never takes place; that sort of thing only relates to the plebs, besides, who’s going to investigate the monarchy for [Ed: alleged] illegal raptor persecution, certainly not the Norfolk Police Service.

        [Ed: Thanks Mike. Norfolk Constabulary has investigated several incidents of alleged raptor persecution on the Sandringham Estate, and at least one of those investigations included questioning a member of the royal family]

    • August 15, 2017 at 5:58 pm

      Andy – another harrier ”vanishing” is bad whether or not it’s on a grouse moor – I hope shooting folks (who might be reading) haven’t got the idea that killing harriers is OK as long as it’s not on a grouse moor. Obviously we don’t know why yet another harrier has vanished.

  9. 23 AnMac
    August 15, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Another sad day for those of us who marvel at our raptors and the difficult life that they face day in and day out

  10. 24 lizzybusy
    August 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    I should correct my statement – several criminal investigations into wildlife crime of raptors have been carried out. There have been no prosecutions.

    [Ed: thanks, that’s better! But we’d already deleted your original comment. If you want to re-submit the amended version, we’ll publish it. Thanks]

  11. 25 Caro McAdam
    August 15, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    This is so infuriating and depressing.. There are some big pheasant and partridge shoots around that area. I hope it’s being publicised in the Eastern Daily Press and other local papers. People in Norfolk need to know what’s going on.

  12. August 15, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I know it is easy to jump the gun so to speak, but it does seem a bit suspicious.

    • 27 Sandra Padfield
      August 15, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      Of course it’s suspicious – probably the ‘establishment’ response to legitimate public protest against the persecution of raptors! We know a certain well known family in that area are on record with their views on the subject and I don’t mean the Royals, though I believe they are acquainted.

  13. 28 bettylee13
    August 15, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Is it time for the RSPB to question the “R” in RSPB? I am furious about the blatant and continual illegal slaughter of our magnificent harriers and other wildlife by people who could afford to use their money and time to help reverse our ecological decline instead of frittering it away on out-of-date destructive and selfish uses of moorland!

  14. August 16, 2017 at 6:32 am

    shooting raptors goes on everywhere and I hardly ever see buzzards, though obviously they aren’t tagged. I am told by Doglost that now the dog that ‘goes missing,- stoleng are springer spaniels and they are sold to people who’ve taken up shooting but who have only just taken this ‘hobby’ up. The shooting industry is growing fast. young people going to 2 big Agri Unis or Colleges who want to be gamekeepers.

  15. 30 Nigel -John Bastin
    August 16, 2017 at 11:05 am

    My name is Nigel Bastin and I spent most of the spring monitoring montys migrating through the med,mostly on western crete plus a few islands .to find that they fly all the way to Norfolk to breed only to be blasted out of the sky makes me cry,its not just malta these wonderful birds are killed I have spent most of my life as a raptor researcher mostly on goshawk research is it me or is it getting worse.

    • August 18, 2017 at 7:44 pm

      Having spent approaching 50 years in raptor protection & research I can say that without doubt it is currently getting worse ” in places “. Mainly On DGS moors & some other driven game shoots.
      However everything is relative & looking at the huge gains of raptors in The UK since the 1960’s we must be optimistic. We have expanding & thriving large raptor populations including Goshawk, linked in large part to increased forest cover, which were extinct or virtually so, when I started in this field.
      The very success of these species is pushing the criminal landowners & their slaves, the keepers, to fight harder to stop the spread & recovery.
      We will win in the end but the tide of public opinion must be harnessed to speed things up.
      Whenever I feel down about it I simply add up the UK gains for the Eagle species, Goshawk, Peregrine, [Non – Hen] Harriers, Red kite, Osprey, Hobby, Buzzard,Honey buzzard, Raven etc.
      Yes, Monty’s are in trouble but we are on the edge of their range, throughout which they are in trouble, & they were never less than rare here.
      I have been priviledged to study them throughout their tenure here since the 1970’s & they’re still hanging on !
      Tragically, even they are subject to persecution, but the criminals are not having it all their own way & I believe that tagging will prove to be a game – changer.
      Be optimistic & spread the word about what we’ve achieved !

      Keep up the pressure !

  16. 32 Gleb Berloff
    December 9, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Although it might be gone, it is possible, however unlikely, that the tag simply failed. I have experienced this before- last summer, a white-tailed eagle chick went missing in a Russian nature reserve, and I was part of the team that searched for it. The last signal came from the ground, and it was feared dead. Three months later, it turns up in a completely different location. It is possible the tag simply failed. Either way, the only way to confirm this if it is seen there again. If yes- it isn’t dead, if no- it is dead.

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