Imagine that! Satellite tags continue to function after non-suspicious deaths of two hen harriers

This morning the RSPB announced that two of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harriers, Mannin & Grayse, had died in non-suspicious circumstances.

Both had been tagged at a nest on the Isle of Man in July 2017. Grayse was discovered dead on the island on 9th August. Her brother Mannin left the island on 14th August and made a failed attempt to cross the sea to the Galloway coast in SW Scotland. After ten days at sea, his body was found washed up on the Scottish shoreline on 24th August 2017.

Photo of Mannin & Grayse before they fledged (photo by James Leonard).

The bodies of both birds were submitted for post mortems, neither of which indicated their deaths were suspicious.

Although the deaths of these two harriers is disappointing, natural mortality is, well, natural and not unexpected.

What’s unusual about these two harriers is that their satellite tags continued to transmit data after the birds had died. That shouldn’t be a surprise, because that’s how these tags are designed to work and in most countries, that is how they work. Researchers are routinely able to use the data from the still-transmitting tags to locate the dead body and work out what happened to cause the animal’s death.

It seems it’s only in the UK, and particularly on grouse moors, where satellite tags on dead raptors routinely and abruptly stop transmitting, and vanish off the radar, along with the raptor’s corpse.

Funny, that.

The recent Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review found that this happened much more often in Scotland than in any other countries where the same tags are deployed (England was not included in the analysis because Natural England is still sitting on the tag data – probably because NE knows just how devastatingly embarrassing a data analysis of tagged hen harriers will be).


11 Responses to “Imagine that! Satellite tags continue to function after non-suspicious deaths of two hen harriers”

  1. 1 A Milne
    September 11, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Excellent statement from the RSPB, and an equally good follow up from RPUK. More tags = more confirmation of what we already know.
    More tags next year from everyone involved, but not ME or HOT please, who don’t seem to approve of what the other tags show.

  2. 2 J .Coogan
    September 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Re. NE do we have any idea when they will publish their tagging data? I presume they are legally bound to. Is it worth another round of emails?

  3. September 11, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Lovely piece of evidence to add to the huge pile implicating the driven grouse industry in the more usual suspicious deaths.

    Keep up the pressure !

  4. September 11, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    This at least gives some indication that these tags still work even when submerged in sea water, so how come certain HHS go missing without any signal being transmitted over grouse moors? Let the moorland owners and their serfs give an explanation on this matter.

  5. 6 Iain Gibson
    September 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    It seems to me that no amount of evidence will be accepted by the grouse shooting community and their representative bodies. They will just continue to be in denial. Hopefully they will lose out eventually, but this depends on our ability to get the message across to society at large. It has to be said that RPUK is making considerable advances towards this ultimate objective, and it’s hard to imagine where we’d be without them.

  6. 7 Mike Haden
    September 11, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I wonder how they will spin this……

    Satellite tags cause the death of the UKs rarest bird of prey. A satellite tag weighed down a poor vulnerable hen harrier so it drowned in the Irish sea before it could reach the safe haven of the driven grouse moors of the north. Where it would be protected and supplied with all the food it could eat.

    ‘this is clearly a case of tag doing more harm than good and their use should be banned immediately’ said a spokesman for the conservation, environmental and all round good egg hug a polar bear association.

    • 8 Coop
      September 11, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      A keeper is already trying this on the facebook link to this item, Mike.

    • 9 Dylanben
      September 11, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      It’s simpler than that – they’ll simply say that these tags were planted! We had graphic evidence of the attitude towards harriers in the now not quite so recent North Yorkshire disturbance, attempted shooting and nest robbery case – still not acknowledged by the dark side. Their silence is far from golden. It must be a massive embarrassment to them to have that evidence so readily available on video.

  7. 10 Frankie
    September 12, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Tag still working after 10 days in the sea : a fact that won’t go down too well with the criminals working on grouse moors.

  8. 11 Sally McCarthy
    September 18, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    How heavy were these tags and could they have contributed to the birds deaths?

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