Another satellite tagged endangered bird of prey has gone missing under suspicious circumstances in Northumberland.
The last beacon transmission for the Northern Marsh Harrier occurred at Ninebanks, an area dominated by black grouse moorland in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Reiver, a young female, fled from a nest on Langholm Moor in southern Scotland this summer. She was fitted with a satellite beacon while still in her nest, as part of an RSPB project to help understand the journeys made by these Red List birds of prey and the survival challenges they face. are faced after their flight.
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Reiver’s beacon was transmitting steadily and as expected, with no signs of malfunctioning, until it suddenly stopped in the Ninebanks area.
Reiver is the third satellite-tagged Scottish harrier to go missing under identical, sudden and suspicious circumstances in England this year.
In February, the Northern Harrier Tarras went missing after being last seen in a grouse moor near Haltwhistle in Northumberland.
Another bird, Yarrow, of the Scottish Borders went missing in April on its way to the North York Moors, and in 2019 the last transmission of the Northern Harrier Ada was from an area of grouse swamp in the east of Allendale, Northumberland.
Howard Jones, RSPB investigative officer, said: “It is almost certain that Reiver was unlawfully killed. This is more than just a pattern, it is a known fact that the number of Northern Harrier is so low due to the persistent persecution.
“Satellite beacons are very reliable and will continue to transmit even after the bird has died. The fact that a tag that has worked reliably suddenly cuts off like this strongly suggests foul play. This event is classified as a “sudden stop without malfunction” and occurs time and time again on or near hunted ruffed heathlands.
“The disappearance of the Northern harrier in the English grouse moorland is having a devastating effect on the English and Scottish harrier populations, and must be urgently addressed by the British governments.
“The need to obtain a license for grouse lands has been accepted in Scotland and this must also be recognized in England. This must then be implemented without delay in both countries.
Less than 600 pairs of Northern Harrier breed in the UK. In England, there were only 24 successful nests in 2021, despite enough habitat and food to support more than 300 pairs.
In 2019, the government’s own study found that illegal logging was the main factor limiting the recovery of the UK’s Northern Harrier population.
Jenny Barlow, Estate Manager at Langholm, said: “There is always such anticipation and excitement for our Northern Harrier to return to the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve here in Langholm every year.
“A huge community and volunteer effort goes into monitoring and protecting our harrier chicks to ensure they get the best possible start on our reserve. It is extremely sad news for all of us that one of our girls, Reiver, is no longer coming back to us.
All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Killing or injuring one intentionally is a criminal offense and can result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison.
Anyone with information relating to this incident is asked to call Northumbria Police on 101 quoting the incident reference. NP-20210920-0837 .
If you find a wild bird of prey that you suspect has been illegally killed, call 101 and complete the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/wild- bird-crime-report-form /
If you have sensitive information about the illegal killing of birds of prey, call the confidential RSPB hotline on 0300 999 0101.
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