Fears as another rare hen harrier ‘disappears’ in Northumberland

Northumbria Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 9:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 1:44 pm
Missing hen harrier, Ada. Picture: RSPB

Ada hatched on a nest in the Scottish Borders this summer. She was fitted with a lightweight satellite tag as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project, to learn more about the journeys made by these rare birds of prey and the survival challenges they face.

After fledging she flew north, spending some time on a disused golf course near Dunbar, then she headed south to the North Pennines.

On the morning of October 10 she sent her last transmission from an area of grouse moor east of Allendale in Northumberland.

Her tag showed no signs of malfunction so it was expected to continue to provide data, but neither the bird nor her tag have been heard from since. Her disappearance is being treated as suspicious and was reported to the police.

All birds of prey are protected yet evidence shows hen harriers continue to be killed, or disappear in suspicious circumstances, particularly on or near land managed for driven grouse shooting.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, senior project manager for the Hen Harrier LIFE project, said: “Over 30 chicks were tagged this summer and we’ve watched with interest as they’ve grown up and flown around the country. We’re absolutely gutted that Ada has disappeared in suspicious circumstances at just a few months old.”

Emma Marsh, director for RSPB England, said: “Hen harriers have become a rare breeding bird across the UK mainly due to illegal persecution by humans. In England, the last population survey recorded only four territorial pairs, despite scientific studies showing enough food and habitat to support over 320 pairs.

“Our own tagging work has shown that the survival of young birds post-fledging is very low. This won’t change until something is done about illegal persecution.”

The RSPB is calling for the Government to introduce a system of licensing for driven grouse moors, whereby this license to operate could be taken away should illegal activity be uncovered.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Northumbria Police on 101.