Blog Post: Three more hen harriers disappear suddenly

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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 coupl...

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

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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 issue...

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

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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...

Blog Post: More good hen harrier news in Bowland

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Last month we reported that hen harriers had bred successfully for the first time in the Forest of Bowland since 2015, with two nests, both containing four chicks. Shortly after, the final egg on the second nest hatched very late, making it five.   Now we can reveal there is a third nest on the United Utilities Bowland estate, boasting four male chicks.   The third nest in Bowland. Photo: James Bray   As part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project, we’ve fitted chicks in the nest with satellite tags so we’ll be watching their movements very closely during fledging and beyond.   We would like to send a big thank you to RSPB staff and volunteers, United Utilities and their tenants, and raptor workers who have all worked hard to protect all three nests, resulting in a successful season at the site.   ...

Blog Post: Hen harriers breed in Bowland

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Recently, it’s been one bad news story after another on this blog with many reports of our satellite-tagged hen harriers disappearing in unexplained circumstances.  So, it makes a nice change to give you some good news. I’m delighted to report that, for the first time since 2015, there are hen harrier chicks at Bowland in Lancashire. RSPB wardens discovered two hen harrier nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate in early spring and have been monitoring them closely ever since. The nests were visited recently by the wardens under licence who were delighted to find four healthy chicks in each of them.   One of the two hen harrier nests  with chicks in Bowland. Photo by M Demain A single male hen harrier is responsible for both of the nests and he is currently taking food regularly to them.  Bowland used to be known as England’...

Blog Post: Mannin’s failed sea-crossing

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RSPB Scotland’s Investigation Intelligence Officer Jenni Burrell provides an update on Mannin, the Isle of Man sat-tagged hen harrier.   Monitoring satellite-tagged hen harriers can bring many positives – following an individual bird from the day it was fitted with a transmitter until its first flights away from the nest area, its travels through the UK (and beyond in some cases ) or even hopefully until its own first nesting attempt. Unfortunately, however, it can also bring some negatives. Sadly, here, we report on the death of another of our 2017 birds.  Mannin, along with his sister Grayse, was tagged on the Isle of Man on 3 rd July 2017 by trained & licensed members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group and Manx Ringing Group in partnership with Manx Birdlife. After fledging in July, Mannin explored his home island until 14 th Augu...

Blog Post: Meet the Hen Harrier Class of 2017

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RSPB Scotland’s Investigations Intelligence Officer Jenni Burrell introduces the new class. This year the Hen Harrier Life Project website has been improved to provide a more interactive experience for visitors. You can choose to look at individual birds, track their journey and look at any points of interests that appear. The profiles of twelve of this year’s satellite-tag hen harriers are now online and what a brilliant bunch they are. Take a look on the website to learn more about their stories and meet: Calluna (image by RSPB) Eric (image by Alan Leitch) Heather  (i mage by Brian Etheridge)   Lia  (i mage by Guy Anderson)   Mairie  (i mage by Paul Howarth)   Mannin  (i mage by James Leonard)   Manu  (image by Tim Jones)   Rannoch  (i mage by Brian Etheridge)     Saorsa (i mage by Brian Etheridge)   Skylar  (image by ...

Blog Post: Hen Harrier Day 2017 – in pictures

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Here are a selection of photos from last weekend's Hen Harrier Day events at RSPB Arne, RSPB Rainham Marshes, Sheffield, Boat of Garten and Vane Farm Tayside. Hen Harrier Day South - RSPB Arne - (photos by Terry Bagley) Hen Harrier Day Highlands - Boat of Garten (photos by Guy Shorrock)       Hen Harrier Day Sheffield       Hen Harrier Day - RSPB Rainham Marshes       Hen Harrier Day - Vane Farm, Tayside (photos Guy Shorrock)   ...

Blog Post: Skydancer from Russia with love

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The RSPB's Bowland Project Officer James Bray gives the lowdown on Bowland's special new visitor. RSPB staff and volunteers on the United Utilities estate in Bowland are out in the hills monitoring and protecting birds of prey every day of the week in all types of weather. We have been spending much of our time looking for returning hen harriers over the past few weeks in some rather un-spring-like weather so yesterday I was elated when I looked up and saw a mature male harrier skydancing low over my head. The bird disappeared out of sight down a gulley very quickly so I headed to a different position for a different view, happy that another male hen harrier was back on the estate. Over the next few hours the harrier was skydancing and hunting the slopes, mostly at very long range in a welcome bit of heat haze. I gradually got better and b...

Blog Post: Hen Harrier Hotline relaunched

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  As spring has now almost sprung, we’ve relaunched our Hen Harrier Hotline with the hope of finding out where these seriously threatened birds of prey might be breeding in England’s moorland.   If you are out hiking or cycling in the hills, please keep an eye out for one. If you are lucky enough to see a hen harrier, please get in touch.    The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate) .  Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk.  Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible. A description of the bird’s behaviour would also be useful.   Many of you will be able to spot a hen harrier half a mile away in poor weather conditions. But for those of you who are less familiar with the bird of prey, here is a reminder o...