Mabel joins the ‘disappeared’

Another ‘disappeared’ Hen Harrier! Another Hen Harrier ‘disappeared’ near grouse moor! Another catastrophic sat-tag failure!

Mabel has joined the ranks of the ‘disappeared’. Another potential breeding female gone, gone but not forgotten.

Anyone who has committed endless hours monitoring, protecting Hen Harriers will tell you that it is not just time commitment that is involved,  it is the emotional investment that is required to see the process through from nest to fledging that takes its toll. But when that magic moment comes, and the chicks take flight it instantly becomes worthwhile. Everyone involved knows the risks that young birds face post fledging. Everyone knows that nature will take its course, that some won’t make it. It’s sad but inevitable. Survival of the fittest intervened and that’s fine.

What’s not fine is that the ‘disappeared’ weren’t subject to some Darwinian theory. There are years of data all pointing to the same conclusion. Nudge theory is more relevant than Darwin. A little nudge in the right direction can have a massive impact. In almost every case ever recorded the same scenario plays out. The birds fledge and survive for several months, clearly, they can hunt and feed themselves. The sat-tags provide good data during that time then catastrophically fail without warning. Why?  Sat-tags very rarely fail. Extensive searches using the best technology available fails to find a body. Why? All of this happens on or near grouse moors. Why?

To the layman there appears to be a pattern. To professional ornithologists there appears to be a pattern. To NERF there appears to be a pattern. Even NE believes that there is a pattern and, they have published that belief. And yet the grouse shooting industry continue to peddle the same old story “you can’t prove it”. It may be true that the ‘who dun it’ may remain unknown, however the evidence, albeit circumstantial, of ‘what dun it’ is becoming increasingly difficult to defend and yet try to defend it they do.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the loss of a Hen Harrier chick in these circumstances does not have the same effect as a bereavement because they are wrong. Our sympathies are with the landowner, the Dales NP staff and the NE staff on the ground who have all put so much effort into securing the future of Mabel and her siblings. All for nought. And how many others, not tagged, have died? That’s anyone’s guess but the answer is more than one.

How long will it take, how many more ‘disappeared’ Hen Harriers will there have to be before DEFRA comes to the same conclusion and takes any affirmative action?

Regrettably the answer is many more and that is shameful.