Two Hen Harriers vanish from the Forest of Bowland skies

Posted on - 6th June, 2023 - 9:09pm | Author - | Posted in - Ribble Valley News
A female hen harrier in flight Pic: RSPB/Andy Hay
A female hen harrier in flight Pic: RSPB/Andy Hay

Two rare birds of prey have vanished from the skies above the Forest of Bowland.

The RSPB has triggered the alarm after two Hen Harriers, both fitted with satellite tags, have not been seen.

Rush, an adult male bird, was last tracked on 4 May in Mallowdale in the Forest of Bowland.

Read more: Lancashire Hen Harrier migrated 1,000 miles to Spain two winters in a row

The tag’s last fix put him over a grouse moor within the Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Lancashire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit carried out a search of the area but found no sign of the bird or its tag.

A second bird, Wayland, vanished in the Clapham area of North Yorkshire on 17 May, just over the border from the Bowland AONB, where the land is a mix of farmland with gamebird shooting. Its tag had been functioning up to this point.

The RSPB says 21 Hen Harriers have been reported as either killed or missing across Northern England in the last year.

Read more: Forest of Bowland features in National Geographic

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, adult female perched on heather, Loch Gruinart RSPB reserve, Islay, June 2002

Hen Harriers are rare breeding birds in the UK, known for their acrobatic ‘skydancing’ courtship display which they perform above upland moors in spring.

Howard Jones, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, said: “To have two more Hen Harriers disappear this spring is a huge blow for a struggling species where every nest counts. These latest disappearances are being treated as suspicious by the police. From Wayland’s tag data, it appears that the tag stopped mid-transmission – cutting out abruptly as it was sending data through to us – which strongly suggests human interference.

“We hope the otherwise tragic news of these birds sends a clear message that licensing of driven grouse shooting estates must be implemented to ensure all are operating within the law, and to protect birds like Hen Harriers from persistent persecution. Clearly self-regulation has failed, as evidenced by this spate of disappearances. How many more birds must vanish from the breeding population before action is taken?”

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