• The colour ring code

    Assistant Investigations Officer – Jack Ashton-Booth – from the Hen Harrier LIFE Project, talks us through the secret to uncovering a hen harrier’s history.

    The seasons have turned, and the autumn skies have grown big, blue and crisp. As our hen harriers settle into their roosts, traversing the landscape, you might have been fortunate enough to see one for yourself against the backdrop of the blustery…

    • 9 Oct 2019
  • Hen Harriers in Birdcrime Report 2018

    Every year our investigations team release a report listing the crimes against birds of prey in the UK. Last year, in the Birdcrime 2017 report, we revealed that there had been 68 confirmed incidents of bird persecution. Sadly, in 2018, that has increased to 87 confirmed incidents.

    What is most unsettling, is that these numbers simply don’t reflect the true scale of persecution. This is the tip of the iceberg when it…

    • 2 Sep 2019
  • Meet the class of 2019

    After a long summer, Dr Cathleen Thomas, Senior Project Manager for the Hen Harrier LIFE project is delighted to introduce you to the hen harrier class of 2019!

    It's been a busy time for the project team this summer, protecting and monitoring hen harrier nests across England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. We've tentatively watched as our tagged birds have taken flight and once they leave their nesting area, we…

    • 23 Aug 2019
  • Tagging success in Scotland this summer!

    Our project team have fitted more than 10 young hen harriers with satellite tags this summer in Scotland. We have worked hard this summer to tag birds from the Scottish Borders up to the Scottish Highlands, with the generous support and assistance from of a variety of partners, volunteers, landowners, their managers and staff, and licenced taggers from the raptor conservation community.  

    One of this year's Scottish youngsters…

    • 6 Aug 2019
  • Joy at new English hen harrier chicks is tempered by spectre of illegal killling

    The Hen Harrier LIFE project team are delighted to announce that we have been involved in protecting and monitoring nine successful hen harrier nests in England this year, with the successful fledging of 33 chicks. This marks the continuation of a small increase in hen harrier breeding success in England and we hope this progress continues, as the hen harrier is one of the UK’s most threatened bird species. 

    In addition…

    • 2 Aug 2019
  • Hen Harrier Day 2019

    If you’re wondering how you can support hen harriers, why not pop along to a Hen Harrier Day event?

    Hen Harrier Day returns this month for the fifth year running with one main event taking place on 11 August at Carsington Water in Derbyshire, hosted by Wild Justice. There will be a range of speakers including Chris Packham and Iolo Williams, as well as members of the Hen Harrier LIFE project team. The event is family…

    • 2 Aug 2019
  • Five nests and first flights at Bowland

    RSPB Bowland's Project Officer, James Bray, talks us through Bowland's 2019 breeding season, the excitement of 5 rare hen harrier nests, and conditions for the volunteer team as they brave the hills!

    For decades the Forest of Bowland was the most important site for breeding Hen Harriers in England. So much so, they were formally adopted as the logo of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB…

    • 5 Jul 2019
  • Satellite tagged hen harrier Rannoch killed by illegal trap on Perthshire grouse moor

    Senior Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, is devastated to announce today that a satellite tagged hen harrier has been illegally killed on a Perthshire grouse moor. The remains of the young female, named Rannoch, were found by RSPB Scotland Investigations team in May caught in a spring trap which had been set in the open, not permitted by law.

    The post mortem report from SRUC veterinary laboratory said: “The bird was…

    • 27 Jun 2019
  • Guest Blog: Supt Nick Lyall - Getting up close with my first hen harrier.

    Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group Supt Nick Lyall talks us through his #myfirsthenharrier moment.

    In early October 2018, as many of you will know, I took on the role of chair of the England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group. Our work looks at raptors in general, but hen harriers are a regular focus of our work.

    Red kite and buzzards frequent the area I call home, and I have spent…

    • 19 Jun 2019
  • Top 3 places in Scotland to see a hen harrier!

    Tremaine Bilham, Hen Harrier Life Project Community Engagement Officer, shares the experience of her first hen harrier sighting and tells us about the places we’re most likely to see hen harriers in Scotland.

    Taking shelter from the blustery Orkney weather, I paced around a bird hide with a school group trying to keep warm. As I tried to impress upon them how lucky they were to have regular sightings of hen harriers…

    • 18 Jun 2019
  • Forsinard Flows flies the flag for hen harriers!

    Tremaine Bilham is the Hen Harrier LIFE Project's Community Engagement Officer for Scotland, working to raise awareness and promote the conservation of these spectacular skydancers. In this blog, she tells us about her education work with a group from Brora Primary at Forsinard Flows.

    Early spring brings new life and warmer weather… or so I hoped as I prepared to take a primary 5 class on a peatland field trip in Forsinard…

    • 18 Jun 2019
  • Hope for Harriers? – Rare hen harriers breed for consecutive year on National Trust High Peak Moors

    Roisin Taylor, Community Engagement Officer for the Hen Harrier LIFE Project, talks about new nests, and the hope that they bring for the hen harrier population.

    Following the exciting news yesterday that there are four nests at United Utilities Bowland Estate this summer, we are delighted to reveal that our partners at National Trust High Peak Moors have their very own rare hen harrier nest!

    This is the second year that…

    • 13 Jun 2019
  • Four hen harrier nests in Bowland.

    In hopeful news, rare hen harrier chicks have hatched in four nests in Bowland.


    RSPB staff and volunteers discovered the nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate in early spring and have been monitoring them closely ever since. Recently, they observed a change in behaviour with the female birds bringing food taken from the males directly into their nests, indicating the presence of chicks. 


    Hen harriers are birds…

    • 12 Jun 2019
  • Marathon for the missing harriers

    How far would you go to raise awareness of an issue close to your heart?

    In Henry Morris’ case, the answer is at least 130 miles, up hill and down dale, whatever the weather. This July, the personal trainer from London will be running the equivalent of five marathons through Lancashire and Yorkshire countryside to highlight the plight of the hen harrier. The four-day run will take in the last-known locations of all the…

    • 29 May 2019
  • Spring Sorrow - Skylar and Marci's tags suddenly stop

    It is with a heavy heart that just as the excitement of the breeding season gets under way, we must report the loss of two more of our hen harriers, Skylar and Marci.

    Skylar was a symbol of hope for the project team, who were very excited to follow her progress from fledging the nest in Argyll, Scotland in July 2017. She was the offspring of DeeCee, one of the birds tagged in 2016, both as part of the Hen Harrier LIFE…

    • 20 May 2019
  • How to ID a hen harrier

    With the launch of the Hen Harrier Hotline and our harriers once again taking to the skies, community engagement officer, Roisin Beck Taylor, takes us through some of the birds that can be commonly mistaken for hen harriers and how to identify them.

    Hen Harrier – Circus cyaneus

    The hen harrier has many nicknames – one of the most common is ‘ghost of the moor’ and it is easy to see why. The male hen harrier’s grey…

    • 24 Apr 2019
  • The Hen Harrier Hotline is open!

    As spring arrives we’re asking you to keep your eyes to the skies and you may even spot some skydancing! Project Manager Dr Cathleen Thomas tells us how you can help us to protect hen harriers.

    For anyone new to the blog, hen harriers are a bird of prey that breed in the uplands, principally on hills with heather moorland. They are the UK's most threatened bird of prey and on the brink of extinction as breeding bird…

    • 4 Apr 2019
  • Working with the next generation of gamekeepers

    Hen Harrier LIFE project Community Engagement Officer Roisin Taylor reflects on her experiences working with gamekeeping students and finds reasons to be optimistic about the future of England’s hen harriers.  

    Regular readers of this blog will know that the world of hen harriers can be difficult. Following the elation of the breeding season and new chicks making their way into the world , we then enter a seemingly…

    • 28 Mar 2019
  • New study reveals widespread illegal killing of hen harriers on England’s grouse moors

    A new study has provided compelling evidence that many young hen harriers in England are being illegally killed in areas associated with grouse shooting. The RSPB’s Head of Nature Policy Gareth Cunningham discusses the significance of this scientific research and what we think needs to happen next.

    Published in Nature Communications yesterday, Revealing patterns of wildlife crime using satellite tags: a case study…

    • 19 Mar 2019
  • Vulcan's fire goes out

    Another hen harrier, Vulcan, has now sadly joined the ‘missing in action’ list.

    Vulcan was tagged in Northumberland in the summer of 2018, along with over 30 more hen harriers in England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. Almost half of these birds barely had time to make their mark on the world, entering and leaving it almost in the same breath. Vulcan is the 11th tagged hen harrier to disappear in similar…

    • 28 Feb 2019
  • Hen harrier ‘River’ disappears in suspicious circumstances

    Yet another of 2018's hen harrier chicks has disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Today the RSPB issued the following press release:

    River, who hatched from a nest in Bowland in 2018

    The police and the RSPB are investigating the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier in North Yorkshire, the county with the worst reputation for bird of prey persecution.

    The bird, named River, was one of…

    • 17 Jan 2019
  • What is the RSPB doing to protect hen harriers?

    Earlier this week, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager Dr Cathleen Thomas took a look at how the UK's hen harriers had fared in 2018. Now she gives an overview of some of things that the RSPB is doing to help them.  

    Here at the RSPB, we’re doing everything we can to protect hen harriers. Coming into the final year of the Hen Harrier LIFE project in 2019, our project team have already spoken with almost 12,000 members…

    • 19 Dec 2018
  • Reflections on 2018

    As we reach the end of 2018, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, looks back over the year.

    Working on the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project is a rollercoaster of emotions. Scientific studies estimate that here in the UK we have enough suitable habitat to sustain a thriving hen harrier population of around 5,000 birds, yet the 2016 hen harrier survey found there are only around 1,000 birds left…

    • 17 Dec 2018
  • Another hen harrier disappears in suspicious circumstances

     Arthur became the ninth tagged hen harrier in three months to vanish in similar circumstances in the UK

    In November we reported that a rare hen harrier had disappeared in North Yorkshire, triggering an investigation by the police and the RSPB. This was the ninth bird to disappear in suspicious circumstances in just 12 weeks.

    The bird, named Arthur, hatched from a nest in the Peak District the summer of 2018. This was the…

    • 11 Dec 2018
  • Four hen harriers disappear on Scottish grouse moors in suspicious circumstances

    Dr Cathleen Thomas, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, reports on the sudden disappearances of four more tagged hen harriers in Scotland in suspicious circumstances.

    Following our recent blogs on the suspicious disappearances of Hilma, Octavia, Heulwen and Thor, I’m deeply saddened to report the suspicious disappearances of a further four birds in Scotland: Athena, Margot, Stelmaria and Heather.

    This brings us…

    • 6 Nov 2018