Another hen harrier disappears on north Yorkshire moorland. A total to five lost in four months.

Natural England Press release

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information following the loss of a hen harrier named Mick in Upper Swaledale.

Mick, a young male, fledged in Northumberland last summer. He was fitted with a satellite tag in July by a hen harrier expert from Natural England. His tag stopped transmitting on 21 December 2016 in the Thwaite area of North Yorkshire. A search of the area has been carried out but no trace of the bird or equipment has been found.

Natural England reported Mick’s disappearance to North Yorkshire Police and is working closely with wildlife crime officers, local landowners, the Moorland Association and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The loss of another juvenile hen harrier brings the total to five within four months across northern England – and is a serious blow to the small English hen harrier population. Interference with hen harriers is a criminal offence.

Rob Cooke, a Director at Natural England, said:

The disappearance of a hen harrier is deeply concerning to all who appreciate these rare and impressive birds. Any information that can shed light on what has happened to Mick will be gratefully received by North Yorkshire Police.

David Butterworth, Chief Executive at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said:

It’s incredibly disappointing that the Yorkshire Dales’ reputation as a wonderful place to visit is being damaged by incidents like this. We have pledged to provide whatever support we can to help the Police and Natural England find out what happened in this particular case.

Anyone with any information which could help police with their enquiries should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12170014975 when passing information.

16 comments to Another hen harrier disappears on north Yorkshire moorland. A total to five lost in four months.

  • 5? You mean 50! Remember majority are not tagged.

    Editor’s Comment. We are well aware of that, this was why the 42 harriers that hatched at Langholme a few years ago were not fitted with satellite tags, they were always aware the bulk of these birds would be killed, so to avoid embarrassing the estates they only fitted 2 tags. This would then allow the 40 untagged harriers to disappear and no one would be any the wiser.

  • Still the possibility that this bird may have been fitted with another faulty satellite tag and is still flying around happily in the Yorkshire Moors? Might be worth checking the batch number of the last faulty tag?
    P.S.Just tried again to put a balanced and factual comment on the RPUK website which didn’t pass the moderation process and was deleted. Why are some people afraid of the truth?

  • Mike, I dont think any raptor is flying happily on the Yorkshire Moors.

    • You certainly have a major problem Pete in England with several persecution hotspots including the Peak District and The Forest of Bowland. I remember spending several days walking in the Peak District a couple of years back with my wife and seeing a single Kestrel and Buzzard.
      Contrast this with my local patch the Angus Glens and we are spoilt for choice and numbers. Over the last 5 years we have had the addition of both Red Kites and White Tailed Eagles moving into Angus to breed.
      To highlight how raptor fortunes/attitudes can change here is an example of the findings during a recent walk in Glen Ogil which used to be famed for raptor persecution not that long ago!

  • david holden

    Like Mike Groves I tried a post on RPUK to complain about a post suggesting that people who shoot will shoot their children in the head with an air rifle if they make too much noise. My post did not clear moderation. To try to use the sad case of a young lad shot by a clown in a flat in an urban area to score dubious points over the shooting community is a new low. RPUK is becoming a forum for some seriously extreme people as well as a few with genuine concern for wildlife and seems to go out of its way to promote conflict be it with shooters or other wildlife groups and blogs . Thankfully most reasonable people now see it for what it is. If any progress is to be made in terms of reducing raptor persecution it requires the grown ups to sit round a table and talk to each other and all this toy chucking and stamping of feet does not help. At the end of the day conservation groups are going to have to work with those that own and manage the land however unpalatable that is to some if progress is to be made. Narrow agenda sites and the random moderation policy of sites like RPUK are not helping giving a platform to extreme elements and in some cases outright lunatics.

  • Trapit

    Agree Mike, no matter what the majority opinion, which is probably correct, circumstantial evidence is no use whatsoever.
    Every case must be watertight, it is no good stooping to the level of your opponents.
    That is why I have contributed to the BAWC funding,to see if their approach can yield something conclusive.

  • Albert Ross

    I agree. It is a matter of gleaning evidence and then using it to bring successful prosecutions. Ranting won’t achieve anything.
    It may well be that Mick is alive somewhere but when you check his last location, where others have mysteriously stopped transmitting, this is highly unlikely unless all the dodgy kit was programmed to fail in the same area.
    It is very nice to read about how the raptors in the glens of Angus are doing well. It is hoped they steer clear of Monadhliath where 8 tagged Golden Eagles have vanished in the same manner as poor Mick. Obviously these faulty tags are not confined to Hen Harriers.

    Editor’s Comment. Albert. two years ago when the US manufacturer of the satellite trackers was contacted and asked by the North West Raptor Group about the reliability of their units worldwide, the company stated they were unaware of any issues with reliability. The company also advised that as far as they were aware none of the units sold to Natural England at that time had malfunctioned. That was two years ago, and one would expect that reliability would have improved by now. Its strange therefore that so many units seem to fail and disappear on or near red grouse moors, strange that.

    • As well as some faulty satellite trackers Albert we also have another potentially serious problem with the harness mechanism used to attach satellite transmitters to our young Golden Eagles. Over the last 4 years 3 individuals have been seen in the Angus Glens. Makes me wonder how many other birds are affected throughout Scotland? Images of 2 of these young Golden Eagles can be seen on this link.I’d be very interested in any comments you may have on this very important matter?

  • Trapit

    Mike,the sketchbook seems to show something has changed in the Angus Glen’s, that number of Raven Buzzard and Kite could not be seen on many Grouse estates in a day. Although I was speaking to my godson recently, he had been Rabbiting quite close to where “Mick” had disappeared, and reported seeing Buzzard on and off all day, and a few Raven.

    It would be nice if you could report a few successful pairs of Hen Harrier in the near future. Maybe a bridge too far? .
    The Eagle video, and your subsequent conversation with a ” tagger” were illuminating to say the least.
    If you don’t mind me asking, was this sort of alternative view of things the origin of your raptor group problems?.

    • Trapit, unfortunately my ‘problems’ escalated when a small group of so called ‘own’ did the dirty on me by prefabricating lies and false accusations not only about me but also a very good friend of mine. To get a flavour of what we have both wrongly been subjected to/personnel attacks, etc I’d suggest you had a skim through the following article.You just couldn’t make this up:
      I was basically called to a meeting to discuss several issues one of which was raptor monitoring and duplication of fieldwork effort in Angus. At the end of this meeting the merlin coordinator announced out of the blue that I was no longer required to be a member of his team. The reason given was that according to him I’d been falsifying my merlin fledging figures. Turns out that unknown to me he had been reducing my figures for several years.For many years I’d adopted a policy of minimal disturbance of merlins and not surprisingly the net result is good productivity.
      I have almost 20 years raptor/moorland biodiversity experience/knowledge and throughout this time I have built up strong links of communication/trust/ working relationship etc with several estates in Angus.I openly support a non lethal quota system with regards to the harrier/grouse conservation mess and have been a member of the SGA for over 10 years. I used to be an extremely loyal, honest and hard working raptor fieldworker who would have taken those young Golden Eagle satellite harness problem photographs/video to my grave!!!!!

  • adam

    Tragic, undoubtedly killed by a gamekeeper who is payed to kill wildlife, so that more wildlife can be killed! Gamekeeping is completely immoral on that basis.

  • Thorbjorn Odinsberg

    Strange there does not seem to be a malfunction problem with the tags GWCT fits to Woodcock, it is only those fitted to raptors that go on grouse moors we are expected to believe malfunction. Yet oddly the same tag fitted to HH when fitted to Montagu’s Harriers has a reliability of over 95%. Pull the other one these birds are being killed, there is NO other logical explanation. As to talking to the game lobby re persecution its been tried ad nauseum. They think compromise is talking to us. The time for talking has long long gone, sorry Trapit but the days of game shooting particularly driven grouse shooting are numbered. It wont go tomorrow or the day after but it is inevitable that it will be gone in the not too distant future. I’d rather read RPUK than Mike Groves stuff!

    Editor’s Comment. But will the game shooting industry be gone before the loss of all our moorland raptors or after this inevitability?

  • Albert Ross

    Mr. Ed. Thanks for the clarification on tracker reliability. It is as I thought and some would see my tongue firmly in my cheek in making the comment I did about unreliability apparently being confined to Yorkshire and Lancashire Dales. This of course correlates with dodgy harness on Golden Eagles in Scotland. Do we perhaps have Avian Bermuda triangles in Bowland and Monadhliath?
    Even Trapit is getting the picture when Ravens and Buzzards seem to be prospering where only Hen Harriers struggle.

    Editor’s Comment. Rumours suggest two more red kites found dead in Yorkshire.

  • Trapit

    Thorbjorn, as I stated, prevailing opinion re: satellite tag reliability, as far as conservationists are concerned is no doubt correct.

    I count myself in that number, but more hard incontrovertible evidence is needed, to put before the public, with accurate information swiftly disseminated. Maybe the BAWC initiative can yield some result?

    A lot of people, myself included, have contributed in that belief. I have only recently become aware of Mike Groves and his problems, he seems sincere enough, and if his opinions, like my own, are sometimes at odds with mainstream, they are still worth listening to.

    I also like reading RPUK, no honestly I really do, the discussions can become a little manipulated sometimes, but it is a very good site.

    I think driven shooting, including Grouse, has a fair way to run yet, although there may be changes,it would be nice to think so.

    Albert,Trapit got the picture a very long time ago, which was one of the reasons he did not try to become a Grouse keeper. Although Heather burning, on a bright day at this time of year, is still one of his favourite jobs.

    Mike, I see from a post on RPUK that Iain Gibson, one of my fiercest detractors on my last posting there (Jan 4/5th), and the only one whose criticism really upset me, (wondering if I knew the difference between an active / inactive Goshawk nest), is also in disagreement with his raptor group.

    It concerned the making public, or rather not, of a set of data for comparison with his own. I would have thought, as I am sure do many others, that this would have made fascinating reading. However we do not know all the ins and outs.

    I doubt South Strathclyde will ask him to leave over the matter.
    All this in-fighting, do we really need it?.

  • david holden

    In reply to Trapit I am not that bothered about the reliability of the tags but am worried about the effects the tags can have on the birds welfare. The tags are also very expensive and given the apparent secrecy surrounding data they produce I am not sure it is money well spent. As to Iain Gibson being in disagreement with his raptor group he seems to be in disagreement with just about everybody at some point in whatever incarnation he is using at the time so would not take him too seriously.I see here on Mull the sat tagged harrier Hermoine lasted a matter of weeks after tagging and was deemed to have died of natural causes and the suspicion in my mind is the tag could have been a factor in her demise.We will never know but I just wish those that want to tie ,weld or rivet foreign objects to wildlife should have to demonstrate that it will produce some useful data and not just meet the needs of a few people with a lot of time on their hands . I like to see my wildlife as the good lord intended free from ornaments and also free from persecution.

  • Albert Ross

    Changeing tack a little. I do have certain misgivings over ringing, tagging and other man made disturbances especially as some of them seem to be by hobbyists in the name of science but in reality just another hobby akin to train spotting. (OK, I did trains once so put the stick down!!)
    Hoewever there is no doubt that properly organised, results can be achieved that do aid research. I sponsor a cuckoo in the BTO scheme and for the last five years have been both fascinated and amazed at the information these tagged birds can provide. How they navigate to Africa and back. Where they actually go and why. So whilst I still have some misgivings over all I can see some remarkable data gathering that would not have been obtained any other way. So until a better way is found and subject to said misgivings I will continue my limited support.