Posts Tagged ‘hen harrier


Hen harrier Marci ‘disappears’ on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park

RSPB Scotland has issued the following press release this morning:


RSPB Scotland are appealing for information following the sudden disappearance of a young hen harrier in an area notorious for bird of prey persecution.

The female harrier, named Marci, was satellite tagged as a chick in 2018 as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project. She fledged from a nest on National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, and the project had been tracking her movements until the tag stopped transmitting on 22nd April 2019.

[Hen harrier Marci, photo by Shaila Rao]

In August 2018, another young satellite tagged hen harrier named Margot vanished on a grouse moor just a few miles from Marci’s last recorded position.

Like Margot, Marci’s tag was functioning normally until it suddenly stopped transmitting. Marci had been exploring a wide area of north east Scotland with her last recorded position in an area managed intensively for driven grouse shooting near Strathdon, west Aberdeenshire, in the Cairngorms National Park. Marci had been in this area for the previous three weeks with no indication of any technical issues with the tag. Follow-up searches by Police Scotland and RSPB Scotland uncovered no trace of the bird or her tag.

This comes just weeks after Skylar, another hen harrier tagged by the project, disappeared on 7th February 2019. Her last recorded position showed she was close to a South Lanarkshire grouse moor.

The most recent UK hen harrier population survey revealed a worrying decline of 13 percent between 2010 and 2016 to an estimated 545 pairs. While Scotland is the UK stronghold for the population with 460 of these, numbers here were down by 9 percent since 2010, and 29 percent since 2004.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager said:

These sudden disappearances of our satellite tagged hen harriers are depressingly frequent; Marci didn’t even get to make it through her first year before vanishing. The satellite tags are highly reliable so a sudden stop in transmitting gives us immediate cause for concern. If Marci had died of natural causes the tag should have continued to transmit, allowing our team to find her.

A recent published study indicates that 72% of hen harriers are being illegally killed on Britain’s grouse moors, while another study found 31% of tagged golden eagles in Scotland were illegally killed. Something has to change in the way our countryside is looked after, to help protect our iconic birds of prey in Scotland.”

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said:

This is the latest in a string of similar incidents in western Aberdeenshire, and is further strong evidence of the systematic targeting of protected birds of prey on Scotland’s driven grouse moors. In just the last few years, the illegal killing of a buzzard, three goshawks and a hen harrier have been witnessed within a few miles of where Marci vanished. There have also been several confirmed poisonings; the filming of the illegal setting of traps; and the suspicious disappearances of several satellite-tagged eagles and other hen harriers. It is abundantly clear that current legislation is completely failing to protect our birds of prey, and robust regulation of the driven grouse shooting industry is both vital and long overdue.

If anyone can provide information about Marci or any illegal killing of birds of prey please contact Police Scotland on 101, or the RSPB’s confidential raptor crime hotline on 0300 999 0101.


The news that yet another satellite tagged hen harrier has disappeared on a grouse moor in suspicious circumstances is no surprise whatsoever. That another one has vanished inside the Cairngorms National Park is also wholly unsurprising.

Why are we not shocked by the news? Have a look at this, and you’ll understand:

[RPUK map showing raptor persecution incidents in and around the Cairngorms National Park since 2005. The red circle highlights the Strathdon area from where hen harrier Marci is reported to have vanished]

The following list, which we’ve compiled from various data sources but predominantly from the RSPB’s annual persecution reports, documents over 60 illegal raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) since 2002. (The Park wasn’t formally established until 2003 but we’ve included 2002 data as the area had been mapped by then). This list includes just the crimes we know about. How many more went unreported/undiscovered?


Feb: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Mar: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 rabbit baits. Cromdale (No prosecution)


Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie (No prosecution)

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch (Successful prosecution)


May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich (No prosecution)

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)


Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett] (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee (No prosecution)

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul (No prosecution)

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)


May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo (No prosecution)

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)


Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater (No prosecution)

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon


Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee (No prosecution)

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater (No prosecution)


Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn (No prosecution)

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat


Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty (No prosecution)


Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore (No prosecution)


May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld (No prosecution)

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ ‘disappears’. Kingussie


Mar: Satellite-tagged golden eagle #338 ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ ‘disappears’. Ballater


May: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle Blue T ‘disappears’. Ballater

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Athena’ ‘disappears’. Nr Grantown on Spey

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Margot’ ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Sept: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Stelmaria’ ‘disappears’. Ballater


April: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Marci’ ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).

Rampant criminality continues while we carry on waiting for the Scottish Government to act.


Hen harrier ‘Skylar’ disappears next to grouse moor in south Scotland

RSPB press release (7 May 2019)


Skylar last recorded next to a grouse moor

RSPB Scotland is appealing for information from the public after a young hen harrier, fitted with a satellite transmitter, disappeared suddenly on a moor near Elvanfoot.

The female harrier, named Skylar, was being monitored by the RSPB as part of their EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project. She had been roosting overnight in an area of rushes and rough grassland fringing a grouse moor a few miles south of the village for several days before her tag abruptly stopped working on 7th February 2019.

[Hen harrier Skylar as a nestling in 2017, photo by RSPB]

The area where she disappeared has a history of similar cases and illegal bird of prey killings. A hen harrier and short-eared owl were shot and killed on a grouse moor in 2017, a few miles away from Skylar’s last known location. Another tagged hen harrier, Annie, was found shot nearby in April 2015 and two other tagged hen harriers vanished in the area, one in June 2014 and another, named Chance, in May 2016, after she had spent two winters in France.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project manager said: “Skylar has been a fascinating bird to follow; we were amazed to see her make a brief, week-long sojourn to Ireland in autumn 2017 before she returned to winter in South Lanarkshire in 2017/18. She spent much of summer 2018 in Highland Perthshire, before returning to South Lanarkshire for the winter 2018/19 where she remained until she disappeared.

Her disappearance follows a depressingly familiar pattern. Her tag was working as expected, then suddenly stopped. There have been no further transmissions, and the bird’s body has not been located. Had she died of natural causes, we would have expected the transmitter to continue working allowing us to recover her body. Sadly, we’ll probably never know exactly what has happened to Skylar.

Skylar was fitted with a satellite-tag in July 2017 just before she fledged from her nest in Argyll. Her mother, DeeCee, had previously been tagged as part of the LIFE project, allowing the project to easily locate the nest. Skylar’s brother Sirius was also tagged but died of natural causes in October 2017.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “Yet again, a young harrier has disappeared close to a driven grouse moor, never to be seen or heard of again. This area of South Lanarkshire has been notorious for some years as a black hole into which protected birds of prey simply disappear.

Skylar’s disappearance comes at a time when the Scottish Government has commissioned an independent enquiry into grouse shooting, including looking at options for greater regulation. A step change is now urgently required, as current laws and enforcement measures are proving inadequate to deal with such systematic criminality, and the negative cultural attitudes towards birds of prey that remains in many grouse moor areas. The most intensively managed “driven” grouse moors should be licenced, with sanctions to remove licences to operate, where the public authorities are satisfied that wildlife protection laws are being routinely flouted.”

Information about Skylar, or any illegal killing of birds of prey, can be reported to Police Scotland on 101 or the RSPB’s Raptor Crime hotline on 0300 999 0101.


The last known location of this satellite-tagged hen harrier has been given as an area of rough grassland fringing a grouse moor a few miles south of the village of Elvanfoot. There are a number of grouse moors in this area, the nearest being the Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire.

[RPUK map showing the boundary of the Leadhills Estate and its proximity to Elvanfoot. Map data from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website]

Skylar’s suspicious disappearance follows the well rehearsed pattern of young satellite-tagged hen harriers in the UK as laid bare in this recent scientific publication (here).

The investigation in to her disappearance will follow a similar, well-rehearsed pattern. There will be insufficient evidence to charge any individual with killing this bird (no body, no tag) so the police have nowhere else to go with it.

Just like the hen harrier and short-eared owl that were seen shot and killed on grouse moors in this area in 2017, the buzzard that was found shot and killed in the area in 2018, the hen harrier that was found shot and killed on a grouse moor in this area in 2015. In fact there have been over 50 confirmed wildlife crimes in this area since 2003 and only two of those have resulted in a successful criminal prosecution (gamekeeper convicted in 2004 for shooting a short-eared owl; gamekeeper convicted in 2009 for laying out a poisoned bait).

2003 April: hen harrier shot [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2004 May: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2004 May: short-eared owl shot [gamekeeper convicted]

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [gamekeeper convicted]

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2010 October: short-eared owl shot [no prosecution]

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap [no prosecution]

2011 December: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2012 October: golden eagle found shot (just over boundary with Buccleuch Estate) [no prosecution]

2013 May: shot otter found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 June: significant cache of pre-prepared poisoned baits found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 August: red kite found shot and critically-injured in Leadhills village [no prosecution]

2014 February: poisoned peregrine (Carbofuran) [‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2015 April: hen harrier ‘Annie’ found shot [Leadhills/Buccluech] [no prosecution]

2016 May: hen harrier ‘Chance’ ‘disappeared’ [Leadhills/Buccleuch] [no prosecution]

2017 May: walkers witness the shooting of a hen harrier [no prosecution]

2017 May: walkers witness the shooting of a short-eared owl [no prosecution]

2018 [pre-April]: buzzard found shot dead in Leadhills village [no prosecution]

Without evidence, it’s impossible to implicate any individual or estate that may have been involved in Skylar’s suspicious disappearance, but it’s crystal clear that raptor persecution has been taking place in the wider area for decades.

The Scottish Government is well aware of the history of illegal raptor persecution in this area. How much more evidence does it need? Why is this allowed to continue, without sanction?


BASC’s mask slips again as Director dismisses sat tag evidence as “hysterics”

Have a look at this tweet from Duncan Thomas, a regional director of the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC):

Dear oh dear. And BASC had been trying soooooo hard to convince everyone it accepted the findings of the recently published hen harrier satellite tag paper that showed at least 72% of sat tagged hen harriers were presumed illegally killed on grouse moors.

In response to that scientific peer-reviewed paper BASC’s Executive Director of Conservation had even stated:

We are grateful that this research has been carried out. Satellite tags are a tool in the fight against persecution. We have to make sure there is no place left for criminals to hide“.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Duncan Thomas has caused what should be considerable embarrassment to those at BASC’s head office – last time was when he went on the telly to claim that “there’s a tiny amount of persecution occurring” [in the Peak District National Park] despite overwhelming evidence that’s stacked up over the last two decades that shows otherwise –  see here.

Does this look like an organisation committed to tackling the illegal killing of birds of prey?

Why is BASC still a member of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG)? It boycotted the last RPPDG meeting and then shortly afterwards claimed it was still “committed to constructive dialogue“.

Does referring to the scientific findings of the hen harrier and golden eagle sat tag papers as “#raptorhysterics” look like constructive dialogue to you?

How will this appalling attitude help progress the work of the RPPDG?


Fundraising fell runners to visit last known locations of missing hen harriers on northern grouse moors

Four ultra-marathon fell runners are taking on an extraordinary three day challenge in July, running 200km across grouse moors in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The idea is to visit the last known locations of ‘missing’ satellite-tagged hen harriers on grouse moors in the Bowland AONB, Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Nidderdale AONB.

They’re doing this to raise awareness of hen harrier persecution and to raise £10k to support Wild Justice hen harrier projects. They also hope to raise funds that can be put towards rewards to secure prosecutions against those who kill hen harriers.

Their ultra-marathon will start at 8am on Weds 3rd July and end at 12 noon on Saturday 6th July.

If you’re a fell runner and would like to run with them, please contact Henry Morris (see website link below).

If you’d like to donate towards this fundraiser, please visit their crowdfunder page here

If you’d like to find out more about the four runners (a personal trainer, a nurse, an analyst and a music promoter, who’ll no doubt be labelled ‘animal rights extremists’ for their efforts) their route and their motivation for taking on this challenge, please visit their website here



BASC still in denial about extent of illegal raptor persecution

There was a feature on illegal raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park on the BBC’s Sunday Politics (East Midlands) programme a couple of days ago.

You can watch it on BBC iPlayer here (starts at 21:02; ends at 25:05; available for 27 days).

The film began with an interview with Tim Birch from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, who explained that illegal raptor persecution in the Dark Peak area of the National Park is particularly bad, affecting hen harriers, goshawks and peregrines. The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is calling for stronger enforcement action on the criminals responsible and for the introduction of vicarious liability, to hold the landowners to account.

The presenter then spoke about the recent scientific paper on hen harrier satellite data, published a couple of weeks ago. She said:

When it comes to hen harriers a recent study by Natural England found they were ten times more likely to die if they were near or on land used for shooting. Now this study concluded that illegal persecution is having a major impact on the conservation of these birds. But not everyone agrees with the data. Duncan Thomas represents the shooting community and believes questions need to be raised“.

The camera then cut to Duncan Thomas, ex-police wildlife crime cop in the Forest of Bowland and currently the British Association for Shooting & Conservation’s (BASC) northern director. Here’s how the interview went:

Duncan Thomas:You know, what we have to be really careful of is the data that’s coming from these tagging programmes and who controls that data. I’d like to see much more transparency in the whole tagging process for the benefit of everybody“.

Interviewer:These wildlife charities say that there is a direct connection when it comes to the decline in birds of prey populations here in the Peak District and illegal persecution“.

Duncan Thomas:There is a tiny amount of persecution occurring and what we have to do is to work closely with our conservation partners to eradicate that. BASC and the other shooting organisations have a zero tolerance for wildlife crime. Any body committing any crime will be expelled from the organisations, the police will remove their firearms and shotgun certificates and they won’t be able to work, you know. There is a zero tolerance for it. You know, let’s work together and take this issue forward“.

[Duncan Thomas, struggling to understand the definition of “tiny”]

Given the extensive catalogue of evidence that demonstrates the appalling level of wildlife crime in the Peak District National Park, Duncan Thomas’ refusal to acknowledge it just makes him, and BASC, look ridiculous.

That evidence dates back at least 20 years and resulted in two damning summary reports published by the RSPB: Peak Malpractice (here) and then Peak Malpractice update (here).

Then came the Peak District National Park Bird of Prey Initiative in 2011, a so-called ‘partnership’ aimed at restoring raptor populations in the Dark Peak part of the Park. This Initiative has failed to deliver on every single target since then (see here and here) and is barely hanging by a thread (here).

Then last year a scientific paper published in the journal British Birds comprehensively linked the illegal killing of raptors with areas of land managed for driven grouse shooting in the National Park (see here). Here is a map from that paper showing the number of raptor persecution incidents against the backdrop of grouse moors (burned heather).

To suggest that the scale of raptor persecution in the Peak District is a “tiny amount“, even though it’s been shown repeatedly, for many years, to be having population-level effects on hen harriers, goshawks and peregrines, is either fatuously ignorant or wilfully blind.

Instead of acknowledging these widespread crimes, Duncan Thomas instead focused on trying to undermine the hen harrier satellite tag data which were collected by a Government agency, analysed by international scientists and published in an exceptionally high quality journal!

And it’s simply not true that the shooting organisations operate a zero tolerance policy for wildlife crime. If only they did, this issue would be resolved very quickly! For example, not one of them published a statement to condemn the shooting of Marsh harriers at a nest on Denton Moor nor issue an appeal for information to identify the armed men dressed as gamekeepers (here).

Instead, what we see repeatedly are shooting organisation representatives sneering and ridiculing the RSPB when covert video evidence has been ruled inadmissible in prosecutions for alleged raptor crime (Duncan Thomas has a track record of this – e.g. here), we see high-end barristers (often of QC status) brought in to defend the accused (who pays the legal fees, because they’ll be beyond the gamekeeper’s pocket?), and instead of expulsions from shooting organisations following a successful conviction we see statements of support (e.g. here).

On top of all that, we understand that BASC is accepting funds from several people who are also involved in the management of a number of estates notorious for both confirmed and alleged wildlife crimes. We’ll be exploring that relationship, also shared with GWCT, in another blog.

Does any of that look like zero tolerance to you?

Oh, and Duncan, about your idea of “working together“. That won’t happen when BASC and its fellow raptor persecution apologists boycott a meeting designed to, er, work together to tackle illegal raptor persecution.

[Photo of a short-eared owl that was found shot in the Peak District National Park last year. A shot tawny owl was found stuffed in a drystone wall not far away. Photo via RSPB]



Northern England hen harrier hotline re-opens

The RSPB has re-opened its hen harrier hotline for members of the public to report sightings of this highly persecuted bird of prey: Tel 0845-4600121 (calls charged at local rate).

[Photo by Tim Melling]

RSPB press release:

The RSPB is calling on people who spend time in the remote hills and moorlands of northern England to look out for hen harriers, England’s most threatened bird of prey.

The nature conservation charity has relaunched the Hen Harrier Hotline with the aim of finding out where these birds might be nesting.

In spring, the male hen harrier performs his courtship display known as skydancing, involving a spectacular series of swoops and somersaults. If he attracts a female, he attempts to further impress her by passing food offerings in mid-air.

Experts estimate there is enough suitable habitat in England for around 300 pairs of breeding hen harriers. But last year there were only nine successful nests in the whole country.

Hen harriers are teetering on the verge of extinction in England because of ongoing illegal killing. As they sometimes eat red grouse, they are often unwelcome on moors managed for driven grouse shooting. This form of field sport requires huge numbers of red grouse and some game managers resort to illegally killing or disturbing harriers to protect their business.

A recent scientific study found that hen harriers are 10 times more likely to die or disappear in areas with grouse moors than elsewhere.

The RSPB is calling for the introduction of vicarious liability (making game managers legally responsible for the actions of their staff) and a licensing system for driven grouse shooting, which would help stamp out illegal persecution and improve standards in the industry.

Amanda Miller, conservation manager for the RSPB in Northern England, said: “Last year’s breeding season was the best for a decade with nine successful nests, seven of which we played a key role in protecting. However, this is just a fraction of the number there should be and birds are continuing be illegally killed.

We are asking farmers, wildlife watchers, walkers, fell runners, mountain bikers and anyone else who spends a lot of time in the hills in the North to keep an eye out for hen harriers and let us know if they see one. It’s vital that we find out where they are breeding so we can protect the nests and give their chicks the best chance of survival.”

Male hen harriers are an ash-grey colour with black wing tips and a wingspan of just less than a metre. They are also known as ghostbirds because of the paleness of their plumage. Female hen harriers are slightly larger, are owl-like in appearance, and have a mottled brown plumage, which camouflages them when they nest on the ground. They have horizontal stripes on their tails, giving them the nickname ringtail and a patch of white just above, on the rump.

The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate). Reports can also be e-mailed to Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible. A description of the bird’s behaviour would also be useful.



Don’t laugh, but gamekeepers claim to “care deeply” about protecting hen harriers!

It’s not quite April Fools’ Day but the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation thought it’d get in there early this year.

Just a week on from the publication of a scientific paper that demonstrated the catastrophic loss of satellite-tagged hen harriers was undeniably linked to land managed by gamekeepers for grouse shooting (see here), the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) published this on its website:

Amazing, eh?

Remind us again, NGO – where was the last known location of the latest hen harrier to ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances? Ah yes, in Wiltshire, close to the proposed hen harrier reintroduction site and in an area heavily managed for pheasant and partridge shooting. And what did the NGO say about this bird’s disappearance? Ah yes, that it was “a set up” by the RSPB.

And remind us again, NGO – what examples do you have of the NGO “living in harmony with buzzards“? Ah yes, you supported a gamekeeper (who had a prior poison-related conviction) to get licences to kill buzzards to ‘protect’ his pheasants.

And remind us again, NGO – what was your most recent action on the RPPDG, the group that’s supposed to tackle illegal raptor persecution? Ah yes, it was to resign.

And please could you tell us, NGO, what is “Circus cyaneusto“?! Is this an imaginary harrier species, to match the gamekeepers’ imaginary devotion to hen harriers that we’re supposed to believe?

Not so much April Fools, more like deluded fools.

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