Oh where, Oh where we might ask have all our Hen Harriers Gone?

Following several attempts by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament the question still pops up about where have all our Hen Harriers disappeared to. Both radio tagging and wing tagging have been found not to help resolve this problem as too many birds disappear not to be seen again off the radar. Recent hunts for missing radio tagged harriers have also come up with a blank even though two of this years Langholm youngsters were last tracked to a Red Grouse moors before going off the radar. In both cases the moors were not named although Raptor Politics understands that one bird was lost on the Croglin Moor right next to the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale.

In a recent article by the North Pennines AONB, Adrian Blackmore, the moorland director for the CLA felt that the Langholm birds of the 1990s were killed off by foxes at Langholm due to the loss of game keepers on the site. But he failed to read the report that 160 Hen Harriers were killed on one shooting estate on the North Pennines AONB between 1995 – 1997. This was part of a 1000 Birds of Prey killed during that period with the information coming from a neighbouring estate game keeper.

As no prosecutions had also taken place in the AONB then it was assumed no harriers were being killed there! Sadly the number of people coming to court is next to nothing but it does not help when individuals wear a balaclava when shooting Hen Harriers as happened on the Croglin moor estate with both RSPB staff present and police and a video camera to record what happened. Think of an identity parade with 8 folk present all wearing balaclavas!! On the day in question, not even the police or RSPB  who filmed the incident attempted to cross the estate boundary to arrest the person who shot the harrier.

As Marsh Harriers have been recorded up to  an age of 20 years, the life span of a Hen Harrier must be very similar if not filled with lead. A recent wing tagged bird dated as being born in 2002 was seen in good light through a telescope last month in Cumbria. Evidence that the bird could be that old was thought to be wrong and a similar coloured wing tag combination is still being looked for!

So now we have an e petition and the RSPB yet to call out their troops to support and sign it. The Labour party has been approached to give their support but as yet have not decided. So the important question here, who does want to protect the Hen Harrier? A number of European Hen Harriers have flown to Britain this autumn but still there is no protection for these migrants here. Several dead Birds of Prey have recently been found in a suitcase going to Malta from Britain. Was a Hen Harrier one of these birds? Can the Red Grouse Moor owners now claim all the Hen Harriers end up in Malta! Nothing to do with us!! Who will get a stuffed Hen Harrier for Xmas in their stocking?

What ever the case, 2012 still looks bleak for such an iconic bird, even with £300,000 being spent on it from Lottery Money. The chances of winning the lottery may be the same odds of saving this bird as a breeding bird in England at the present time!

23 comments to Oh where, Oh where we might ask have all our Hen Harriers Gone?

  • harrier man

    If there is no support from the RSPB asking their membership (which i am one) regarding the e-petition then i will no longer continue being a member. Although i have supported the RSPB since starting birdwatching 28 years ago this will be the last straw for me with regards to my cheque book.

    • Paul Williams

      Hen Harriers were breeding very successfully on most of the regions shooting estates in the Forest of Bowland long before the RSPB ever ventured into the area. I would like to inform the Society my first sightings of Hen Harriers in Bowland was back in the summer of 1968 when I was 15 yrs old. In 1978 the 39 active nests then being monitored by the North West Raptor Protection Group were all productive. Following the death of the Earl of Sefton resulting in the sale of the Abbeystead estate (around 1980) to its present owner The Duke of Westminster, there were at least 12 active nests on Abbeystead and Tarnbrook moors alone. Within 3 years after the sale of the estate to its current owner breeding Harriers had completely disappeared from the estate and have so far never recovered and we all know why don’t we!

      • Ann Cardwell

        What makes me so angry as recent events in the Scottish parliament have now shown, where satellite tagged hen harriers disappear off the radar, most on red grouse moors, why do the conservation bodies then keep this information a secret instead of naming the estates where these losses take place IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST? Are they trying to hide the embarrassment of the land owners? If they are then they are just as bad as the people who shoot them in my view. The loss of one of this years Langholm nestlings on the Croglin estate in Cumbria was a prime example , well done Raptor Politics for making this detail public.

  • David Parkinson

    Paul I find your historical revelations relating to the hen harrier in the Forest of Bowland prior to the arrival of the RSPB’s involvement exstremely interesting and important to the ongoing debate. Your explanation places the situation into a much better perspective for people to understand and follow. From what you have now explained 39 breeding pairs were successful when being monitored by the North West Raptor Group, but since the Society began work in Bowland the hen harrier population has crashed to just 4 breeding pairs. Resulting from Natural England’s failure to grant licenses this year to members of the local raptor group do you think there could be a correlation between the current low density of harriers in Bowland and the failure of the 14 peregrine territories this year in the region following the departure of so many experienced field workers from this area?

  • paul williams

    Paul Williams via Sam Howell

    Environment Minister ‘answers’ question about the lost Langholm hen harriers raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com

    Following yesterday’s report that Elaine Murray MSP had asked the Scottish Executive for information about the young hen harriers from the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (see here), Environme…

  • paul williams

    I am personally convinced the reason for such a catastrophic down turn in the number of Peregrines and Hen Harriers in the Forest of Bowland is the revoking of scientific licenses. In the 1980’s after the NWRPG had reported widespread persecution of hen harriers on the Abbeystead estate, the UK Licensing Authority revoked the group’s licenses for use on this estate. Once again this year after reporting poor field practices by a number of licensed field workers, together with the loss of peregrine territories from the United Utilities estate our licenses were once again revoked. It must be all too obvious Natural England are pandering to estate owners and their gamekeepers to preserve political relationships which appear to come before the interests of “protected” raptors. I have quoted before on RP’s ” If you take away our licenses, you take away the protection, hence you allow others with vested interests to remove our Raptors.” The loss of 14 peregrine territories from Bowland this year was certainly no coincidence and certainly with experienced field workers out of the way others took this as a golden opportunity to get rid of as many birds as possible.

  • Ann, I very much doubt that the conservation bodies are trying to hide the embarrassment of the landowners in the way you imply. That really would be a first. I don’t know how it works in England but up in Scotland, rightly or wrongly we prefer to prove a level of guilt before naming an estate. Although Scots law assumes innocence until proven guilty the general public, the media and those desperate to end the persecution sometimes fail to make that distinction and are comfortable to accept guilt by association. An aggressive Raptor Persecution media campaign directed by RSPB for the right reasons but I believe in the wrong way, while exposing the guilty, swept the innocent into the same net as the media named the estates on which the victims were found by the RSPB Investigators. It is natural to make assumptions, but assumptions are not reliable as proof of guilt, particularly when it involves a wild bird.

  • paul williams

    An undercover operation took place in the Forest of Bowland to try and determine the reason for the demise of the Hen Harrier.The outcome of this operation laid the blame on birdwatchers, 4/5, 7/8 sometimes, staying for hours at a time.These birdwatchers were observed 100meters from the nest site. No mention of RSPB /NE fieldworkers or the Hen Harrier safari group. Another statement reads…they find out were one is nesting then pass it on to their mates. Now that is one hell of a statement of pure conjecture.

  • john

    also paul, no reports/complaints were made by the observer although she says she was watching them from 2 miles away, and also states that she could not give her location away due to regulations, you dont have to give your location away just report what you have seen to police/wildlife officer what was happening around a H/H nesting area and how long they was there for…..
    Where was the licensed/authorised parties??

  • che

    John, From 2 miles away how on earth can you tell the difference between….RSPB licensed monitors,Natural England licensed monitors,Birdwatchers Twitchers or fell walkers.This whole scenario is pure propaganda.

  • Jock Scott

    This whole saga about the NWRPG licences and subsequent poor performance of raptor species confuses me.
    Why can the NWRPG not monitor these nests without licences? you don’t need to cause disturbance to keep an eye on these nests this can obviously be done in a discreet, legal and effective way.
    Has the NWRPG just given up on these birds just because they cannot actually disturb them.

    • Admin

      The NWRPG have as far as we know not given up in Bowland. The group will continue to direct all their efforts monitoring peregrines sites across the area, leaving the hen harrier to the RSPB and Natural England who are the sole recipients of the appropriate licence for this species. If as expected the harrier goes extinct at least no member of the NWRPG can be blamed.

      This year after Natural England revoked licenses held by the NWRPG to avoid duplication of nest visits at peregrine sites, territories were monitored by the group from a safe distance. Group members found using this methodology that as many as 14 peregrine territories had failed this year with several adult breeding pairs of falcons missing from territories which had been in use for many years. We also understand the RSPB and Natural England have said nothing about these losses amounting to a staggering 74% failure of previously active Bowland peregrine sites.

  • paul williams


    Wildlife crime on youtube
    I know our wildlife police are stretched, but surely this should be an easy bust for them. A bunch of thieving low-lifes bragging about shooting roosting pheasants with the aid of a lamp and a cata…

  • paul williams

    14 pairs of Bowland Peregrines re-established their territories this year, all observed courtship and mating…all disappeared from nesting area. Status of eggs/chicks unknown.

  • Jock Scott

    Thanks admin, could you explain why being licenced to disturb the birds would have stopped these nests from failing?
    I have no doubt that persecution was the cause. However, it has been repeatedly stated that the revokation of NWRPG licences was the cause and I just don’t understand this statement?

    Editors note: The RSPB contacted a member of the NWRPG asking for all details of each nest which had failed this year, including number of eggs and young. This was not possible because of course none of the nests were visited until the very end of the season by which time it was far too late.

    No one as far as we are aware, including RSPB or NE have ever stated why the territories failed this year because they do not know. As far as Raptor Politics are concerned the failure of the 14 eyries was because certain individuals took advantage of a situation knowing that the local raptor group were not visiting the territories on any regular basis to monitor what was taking place during egg laying, incubation or hatching. None of this activity was checked out at all because of the licence restrictions impossed by NE. The other interesting fact you may be interested in, at least one Bowland estate made threats last year that peregrine nests on their estate would all be destroyed this year. In an e-mail sent by the RSPB to the NWRPG this specific threat was highlighted.

  • paul williams

    Jock, could you explain why peregrine nests don’t fail when licenses are not revoked?

  • Jock Scott

    Paul, that is exactly the question I’m asking but no one appears to be able to give me an answer yourself included.
    I’ll try again. I would assume by its title that the NWRPG is about protecting raptors. Why can you not continue to protect these raptors without licences to disturb them.
    The point being that you do not need to disturb raptors to protect them.

    Editirs comment: it very important that occupied nests are visited at least twice under a licence. (A) to establish how many eggs were laid and (B) how many eggs hatch. No licence is required to establish how many young fledge, although a licence would also be required to BTO ring the nestlings prior to fledging. If it was not possible to establish A or B, then nests are more likely to be at risk and it would be almost impossible to establish if persecution had been the cause for any failure. We hope now you can understand why licenses are so important. As this years results in the Forest of Bowland clearly demonstrate, nest visits were NOT the cause of the loss of 14 peregrine territories along with the disappearance of several pairs of breeding peregrines.

  • paul williams

    Quite right adults can fly,however eggs cannot, hence a visit to establish if they have or have not been subject to persecution by criminal means.Also Jock i posted above DONT FAIL when licenses are NOT revoked.

  • Jock Scott

    Paul, why do nests fail when licences are revoked? or why do nests not fail when licences are issued? It’s really the same question to anyone less than the most pedantic.

    Admin, so because these 2 or 3 nest visits were not authorised all these nests failed.
    Sorry, but as a raptor nest recorder and ringer with over 30yrs experience this just does not make sense.

    Admin Comment: Jock, the reply to your question has we believe already been supplied, just read what has been stated to understand the politics of Bowland. The information may not make any sense to you, but this is Bowland where common sense does not prevail.

  • paul williams

    Paul Williams via Seal Scotland

    Bolivia Set to Pass Historic ‘Law of Mother Earth’ Which Will Grant Nature Equal Rights to Humans

    With the cooperation of politicians and grassroots organizations, Bolivia is set to pass the Law of Mother Earth, which will grant all nature the same rights and protections as humans. The piece of legislation, called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, is intended to encourage a radical shift in conservation attitudes and actions to enforce new control measures on industry, and to reduce environmental destruction…

  • Harrierhunter

    Keep culling boys, NOWT good came out of a Harriers nest

  • paul williams

    Harrierhunter, Ain’t got the balls to post your real name.