Re-discovery of hen harrier Rosie not quite as it’s being portrayed

You’ll recall that satellite-tagged hen harrier Rosie was reported as being the fourth young hen harrier to disappear this autumn, in a vague statement issued by Northumbria Police on 17th October 2019 (see here).

Rosie was not one of the brood meddled hen harriers but was a 2019 bird satellite tagged by Natural England in Northumberland. We were not told the date of her tag’s last transmission nor the location of the tag’s last known position other than ‘near Whittingham’.

Three days later on the evening of 20th October 2019, Supt Nick Lyall tweeted to say “Rosie is alive and well“. It was not reported whether Rosie’s tag had come back online or whether she’d been observed and identified in the field by other means, e.g. the unique code on her leg ring.

On 23rd October 2019 Northumbria Police posted the following statement on social media:

You’d be forgiven for reading this statement, particularly the part we’ve highlighted in red, and thinking that Rosie’s tag had failed and she was only re-discovered thanks to the extraordinary efforts of local landowners and gamekeepers.

Indeed, Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Association has been quick to exploit this view on her social media accounts:

Isn’t it all fantastic? We don’t need ‘unreliable’ technology to protect this species – we can simply rely on lovely landowners and gamekeepers, working in partnership with the police, and the hen harrier will be kept safe.

The thing is, this version of events is complete bollocks.

When Nick Lyall tweeted that Rosie was ‘alive and well’, we contacted him to ask for more detail. He told us that Rosie’s tag had come back online and that’s how she’d been relocated, and this was ground-truthed by an experienced Natural England fieldworker who confirmed the sighting. (Thanks for being upfront, Nick).

So why the hell is Northumbria Police stating that “Rosie has been located thanks to local information and partnership working” and inferring that she was found thanks to the efforts of local landowners and gamekeepers, when actually she was found because her tag came back online?

Was this police press statement issued with the blessing of Natural England?

And if it wasn’t, why hasn’t Natural England since clarified the details of Rosie’s re-discovery?

What sort of shambles is this? How are we supposed to have any confidence in what we’re being told?

This blurring of the facts isn’t the only issue of concern. We’d like Natural England to be much more upfront about the type of tag Rosie is carrying….and you’ll understand our concern about that when we blog about the tags that were fitted to the brood meddled hen harriers……

28 Responses to “Re-discovery of hen harrier Rosie not quite as it’s being portrayed”

  1. 1 Boaby
    October 27, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    The obvious danger here is police playing a political game badly and the consequences are that tag technology appears to be unreliable.

    Police are definitively not an authority on satatelite tags or the data it produces.

    Police do however have influence and what they say does have influence.

    I’m sure there was best intentions here however police need to exercised caution and ensure that they don’t do more damage than good.

    • 2 George Murdo
      October 27, 2019 at 3:44 pm

      I am afraid that I am going to have to disagree here. The police authority are experts at press releases concerning two warring parties in extremely sensitive situations. Their releases are well thought out at various levels. Those dealing with Raptor Persecution especially so given that it was deemed so important that it sparked a Parliamentary debate in Scotland and was central to the need for a similar debate in Westminster in regards to the banning of driven grouse shoots.
      It is an open secret that authority favours power and those landowners behind the shooting Lobby are extremely rich and extremely powerful … to such an extent that the manipulation of press and media reports by their agents are well crafted
      The above Press Releases were not an example of naivety but a power tool in creating the impression that the Shooting Lobby is strongly behind the attempts to end raptor persecution … a claim that on the ground actions and incidents strongly contradict. Once more the shooting lobby has provided nothing but words which seek to miscontextualise what actually occurred.
      The Shooting Lobby has never acted in good faith and haves shown no signs of their approach changing preferring instead to present adulterated and misleading information which casts them in a good light. ,

      • 3 WTF
        October 27, 2019 at 7:22 pm

        The fundamental issue here is who in Northumbria Police was responsible for the extremely misleading fudge of an explanation which bore no resemblance to what RPUK had already been told by a senior police officer – Nick Lyall. Maybe of even more significance is the issue of who brought influence to bear to ensure that a misleading impression – one which favoured the shooting fraternity – was presented in an official public statement?
        Clearly the only satisfactory way forward is for a joint statement to be issued by the Police and NE to clarify the situation.
        Come to think of it though, it would be of interest if someone who is familiar with the facts of the matter could tell us whether the tag is still operating as normal.The vague information provided about the supposed malfunction begs the question whether there is more to this case than meets the eye. Has anyone actually seen the bird since its resurrection? It wouldn’t surprise me if someone had shot it and hidden it away out of satellite contact. After however long it took, it was brought out of cover and is now being driven around and parked up at intervals to simulate normal activity. Who knows? When authorities start messing with the facts, anything can happen.Little wonder that people lose faith. Maybe one for TJ to have a look into to restore some credibility.

        • 4 dave angel
          October 27, 2019 at 8:04 pm

          ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if someone had shot it and hidden it away out of satellite contact.’


          I think you might be overreaching with that one.

          ‘and this was ground-truthed by an experienced Natural England fieldworker who confirmed the sighting.’

  2. 5 Lizzybusy
    October 27, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    RP – I don’t think Nick Lyall is getting told the whole truth about the so-called partnership work that is going on.

    You may recall that earlier this year you praised the partnership work in publicising the shooting of two buzzards in the north eastern part of the North Pennines (24th April at Steel, Hexhamshire and 13th May near Blanchland). Posters had been put up by NP AONB asking for info in identifying the culprits.

    Well I visited all around Muggleswick, Blanchland, Ruffside, Derwent Reservoir, Stanhope etc the day after your wonderful blog. ALL the posters had been removed from the public notice boards (which would have been easy since they were only pinned on). I then copied a load more, put them up again and visited the next week. Guess what – the posters had all gone missing again!

    I put some more up.

    I contacted the North Pennines AONB who seemed concerned and assured me they would issue a press release if they were removed again. Unfortunately I was unable to visit the area for a month so by the time I got round to visiting the sites only one was still up. As it had been a month I didn’t bother contacting the NP AONB but the good work being undertaken by NP AONB doesn’t seem to be getting the level of support from locals that you might hope for if the shooting estate owners in the area were fully behind publicising this scandal.

    All this rubbish about working with landowners is hardly worth the paper it is written on!

    And – while I’m at it – I reported a series of potential wildlife crimes – including the potential snaring of a badger – this year in Northumbria Wildlife Officer, PC Lee Davison’s catchment area. He was not contacted and my complaint was dealt with by a local copper who has since refused to communicate with me to explain how he found nothing of concern when there were badger hairs snagged in the snare, loose stoppers, an insecure teeler etc. There seems to be a breakdown in communication here between local police and the Wildlife Crime Officer.

    Another complaint I tried to make about a nest disturbance was refused by the police. The 101 officer wouldn’t even accept my concerns as a complaint despite me reading the law out to him! Wildlife crime isn’t a priority in the eyes of some police.

    There’s plenty of room for improvement by the police and some others in these supposed partnerships. Goodness, some cynics might think that some of the partners are not so keen to identify wildlife criminals!

    • 6 Lizzybusy
      October 27, 2019 at 10:02 pm

      Apologies RP. I got a little muddled. To clarify –

      I distributed my own flyers. The NP AONB distributed their own posters each time i informed them the posters had disappeared. I applaud the response of the NP AONB. They reacted quickly and positively each time I reported the disappearing posters.

  3. 7 sennen bottalack
    October 27, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Quite obviously the usual double talk from the local police since Nick was obviously well aware of the truth and did not put out the statement in question.
    The local police often has very unhealthy links via family members being special constables, apart from all the other unhealthy links and power play around landowners etc.

    Keep up the pressure !

    • 8 Gordon Milward
      October 27, 2019 at 9:27 pm

      You need to substantiate your allegation that the police are ‘corrupt’. It is pure speculation and unhealthy at that. Why not use your keyboard and write to the Chief Constable instead and raise your concerns. I am a raptor lover and an ex Northumbria Police officer so have a loyalty to both and also a long history of looking at evidence and not stereotyping not jumping to conclusions.,

      • October 31, 2019 at 11:06 am

        It may not be legally corrupt but the two recent police press releases, which appear to have been influenced by the Moorland Association, show at the very least ethical corruption. I don’t think it is calculated it is the in-built cosiness between the police and powerful people.
        Whenever raptors are involved you simply have to imagine it was any other crime. Imagine the catholic church being allowed to influence a press release on child abuse in a catholic school.

  4. 10 Boaby
    October 28, 2019 at 9:02 am

    wildlife crime is very specialist and highly sensitive.

    Police once again shown they are not operating at the necessary levels required.

    Unfortunately community beat bobbies don’t have the skills or experience required.
    This is a fundamental problem with the police wildlife crime network top to bottom.

    • 11 Gordon Milward
      October 28, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      Pre 2010 and the austerity agenda, Forces could afford the luxury of specialist, expert WLOs. 21,000 fewer cops later…

  5. October 28, 2019 at 9:11 am

    I don’t think we should forget the days when xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx was Wildlife Crime Officer in Lancashire. Just saying.

    • 13 Gordon Milward
      October 28, 2019 at 1:41 pm

      One bad apple…

      • 14 Marco McGinty
        October 28, 2019 at 5:47 pm

        All it needs is “one bad apple” in any given region, for hundreds of crimes to be covered up.

        • 15 Gordon Milward
          October 29, 2019 at 9:06 am

          And at present, that bad apple was not in Northumbria and was not involved here. Those that clearly care should enquire with the PCC or CC and then deal with fact not what is, at this point, groundless speculation.

          • 16 TonyB
            October 30, 2019 at 5:24 pm

            I take it that you are a shooter Gordon and therefore are unable to see “bad apples”.

            • 17 Gordon Milward
              October 31, 2019 at 9:58 am

              No. I detest it. But, as you will see above, I am an ex Northumbria Police officer and so spent 30 years gathering and assessing evidence and that’s what is lacking here. There has been one ‘bad apple’ nationally and there may be more and even in my own ‘home Force’ but to ‘libel’ the WLO in this particular case is unfair to all concerned and reflects poorly. Instead of addressing a keyboard to make a groundless judgement, the time involved would be better spent raising concerns with the powers that be and then acting accordingly.

          • 18 Marco McGinty
            October 31, 2019 at 12:07 am

            Yes, xxxxx xxxxx is not involved here, but these “bad apples” do tend to cover their tracks, and are not exactly open about their corrupt practices.

            Can you openly state, that there are no corrupt individuals currently working in Northumbria Police?

            No-one was saying that the entire police force is corrupt, but it would be foolish to believe that corruption doesn’t exist within the various forces. And as I mentioned, all it takes is just one individual in any force to deliberately ignore vital evidence, and certain crimes go unpunished. Two or more corrupt individuals, and it gets worse as far as justice is concerned, especially if one of those persons is higher up in the chain of command.

  6. 19 chris
    October 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

    This kind of reporting is what gives anti persecution activists such a bad name. Instead of celebrating the fact that a bird is still around to breed in the future, you’re tearing into the police over pure semantics – and are as guilty as they are of misrepresenting the truth. Here are a few obvious facts, all of which are mentioned above.
    >The gps malfunctioned.
    >The bird’s fine.
    >Local people did ring in with information.
    >This is a partnership project.
    >Despite this positive outcome, the police are still encouraging people to report wildlife crime and recognise it is still a problem.

    But, because the bird was found by the GPS coming online and then confirmed by an expert, you lump this and all of the above as ‘complete bollocks’. You choose one line, focus on that with monomaniacal glee and ignore the positives because they don’t fit in with your agenda.

    You raise some important questions at the end of your blog, particularly about the nature of the gps, but you’ve spent too much time making this sound like such a negative result. There are plenty of absurd suggestions and insinuations on shooting forums that raptor persecution activists actually want birds to disappear (and potentially kill birds themselves) because it helps get grouse shooting banned. That is ‘complete bollocks’ – but your reporting of this only plays into their hands.

    • October 31, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      chris: you ignored the subject of the poorly conducted experiment? Are you happy about that? You did read the follow up post written 2 days before your comment(s)?

      • 21 chris
        October 31, 2019 at 6:38 pm

        Yes I’ve read it. No I’m not happy about the quality of the trackers, but that is a side track for this particular article. Instead, it’s about the ‘complete bollocks’ of how Rosie’s rediscovery was reported. it is still overbearingly and unnecessarily negative for what is at heart good news: The bird’s alive and well. Yet, sarcasm aside, not once does the 27th Oct post register this as good news. Instead it launches into an unnecessary tirade against the police and the reporting of the re-find, not the faulty tag. It’s only in the last sentence that previous reservations over the tags are mentioned. Up until that point, it’s simply noted that it had stopped working then came back online; the focus is on the police statement.

        Also, as the other post about the quality of the GPS points out, these errors were known about in advance and failure was foreseen. Given that this was the case, why was Rosie listed as having disappeared in suspicious circumstances? There was no evidence at all for this, but there was strong reason to believe that the GPS had broken. Anti persecution activists should not be jumping to conclusions. All it takes is one example like this, where people cry foul play and are then proved wrong, and credibility is blown out of the water. Then when birds do disappear for genuinely suspicious reasons, everyone becomes that bit more reticent to believe you, which helps no one – and certainly doesn’t help the raptors.

  7. 22 chris painter
    October 31, 2019 at 9:48 am

    It’s a bit rich to blame the police for distorting the truth when you report Rosie as being the victim of a ‘persecution incident’ and having suffered a ‘suspicious disappearance’. It turns out that’s complete bollocks too. Hopefully you’ll edit the list for 2019, but the fact that you put it there in the first place is the issue.

  8. 23 Stuart Masterton
    October 31, 2019 at 11:25 am

    You people are never happy, are you So, are you glad she’s apparently alive? Or are you just bitter and twisted because she’s apparently not dead and your justification for vilifying the shooting community is nullified?

  9. 25 Pete Bony
    November 1, 2019 at 10:52 am

    So Rosie is alive and well after all, that’s really good news!
    However there are comments on here suggesting that Gamekeepers, shooters, estate and shoot owners, etc are going out of their way to “persecute raptors”. The fact is that some gamekeepers as well as locals actually helped with information which failed to get recognition but there are no mentions in the comments thanking them for this. Why? Is this purely so that organisations like Raptor Persecution can continue to try to discredit and vilify shooters and continue to portray them all as cold blooded murderers. ( ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if someone had shot it and hidden it away out of satellite contact.’ is just one example of the negative comments directed at shooters etc) What planet are the cretins that make these stupid and totally unfounded or unjustified comments from?
    So it appears that the tracker that Rosie was fitted with failed, nothing more, nothing less! These things happen but when they do far too many people (Particularly from the “Anti Shooting Brigade”) chose to ignore and prefer to make unfounded accusations, very much in the same as the likes of Packham, Avery and the RSPB chose to ignore many of the scientifically proven facts and figures about the conservation work carried out by Keepers etc purely because it does not fit in with their own personal misguided agenda.
    If this post gets published (And I very much doubt that it will) isn’t it high time that Keepers, Shooters and such like were given some of the credit they deserve for what they do towards conservation rather that constantly demonising them?

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