When we fly we DIE

For year’s campaigners, wildlife activists, environmentalists and conservationists have been pleading for the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers to stop. Their breeding success in England over the last 5 years has fluctuated from totally unacceptable to extinct back to unacceptable again with no sign of a real recovery in sight. The anger and frustration the public now feels about this situation is evident with more than 50,000 people signing Mark Avery’s petition to ban Driven Grouse shooting, the main culprit for this beautiful birds decline. You can add your voice to thousands of others by signing the simple online petition NOW.

SIGN THE PETITION

Hen Harrier Updates

INTRODUCTION

On August 10th 2014 the countries passionate wildlife and conservation community held its very first Hen Harrier day, an event aiming to highlight the disgusting illegal persecution of one of the countries rarest breeding birds of prey, the Hen Harrier. The demise and near extinction of this species as a breeding bird in England is down to one very simple factor….where they choose to nest. The Hen Harrier is a bird of open moorland, feeding on small birds, small mammals and to the annoyance of grouse moor owners….. Red Grouse. However, these vast, wide open moorlands that these birds choose to nest on are also home to a environmentally flawed and elitist blood sport….Driven Grouse Shooting.

Hen Harriers are protected by law along with all other birds of prey in this country, yet they are routinely persecuted by gamekeepers alongside crows, foxes, stoats, weasels and other ‘pests’ for the management of the Driven Grouse Estates.

The campaign brought a whole host of concerned individuals, environmentalists, organisations and business’s together to help stop this illegal practice and put pressure on the grouse moor estates to bring their own houses into order. Cosmetics giant Lush were keen to help add a voice to this issue, and wanted to address the person who had most influence in the country…the Queen. After linking up with the likes of Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Birders Against Wildlife Crime a polite and formal plea was written to Her Majesty asking for her help in stopping this illegal persecution. During the campaign 20,000 petition postcards were signed by Lush customers, who were perhaps originally unaware of this issue, but outraged a species could be on the brink of extinction in this country, and they wanted it stopped.

 

 

On October 2nd 2015 the postcards were delivered to Buckingham Palace. We left the issue in Her Majesty’s capable hands.

 

postcards

2014 UPDATE

At the time of the campaign it was thought there were only three pairs left in England, when science says there should in fact be 300+ pairs. As it turned out there was one extra pair that no one knew about, so a grand total of four pairs successfully bred, raising 16 chicks in total.

Two of the four nests were on the Bowland Estate, a large area of open moorland in NE Lancashire, which sees high driven grouse shooting activity. Round-the-clock protection of the two nests at Bowland, ensured the successful rearing and fledging of 11 young Hen Harriers, the first from Bowland since 2011. The RSPB planned to ‘tag’ three of the chicks, a procedure that allows the RSPB to track and follow the birds movements once they leave the nest, helping them understand where these birds go in the winter, and where they choose to nest the following summer. A local school called Brennand’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn ‘adopted’ and named some of the chicks from the first nest and they named the three tagged Hen Harrier chicks Sky, Hope and Highlander.

 

Sky and Hope

When fledged, Sky and Hope explored the Bowland area widely. However, in September their tags suddenly stopped transmitting within days of each other, very close to one another. Their bodies were never recovered. Its common knowledge that satellite technology is normally extremely reliable so Sky and Hope were either victims of natural predation or illegal persecution.

 

Maps of last known locations

 

 

 Sky’s last transmission was at 7.33pm on Wednesday 10 September around Summersgill Fell, west of Thrushgill, in the Forest of Bowland.

 Hope’s last transmission was at 10.51am on the Saturday 13 September around Mallowdale Pike, also in the Forest of Bowland.

 

News Articles

 

Guardian 13/01/15 –http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/13/-sp-mystery-of-the-missing-hen-harriers

 

Rare Bird Alert 24/09/14 –http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/Content/Hen_Harriers_disappear_without_trace.aspx?s_id=938182566

 

Mark Avery Blog – http://markavery.info/2014/09/24/hen-harriers-missing/

 

BBC News – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29354828

 

Highlander

When fledged she wandered to the West Pennine Moors, and then finally on into the Yorkshire Dales, where driven grouse shooting is extremely common. Over the winter, she remained faithful to the Pennine moors, but has been recorded travelling over 50 kilometers in less than two hours, on a brief visit to the area around Martin Mere on the Lancashire plain.

After the worrying, unexplained disappearances of Sky and Hope, it is good to know that Highlander is still out there holding her own in the uplands. The RSPB have been following her movements with interest over the 2015 breeding season. An update of her breeding status this year should be available soon.

2015 UPDATE

So, what has happened so far this year? Did the Queen or anyone else for that matter listen to the thousands calling for the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers to stop?

 

Unbelievably, it has been confirmed that FIVE Hen Harrier nests failed this summer in England (four in Bowland and one at Geltsdale) due to the unexplained disappearances of five healthy adult males. The females rely on males to provide them with food whilst on the nest, therefore if males go missing, females are forced to leave their nests in search of food which puts the eggs/chicks at risk from going cold and predation.

 

So, in less than a year after launching our national campaign, illustrating the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers in England, another SEVEN ‘go missing’!

 

There was however a very dimly glowing silver lining on a very dark thunderous cloud because for the 2015 breeding season, it has was announced by Natural England that Hen Harriers have had their best breeding season in five years with 7 PAIRS which have fledged an incredible 18 young. However, this is still a minute fraction of the numbers that should be breeding, and a number of chicks have been fitted with tags through the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE+ project, some of which you will be able to be track on the project’s website over the next few months: http://www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife/

The few successful nests we have are thanks to nest protection and monitoring efforts which are carried out by RSPB and raptor group volunteers, but many more are needed to secure the hen harrier’s future in England. The cases of Sky and Hope show just how fragile a future these magnificent birds face and why we need to do everything we can to protect them from the threat of illegal persecution, to give them the best chance of survival.

This issue won’t go away. The people who care and are fighting for this to stop won’t go away and most importantly…the Hen Harriers will most certainly NOT be going away. The near extinction of the Hen Harrier as a breeding bird in England is an environmental travesty, not to mention highly illegal. We will continue to highlight this issue every step of the way, every piece of evidence that comes to light, every report of illegal persecution and every time a Hen Harrier goes missing

News Articles

 

Mark Avery Blog – http://markavery.info/2015/06/03/geltsdale-missing-male-hen-harrier/

 

BBC News 07/05/15 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-32624938

 

The Independent 06/06/15 – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/disappearance-of-fifth-hen-harrier-fuels-concerns-bird-heading-towards-extinction-10302741.html

2016 UPDATE (so far)

So, what has happened so far this year? Did the Queen or anyone else for that matter listen to the thousands calling for the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers to stop?

 

Unbelievably, it has been confirmed that FIVE Hen Harrier nests failed this summer in England (four in Bowland and one at Geltsdale) due to the unexplained disappearances of five healthy adult males. The females rely on males to provide them with food whilst on the nest, therefore if males go missing, females are forced to leave their nests in search of food which puts the eggs/chicks at risk from going cold and predation.

 

So, in less than a year after launching our national campaign, illustrating the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers in England, another SEVEN ‘go missing’!

 

News Articles

 

Mark Avery Blog – http://markavery.info/2015/06/03/geltsdale-missing-male-hen-harrier/

 

BBC News 07/05/15 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-32624938

 

The Independent 06/06/15 – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/disappearance-of-fifth-hen-harrier-fuels-concerns-bird-heading-towards-extinction-10302741.html

WHAT NEXT?

For the 2015 breeding season, it has just been announced by Natural England that Hen Harriers have had their best breeding season in five years with 7 PAIRS which have fledged an incredible 18 young.  However, this is still a minute fraction of the numbers that should be breeding, and a number of chicks have been fitted with tags through the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE+ project, some of which you will be able to be track on the project’s website over the next few months: http://www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife/

 

The few successful nests we have are thanks to nest protection and monitoring efforts which are carried out by RSPB and raptor group volunteers, but many more are needed to secure the hen harrier’s future in England. The cases of Sky and Hope show just how fragile a future these magnificent birds face and why we need to do everything we can to protect them from the threat of illegal persecution, to give them the best chance of survival.

 

This issue won’t go away. The people who care and are fighting for this to stop won’t go away and most importantly…the Hen Harriers will most certainly NOT be going away. The near extinction of the Hen Harrier as a breeding bird in England is an environmental travesty, not to mention highly illegal. We will continue to highlight this issue every step of the way, every piece of evidence that comes to light, every report of illegal persecution and every time a Hen Harrier goes missing

On August 10th 2014 the countries passionate wildlife and conservation community held its very first Hen Harrier day, an event aiming to highlight the disgusting illegal persecution of one of the countries rarest breeding birds of prey, the Hen Harrier. The demise and near extinction of this species as a breeding bird in England is down to one very simple factor….where they choose to nest. The Hen Harrier is a bird of open moorland, feeding on small birds, small mammals and to the annoyance of grouse moor owners….. Red Grouse. However, these vast, wide open moorlands that these birds choose to nest on are also home to a environmentally flawed and elitist blood sport….Driven Grouse Shooting.

Hen Harriers are protected by law along with all other birds of prey in this country, yet they are routinely persecuted by gamekeepers alongside crows, foxes, stoats, weasels and other ‘pests’ for the management of the Driven Grouse Estates.

The campaign brought a whole host of concerned individuals, environmentalists, organisations and business’s together to help stop this illegal practice and put pressure on the grouse moor estates to bring their own houses into order. Cosmetics giant Lush were keen to help add a voice to this issue, and wanted to address the person who had most influence in the country…the Queen. After linking up with the likes of Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Birders Against Wildlife Crime a polite and formal plea was written to Her Majesty asking for her help in stopping this illegal persecution. During the campaign 20,000 petition postcards were signed by Lush customers, who were perhaps originally unaware of this issue, but outraged a species could be on the brink of extinction in this country, and they wanted it stopped.

 

 

On October 2nd 2015 the postcards were delivered to Buckingham Palace. We left the issue in Her Majesty’s capable hands.

 

postcards

At the time of the campaign it was thought there were only three pairs left in England, when science says there should in fact be 300+ pairs. As it turned out there was one extra pair that no one knew about, so a grand total of four pairs successfully bred, raising 16 chicks in total.

Two of the four nests were on the Bowland Estate, a large area of open moorland in NE Lancashire, which sees high driven grouse shooting activity. Round-the-clock protection of the two nests at Bowland, ensured the successful rearing and fledging of 11 young Hen Harriers, the first from Bowland since 2011. The RSPB planned to ‘tag’ three of the chicks, a procedure that allows the RSPB to track and follow the birds movements once they leave the nest, helping them understand where these birds go in the winter, and where they choose to nest the following summer. A local school called Brennand’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn ‘adopted’ and named some of the chicks from the first nest and they named the three tagged Hen Harrier chicks Sky, Hope and Highlander.

 

Sky and Hope

When fledged, Sky and Hope explored the Bowland area widely. However, in September their tags suddenly stopped transmitting within days of each other, very close to one another. Their bodies were never recovered. Its common knowledge that satellite technology is normally extremely reliable so Sky and Hope were either victims of natural predation or illegal persecution.

 

Maps of last known locations

 

 

 Sky’s last transmission was at 7.33pm on Wednesday 10 September around Summersgill Fell, west of Thrushgill, in the Forest of Bowland.

 Hope’s last transmission was at 10.51am on the Saturday 13 September around Mallowdale Pike, also in the Forest of Bowland.

 

News Articles

 

Guardian 13/01/15 –http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/13/-sp-mystery-of-the-missing-hen-harriers

 

Rare Bird Alert 24/09/14 –http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/Content/Hen_Harriers_disappear_without_trace.aspx?s_id=938182566

 

Mark Avery Blog – http://markavery.info/2014/09/24/hen-harriers-missing/

 

BBC News – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29354828

 

Highlander

When fledged she wandered to the West Pennine Moors, and then finally on into the Yorkshire Dales, where driven grouse shooting is extremely common. Over the winter, she remained faithful to the Pennine moors, but has been recorded travelling over 50 kilometers in less than two hours, on a brief visit to the area around Martin Mere on the Lancashire plain.

After the worrying, unexplained disappearances of Sky and Hope, it is good to know that Highlander is still out there holding her own in the uplands. The RSPB have been following her movements with interest over the 2015 breeding season. An update of her breeding status this year should be available soon.

So, what has happened so far this year? Did the Queen or anyone else for that matter listen to the thousands calling for the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers to stop?

 

Unbelievably, it has been confirmed that FIVE Hen Harrier nests failed this summer in England (four in Bowland and one at Geltsdale) due to the unexplained disappearances of five healthy adult males. The females rely on males to provide them with food whilst on the nest, therefore if males go missing, females are forced to leave their nests in search of food which puts the eggs/chicks at risk from going cold and predation.

 

So, in less than a year after launching our national campaign, illustrating the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers in England, another SEVEN ‘go missing’!

 

There was however a very dimly glowing silver lining on a very dark thunderous cloud because for the 2015 breeding season, it has was announced by Natural England that Hen Harriers have had their best breeding season in five years with 7 PAIRS which have fledged an incredible 18 young. However, this is still a minute fraction of the numbers that should be breeding, and a number of chicks have been fitted with tags through the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE+ project, some of which you will be able to be track on the project’s website over the next few months: http://www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife/

The few successful nests we have are thanks to nest protection and monitoring efforts which are carried out by RSPB and raptor group volunteers, but many more are needed to secure the hen harrier’s future in England. The cases of Sky and Hope show just how fragile a future these magnificent birds face and why we need to do everything we can to protect them from the threat of illegal persecution, to give them the best chance of survival.

This issue won’t go away. The people who care and are fighting for this to stop won’t go away and most importantly…the Hen Harriers will most certainly NOT be going away. The near extinction of the Hen Harrier as a breeding bird in England is an environmental travesty, not to mention highly illegal. We will continue to highlight this issue every step of the way, every piece of evidence that comes to light, every report of illegal persecution and every time a Hen Harrier goes missing

 

News Articles

 

Mark Avery Blog – http://markavery.info/2015/06/03/geltsdale-missing-male-hen-harrier/

 

BBC News 07/05/15 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-32624938

 

The Independent 06/06/15 – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/disappearance-of-fifth-hen-harrier-fuels-concerns-bird-heading-towards-extinction-10302741.html

At the time of writing it has been confirmed that this year there are only THREE active Hen Harrier nests in England! Yes... just three. With the birds future looking bleak once more and proof that the farcical Hen Harrier Action Plan isn’t working the RSPB have taken the bold and courageous step of stepping away from this plan and cutting their ties with the likes of The Moorland Association, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and The National Gamekeepers Association. For conservationists this is welcome news, as many thought the RSPB shouldn’t have supported this initiative in the first place, but regardless of your views what this shows is that the Grouse shooting industry is now walking on very thin ice as more and more people show their disgust of the current situation.

 

The RSPB are however continuing with their Hen Harrier Life+ project, sat tagging as many chicks as possible this season, in an effort to track the fate of as many birds as they can, some of which were sponsored by the Skydancer Bath Bomb Lush campaign which ran for 9 month across the UK. This campaign saw Lush customers raise a whopping £150,000 for Hen Harrier conservation, with the money being used to sat tag as many birds as possible over the coming years. This summer, Hen Harrier chicks across the UK will be fitted with sat tags some of which were paid for by Lush customers, so a huge THANK YOU has to be given to everyone that’s supported this campaign.

 

This coming autumn/winter period will be a hugely critical time for all Hen Harriers, regardless if they’re young and old or from Scotland, Wales, England or the Isle of Man. The issue of illegal persecution occurs no matter what set of factors are in place and all we can do is fight on and make the issue as public as possible and let you, the people watch the fate of these birds either drastically improve or unravel before your very eyes.

 

Well well, WHAT a year! Since the last Hen Harrier day in August 2015 a whole host of revelations and fairly damaging occurrences have taken place within the Grouse Shooting industry, and of course what year wouldn’t be complete without….yup….more dead and missing Hen Harriers. This time in the shape of three young birds called Annie, Highlander and Chance.

 

Annie was a Hen Harrier that hatched in Scotland in the summer of 2014 and she spent the next year roaming around various parts of Scotland before her satellite tag went off radar in an area of South Lanarkshire in March 2016. After an intensive search by the RSPB investigations team her lead filled carcass was discovered on a Grouse Moor in April 2016.

 

 

Highlander was sister to Sky who we know went missing in September 2014, just a few weeks after fledging, but Highlander was a trooper who tried no nest THREE times in her first breeding season. The first nest failed because (surprise suprise) her male partner disappeared under mysterious circumstances whilst she was incubating eggs, and with starvation forcing her to abandon the eggs she upped and left. Her second nest failed because her partner couldn’t keep up the pace of feeding two different females at two different nests (a behavior called polygamy) and the third nest failed sadly to due to the chicks being predated. Highlanders signal from her tag was strong and battery levels were good, however, on April 16th 2016 Highlanders tag suddenly and unaccountably stopped transmitting over a Moor County Durham.

 

Chance was also tagged as a chick in 2014 and the RSPB and Scottish Raptor Study Group spent the next 23 months monitoring her every move to make sure she came to no harm, but at the end of May 2016, just as Chance was gearing up for her first breeding season she disappeared on a Grouse Moor, despite her tag previously showing a strong signal and no battery failure.

 

What’s been happening to help this situation and how have the shooting lobby been behaving?

 

The Hen Harrier Action Plan was published in January 2016, the plan being a vision on how Hen Harriers can flourish in England once more. The plan is (was) a coalition project between the RSPB, Natural England, Moorland Association, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the National Gamekeepers Association. Each organisation was to take ‘the lead’ on certain aspects of the plan, in order to safe guard Hen Harriers on Grouse Moors. Aspects of the plan ranged from diversionary feeding (ridiculous), a southern reintroduction project (even more ridiculous) to potential brood management (off the scale)!

 

This is all very well if when the birds flew off into the wonderful English countryside the risk of illegal persecution wasn’t waiting for them on grouse moors, but the truth is that the risk will always be there if Driven Grouse shooting remain legal or un-licensed, so no matter how many plans you put together or who you buddy up with if the route cause isn’t confronted then the issue will continue!

 

So, lets find out how the shooting lobby have been following ‘best practice’ (point 2 in the Hen Harrier Action Plan)... In February 2016 a man was filmed on a National Trust Grouse Moor with a gun, having just put out a decoy Hen Harrier. Not quite best practice we feel?

 

 

The reason (many people believe) this man put a decoy Hen Harrier out on a Grouse Moor was to attract in a real Hen Harrier, which would respond to seeing a rival and attack it. Of course, whilst the real bird is busy flogging a dead horse by attacking the fake bird, the guy with a gun sat not 30m away could quite easily take aim and fire…..no more (real) Hen Harrier!

 

Ok, not quite the best practice we had in mind, but there is a (mildly) triumphant chapter to this story. The estate this man took his fake Hen Harrier out for a walk on was owned by the National Trust who have since revoked the current tenancy agreement with the currant tenant. This was based on the fact that “it had become clear that we (The National Trust) no longer have the confidence the tenant was committed to the delivery of our vision for the land and wildlife restoration” Well done National Trust, a very smart move indeed.

 

What other ‘best practice’ techniques have the shooting lobby been following so far this year then? A Mossdale Estate gamekeeper was filmed setting illegal pole traps on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales, a trap set to trap birds of prey by the feet when they land on the post/pole. Oh dear oh dear! We’re not sure gamekeepers and the shooting lobby fully understand what ‘best practice’ means. The young gamekeeper was arrested but only given a police caution despite hard evidence highlighting exactly what he was up to.

 

WHO WAS THIS WEBSITE CREATED BY AND WHAT IS IT FOR?

This website is an update of the the Hen Harrier campaign that was launched last year, created and developed by a host of majorly concerned naturalists, campaign groups, environmental bloggers, researchers and broadcasters wanting to provide you, the public with accurate and definitive information about the near extinction of Hen Harriers in England and the ILLEGAL persecution they suffer. The massacre of these birds has been going on long enough, so we are asking for your help and your voice to enable us to stop these atrocities once and for all. We (Chris Packham, Mark Avery, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, Lush and the Sound Approach) would like to thank you, the public for taking the time to view this website. We hope you find in useful. 

 

 

HEN HARRIER FAQs

Q1. What is a Hen Harrier? Birds of Prey and the Law.
Currently one of the UK’s most threatened birds of prey, the hen harrier is a species that should be iconic of our upland landscape. A little smaller than a buzzard with about a metre wingspan, the male hen harrier is unmistakeable with his pale ash-grey plumage and black wingtips. The female by contrast is mottled-brown in colour, camouflaged for nesting on the ground, with an obvious white rump and banded tail, giving her the nickname “ringtail”. Amazing aerial acrobats, male hen harriers pass food to their partners on the wing, and their courtship display known as “skydancing” is one of the Britain’s best wildlife spectacles.

Traditionally a bird of open, scrubby landscapes, hen harriers in the UK nest almost exclusively on upland moorland. Outside of the breeding season, hen harriers travel widely across the UK, often forming communal winter roosts at traditional lowland and coastal sites where it’s easier to find food. They have the highest level of legal protection available, listed as a schedule 1 species under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) and internationally under the EC Birds Directive. This means that it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb, interfere with, or otherwise harm (and harass anytime of year in Scotland), the adult birds, their nests, eggs or chicks.
Q2. Current breeding status and reason for their demise. Other birds of prey affected.
The last national hen harrier survey in 2010 recorded 658 breeding pairs of hen harriers, an 18% decline since the previous survey in 2004, with 500 pairs in Scotland, 50 in Wales, 50 in Northern Ireland, 35 on the Isle of Man and 12 in England. Since then, hen harrier numbers have continued to fall, with the heavily persecuted population in England failing to produce a single hen harrier chick in 2013 for the first time since the 1960’s and three known nests in 2014.

The problem is that alongside their main diet of meadow pipits and voles, hen harriers also eat red grouse, a popular game bird for which most of their moorland nesting habitat is managed. This has led to an intolerance of these birds by some gamekeepers and moorland owners who attempt to discourage the birds from nesting by removing the long heather they like to nest in, and illegally disturbing or killing the adult birds or destroying their nests.

This problem is most evident in England, and areas of Eastern and Sourthern Scotland where intensive moorland management for driven grouse shooting is most prevalent. This is supported by an independent government report published in 2011, which concluded that ongoing illegal persecution is the main factor preventing hen harrier recovery in England. This same report estimated that there is enough habitat for over 320 pairs of hen harriers in England. Currently there are three – less than 1% of what there should be.

Catching these criminals in the act is exceedingly difficult and prosecutions are few and far between. However, the evidence is not. In July 2012, a young satellite-tagged hen harrier nicknamed “Bowland Betty” was found dead on the edge of a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales. Four months later, another hen harrier was found killed on a moor in Aberdeenshire. In May this year, wildlife experts were forced to take two hen harrier chicks into captivity to be hand reared when after police reported their mother had been “illegally killed” in Ayrshire. Hen harriers are doing well in Northwest Scotland and Wales where grouse shooting is either absent or much less intensive, but the wide ranging nature of these birds means that anything affecting hen harriers in one part of their range impacts the population as a whole. And its not just hen harriers that are effected by illegal persecution golden eagles, peregrines, red kites and goshawks all do very badly in driven grouse moor areas.
Currently one of the UK’s most threatened birds of prey, the hen harrier is a species that should be iconic of our upland landscape. A little smaller than a buzzard with about a metre wingspan, the male hen harrier is unmistakeable with his pale ash-grey plumage and black wingtips. The female by contrast is mottled-brown in colour, camouflaged for nesting on the ground, with an obvious white rump and banded tail, giving her the nickname “ringtail”. Amazing aerial acrobats, male hen harriers pass food to their partners on the wing, and their courtship display known as “skydancing” is one of the Britain’s best wildlife spectacles.

Traditionally a bird of open, scrubby landscapes, hen harriers in the UK nest almost exclusively on upland moorland. Outside of the breeding season, hen harriers travel widely across the UK, often forming communal winter roosts at traditional lowland and coastal sites where it’s easier to find food. They have the highest level of legal protection available, listed as a schedule 1 species under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) and internationally under the EC Birds Directive. This means that it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb, interfere with, or otherwise harm (and harass anytime of year in Scotland), the adult birds, their nests, eggs or chicks.
The last national hen harrier survey in 2010 recorded 658 breeding pairs of hen harriers, an 18% decline since the previous survey in 2004, with 500 pairs in Scotland, 50 in Wales, 50 in Northern Ireland, 35 on the Isle of Man and 12 in England. Since then, hen harrier numbers have continued to fall, with the heavily persecuted population in England failing to produce a single hen harrier chick in 2013 for the first time since the 1960’s and three known nests in 2014.

The problem is that alongside their main diet of meadow pipits and voles, hen harriers also eat red grouse, a popular game bird for which most of their moorland nesting habitat is managed. This has led to an intolerance of these birds by some gamekeepers and moorland owners who attempt to discourage the birds from nesting by removing the long heather they like to nest in, and illegally disturbing or killing the adult birds or destroying their nests.

This problem is most evident in England, and areas of Eastern and Sourthern Scotland where intensive moorland management for driven grouse shooting is most prevalent. This is supported by an independent government report published in 2011, which concluded that ongoing illegal persecution is the main factor preventing hen harrier recovery in England. This same report estimated that there is enough habitat for over 320 pairs of hen harriers in England. Currently there are three – less than 1% of what there should be.

Catching these criminals in the act is exceedingly difficult and prosecutions are few and far between. However, the evidence is not. In July 2012, a young satellite-tagged hen harrier nicknamed “Bowland Betty” was found dead on the edge of a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales. Four months later, another hen harrier was found killed on a moor in Aberdeenshire. In May this year, wildlife experts were forced to take two hen harrier chicks into captivity to be hand reared when after police reported their mother had been “illegally killed” in Ayrshire. Hen harriers are doing well in Northwest Scotland and Wales where grouse shooting is either absent or much less intensive, but the wide ranging nature of these birds means that anything affecting hen harriers in one part of their range impacts the population as a whole. And its not just hen harriers that are effected by illegal persecution golden eagles, peregrines, red kites and goshawks all do very badly in driven grouse moor areas.

Driven Grouse Moor FAQs

Q1. What is a Driven Grouse Moor?
Driven shooting, first popularised by Queen Victoria in the 1800’s, describes a type of grouse shooting whereby a team of people called “beaters” walk in a line across the moor, beating the heather and driving the birds towards the waiting guns, who are positioned in hides or “butts” to shoot the grouse as they fly overhead. This is distinct from “walked-up” shooting in which the guns simply walk over the moor shooting any grouse they happen to flush.

Grouse shooting takes place between 12th August and 10th December each year and the moors are managed year-round in preparation for this. Red grouse are entirely dependent on heather for food and shelter and unlike pheasants; they cannot be bred in captivity. Instead, gamekeepers are employed to manage the habitat by burning patches of heather to create a mosaic of old stands for nesting and young plants for the birds to eat. They also carry out legal, (and as noted above, illegal) activity, intensive control of generalist predators such as foxes, crows, stoats, weasels, and the supply of medicated grit to treat the grouse for intestinal parasites and diseases, which result from the birds being kept in unnaturally high densities.

The vast majority of moors in England are managed specifically for driven grouse shooting, though some also do walked-up shooting. In Scotland, some grouse moors also offer other sporting activities such as deer stalking.
Q2. Why are they bad news?
Driven shooting relies on large number of red grouse to be viable, requiring a surplus from the breeding population that can be shot. Anywhere between 100-1000 brace (pairs) of grouse being shot in a single day, compared with around 5-15 brace on a good walked-up shoot. In an effort to produce larger and larger “bags” of grouse, some managers view the loss of even one or two grouse to natural predation as simply unacceptable. The stakes are high, with the values of land and shooting rights linked to these “grouse bag” numbers. Consequently, management of many of these moors has become unsustainably intensive and predator control near absolute.
Q3. What other wildlife is affected?
Hen harriers are one of a number of large bird of prey species being illegally killed, with many records of illegally killed golden eagles, peregrine falcons, red kites, goshawk and buzzards associated with managed grouse moors.

It is not just birds that suffer. Some of our rarest UK mammals, such as the wildcat and pine martin are sometimes killed by traps set for other predators. There is also widespread killing of Scottish mountain hares, which are blamed for carrying ticks which can transmit a disease to grouse, despite a lack of evidence that culling hares can boost red grouse numbers. This is also a problem for golden eagles, as hares form a significant part of their natural diet.

Management of driven grouse moors involves intensive burning to provide new heather for grouse. This damages fragile protected habitats and results in the erosion of peat that has taken thousands of years to accumulate, releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere and watercourses.

Burning in peatland catchments also impacts on invertebrate life in streams.
Driven shooting, first popularised by Queen Victoria in the 1800’s, describes a type of grouse shooting whereby a team of people called “beaters” walk in a line across the moor, beating the heather and driving the birds towards the waiting guns, who are positioned in hides or “butts” to shoot the grouse as they fly overhead. This is distinct from “walked-up” shooting in which the guns simply walk over the moor shooting any grouse they happen to flush.

Grouse shooting takes place between 12th August and 10th December each year and the moors are managed year-round in preparation for this. Red grouse are entirely dependent on heather for food and shelter and unlike pheasants; they cannot be bred in captivity. Instead, gamekeepers are employed to manage the habitat by burning patches of heather to create a mosaic of old stands for nesting and young plants for the birds to eat. They also carry out legal, (and as noted above, illegal) activity, intensive control of generalist predators such as foxes, crows, stoats, weasels, and the supply of medicated grit to treat the grouse for intestinal parasites and diseases, which result from the birds being kept in unnaturally high densities.

The vast majority of moors in England are managed specifically for driven grouse shooting, though some also do walked-up shooting. In Scotland, some grouse moors also offer other sporting activities such as deer stalking.
Driven shooting relies on large number of red grouse to be viable, requiring a surplus from the breeding population that can be shot. Anywhere between 100-1000 brace (pairs) of grouse being shot in a single day, compared with around 5-15 brace on a good walked-up shoot. In an effort to produce larger and larger “bags” of grouse, some managers view the loss of even one or two grouse to natural predation as simply unacceptable. The stakes are high, with the values of land and shooting rights linked to these “grouse bag” numbers. Consequently, management of many of these moors has become unsustainably intensive and predator control near absolute.
Hen harriers are one of a number of large bird of prey species being illegally killed, with many records of illegally killed golden eagles, peregrine falcons, red kites, goshawk and buzzards associated with managed grouse moors.

It is not just birds that suffer. Some of our rarest UK mammals, such as the wildcat and pine martin are sometimes killed by traps set for other predators. There is also widespread killing of Scottish mountain hares, which are blamed for carrying ticks which can transmit a disease to grouse, despite a lack of evidence that culling hares can boost red grouse numbers. This is also a problem for golden eagles, as hares form a significant part of their natural diet.

Management of driven grouse moors involves intensive burning to provide new heather for grouse. This damages fragile protected habitats and results in the erosion of peat that has taken thousands of years to accumulate, releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere and watercourses.

Burning in peatland catchments also impacts on invertebrate life in streams.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

At the beginning of 2016 Mark Avery set up an e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. In his words…

 

Sign the UK Government e-Petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting

Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers. You can help ban this ‘sport’ by signing the online ePetition set up by Dr Mark Avery.

Ban driven grouse shooting.

Responsible department: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Intensive management of upland areas for the ‘sport’ of grouse shooting has led to the near-extinction of the protected Hen Harrier in England, as well as increased risk of flooding, discolouration of drinking water, degradation of peatbogs and impacts on other wildlife.

Grouse shooting interests have persecuted the Hen Harrier to such an extent that, despite full legal protection for the last 60 years, it is almost extinct as a breeding species in England (2 pairs nested in 2013) despite there being habitat available for 300+ pairs. The investigation of wildlife crimes against such protected species is time-consuming, difficult to prosecute, and ties up valuable police resources.

Grouse shooters have failed to put their own house in order, despite decades of discussion, and government has proved incapable of influencing this powerful lobby group.

The time has now come for the public to call ‘Enough!’ and require the next government to ban driven grouse shooting in England.

Boycott the sale of Red Grouse

 

 

 

 

Lush - Skydancer Bath Bomb Update

 

In August 2015 Lush Cosmetics here in the UK launched a new product in their stores called Skydancer – Far From The Madding Guns with 100% of the proceeds of this lemon and liquorish bath bomb was going to the RSPB for Hen Harrier conservation and the tagging of Hen Harrier chicks. Lush was already on board with this issue when in 2014 they launched their ‘Postcard to the Queen’ campaign which saw 20,000 of their customers sign postcards that had a polite plea to the Queen calling for the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers to stop, whilst introducing their customers to the last six breeding Hen Harriers in England via window displays in all their stores. The Skydancer bath bomb was on sale for 9 months and over that time period raised an incredible £150,000! An update from the RSPB states that out of 14 chicks they’re tagging in 2016, 6 are Lush funded tags. This still leaves a nice amount in the pot ready for next year where hopefully we’ll see an increase in the number of tagged chicks across the whole of the UK.

Lush bath bomb Skydancer

 

Attend a Hen Harrier Day event

 

2014 saw the first ever Hen Harrier day take place up in the Peak District, however in 2016 an amazing 12 events are taking place right across the country.

These are a great way to show your support so for full details of ALL events CLICK HERE

To report a hen harrier sighting in England, please email henharriers@rspb.org.uk or phone the RSPB hotline on 0845 460 0121 (calls charged at local rates).

To report a hen harrier sighting in Scotland, please email henharrier@snh.gov.uk.

PODCASTS

► Chris Packham
An interview with conservationist, broadcaster, and President of the Hawk and Owl Trust, Chris Packham, on raptors, illegal persecution, and why he fully supports Hen Harrier Day.

► Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations
A conversation with Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, on illegal persecution of raptors and problems of wildlife crime committed by the shooting industry.

► Mark Avery
A conversation with Mark Avery - conservationist, petitioner, blogger, writer...in fact a man of so many parts that we began the conversation by asking him to describe himself to give a frame of reference to those of us finding it hard keeping up...Mark then goes on to talking about Hen Harriers and the crimes committed against them, his epetition to ban driven grouse shooting, explains why he thinks driven grouse shooting is the worst of all British field sports, and finally takes the proffered opportunity to plug his new book on the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, 'A Message from Martha'.



► Blanaid Denman
A conversation with Blanaid Denman, RSPB Skydancer Project Officer, on what she loves about Hen Harriers and the education work the project does.

► Andre Farrar
A conversation with Andre Farrar RSPB Campaigns Manager about the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers, the RSPB's calls for licencing of grouse moors, and Hen Harrier Day 2014.

► Terry Pickford
A conversation with Terry Pickford, a co-founder of the North West Raptor Protection Group and veteran of the fight to halt the illegal persecution of birds of prey in Britain.

An interview with conservationist, broadcaster, and President of the Hawk and Owl Trust, Chris Packham, on raptors, illegal persecution, and why he fully supports Hen Harrier Day.

A conversation with Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, on illegal persecution of raptors and problems of wildlife crime committed by the shooting industry.

A conversation with Mark Avery - conservationist, petitioner, blogger, writer...in fact a man of so many parts that we began the conversation by asking him to describe himself to give a frame of reference to those of us finding it hard keeping up...Mark then goes on to talking about Hen Harriers and the crimes committed against them, his epetition to ban driven grouse shooting, explains why he thinks driven grouse shooting is the worst of all British field sports, and finally takes the proffered opportunity to plug his new book on the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, 'A Message from Martha'.



A conversation with Blanaid Denman, RSPB Skydancer Project Officer, on what she loves about Hen Harriers and the education work the project does.

A conversation with Andre Farrar RSPB Campaigns Manager about the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers, the RSPB's calls for licencing of grouse moors, and Hen Harrier Day 2014.

A conversation with Terry Pickford, a co-founder of the North West Raptor Protection Group and veteran of the fight to halt the illegal persecution of birds of prey in Britain.

Finely crafted by the Upperdog pack