Posts Tagged ‘hen harrier

19
Jul
21

Hen Harrier Day 2021 (Saturday, 7th August)

Hen Harrier Day, established in 2014 as a way to raise public awareness about the widespread killing of hen harriers on the UK’s driven grouse moors, is now entering its 8th year!

In previous years supporters have organised events at various venues across the country where people have gathered at rallies to listen to speeches by campaigners, conservationists, politicians, police officers, educators, film makers and many others. Last year, the pandemic forced us all online instead and we’ll be doing the same again this year.

In the run up to this year’s Hen Harrier Day, there will be an additional online event on Sunday 1st August, organised by the charity Hen Harrier Action. You can find out about that event here.

Hen Harrier Day itself takes place on Saturday 7th August, scheduled as always to take place the weekend before the start of the grouse-shooting season on the Inglorious 12th August.

Wild Justice is organising a live, online event bringing together a wide range of contributors from across academia, conservation and the world of campaigning, to deliver what it hopes will be an interesting, informative and entertaining programme. Hosted by the brilliant pairing of Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, in addition to live interviews there will also be films pre-recorded recently by Wild Justice & colleagues in northern England and Scotland.

Hen Harrier Day 2021 is a free event, as ever, and it’s recommended you sign up for notifications as the big day approaches, to find out more about the programme of events and who’s on, and at what time.

For more information about the event and to sign up, please click here.

17
Jun
21

Natural England accidentally lets slip more alleged shenanigans with hen harriers at Swinton Estate

I can’t decide whether I think Natural England is incompetent or institutionally corrupt. Maybe it’s both? Have a read and see what you think.

Following on from the blog I wrote on Monday where it had become apparent that Natural England had altered the terms of its hen harrier diversionary feeding licence to permit the feeding of hen harriers during the incubation period instead of the nestling period, and that this was done at exactly the same time that North Yorkshire Police were investigating the Swinton Estate for alleged disturbance of hen harriers after an employee, accompanied by a Natural England employee, was observed apparently diversionary feeding hen harriers during the incubation period (here), there are now further developments.

According to a news article in today’s Ends Report, Natural England has claimed that it rewrote the guidelines “as a matter of course, not as a reaction to the news of the nest at Swinton Estate being fed earlier than usual”.

I’m going to reproduce the Ends Report news article here because it contains a fascinating statement from Natural England which leads on to more questions about what, exactly, has been going on at Swinton Estate over the last few years.

Here’s the article:

Natural England has denied it changed its guidance on the feeding of hen harriers after the police launched an investigation for the alleged disturbance of breeding hen harriers through diversionary feeding without a licence.

If licensed by Natural England, landowners are allowed to provide substitute food to hen harriers near their nesting sites to reduce predation of red grouse.

One of the conditions of such licences had been that diversionary feeding may only begin once the hen harrier’s eggs have hatched. 

But in April, two individuals were filmed at Swinton Estate grouse moor in North Yorkshire, apparently placing out food for the breeding adults as part of a diversionary feeding scheme. This was during the incubation stage, when the hen harrier’s eggs had not yet hatched.

Raptor conservationist Ruth Tingay lodged a Freedom of Information request with Natural England, which revealed that Swinton Estate did not have a diversionary feeding licence in 2021.

According to Natural England, this meant that technically there has not been a breach of the CL25 licence, “because a licence hadn’t been issued”. 

Therefore, the wildlife regulator said it was not in a position to take enforcement action and the case was instead passed to North Yorkshire Police for an investigation into alleged offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

However, Natural England then changed its guidance in May to allow diversionary feeding during the incubation period.

Tingay said Natural England had been “sneaky” in “rewriting the rules at the same time as your star grouse shooting estate is under police investigation for alleged hen harrier disturbance because hen harriers were being fed during the incubation period”.

However, responding to these allegations, Natural England said the guidelines were changed “as a matter of course, not as a reaction to the news of the nest at Swinton Estate being fed earlier than usual”.

The regulator said that the guidelines were changed in relation to  the welfare of the birds, and that new evidence suggests that feeding once the birds had a full clutch of eggs “did not increase the risk of desertion”. 

According to Natural England, the research – funded by NatureScot – shows that even installing a camera 30cm from a nest with eggs or chicks did not result in any failures that could be attributed to the nest visits.

A Natural England spokesperson said that the nest at Swinton Estate that was fed early has now fledged five chicks, and that the estate has helped feed 28 chicks successfully in recent years.

Feeding earlier in the breeding process helps get the young birds off to a good start in their lives,” they added.

ENDS

First of all, I’d like to see ‘the research’ to which Natural England refers and how it has been applied to an assessment of disturbance from diversionary feeding. As far as I’m aware, installing a nest camera is a one-off event and once in place, depending on the type and model, shouldn’t need to be re-visited during the breeding season if the camera card has sufficient memory, but perhaps at the most, once or twice. Diversionary feeding, however, is a repeated, daily event that can occur every day for several months and is therefore much more of a disturbance risk than a one-off installation of a nest camera. The two activities are not comparable in any way, shape or form.

Secondly, I am especially interested in Natural England’s claim that ‘Swinton Estate has helped feed 28 [hen harrier] chicks successfully in recent years’.

Why is that of interest? Well, because the numbers just don’t add up.

In separate FoIs to Natural England I had previously asked them for copies of the diversionary feeding licence CL25 return from Swinton Estate from 2019 and 2020. These were the two freedom of information requests that Natural England considered ‘too complex’ to be able to respond to within the standard 20 working days and they added a further 20 working days to allow time for dealing with this ‘complexity’ (see here).

I’ve since had replies from Natural England and here’s what they told me:

Swinton Estate was not registered for the use of a diversionary feeding licence in 2020 so there is no licence return. [Yep, that’s really complex, I can see why NE wanted 40 working days to tell me about it].

It’s a very interesting response because my sources allege that Swinton Estate WAS diversionary feeding a hen harrier nest in 2020 after the nest on a neighbouring estate was brood meddled. I have submitted a further FoI to Natural England on this – did Swinton Estate diversionary feed hen harriers in 2020 and if so, was Natural England aware of it and if so, what, if any, enforcement action was taken? If no enforcement action was taken, why not?

Swinton Estate did diversionary feed hen harriers in 2019 and did submit a licence return, and here is a redacted copy of it:

There are several things to note:

There is no registration number, but approval to use the CL25 licence was approved by [redacted]. Who was that, and why wasn’t the estate registered in the normal way?

At the nest where diversionary feeding took place, the licence return states, ‘unsuccessful during the incubation period’. Does this mean that Swinton Estate was diversionary feeding during the incubation period – which would have been a breach of the licence conditions in 2019? And if so, did anyone at Natural England pick up on this from the licence return and was there any enforcement action? If not, why not? I have submitted further FoIs to ask about this.

You’ll note then, that according to Natural England’s paperwork, Swinton Estate diversionary fed five hen harrier chicks in 2019, none in 2020, and five this year according to the quote in the Ends Report article. That’s ten hen harrier chicks in total.

I know from a further FoI request to Natural England that Swinton Estate has not registered to use a CL25 licence other than in 2019 and the licence it has belatedly received for 2021.

So how come Natural England told the Ends Report that ‘Swinton Estate has helped feed 28 [hen harrier] chicks successfully in recent years’???

Either somebody at Natural England can’t count, or this estate, owned by Lord Masham, Chair of the Moorland Association, has been diversionary feeding without a licence for a number of years. Has Natural England been turning a blind eye?

Let’s see what the current batch of FoI requests throw up.

16
Jun
21

Wild Justice challenges Natural England’s plans to release hen harriers in southern England

Regular blog readers will know that for the last five years, Natural England has been planning a so-called ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers to southern England as part of DEFRA’s ludicrous Hen Harrier Action Plan (see here for an earlier blog and some earlier key posts).

Ever since it was proposed, I and a number of others have been arguing that it is just another greenwashing conservation sham, aimed to divert attention from the real issue threatening the hen harrier population – the continued illegal killing on driven grouse moors.

[A brilliantly apt cartoon by Gerard Hobley]

Getting detail about the proposed ‘reintroduction’ plans from Natural England has been like pulling teeth; they’ve dodged and ducked questions at every turn. However, in March this year the latest round of FoI requests revealed that Natural England was now planning on getting hold of some injured, un-releasable hen harriers from Europe and using them in a captive breeding programme to produce young birds for release on Salisbury Plain (see here). This is believed to be a direct result of potential donor countries refusing to give healthy hen harriers to the UK because the UK clearly can’t look after the hen harriers it’s already got (at least 56 hen harriers have been confirmed illegally killed or have vanished in suspicious circumstances in the last three years alone, most of them on or close to a driven grouse moor).

One of the main objections to Natural England’s reintroduction proposal continues to be the agency’s apparent denial that raptor persecution is a serious threat to any released birds. This denial is, in my opinion, a clear breach of the IUCN’s reintroduction and conservation translocation guidelines (see here), whereby the cause of the species’ extirpation and any ongoing threats need to be addressed before any birds are released.

Campaign group Wild Justice has also been looking at this issue and yesterday sent a letter to Natural England to challenge the poor quality of the scientific evidence that Natural England has provided in its reintroduction assessment document.

The letter from Wild Justice can be read on their blog (here) and I’d thoroughly recommend you take a look to understand just how rubbish Natural England’s scientific assessment is. So rubbish, in fact, that Natural England has cited papers and books that don’t even cover the [flawed] scientific arguments it’s making!

Wild Justice will be considering whether formal legal action is required against Natural England once NE has had an opportunity to respond to questions posed in Wild Justice’s letter.

14
Jun
21

Natural England quietly alters terms of diversionary feeding licence (& hopes we won’t notice)

Further to Friday’s news that the Swinton Estate is under police investigation for the alleged disturbance of breeding hen harriers through diversionary feeding without a licence (see here), there’s been a further development.

You might remember from an earlier blog (here), that one of the conditions of Natural England’s class licence (CL25) permitting the use of diversionary feeding for hen harriers is that diversionary feeding may only begin once the hen harrier’s eggs have hatched. Diversionary feeding is not permitted during the incubation period (which is when Swinton Estate is alleged to have been providing diversionary food).

Well guess what? Natural England has changed the rules and surprise, surprise, diversionary feeding is now permissible during the incubation period!

Imagine that!

And imagine re-writing the rules at the same time as your star grouse shooting estate (apparently accompanied by a Natural England employee) is under police investigation for alleged hen harrier disturbance because hen harriers were being fed during the incubation period!

And imagine re-writing the rules and not announcing the rule change!

Imagine hoping that nobody would notice!

Sneaky, Natural England, very, very sneaky.

What the CL25 licence said about when diversionary feeding was permissible, prior to 13th May 2021:

What the CL25 licence says about when diversionary feeding is permissible, from 13th May 2021:

Gosh, it’s almost as though Natural England is making up the rules as it goes along, isn’t it? I am just marvelling at the breath-taking duplicity of this Government agency.

Having said all that, unless there’s an unseen commencement clause in the newly-written licence conditions (and nothing would surprise me because Natural England just cannot be trusted on anything Hen Harrier related), this new condition shouldn’t be applied retrospectively so the police investigation shouldn’t be derailed.

It’s also useful to note that both the previous licence and the re-written licence state that the female hen harrier shouldn’t be disturbed at the nest during this period. It would appear, looking at the footage, that the Swinton Estate employee and the Natural England employee still have some explaining to do.

I’ll be writing more on diversionary feeding activities in previous years at Swinton in a separate blog…..

UPDATE 17th June 2021: This blog article led to a follow-up article in the Ends Report here

UPDATE 17th June 2021: Natural England accidentally lets slip more alleged shenanigans with hen harriers at Swinton Estate (here)

11
Jun
21

Police investigating Swinton Estate for alleged hen harrier disturbance

The Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire is once again the focus of a police investigation in to alleged wildlife crime.

This time the investigation hasn’t been triggered by the discovery of a shot hen harrier corpse or two on the Swinton grouse moors (see here and here), nor on the use of illegally-set traps (see here) and nor by reports of an armed man walking through a known hen harrier roost at dusk (see here).

No, this time it’s been triggered after a recent Freedom of Information request revealed the estate did not have a licence when one of its employees was filmed allegedly disturbing an active hen harrier nest earlier this spring.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

You might recall I first blogged about this incident in April 2021, after footage was sent to me of two individuals who had been observed visiting an active hen harrier nest on the estate, and just prior to that had been observed placing out food nearby for the breeding adults as part of a diversionary feeding scheme (see here). It was claimed that one individual was a Swinton Estate employee and the other one was a Natural England employee.

There were questions to be answered about why the estate was apparently providing diversionary food so early on in the breeding cycle (incubation stage) when the licence permitting diversionary feeding is very clear that this is only permissible once the chicks have hatched (see info here).

So I submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests to Natural England, which were met with NE’s standard unhelpfulness and obfuscation, e.g. telling me, after 20 working days had passed, that they needed an additional 20 working days to provide a copy of one licence return because apparently asking for this was unduly ‘complex’ (see here)!! I’ll come back to that particular aspect of this story in a separate blog because I now have a copy of the licence return and it’s quite interesting in itself.

At the same time as lodging the FoI requests, I also asked Natural England whether they were taking any enforcement action against the estate for allegedly breaching the terms of the diversionary feeding licence (known as a CL25 licence) – see here and here for previous correspondence.

To be fair, the Enforcement section of Natural England has been much more helpful and open than the FoI department. It’s been quite refreshing. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after chasing them for a while I received an email from the Enforcement team the other evening and to my surprise, this is what it said:

So, to clarify, Swinton Estate did not have a diversionary feeding licence in 2021 when one of its employees was observed allegedly providing diversionary food for hen harriers on the estate.

This means that technically there has not been a breach of the CL25 licence, because a licence hadn’t been issued. Therefore, Natural England are not in a position to take enforcement action and the case has instead been passed to North Yorkshire Police for investigation in to alleged offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

I have spoken briefly with a spokesperson at North Yorkshire Police who has confirmed an investigation has opened.

This is going to be really very interesting on all sorts of levels and for all sorts of reasons.

Not least because Swinton Estate is owned by Lord Masham, Mark Cunliffe Lister, who also happens to be the latest Chairman of the Moorland Association, the grouse moor owners’ lobby group in England.

But perhaps of most interest, I’m told that Natural England’s insane hen harrier brood meddling scheme has been undertaken on Swinton Estate in previous years and is apparently set/approved to have chicks removed again this year. How does that work, then, if the estate is under police investigation for alleged wildlife crime?

Ah, that’s right, it makes no difference whatsoever to Natural England’s sham conservation project – as we’ve seen previously on another estate, a police investigation in to alleged wildlife crime doesn’t stop NE from issuing a brood meddling licence and partnering with said estate (e.g. see here).

I’m pretty sure that Mark Avery, and perhaps even the RSPB, may have something to say about these latest revelations in relation to their respective legal challenges against hen harrier brood meddling. I’m pretty sure that the evidence uncovered so far suggests that NE’s so-called ‘rigorous scientific trial’ is not so rigorous after all – and that surely invalidates the so-called ‘research’? Let’s see.

More on this case, and on Swinton’s diversionary feeding licences from previous years, shortly….

UPDATE 14th June 2021: Natural England quietly alters terms of diversionary feeding licence (and hopes we won’t notice) (here)

21
May
21

Natural England considers a request for a copy of a hen harrier diversionary feeding licence to be ‘complex’!

A month ago I blogged about a breach of Natural England’s hen harrier diversionary feeding licence on a North Yorkshire grouse moor – a breach that had been captured on film by raptor fieldworkers monitoring an active hen harrier nest (see here).

Given that the female harrier was only in the early stages of incubation, the timing of this diversionary feeding was in clear breach of the CL25 licence, a licence issued by Natural England to grouse moor managers to permit diversionary feeding ONLY after the eggs have hatched.

[A gamekeeper and a Natural England employee caught on camera visiting an active hen harrier nest on a North Yorkshire grouse moor, April 2021]

You might recall I wrote to Natural England to ask a series a questions about whether they would take any enforcement action – apparently they’re still investigating and can’t/won’t tell me how long they expect an investigation of a single incident involving known individuals, including a Natural England employee, to take (see here and here for previous blogs).

I also asked Natural England for a copy of the previous year’s CL25 licence from this estate, and importantly, the licence return. The licence holder is required to provide detail in this return of each date that diversionary feeding was provided for the breeding hen harriers. I wanted to see whether this estate had breached the terms of previous licences in addition to this year’s licence and if so, find out what enforcement action Natural England had taken, if any.

Natural England was due to provide this information by today at the latest (20 working days from my request).

Yesterday afternoon, at 17.04hrs, I received the following:

I am writing to advise you that the time limit for responding to question 4 in your request for information under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which we received on 22 April 2021, needs to be extended.

The Regulations allow us 20 working days to respond to your request from the date of its receipt. However, it is occasionally necessary to extend the 20 working day time limit for issuing a response. In this case, we regret that we must extend the time limit for responding by a further 20 working days to 21 June 2021, because of the complex nature of the request, but we hope to be able to reply sooner‘.

They crack me up! ‘The complex nature of the request’?? What’s complex about asking for a copy of last year’s licence return? Absolutely nothing! All they’ve got to do is go to the estate’s file, pull out the licence return, redact any personal information, have someone double check it, convert it to a PDF, email it to me. Pretty simple, I’d say.

Unless, of course, (a) the estate failed to submit a licence return and now there’s panic trying to get the estate to submit it albeit very late (which would be another licence breach) or (b) last year’s licence return reveals previous breaches of the licence conditions and thus (c) perhaps reveals Natural England’s failure to impose any enforcement action in the past.

Or perhaps (d), the estate about which I’m enquiring, which is also supposedly under investigation by Natural England for this year’s breach of the licence, is part of this year’s hen harrier brood meddling sham and any exposure of past licence breaches might just be a bit embarrassing for Natural England right about now.

It could of course simply be (e), Natural England is a bit crap.

Who knows, it’s all very ‘complex’. I guess we’ll find out by 21st June.

19
May
21

Fergus Ewing out, Mairi Gougeon in – Scottish Cabinet reshuffle revealed

Well this is very very very good news indeed.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced her reshuffled Cabinet team; former Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing is no longer in the Cabinet at all and former junior Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon has been promoted to the position of Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands.

There is likely to be some cross-over with Mairi’s role and that of Michael Matheson who is the new Cab Sec for Net Zero, Energy & Transport, which will include working on the climate emergency (think muirburn).

I’m absolutely delighted and judging by the number of texts I’ve received this morning, I’m not alone.

I don’t intend to comment on the departure of Fergus ‘friend of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association‘ Ewing other than to say, goodbye.

Mairi Gougeon is a brilliant choice for Cab Sec. She is an intelligent, dynamic and often thoughtful politician who has not been afraid to speak out against the persecution of the hen harrier in her role as a junior Minister and Hen Harrier Species Champion. She has taken an active role, even prior to her appointment as a junior Minister, asking questions about the Government’s commitment to tackling raptor persecution (here), attending and speaking at Hen Harrier Day events (e.g. here), taking the time to accompany raptor fieldworkers in to the field to understand more about this species’ ecology and its perilous conservation status (e.g. here and here), has initiated Parliamentary debates on hen harrier conservation (e.g. here) and has supported the Scottish Raptor Study Group at Holyrood gatherings (e.g. here).

[Mairi Gougeon beaming after a visit to watch hen harriers with members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group a couple of years ago in her role as Hen Harrier Species Champion]

I haven’t always agreed with her earlier thinking on how raptor persecution should be tackled (e.g. see here, and here) and I have criticised her for her silence in response to some brutal, sadistic crimes against birds of prey on Scottish grouse moors (here) but her delivery of the Government’s response to the Werritty Review back in November 2020 revealed an increased understanding of the issues and a sign of a genuine commitment to changing the status quo (here).

Last week, author Jim Crumley wrote an excellent piece about the need for a new Environment Secretary ‘who will act’ (here). I have high hopes that Mairi Gougeon will be that Cab Sec (albeit under a new title).

Congratulations, Mairi, there are many of us looking forward to supporting your efforts.

The new junior Ministerial team, working in support of the Cabinet Secretaries, is expected to be unveiled shortly.

18
May
21

56 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018

For anyone who still wants to pretend that the grouse shooting industry isn’t responsible for the systematic extermination of hen harriers on grouse moors across the UK, here’s the latest catalogue of crime that suggests otherwise.

[This male hen harrier died in 2019 after his leg was almost severed in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a Scottish grouse moor (see here). Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Just 19 days ago, this list totalled 53 hen harriers, all either confirmed to have been illegally killed or to have ‘disappeared’, most of them on or next to driven grouse moors.

They disappear in the same way political dissidents in authoritarian dictatorships have disappeared” (Stephen Barlow, 22 January 2021).

Today the list has been updated to include the most recently reported three victims: one male hen harrier that vanished from its breeding attempt on the RSPB’s Geltsdale Reserve in 2020 and two more from the same site that yesterday the police reported as ‘missing in suspicious circumstances’ (see here).

The RSPB’s Geltsdale Reserve is located in close proximity to a large area managed for driven grouse shooting and breeding males have disappeared from here prior to 2020 and 2021. In fact, raptor persecution incidents in this area, both on and off the reserve, have been reported by the RSPB since at least the mid 1990s and have included the confirmed shooting of a number of hen harriers (i.e. their corpses were found), witnessed reports of attempted hen harrier shootings, including a gamekeeper from a neighbouring estate filmed with a gun stalking a hen harrier on the reserve, at least one confirmed poisoning of a hen harrier and a wide array of other victims including buzzards, peregrines and ravens either shot or poisoned.

The disgraceful national catalogue of illegally killed and ‘missing’ hen harriers will continue to grow – I know of at least one more on-going police investigation which has yet to be publicised.

I’ve been compiling this list only since 2018 because that is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

2018 was also the year that Natural England issued itself with a licence to begin a hen harrier brood meddling trial on grouse moors in northern England. For new blog readers, hen harrier brood meddling is a conservation sham sanctioned by DEFRA as part of its ludicrous ‘Hen Harrier Action Plan‘ and carried out by Natural England (NE), in cahoots with the very industry responsible for the species’ catastrophic decline in England. For more background see here.

Brood meddling has been described as a sort of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ by commentator Stephen Welch:

I don’t get it, I thought the idea of that scheme was some kind of trade off – a gentleman’s agreement that the birds would be left in peace if they were moved from grouse moors at a certain density. It seems that one party is not keeping their side of the bargain“.

With at least 56 hen harriers gone since 2018, I think it’s fair to say that the grouse shooting industry is simply taking the piss. Meanwhile, Natural England pretends that ‘partnership working’ is the way to go.

‘Partnership working’ appears to include authorising the removal of hen harrier chicks from a grouse moor already under investigation by the police for suspected raptor persecution (here) and accepting a £10K bung from representatives of the grouse shooting industry that prevents Natural England from criticising them (see here).

[Cartoon by Gill Lewis]

So here’s the latest gruesome list:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

23 October 2018: Hen harrier Tom ‘disappeared’ in South Wales (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

1 November 2018: Hen harrier Barney ‘disappeared’ on Bodmin Moor (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

26 April 2019: Hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Nairnshire (here)

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

24 September 2019: Hen harrier Bronwyn ‘disappeared’ near a grouse moor in North Wales (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

23 March 2020: Hen harrier Rosie ‘disappeared’ at an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

19 May 2020: Hen harrier Fingal ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Lowther Hills, Scotland (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

27 May 2020: Hen harrier Silver ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate, Scotland (here)

day/month unknown: Unnamed male hen harrier breeding on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria ‘disappears’ while away hunting (here)

9 July 2020: Unnamed female hen harrier (#201118) ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed site in Northumberland (here).

25 July 2020: Hen harrier Harriet ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

14 August 2020: Hen harrier Solo ‘disappeared’ in confidential nest area in Lancashire (here)

7 September 2020: Hen harrier Dryad ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

16 September 2020: Hen harrier Fortune ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

19 September 2020: Hen harrier Harold ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

20 September 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2020, #55152) ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire (here)

24 February 2021: Hen harrier Tarras ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Northumberland (here)

12th April 2021: Hen harrier Yarrow ‘disappeared’ near Stockton, County Durham (here)

18 May 2021: Adult male hen harrier ‘disappears’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here)

18 May 2021: Another adult male hen harrier ‘disappears’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here)

To be continued……..

18
May
21

Police appeal for information following disappearance of two male hen harriers

Press statement from Cumbria Police (18 May 2021)

Police appeal for information following disappearance of two male hen harriers

Cumbria Police are appealing for information following the disappearance of two male Hen Harriers, in suspicious circumstances from the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale. 

[A male hen harrier. Photo by Graham Catley]

PC Samantha O’Key the forces Wildlife, Rural and Environmental Crime Co-ordinator said,

The two male birds were servicing nests, and as a result both nests have now failed

In 2020 another male bird went missing in suspicious circumstances. The male was servicing two nests and as a result both nests failed. These birds were in good health, in a perfect environment for them to thrive, with plenty of food.  It is highly unlikely that the Harriers have died of natural causes.

Hen Harriers are a Schedule 1 protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and are one of the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey. Cumbria Police will continue to work in partnership with the RSPB and other agencies to protect our wild birds.

We would ask that anyone with any information contact Cumbria Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org.” 

Warden at RSPB Geltsdale, Steve Garnett:

This is devastating news, for hen harriers, for our hard-working team here at RSPB Geltsdale and for everyone who is rooting for a better outcome for these birds.

Each season, the joy of seeing these birds return to breed is always tinged with worry over what might happen to them while they’re hunting beyond the safety of our reserve.  

We can make sure they are safe when they are on our land, but of course, they are free to range more widely and we know that not everyone has the best interests of these birds in mind.  Hen harriers are illegally killed every year, so we are bound to view these disappearances as suspicious.  

Anyone with information can contact the RSPB in confidence on our raptor persecution hotline (0300 999 0101) and we will support the police in any way we can.”

ENDS

UPDATE 19th May 2021: 56 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018 (here)

12
May
21

Update on investigation for breach of hen harrier feeding licence on Yorkshire grouse moor

Back in April I blogged about a breach of Natural England’s Hen Harrier Diversionary Feeding Licence (CL25) on a North Yorkshire grouse moor that had been captured on film by raptor fieldworkers monitoring an active hen harrier nest (see here).

[A gamekeeper and a Natural England employee caught on camera visiting an active hen harrier nest on a North Yorkshire grouse moor, April 2021]

I wrote to Natural England to ask whether any enforcement action would be taken for this breach and Natural England replied on 30th April 2021 that an investigation was currently underway by NE’s Enforcement & Appeals Team (see here).

I wrote again to Natural England to ask (a) whether they could provide an indication of how long the investigation might last and (b) whether they’d tell us or whether I’d have to write again?

Natural England replied on the 5th May:

Unfortunately we do not know how long our investigations will take but we will make the outcome known when it is appropriate to do so‘.

Hmm. And will that be before or after the hen harrier brood meddling conservation sham has taken place this year?

I’ll keep you posted.




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