Rare hen harrier goes missing in Wales

Danny Griffith

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, female in flight against blue sky, Geltsdale, Cumbria

North Wales Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following the disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier near Wrexham.

The harrier, named Aalin, was tagged as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project in July 2016 from a nest on the Isle of Man, in collaboration with Manx Birdlife. Aalin left the Isle of Man in 2016 and spent her first winter in Shropshire, before heading to Wales in the spring of 2017, where she remained ever since.

Aalin’s tag had been transmitting regularly, until it suddenly stopped on the morning of 9 February 2018. Data from Aalin’s tag indicated she spent the last few months in the same area of moorland around Ruabon Mountain near Wrexham, from where the tag unexpectedly sent its last signal at 10.34am. A search was conducted by RSPB Investigations staff, but no tag or body was found and she has not been seen or heard of since.

Dr. Cathleen Thomas, RSPB Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to lose yet another hen harrier in these circumstances, especially as this bird is so scarce in the UK. It’s also the first suspicious loss of a bird in Wales for our project, after the elation of tagging our first chicks there in 2017. We were hopeful that heading towards the breeding season Aalin would have nested in Wales and successfully reared chicks this summer, so her loss also affects future generations of this rare and beautiful bird in the area. We believe the loss of Aalin and other recently tagged hen harriers in the UK is having a devastating impact on their conservation status.”

Rob Taylor, Rural Crime Team Manager, North Wales Police, said: “We have been notified by the RSPB of this incident and we are investigating the disappearance, but at this time we have little to go on. We are appealing to the public for any assistance they can give and we hope that foul play hasn’t played a part in the loss of this rare bird.”

Neil Morris, Managing Director of Manx Birdlife, said: “This is heart-breaking news. As well as the sudden unexplained loss of yet another magnificent bird of prey, we still know so little about the behaviour of Manx-born hen harriers. Clearly there is an impulse for young birds to wander soon after fledging. But we don’t really know why or whether any of those that leave the Isle of Man as juveniles make the return journey as mature adults to breed back in their native hills.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, please call North Wales Police on 101 quoting the reference WO28466. Alternatively, you can call the RSPB Raptor Crime Hotline confidentially on 0300 999 0101. All calls are anonymous.

If you find a wild bird that you suspect was illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx




Follow @RSPB_Skydancer for the latest hen harrier news

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jenny Shelton, Investigations Liaison Officer, 01767 693024 / 07701 372952

Photograph: Image of Aalin attached. Please credit James Leonard. Map image showing the area of Aalin’s last known transmission. Please credit RSPB.

Editor’s notes:

1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

2. The EU LIFE Project:  Conserving the hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) in northern England and southern and eastern Scotland (LIFE13 NAT/UK/000258) includes conservation within seven Special Protection Areas, listed under the Birds Directive: two in England; Bowland Fells; North Pennine Moors; and five in Scotland; Glen Tanar; Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands; Langholm - Newcastleton Hills; Glen App and Galloway Moors; and the Forest of Clunie

3. LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument for the environment. It funds conservation and other environmental projects right across Europe. In 2013, the year in which this hen harrier project was funded, LIFE awarded a total of €17 million to organisations in the UK.

4.  Natura 2000 is a network of important sites for wildlife covering the whole of the EU. It is made up of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for other species and habitats. These sites are the ‘jewels in the crown’ of European nature conservation and are protected under both national and EU law.

5. Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest birds of prey. The hen harrier population had been slowly recovering in Wales since re-colonising in the late 1950s but continues to vary greatly in size from year to year due to a number of factors, including poor weather and food availability. The latest survey in 2016 showed the number of pairs had fallen by more than a third over the past six years, from 57 to 35 pairs. This is the lowest population that has been seen in Wales for over a decade.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: Wales Topic: Hen harrier