Comment on Three more hen harriers disappear suddenly

Prasad et al, even if the suspicious circumstances were reported to the police, NE have some small measures (unlike in Scotland) which they can take without a successful persecution. Even better, the estate against whom the measures were taken, could appeal and let the public find out what is going on. If they did take measures against the estate/s where the incidents happened, it is clear due to the locations revealed, that the measures did not work as the same places  seem to be repeated. Of course, NE could have given greater details as incidents occurred over the years, which might have had an effect. Ah, sorry, I forgot.

Comment on Three more hen harriers disappear suddenly

I have an update on my comments. NE has replied and say 'In all cases, in England and the IoM, when one of Natural England’s satellite tagged Hen Harriers stops transmitting the Police are notified straight away and a thorough search of the area is made' That is very interesting but opens up new questions about what the police have done, I also wrote to them but if it ongoing i doubt i will get a reply. In other words another black hole of infornation Strange that the NE Hen Harrier satellite tagged data-sheet mentinons nothing suspicious about birds failing. Why? They write 'Missing Fate Unknown includes:    (i) radio-tagged birds that left the study area. The vast majority of Missing Fate Unknown's are radio-tagged birds, this is not surprising given the mobility of Hen Harriers and our relatively small study area.    (ii) radio-tagged and satellite tagged birds that were recorded after the battery ran out or transmissions had stopped.    (iii) satellite tagged bird that died in such a position as to render the transmitter hard to locate and recover. The satellite transmitters depend on light to recharge, and operate on a 10hr on 48 hr off duty cycle. Therefore,     when a bird dies there is only a small chance that it would happen whilst the transmitter is transmitting with     enough charge to enable transmission of coordinates and a signal to enable retrieval. If the bird dies in the off     cycle of the transmitter then it could have travelled many kms to its final resting place from the last transmitted     coordinates. If this final resting place is in long vegetation, and/or the bird is lying on its back with little or no light available the solar panel it will never transmit again and the bird would fall into the Missing Fate Unknown  category. '

Comment on Three more hen harriers disappear suddenly

Thanks RSPB for swift appeal for information. In contrast According to information released by Natural England (NE) recently: www.gov.uk/.../hen-harrier-annual-tracking-update On 18th August 2010 Hen Harrier id94591 's satellite tag stopped working. 3 days later on 21st August 2010 Hen Harrier id58870's satellite tag also stopped transmitting. Both of these failures were very close together (within 7km) in Bowland an infamous raptor persecution hot spot. id94591 's last known location was Bowland SD596621 which is 1km outside the last known transmission of Hope and 3km away from the centre of the overlap in last transmission of Hope and Sky. id58870's last known transmission was 2km outside the last known transmission of Sky and about 3.5km from centre of overlap of last known transmissions of Sky and Hope. ww2.rspb.org.uk/.../sky-and-hope-a-plea-for-information.aspx All FOUR birds stopped transmitting under suspicious circumstance all within a 7km radius and both times within 3 days of another bird. By failing to report the suspicious circumstances in 2010 NE have failed to give information to the police and the RSPB and the public which could have resulted in a prosecution. Not only that but NE have also withheld evidence that could have helped investigate the crime that occurred 4 years later in almost identical circumstances. At the very least making this suspected crime public in 2010 would have been a very strong deterrent against the criminals and could very well have stopped the killings of Sky and Hope in 2014. I have no doubt at all that Sky, Hope, id94591 and id58870 were all killed by the same individual or group of individuals and NE, by failing to act, have contributed to the deaths of Sky and Hope and hindered the investigation into their fatal persecution.

Comment on Sky and Hope: A plea for information

What happened to my comment? I posted over a week ago and can't see anything. I get the RSS Bowland feed and it tells me there has been a comment by other comments but the comments are blank. The last one i can see was from the post 'Six ways you can help hen harriers' in a comment by Alex. M

Blog Post: Three more hen harriers disappear suddenly

Dr Cathleen Thomas, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, reports on the sudden disappearances of three more tagged hen harriers in England and Wales in suspicious circumstances. Just weeks after celebrating the breeding success of hen harriers in the UK this summer, the sobering reality of the continued illegal killing of our birds of prey was brought firmly into light with the suspicious disappearance of three satellite tagged birds in England and Wales. All of the birds were fitted with satellite tags this summer as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project and we were regularly tracking their movements as they left their nests and started to make their way into the world. We’d hoped against hope that they’d at least manage to survive for a year or two, but we’re very sad to see that these three birds only lasted a couple of months. Young female harrier Hilma was tagged in June 2018 at a nest on Forestry Commission Scotland-owned land in the Scottish Borders. After she left her nest, she moved across into Northumberland. Her tag was transmitting regularly when it suddenly and inexplicably stopped. Her last known fix on 8 August showed she was near Wooler, Northumberland over land managed for driven grouse shooting. Hilma is the second tagged bird to disappear in Northumberland in the past year, after we reported on the disappearance of Manu in October 2017, closely followed by his brother Marc in Cumbria in February 2018. Hilma. Photo - Steve Downing A few weeks later another female bird, Octavia, vanished without trace. She hatched from a nest on National Trust’s High Peak Moors in the Peak District National Park in June. This was the first time the species had bred in this area for four years. Again, we had high hopes that the tables may have turned in favour of our hen harriers and we watched anxiously as she began to spread her wings. Octavia stayed faithfully close to her nest, until the 22 August when she moved onto privately-owned driven grouse moors near Sheffield. Her tag was transmitting regularly when it suddenly and inexplicably stopped. Her last known fix on 26 August showed she was over an area of land managed for driven grouse shooting at Broomhead. Octavia. Photo - Steve Downing Just three days later, a bird in north Wales also disappeared. Heulwen was born on a nest in Gwynedd, North Wales, her name was chosen as it is Welsh for ‘sunny’. After she left her nest, Heulwen travelled through north Wales, across Snowdonia and eastwards towards Wrexham. Her satellite was transmitting regularly until it suddenly and inexplicably stopped. Her last known fix on 29 August show she was within the vicinity of Ruabon Mountain. Heulwen was not far from where Aalin , one of our 2016 cohort, went missing on 9 February 2018. Heulwen. Photo - Guy Anderson Satellite tagging technology is commonly used to follow the movements of birds and tags continue to transmit regularly, even if the bird dies. The tags were all providing regular updates on the birds’ locations, so the sudden and unexpected ending of transmissions from three birds all near grouse moors is suspicious, which is why the police are involved in all three cases. For each of the birds, we have data on the location of their last transmission, which are shown in the maps below. We don’t know anything further about the movements of any of these birds after their last fixes. All three birds were searched for but were not recovered. It is expected that a bird that dies from natural causes the tag will continue to transmit data and provide the opportunity to be found on a follow up search.      Last known fix of Hilma Last known fix of Octavia Last known fix of Heulwen Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest birds of prey with only nine successful nests recorded in England in 2018 despite sufficient habitat for over 300 pairs. It is widely understood that the main reason for their low numbers is illegal killing associated with intensive management of driven grouse moors. Just a few weeks ago we were celebrating the breeding success of hen harriers in the UK, but already these young chicks are disappearing in suspicious circumstances when they are just a few months old. It’s devastating for those of us involved in watching and protecting these chicks and terrible news for a birds of prey species that has shown a 24% decline in numbers between 2004 and 2016. While we don’t yet know what has happened to these three birds, we do know that the main factor reducing the hen harrier population in the UK is illegal killing of birds associated with the intensive management of grouse moors. If anyone has any information about the disappearance of any of these birds, please call the police on 101 – or if you have sensitive information which you want to discuss in confidence with the RSPB, you can use the Raptor Crime Hotline 0300 999 0101.

Comment on Three more hen harriers disappear suddenly

I did not want to like the post. This is truly dreadful news. The organised criminals who are most likely to have done this, and especially those who actively support them, should hang their heads in shame.

Blog Post: Meet the new hen harrier heroes

Following on from a successful breeding season, we speak to Jack and Tom, our newest  Assistant Investigations Officers, investigating hen harrier persecution in England and Wales. Here we get to know them and their work a bit better… You’re both keen birders. What’s been your best ever birding moment? Jack: My highlight was in October 2013 witnessing 299 rough-legged buzzards migrating out to sea in southern Demark! Tom: So many to choose from! Watching a pair of shoebills in Uganda’s Murchison Falls NP as a teenager was like something from a dream… the birds and the setting along the north bank of the Nile were very special. What do you do when you’re not working? Jack: Self-confessed raptor geek – read, write, illustrate and watch raptors. If I’m not birding or ringing then I love to climb and keep fit. Tell us something else we might not know about you… Tom: By the time you read this, I will have become a father. How do you describe your job to friends and family? Tom: I say that we are trying to help one of England’s most threatened birds of prey and explain the persecution these birds face (which generally elicits a shocked response). When I talk about investigations work I usually get called a bird detective. Jack I try to steer clear of the details and essentially say I have the best job in the world, get to study hen harriers on a near daily basis. Non- birders don’t have a clue what I’m talking about but birders are somewhat mesmerised!  (Jack Ashton-Booth with a young hen harrier) Without giving away too many secrets, what does your work involve? Tom: Lots of driving and walking the moors! We aim to find and monitor nesting attempts and, if these are successful, satellite tag the chicks. This results in some spectacular encounters with hen harriers. We can then track these birds’ movements, and if they don’t survive hopefully find out where and why this has happened. We also proactively attempt to stop persecution and ensure that those responsible are held to account. The EU funded Hen Harrier LIFE project itself focuses on monitoring harriers both on the ground and via satellite tagging. It also includes protecting nests and investigations work pertaining to persecution incidents alongside community engagement and raising awareness of the issues that threaten hen harriers. Why did you apply for the role? Jack: I was driven by my passion for raptors and the opportunity to directly make a difference to hen harrier conservation in the UK. I’m hoping to further my understanding of this captivating species. Tom: I live on the edge of the Peak District, a black spot for raptor persecution, and I’ve witnessed first-hand the effects this has had on individual birds and their populations. This role presented one of the best opportunities to make a difference to that, locally and nationally. You’ve been in the role several months now. Is it living up to expectations? Jack: Above and beyond – don’t be fooled, it’s not for the faint hearted and it’s not simply sitting on a hill watching harriers sky dancing (although some days are). It involves LONG hours in the field and can at times feel like you’re swimming against the tide. It’s most definitely a job with the greatest highs and the greatest lows. Tom: It has exceeded them. I feel incredibly privileged to be part of the team. There have been some real highs and lows but I’ve never been happier in my work. Successfully fitting satellite tags to several broods of chicks was very satisfying after lots of hard work and lots of nervous moments along the way. Can you tell us more about the help you receive from local raptor workers? Tom: Quite simply we couldn’t do our job without them. They are the real unsung heroes of raptor conservation. Their years of experience and time spent in the field are vital, especially as we are only a small team. I’d like to extend a huge thankyou to those I’ve worked with this year, particularly the members of the Northern England Raptor Forum. You know who you are! Jack: The people I liaise with are incredible and know their raptors inside out. What I would love to see however is the old school cliques in the raptor working circles start to open up and allow new blood up the ranks. I know so many amazing young birders keen to learn about raptors and they should be encouraged by their elders. These areas are too big to simply work it alone, more eyes mean more raptors are found. How do you liaise with the police and CPS? Tom: As we have no statutory powers ourselves our relationship with these two bodies is vital. We are in regular contact with Wildlife Crime Officers, providing information to them and assisting where we can which helps with enforcement. When a case come to trial, our role is to provide evidence for the CPS to build a case and act as an expert witness. Who else do you get help from? Tom: We work in partnership with many organisations such as the Forestry Commission, National Trust, National Parks, Local Wildlife Trusts and raptor groups. Jack: The forestry commission raptor workers have been amazing and monumental in teaching us tricks of the trade when finding hen harrier territories and nests. What can the public do to help birds of prey? Tom: Reporting possible crimes to police and hen harrier sightings to our hotline are both incredibly valuable – you are our eyes and ears. Local communities must make it clear that raptor persecution has no place in their countryside. In order for real change to happen the public as a whole needs to tell those in power that this barbaric practice must stop. Jack: Question everything when in the countryside. If you see anything on a grouse moor that looks odd, like a spring trap or a cage, then take a photo and send it in to us. Also, report dead or injured birds of prey. The quicker you get info to us the quicker we can respond, and ultimately get a conviction if a crime has taken place.  (Tom Grose recovering a dead bird) What’s the hardest part of the job? Tom: The knowledge that many of the chicks we have watched grow won’t make it, not just through natural causes but by being shot or trapped by a selfish few. Jack: For me the quantity of cases that get dropped by our legal system. If our legal system dictates that a crime has been committed, then it should be treated the same as any other crime and not brushed under the carpet because it is not perceived as a priority case. You haven’t had your first winter out on the moors yet, are you prepared?! Tom: In previous roles I’ve spent many winters out on the hills carrying out surveys and habitat restoration. But this time I’ll be doing it to protect hen harriers! Jack: I can’t think of anything better than a flask of tea and a winter hen harrier roost! Bring it on!  

Comment on Sky and Hope: A plea for information

Recent NE satellite gagging data reveals that: id94591 last transmission at SD596621 on 18/08/2010 is 1km from the last known transmission of Hope and then 3 days later id58870 last transmission at SD673604 on 21/08/2010 is 2km from the last known transmission of Sky Have the police been informed?

Comment on UK Government needs an independent inquiry into driven grouse shooting to deliver 25 Year Environment Plan

An excellent petition. Let's Hope that it gets coverage by the RSPB.

Blog Post: UK Government needs an independent inquiry into driven grouse shooting to deliver 25 Year Environment Plan

Earlier this month, Les Wallace launched a Government petition calling for an independent review of the economics of driven grouse moors. Our Head of Nature Policy Gareth Cunningham explains why we are calling for a full independent inquiry that not only looks at the economics of grouse moor management but also the role of regulation in the industry. Les Wallace’s petition raises interesting questions. It requests that benefits such as ecotourism and flood alleviation are fully considered against the economic benefits provided by driven grouse moor management practices. We agree that most previous studies of grouse moor economics have generally only measured economic benefits, whilst the costs or public contribution through Single Farm Payments and agri-environment support are usually disregarded. It would be helpful if these wider issues could now be considered to allow a properly informed debate. Like other forms of land use, grouse moor management, should be held to account for the way in which it operates, and from our perspective we will challenge any unsustainable and environmentally damaging management practices. The petition comes at a time when there is increased scrutiny around the way we manage our land, and, in particular, the way that driven grouse moors are managed. Scottish Government has recently set up its own independent inquiry into grouse moor management to look at how this particular land use can be managed both more sustainably and within the law, including options for regulation. The inquiry should report its findings in spring 2019. The RSPB supports the regulation of “driven” grouse moors to ensure that public interests are safeguarded, including the protection of birds of prey and peatland habitats. The Scottish Government has also commissioned independent research on the impact of large shooting estates on Scotland’s economy and biodiversity. More recently, the Westminster Labour shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman has called for an end for rotational heather burning and an independent review into the economic, environmental and wildlife impacts of driven grouse moors. These calls for action are, in theory at least, underpinned by the direction and mood of Government. For example, the UK Government’s recently published 25 year plan for the environment provides some clear and bold plans to improve England’s environment. This includes using and managing our land sustainably, with a recognition that a new environmental land management system is needed. The Environment secretary, Michael Gove MP, has begun to outline the economics of delivering this ambition, calling for public money to deliver public goods. Clearly indicating that those who receive Government subsidies to manage land are expected to deliver clear and tangible benefits to the wider public. But while most agree we should be using our natural environment sustainably, and ensuring there are benefits for wildlife, there is not always agreement around the need for regulation. In contrast, most other forms of land use involving natural resources management, apart from gamebird hunting, are generally regulated in some form. Wild deer and fish, water management, and forestry are all covered by regulations which define clear public standards required for sustainable management. Despite this, the UK still lags behind nations in Europe and North America in having no system of regulation for hunting, instead relying heavily on voluntary and self-regulatory codes of practice to encourage compliance with legislation. In the face of increasing intensification of driven grouse shooting management, this approach is failing to deliver both sustainable management of natural resources and the UK’s commitments to halt biodiversity loss. Despite repeated warnings by environmental NGOs, and now the Scottish Government, for the need to stop bad practices, we maintain that grouse moor owners have failed to deliver, and therefore self- regulation has failed. In these circumstances it is now time for the Government to intervene. We recommend that the UK Government should now follow Scottish Government’s example and launch a full independent inquiry that considers not only the economic benefits of grouse moor management, but also takes account of the use of public funding to supporting existing management practices and the public costs. It is our view that any inquiry should also look into the role of regulation as part of its remit. In so doing the UK Government can take a meaningful step towards delivering the ambitions of the 25 Year Environment Plan, particularly in relation to delivering biodiversity conservation in our internationally important upland landscapes. On this basis, we support this petition and hope this study comes to fruition as part of a wider debate as to how our uplands can be better managed for conservation and in the public interest.  

Comment on Our response to Natural England’s publication of raw data of tagged hen harriers

Two of those Hen Harriers 'disappeared' within 1 mile of the location of where Sky and Hope 'disappeared'. Sky and Hope 'disappeared' within 3 days of each other and so did 58870 & 94591. Why hasn't their been a police investigation and why have NE not released this information to the police?

Blog Post: Our response to Natural England’s publication of raw data of tagged hen harriers

On the 25 August Natural England published the raw data from tagging 158 tracked individual hen harriers. Publication of this data is something which the RSPB has previously called for. It’s good to see that the data will be finally used as the basis for a scientific and peer-reviewed paper “ The dead tell no tales – but perhaps their tracking data can? Exploring associations between ‘disappearing’ hen harriers (Circus cyaneus) and grouse moor management ”. It would be disingenuous to comment before the final peer-reviewed study is published, however, we are pleased that this information will finally be in the public domain and open to proper scrutiny. We hope that the peer-reviewed process will ensure the final paper is free from any perceived bias and helps to reduce future hen harrier persecution. This year 34 chicks fledged across Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumberland and Derbyshire, many of which were tagged. Ongoing data collection helps to ensure an accurate picture of hen harrier movements and help pinpoint where they disappear.

Comment on Sky and Hope: A plea for information

The recently released but long withheld info on the Natural England satellite tagged Hen Harriers 2007-2017 shows two Hen Harriers (94591 & 58870) both with their last known location only 3km away from the centre of the overlap of Hope and Sky in the map above! The withholding of this evidence of highly suspicious activity by NE should be a crime, if it isn't already. raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/.../new-satellite-tag-data-reveal-suspicious-clustering-of-missing-hen-harriers-on-english-grouse-moors

Blog Post: The fortunes of England’s hen harriers in 2018

As the breeding season draws to a close, we take some time to reflect on the breeding success of hen harriers in England in 2018. Hen harrier numbers have been declining steadily in England over the past few decades. It is well known from independent research that the main reason for this decline is illegal killing of these birds associated with driven grouse moor management in northern England. Last year, hen harriers were very close to extinction as a breeding bird in England, with just three successful nests fledging 10 chicks in 2017, all in Northumberland. We were hopeful that this population would be bolstered when the birds we tagged in the Scottish borders, Marc and Manu , flew south into Durham and Northumberland respectively. However, this optimism was short lived and we were devastated to find that these birds suspiciously disappeared over grouse moors just months after fledging. This year, we've had a similar number of birds in Northumberland with three successful nests and 11 chicks fledging. This is the fourth consecutive year that hen harriers have successfully nested in the north east, so our national nature reserves are becoming a real stronghold for them. Fortunately this isn’t the end of the story - we were overjoyed to find that we also had nesting attempts elsewhere in England, with three successful nests on United Utilities land managed for grouse shooting in the Forest of Bowland and one successful nest in the Peak District on land managed for grouse shooting and owned by the National Trust. This is fantastic news and shows what can be achieved when grouse moors are managed sustainably and legally. Through partnership working with the estate staff, gamekeepers and local raptor workers, we were able to monitor and protect these nests too. I feel really proud that our team played a direct role in the protection of seven of the nine successful nests in England. Natural England also reported today that we had two additional successful nests in England: one on a hill farm and another one on a National Nature Reserve. This gives us a total of nine successful nests out of 14 attempts, fledging 34 chicks. Unfortunately, we did have five attempts that failed.  Table showing successful breeding attempts in England in 2018.  County  Number of chicks  Northumberland  11  Lancashire  13  Cumbria    6  Derbyshire    4 Total            34 However, whilst it’s great to see a small increase in numbers, we must continue with our conservation efforts as we're still a long way from where we should be, with the government’s own study showing we have enough habitat for 300 nests in England. So where are our missing hen harriers? During a long summer of 24-hour nest protection and monitoring birds in all weathers, our Hen Harrier LIFE project team have worked hard to put satellite tags on hen harrier chicks from these English nests and we’ll be watching their progress very closely. With a survival probability of just 20% within their first two years, we wait anxiously to follow the fates of our young chicks as they make their way into the world. We also hope to understand what proportion of the birds are lost to natural causes, and what proportion to illegal persecution. If only we could have more estate owners like United Utilities and the National Trust, and their shooting tenants, who see the value of having hen harriers on their land. By allowing the birds to live sustainably alongside working grouse moors, these youngsters would have a much more assured future, allowing everyone the opportunity to see them in their moorlands. Imagine the joy of seeing skydancing hen harriers every spring across moorlands in the north of England – what a fantastic sight! Sadly for now, it’s clear that illegal persecution is continuing. This is why we are calling for licencing of driven grouse shooting and the introduction of vicarious liability into England and Wales, to drive up standards in the industry and ensure those responsible for breaking the law are held to account. If you’d like to do your bit to help our hen harriers, you should read our ‘ Six ways to help hen harriers ’ blog and help us secure their future, so that numbers can continue to increase in England and one day we might all have the chance to see a hen harrier. We can all play a role in protecting our hen harriers for future generations.    

Blog Post: We Will Win

Today we have a guest blog from Dara McAnulty, the young Fermanagh naturalist , who reminds us that there's always something we can do to help hen harriers. I remember the first time I wittingly saw a raptor, I was five and I became entranced. The RSPB visited my school soon after to talk about red kites and the fascination grew into obsession. I constantly scanned the skies for a glimpse of majesty.   The hen harrier was the holy grail, but I didn’t catch my first encounter until I was 12. After that point, my life was irrevocably changed. It wasn’t just the beauty and sheer brilliance of flight engineering - it was the iconic nature of the species. It was a symbol of the desecration of our wildlife and our countryside.  I followed these birds through the seasons and rejoiced in their offspring and their ever giving wonder and joy. Each visit made my life so much better. They never failed to amaze me. I kind of felt they were ‘my’ birds, I wanted to give them something back. Something for their persecuted comrades.  Relentlessly targeted and killed to fuel the grouse shooting industry, I followed in the footsteps of other campaigners to add my voice, my words, my determination. This determination was stifled though, I wanted to do more! I really wanted to help.  When I heard about how raptor satellite tagging could act as a deterrent at best, at worst give good data against wildlife crime, I hatched a plan with the help of Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group. There were no tagged birds here in Northern Ireland - I wanted to change that. I wanted to do something more!  In January I walked thirty miles in the depth of winter, over mountain, bog and uplands - a hen harrier saluted me on my way, always inspirational, always uplifting - the sight of it kept me going. Thanks to the generosity of many, I managed to raise £6,000 - which will be used to help fund the first raptor satellite tagging project ‘Hawk Eyes’,  (including hen harriers) in Northern Ireland. A feat which quenched my appetite to help.  Although I’m getting itchy again and feel the need to do more - there is always so much more we can do.    Dara raised just over £6000 through crowd funding towards hen harrier satellite tagging There’s no Hen Harrier Day in Northern Ireland this year, but I, like always, will be supporting you all from afar and I will continue to campaign for hen harrier conservation and against persecution.  We Will Win.  Dara McAnulty Age 14

Blog Post: Nos da to our tagged Welsh hen harrier: Lia’s journey is over

Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, shares the sad news of the loss of a second tagged hen harrier in Wales in suspicious circumstances. At this time of year, our Hen Harrier LIFE project team are very busy monitoring birds, protecting nests and satellite tagging juveniles. As we get caught up in the elation and optimism that a new generation of this rare bird brings, it was a timely reminder of their potential fates when we received the post mortem results for Lia, one of our Welsh hen harriers. Hen harriers were once widespread in Wales, but following a long history of illegal persecution and eventual extinction on mainland Britain as a breeding bird, the hen harrier finally came back to Wales in the 1950s. Since then, the Welsh population has slowly recovered, but it continues to vary greatly in size from year to year due to a number of factors, including food availability and weather conditions. The latest survey in 2016 showed the number of pairs had fallen by more than a third over the past six years, from 57 to 35 pairs. This is the lowest population that has been seen in Wales for over a decade, hence our devastation when Lia met her demise. Lia was one of four chicks born on a nest on the National Trust’s Ysbyty Estate in north Wales in 2017, and we fitted her satellite tag at the end of June. After fledging, she headed south to the Brecon Beacons National Park, and in October she had a brief two-day trip across the Bristol Channel to Somerset, before returning and settling in mid-Wales. Lia (image courtesy of Guy Anderson) Her tag was functioning regularly, showing us that she spent most of her time in Wales, until 18th April 2018, when RSPB staff monitoring the tag became concerned she had stopped moving over an area of lowland farmland near the village of Tylwch, south of Llanidloes. An initial search of the area yielded nothing. However, on the 17 th May 2018, a further transmission confirmed she was dead, and RSPB Investigations staff searched again and found her lying face up in short grass in a sheep field.          A map of Lia’s final journey and last known location RSPB Investigations staff retrieved both the bird and her tag, which were immediately sent to the veterinary laboratory at ZSL for post mortem. Although the bird’s body was ‘mummified’, the vet’s main finding of interest was a fractured tail feather. The report stated that fractures of this type “have previously been found in a hen harrier proven to have been shot with ammunition (Hopkins et al., 2015). No other signs of shooting were detected in this bird.” Lia’s fractured tail feather (image courtesy of ZSL) Sadly, we’ll never know for sure what happened to Lia due to her state of decomposition, but her death was reported to Dyfed Powys Police from the outset as suspicious and they have been investigating, as she was found in an area with a history of illegal raptor persecution. Lia was the first hen harrier ever to have been satellite tagged in Wales, and we had high hopes she would help us better understand the dispersal of Welsh birds. Alarmingly, she is the second bird to be lost in Wales this year in suspicious circumstances. Aalin , who was tagged on the Isle of Man in July 2016, spent last winter in north Wales, and disappeared in the Ruabon mountains near Wrexham in February 2018. The loss of both of these birds is heartbreaking, but the more we can learn about the fates of our hen harriers, the more measures we can put in place to protect them. If anyone has any information that might help us find answers to how Lia died then please contact Dyfed Powys police on 101 quoting the reference number 47 24 04 2018 or alternatively speak to the RSPB confidentially on 0300 999 0101. The Hen Harrier LIFE project team are tagging more birds in Wales this summer, so watch this space to follow their fortunes. Hopefully they’ll have a bit more luck than Lia.   

Comment on Six ways you can help hen harriers

Excellent. That's the way to do it! Please keep saying it at all opportunities. I have a petition with the Scottish Government going through the system about wildlife crime. I'm doing something, and I feel that the RSPB can always do more.

Blog Post: Six ways you can help hen harriers

Hen harriers are in trouble – that’s not news to anyone. The RSPB continues to urge the government to crack down on illegal persecution in the uplands in a bid to give these birds a chance to re-establish a stable population in England. But is there anything you, me, your friends and your family can do? Well, yes there is, and some of these things you can do right away. Together we can change the tide and stop illegal persecution. Picture credit: Jack Ashton-Booth 1) Attend a Hen Harrier Day event: Share your passion for these magnificent birds, hear talks and campaign for changes to help protect the future of hen harriers. 2) Sign up to Findlay's Thunderclap. Hen harrier campaigner extraordinaire Findlay Wilde is asking everyone who cares about these birds to sign up to a Thunderclap on social media. Sign up here and at 9.30am on 12 August, this message will appear on your Twitter or Facebook page: “I am against the illegal persecution of uplands wildlife. The dark side of the Inglorious 12th must be stopped.” 3) Report crimes: Walkers, hikers, climbers and anyone out in the countryside can be our eyes and ears, keeping us informed about crimes involving birds of prey. Look out for traps set on posts, dead or injured birds of prey, or people behaving suspiciously. Call RSPB Investigations and police on 101 or fill out the online form . 4) Speak out: If you are involved with the driven grouse shooting or rural community and have information about people killing hen harriers, there is a way for you to alert us in complete confidence. The RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline (0300 999 0101) will allow you to speak out without it coming back to you. We know there are people out there with information, and you can help us end this culture of criminality. 5) Help us fight for licensing: The voices calling for change are getting louder, and the more of us who voice our outrage at the illegal killing of hen harriers, the more likely we are to bring about change. Self-regulation of driven grouse moors has not worked, so we want the government to introduce a system of licensing.  6) Spread the word: There is a huge movement happening on social media calling for action to protect hen harriers. Adding your voice will help increase the impact, raise awareness and hopefully drive change. Public opinion carries great sway! Follow and Retweet our @RSPB_Skydancer tweets – and of course, don’t forget to tell people face-to-face as well!