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Hen Harrier Disappears in Scotland

A hen harrier has disappeared in what have been described as suspicious circumstances. Calluna is a female harrier which was fitted with a satellite tag earlier this year. The bird was last seen on a grouse moor in Scotland, but the signal from her tag has now sadly been lost.

Serial Losses

The RSPB are concerned because Calluna is the latest of several tagged birds which have disappeared in Scotland, almost all of them over managed grouse moors. Calluna was part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life Project and so was being monitored closely. She had been heading east over the Deeside moors but transmissions from her tag ceased 12 August.

Reliable Equipment

The transmitters used are highly reliable and so it is unlikely that the lack of transmission from Calluna’s tag is due to equipment failure. The RSPB is urging anyone who may have information about the disappearance of the harrier to contact the police as soon as possible.

Threatened Species

There are serious concerns about the future of the hen harrier as the species has been in significant decline. There are thought to be just 600 breeding pairs remaining in the UK. Calluna was the result of the first success breeding attempt on the Mar Lodge Estate, Deeside, and it was hoped that the bird signalled the start of a recovery for the Hen Harrier in the region.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Calluna disappeared just one month after fledging. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association says that it condemns the persecution of raptors and always banishes any members who are convicted of wildlife crime. They have also suggested that the monitored birds can prove to have moved long distances from where they were last recorded so Calluna may not have been in the area of the grouse moor. But they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Scottish Land and Estates

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, has said: "Estates in the area have welcomed a number of hen harriers to the area during August and only today one moor reported three harriers." Naturally the land managers have been quick to reject any suggestion that the loss of signal from Calluna’s tag is related to the management of grouse moors but you have to wonder!

Serial Killings?

Could it be a coincidence that the hen harriers keep disappearing over grouse moors? With the number of breeding pairs in Scotland having fallen by 27% in the last 12 years, it is vital that young birds are not lost. But they keep disappearing and it can prove to be impossible to establish exactly what has happened. The managers of the moors are certainly never going to put their hands up and in the absence of a dead body, there is nothing that the police can do.

The plot thickens!


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