A fourth male Hen Harrier is reported missing from an active nest in the northern Pennines.

Geltsdale Moor (1 of 1)

Geltsdale Moor, Northern Pennines

It was inevitable that another male hen harrier would be reported missing sooner rather than later; this time from an occupied nest site in the northern Pennines. Not only that, but the female known to have been incubating a clutch of eggs, has now also vanished. The male harrier, which was nesting at the RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve, was last seen at the upland site on Saturday 23 May. He set off hunting at around 7.15am and was last observed by RSPB nest protection staff at around 1pm.

The nesting pair were originally recorded in the spring on the Croglin estate adjoining the RSPB’s Geltsdale Nature Reserve in the northern Pennines. Considering all the adverse publicity generated by the disappearance of the 3 male hen harriers from the Forest of Bowland in May, there was hope this time common sense would prevail and the pair would would be allowed to breed unmolested on the Croglin estate; sadly this was not to be. It is being suggested the pair were induced to leave moorland on the Croglin estate after repeated explosions were heard emanating from gas guns placed strategically to persuade the harriers to move elsewhere. Eventually the pair relocated onto the adjoining RSPB reserve where they eventually settled and laid a full clutch of eggs.


 The nest was immediately placed under the full time protection of RSPB staff. Unfortunately the male harrier did not understand the rules of moorland residency, he was observed travelling back and forth across the estate boundary foraging for food on the Croglin estate. There is no evidence to suggest the male harrier was killed on the Croglin estate, he just vanished into thin air following the same route taken by the 3 missing Bowland hen harriers earlier this spring. Shortly after the male hen harrier’s disappearance had been noticed the female deserted her nest containing a complete clutch of eggs and was not seen again. All very sad but in many ways a predictable outcome bearing in mind the hostility  towards the hen harrier by red grouse moor owners and their employees. The problem we are facing is very simple, those responsible for these outrages know they can act with total impunity, and will continue to do so.


Male Hen Harrier foraging for food

Cumbria Police Wildlife Crime Officer Sarah Rolland said: “There is no criminal investigation surrounding the disappearance of the male bird at the current time. However, we appeal to anyone with information to come forward by calling Police on 101, as we are keen to trace the whereabouts of the bird.”  Rather an odd statement to make, we are all eager to trace the whereabouts of both missing hen harriers, but we also know this will never happen. The odds are firmly stacked against any satisfactory outcome; there is a better chance of winning the lottery twice.


The use of gas-guns on moorland may be illegal under European Legislation.


Langholme Update June 2015

Hattie and Grainne (two female Harriers hatched and tagged at Langholm moor in summer 2013) are among five active harrier nests on the moor at Langholme this season. After the monumental twelve breeding attempts in 2014, only five nests have been recorded this year; still brilliant and there are a few birds about with potential to settle. With a bit of luck and a herculean effort from the keepering team here at Langholm to control the ever increasing fox numbers we could still be seeing good numbers of  harriers fledge Langholm this year

4 comments to A fourth male Hen Harrier is reported missing from an active nest in the northern Pennines.

  • nirofo

    This will never stop until driven grouse shooting is totally banned. Sooner or later they’ll dig their own grave, let’s hope it’s a deep one !!!

  • John Miles

    The main reason for keepers to kill Birds of prey is the ‘back hands’ they receive from their owners. As 99.9% of the owners do not ask their keepers to protect Birds of prey then they too are to blame for these deaths. When some one pays for a days shooting do they ask if birds of prey have been protected? No. So they too do not care about these birds of prey. It is now 26 years since I lost my harriers at Geltsdale. What has changed? Nothing. Who does care?

    • nirofo

      The keepers don’t care, the estate owners don’t care, the police don’t care, the sheriffs, magistrates and judges don’t care and the majority of the members of parliament don’t care. What this total lack of care from the people who should care means is that there is no hope for the raptors, not until driven grouse shooting is totally banned that is, then they’ll wish they had cared just a little bit more when they are bemoaning their lot !!!

      It may take a while yet, but it will happen, they’ve gone too far.

  • I used to work on an adjacent shooting estate to the Geltsdale bird reserve. The RSPB wardens watched me a couple of times – which shows how out of touch they are. The keepers enjoy shooting too and rabbits and crows must become pretty boring kills. The keepers from adjacent estates communicate by walkie-talkie and they will track a big bird for hours. The new shooters roads – which were mainly built without Planning Permission – making travelling over the moors by ATV or landrover that much easier. I tried to get the wildlife policeman involved in the fells but he wasn’t actually interested. He preferred to spend his time making watercolours of ducks and giving talks in schools rather than dirty hands surveillance (allegedly!). The farmers whose land the keepers sweep know all about the persecution of birds of prey but are in a subservient position, relying on the keepers to keep the gates closed and the vermin on the run. Give a keeper a ten year prison stretch for shooting a large raptor and everything would change overnight.