Category: RSPB Hen Harrier Project

Comment on Satellite tagged hen harrier Rannoch killed by illegal trap on Perthshire grouse moor

Cannot find words 🙁 just horrific , when will it end

Blog Post: Satellite tagged hen harrier Rannoch killed by illegal trap on Perthshire grouse moor

Senior Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, is devastated to announce today that a satellite tagged hen harrier has been illegally killed on a Perthshire grouse moor. The remains of the young female, named Rannoch, were found by RSPB Scotland Investig…

Blog Post: Guest Blog: Supt Nick Lyall – Getting up close with my first hen harrier.

Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Development Group Supt Nick Lyall talks us through his #myfirsthenharrier moment. In early October 2018, as many of you will know, I took on the role of chair of the England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority…

Blog Post: Top 3 places in Scotland to see a hen harrier!

Tremaine Bilham, Hen Harrier Life Project Community Engagement Officer, shares the experience of her first hen harrier sighting and tells us about the places we’re most likely to see hen harriers in Scotland. Taking shelter from the blustery Orkney wea…

Blog Post: Forsinard Flows flies the flag for hen harriers!

Tremaine Bilham is the Hen Harrier LIFE Project’s Community Engagement Officer for Scotland, working to raise awareness and promote the conservation of these spectacular skydancers. In this blog, she tells us about her education work with a group from Brora Primary at Forsinard Flows. Early spring brings new life and warmer weather… or so I hoped as I prepared to take a primary 5 class on a peatland field trip in Forsinard. Fortunately, wind and rain are no match for the hardy children of Brora Primary. We kept warm with a skydance-off, with half the class imitating male hen harriers, twirling and swooping to compete for the attention of the female hen harrier judges who huddled shoulder to shoulder to stave off the brisk weather. This field trip was the first of what we hope will be many more delivered in partnership with the Flows to the Future Project, led by RSPB Scotland. RSPB Forsinard Flows is a National Nature Reserve that sits at the centre of this project, in the heart of Flow Country, an area within the Caithness and Sutherland peatlands characterised by deep peat interspersed with bog pools. This unique landscape covers an area of around 200,000 hectares – more than twice the size of Orkney. Flow Country sits within the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, measuring around 400,000 hectares. This incredible landscape is home to several birds of prey, including merlin, short-eared owl and hen harrier. The vastness of the bogs and sparseness of paths across them have kept this environment relatively undisturbed and wild. This makes the Flow Country a perfect breeding site for hen harriers. The Flow Country is unaffected by intense livestock grazing or burning of heather seen in other areas of moorland. As a result, the deep heather and surrounding forest make for a perfect resting place for female hen harriers and their chicks, providing much needed shelter from the elements. This also has led to increased abundance of small mammals and birds which make a great food source for growing chicks as they prepare to fledge. Unlike their counterparts in southern Scotland and northern England, hen harriers in the Flow Country are relatively unaffected by illegal killing – many of the hen harriers tagged further south have disappeared mysteriously over moorland managed for driven grouse shooting. Young people living on the edges of the Flow Country have the unique opportunity of regular hen harrier sightings in the summer as the males elegantly dance across the skies and complete food passes to their mates. Hilary Wilson, Learning Officer at Forsinard Flows, will be using resources developed through the Skydancer and Hen Harrier LIFE projects to teach school children about the importance of this habitat for hen harriers. Through a combination of workshops, assemblies and field trips, pupils will learn about peatland plants, food chains and the importance of balance within ecosystems. Lucky enough to live in an area with 14 hen harrier breeding pairs, these young people will understand the role these birds of prey play within the Flow Country ecosystem and the need for their protection. Sources: www.theflowcountry.org.uk http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/jncc441.pdf http://ww2.rspb.org.uk/Images/flowcountry_tcm9-286460.pdf Images: Hilary Wilson

Blog Post: Hope for Harriers? – Rare hen harriers breed for consecutive year on National Trust High Peak Moors

Roisin Taylor, Community Engagement Officer for the Hen Harrier LIFE Project, talks about new nests, and the hope that they bring for the hen harrier population. Following the exciting news yesterday that there are four nests at United Utilities Bowlan…

Comment on Four hen harrier nests in Bowland.

I hope that the RSPB will ensure that tags are fitted if at all possible to the chicks. This will provide both excellent scientific data as well as confirm the continued health (or not) of the 2019 cohort. I wish to applaud all those monitoring the nests.I’m sure that we will hear of the RSPB results. I assume that the brood meddled Hen Harrier data will not be used for the same purpose.

Comment on Four hen harrier nests in Bowland.

I hope that the RSPB will ensure that tags are fitted if at all possible to the chicks. This will provide both excellent scientific data as well as confirm the continued health (or not) of the 2019 cohort. I wish to applaud all those monitoring the nests.I’m sure that we will hear of the RSPB results. I assume that the brood meddled Hen Harrier data will not be used for the same purpose.

Blog Post: Four hen harrier nests in Bowland.

In hopeful news, rare hen harrier chicks have hatched in four nests in Bowland. RSPB staff and volunteers discovered the nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate in early spring and have been monitoring them closely ever since. Recently, they obser…

Blog Post: Marathon for the missing harriers

How far would you go to raise awareness of an issue close to your heart? In Henry Morris’ case, the answer is at least 130 miles, up hill and down dale, whatever the weather. This July, the personal trainer from London will be running the equivalent of…

Comment on Spring Sorrow – Skylar and Marci’s tags suddenly stop

This news is heartbreaking, showing that our iconic birds are being targeted in an unending fashion. It must be terrible for those who seek to repopulate these birds. Until government and the justice system takes this matter seriously I can see no change.

Blog Post: Spring Sorrow – Skylar and Marci’s tags suddenly stop

It is with a heavy heart that just as the excitement of the breeding season gets under way, we must report the loss of two more of our hen harriers, Skylar and Marci. Skylar was a symbol of hope for the project team, who were very excited to follow her…

Blog Post: How to ID a hen harrier

With the launch of the Hen Harrier Hotline and our harriers once again taking to the skies, community engagement officer, Roisin Beck Taylor, takes us through some of the birds that can be commonly mistaken for hen harriers and how to identify them. He…

Blog Post: The Hen Harrier Hotline is open!

As spring arrives we’re asking you to keep your eyes to the skies and you may even spot some skydancing! Project Manager Dr Cathleen Thomas tells us how you can help us to protect hen harriers. For anyone new to the blog, hen harriers are a bird of prey that breed in the uplands, principally on hills with heather moorland. They are the UK’s most threatened bird of prey and on the brink of extinction as breeding bird in England, with just 9 successful nests in the whole of England in 2018 despite there being enough habitat to support over 300 pairs. So, the population size is a very long way from where it should be for a healthy, self-sustaining population. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that the main reason for the decline of our hen harriers is illegal killing by criminals in areas associated with intensive management of moorlands for grouse shooting. Just two weeks ago, the English government contributed to published research that found hen harriers were ten times more likely to die or disappear in areas of grouse moor, relative to areas with no grouse moor. This paper also found that 72% of their tagged birds were either definitely, or very likely to have been, illegally killed on grouse moors. Here at the RSPB, the staff working on our Hen Harrier LIFE project carry out direct conservation action on the ground to protect and monitor nests. We work alongside local raptor workers, including those that are part of the Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF) and the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG). To be able to protect the birds we need to know where they are and that’s why we’re asking for your help. As the weather is slowly warming up, the birds are becoming more visible as they start long journeys moving away from their winter roosting grounds and towards their summer breeding grounds. They will be moving into areas of heather moorlands in places like the North Pennines and the Forest of Bowland. Hen harrier are birds of prey with strong talons and a curved beak. They are a medium-sized bird of prey, smaller than an eagle and similar in size to a buzzard. Female hen harriers have brown and white feathers that camouflage them when they nest on the ground amongst the heather. They have horizontal stripes on their tails and a patch of white just above it. Males are slightly smaller and ash grey with black wing tips. Both have a round, owl-like face and a wingspan of just under a metre. A female hen harrier with mottled brown feathers and a barred tail (photo by Steve Knell, RSPB-IMAGES) In the spring, the male hen harrier performs a spectacular courtship display to attract a female, known as skydancing. The bird sweeps and somersaults, climbing high in the air before plunging to the ground and then pulling up just before he hits it! He twists and turns, all to impress the female and it should be a common sight on our hills and moorland in the spring. A grey male hen harrier (photo by Andy Hay, RSPB-IMAGES) If anyone spots a hen harrier, skydancing or otherwise, please make a note of the date, time and location with a 6-figure grid reference if possible. A description of what the bird was doing is also helpful. Sightings can be reported to henharriers@rspb.org.uk or you can call us on 0845 460 0121. Please help us to keep these birds safe this summer.

Blog Post: Working with the next generation of gamekeepers

Hen Harrier LIFE project Community Engagement Officer Roisin Taylor reflects on her experiences working with gamekeeping students and finds reasons to be optimistic about the future of England’s hen harriers. Regular readers of this blog will know that…

Comment on New study reveals widespread illegal killing of hen harriers on England’s grouse moors

The NE study was based upon 58 birds. The RSPB has stated that even in 2018 they tagged more that 30 Hen Harriers. The RSPB may hold even more data than that which the excellent paper is based upon. I would like to ask the RSPB if they are prepared, us…

Blog Post: New study reveals widespread illegal killing of hen harriers on England’s grouse moors

A new study has provided compelling evidence that many young hen harriers in England are being illegally killed in areas associated with grouse shooting. The RSPB’s Head of Nature Policy Gareth Cunningham discusses the significance of this scientific r…

Blog Post: Vulcan’s fire goes out

Another hen harrier, Vulcan, has now sadly joined the ‘missing in action’ list. Vulcan was tagged in Northumberland in the summer of 2018, along with over 30 more hen harriers in England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. Almost half of these birds …

Blog Post: Hen harrier ‘River’ disappears in suspicious circumstances

Yet another of 2018’s hen harrier chicks has disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Today the RSPB issued the following press release: River, who hatched from a nest in Bowland in 2018 The police and the RSPB are investigating the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier in North Yorkshire, the county with the worst reputation for bird of prey persecution. The bird, named River, was one of several hen harrier chicks in England fitted with a satellite tag as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project last summer (2018). These lightweight tags allow the RSPB to monitor the birds after they fledge. Her tag’s last known transmission came from a driven grouse moor between Colsterdale and Nidderdale – an area with a history of bird of prey persecution – on 14 November. She was known to have been hunting and roosting in the area for several weeks. RSPB Investigations staff and North Yorkshire Police searched the area, but there was no sign of the bird or the tag. She has not been heard from since. All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. North Yorkshire Police investigated the disappearance, but no information has been forthcoming. Hen harriers are rare birds which nest in moorland, especially in the uplands of Northern England and Scotland. However just nine nests were recorded in England last year, despite enough prey and habitat to support over 300 pairs. They have not successfully bred in North Yorkshire since 2007. Over 30 hen harriers were tagged last summer in the UK. Between August and November 2018, nine of these, including a 10 th bird tagged in 2017, disappeared at different locations in the UK. Police and RSPB officers search for River Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations UK, said: “Again we have news of a disappeared harrier, again in North Yorkshire, and again last known to be on a grouse moor. Hen harriers are barely clinging on as a breeding species in England. They should be a common and joyful sight over the moorlands of North Yorkshire, however the reality is most people only know them as being rare and persecuted. “The idea that this bird may have been deliberately targeted is incredibly worrying, especially in the context of eight others which have vanished in similar circumstances. When a tagged hen harrier dies naturally, we expect the tag to continue transmitting, enabling us to find the body. This was not the case here. Instead, there was no trace of the tag or the bird, which is highly suspicious. When hen harriers disappear like this over an area with a history of raptor persecution, it’s hard not to draw conclusions.” The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report showed that North Yorkshire is consistently the worst county in the UK for recorded bird of prey persecution, accumulating significantly more confirmed incidents in the last five years than anywhere else. In 2012, hen harrier ‘Bowland Betty’ was found shot at nearby Colsterdale. A reward was offered but no culprit was identified. If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101. If you know about raptor persecution occurring in your area and wish to speak out in confidence, call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101. If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx