• Meet the new hen harrier heroes

    Following on from a successful breeding season, we speak to Jack Ashton-Booth and Tom Grose, our newest Assistant Investigations Officers, investigating hen harrier persecution in England and Wales. Here we get to know them and their work a bit better…

    You’re both keen birders. What’s been your best ever birding moment?

    Jack: My highlight was in October 2013 witnessing 299 rough-legged buzzards migrating…

    • 7 Sep 2018
  • UK Government needs an independent inquiry into driven grouse shooting to deliver 25 Year Environment Plan

    Earlier this month, Les Wallace launched a Government petition calling for an independent review of the economics of driven grouse moors. Our Head of Nature Policy Gareth Cunningham explains why we are calling for a full independent inquiry that not only looks at the economics of grouse moor management but also the role of regulation in the industry.

    Les Wallace’s petition raises interesting questions. It requests that…

    • 30 Aug 2018
  • Our response to Natural England’s publication of raw data of tagged hen harriers

    On the 25 August Natural England published the raw data from tagging 158 tracked individual hen harriers. Publication of this data is something which the RSPB has previously called for.

    It’s good to see that the data will be finally used as the basis for a scientific and peer-reviewed paper “The dead tell no tales – but perhaps their tracking data can? Exploring associations between ‘disappearing’ hen harriers…

    • 29 Aug 2018
  • The fortunes of England's hen harriers in 2018

    As the breeding season draws to a close, we take some time to reflect on the breeding success of hen harriers in England in 2018.

    Hen harrier numbers have been declining steadily in England over the past few decades. It is well known from independent research that the main reason for this decline is illegal killing of these birds associated with driven grouse moor management in northern England.

    Last year, hen harriers…

    • 31 Jul 2018
  • We Will Win

    Today we have a guest blog from Dara McAnulty, the young Fermanagh naturalist, who reminds us that there's always something we can do to help hen harriers.

    I remember the first time I wittingly saw a raptor, I was five and I became entranced. The RSPB visited my school soon after to talk about red kites and the fascination grew into obsession. I constantly scanned the skies for a glimpse of majesty.  

    The hen harrier…

    • 30 Jul 2018
  • Nos da to our tagged Welsh hen harrier: Lia’s journey is over

    Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, shares the sad news of the loss of a second tagged hen harrier in Wales in suspicious circumstances.

    At this time of year, our Hen Harrier LIFE project team are very busy monitoring birds, protecting nests and satellite tagging juveniles. As we get caught up in the elation and optimism that a new generation of this rare bird brings, it was a timely reminder of their…

    • 24 Jul 2018
  • Six ways you can help hen harriers

    Hen harriers are in trouble – that’s not news to anyone. The RSPB continues to urge the government to crack down on illegal persecution in the uplands in a bid to give these birds a chance to re-establish a stable population in England.

    But is there anything you, me, your friends and your family can do? Well, yes there is, and some of these things you can do right away. Together we can change the tide and…

    • 23 Jul 2018
  • More good hen harrier news in Bowland

    Last month we reported that hen harriers had bred successfully for the first time in the Forest of Bowland since 2015, with two nests, both containing four chicks. Shortly after, the final egg on the second nest hatched very late, making it five. 

     Now we can reveal there is a third nest on the United Utilities Bowland estate, boasting four male chicks.


    The third nest in Bowland. Photo: James Bray


    As part of the…

    • 13 Jul 2018
  • Hen harriers breed in Bowland

    Recently, it’s been one bad news story after another on this blog with many reports of our satellite-tagged hen harriers disappearing in unexplained circumstances. 

    So, it makes a nice change to give you some good news.

    I’m delighted to report that, for the first time since 2015, there are hen harrier chicks at Bowland in Lancashire.

    RSPB wardens discovered two hen harrier nests on the United Utilities…

    • 7 Jun 2018
  • Silent spring? Saorsa, Finn and Blue all suddenly disappear

    Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, reports on the sudden disappearance of three tagged hen harriers in suspicious circumstances

    With the arrival of spring, we look forward to the warmer weather kickstarting the growth of new flowers as buds burst into life. Animals start to appear again, some rousing sleepily from their hibernation. We dust ourselves off after the long winter, ready for a summer of…

    • 22 May 2018
  • Same Old Story?

    Today we have a guest blog from Findlay Wilde, a 16 year old conservationist, ringer, birder, environmental blogger and campaigner. Findlay is working hard to protect nature, and raise awareness about hen harrier persecution.


    Whenever I get asked to write a blog about my thoughts and feelings towards hen harriers, I start with such enthusiasm, but as I get into the detail I feel my energy start to fade, in just the…

    • 28 Mar 2018
  • Another Skydancer lost: Aalin disappears in Wales

    Dr. Cathleen Thomas, RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager explains that today we have more sad news about another bird, this time from the Hen Harrier Class of 2016.

    The population of hen harriers on the Isle of Man almost halved between 2004 and 2010, dropping from 57 to 29 pairs. No one was quite sure why this might be, but one theory was that young hen harriers could be migrating to the UK mainland and not…

    • 21 Mar 2018
  • Blood brothers: Manu's brother Marc also disappears

    RSPB Investigations Liaison Officer, Jenny Shelton, sheds more light on the disappearances of two hen harrier siblings, Marc and Manu, in similarly unsettling circumstances.

    Manu (left) and Marc (right) as nestlings (image by Tim Jones)

    If a mother hen harrier could give her chicks any words of wisdom, it might be this: stay away from grouse moors. Moorland is the natural habitat of these birds, but a number of them…

    • 1 Mar 2018
  • Class of 2017 update: Sirius and Eric die of natural causes

    RSPB's Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas gives an update on the class of 2017.

    The winter months can be hard for young hen harriers, and it’s a worrying time to monitor them. With poor weather, difficult foraging conditions, and the risk of illegal persecution, every day they survive feels like a small victory. That’s why I am sad to confirm the natural demise of more of the class of 2017.…

    • 1 Mar 2018
  • Skydancing with Gill Lewis

    Community Engagement Officer for England, Aimée Nicholson, talks about her experiences of working with children's author Gill Lewis.

    One of the greatest parts of being a Community Engagement Officer for the Hen Harrier LIFE project is being able to go into a school on a morning with children who know nothing about hen harriers and leave the same children, at the end of the day, Skydancing and singing about…

    • 11 Dec 2017
  • Two more hen harriers go missing

    RSPB's Project Manager for Hen Harrier LIFE, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, provides an update on the class of 2017.

    Through a career in conservation, you have the privilege of working with some amazing wildlife, but you also have to face the reality that most individuals will never fulfil their full potential, due to the threats they face on a daily basis. As I’ve followed the journeys of the juvenile hen harriers in the…

    • 24 Nov 2017
  • Introducing Cathleen

    Our new(ish) Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager Dr Cathleen Thomas reflects on her first few months in the role.

    Avid followers may have noticed that we’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately. Some of you will know that Blánaid Denman left the Hen Harrier LIFE project in August to become the RSPB’s Area Conservation Manager for the North East and Cumbria. Blánaid has done some great work on the project and we…

    • 6 Nov 2017
  • Mannin’s failed sea-crossing

    RSPB Scotland’s Investigation Intelligence Officer Jenni Burrell provides an update on Mannin, the Isle of Man sat-tagged hen harrier.

     Monitoring satellite-tagged hen harriers can bring many positives – following an individual bird from the day it was fitted with a transmitter until its first flights away from the nest area, its travels through the UK (and beyond in some cases) or even hopefully until its…

    • 11 Sep 2017
  • Meet the Hen Harrier Class of 2017

    RSPB Scotland’s Investigations Intelligence Officer Jenni Burrell introduces the new class.

    This year the Hen Harrier Life Project website has been improved to provide a more interactive experience for visitors. You can choose to look at individual birds, track their journey and look at any points of interests that appear.

    The profiles of twelve of this year’s satellite-tag hen harriers are now online and what…

    • 4 Sep 2017
  • Calluna has disappeared!

    I’m very sad to have to report that one of the hen harrier’s satellite tagged as part of the LIFE project this year, has already disappeared.

    “Calluna”, a female harrier, was tagged this summer at a nest on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, near Braemar. We were monitoring her transmitter’s data which showed that she fledged from the nest in July. She left the area in early August, and gradually…

    • 1 Sep 2017
  • Hen Harrier Day 2017 - in pictures

    Here are a selection of photos from last weekend's Hen Harrier Day events at RSPB Arne, RSPB Rainham Marshes, Sheffield, Boat of Garten and Vane Farm Tayside.

    Hen Harrier Day South - RSPB Arne - (photos by Terry Bagley)

    Hen Harrier Day Highlands - Boat of Garten (photos by Guy Shorrock)




    Hen Harrier Day Sheffield




    Hen Harrier Day - RSPB Rainham Marshes




    Hen Harrier…

    • 10 Aug 2017
  • Hen harrier breeding numbers in England 2017

    It’s the question to which everyone wants the answer – how many hen harriers bred in England this year?

    Answer: three successful nests, from a total of seven attempts, producing 10 fledged young.

    Today, the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership* have announced that five of this year’s nests, including the three successes, were under their watch, with four of these occurring on land managed by…

    • 1 Aug 2017
  • Competition: Help us name our hen harriers!

    You may remember last month I blogged about our 2016 Perthshire female, DeeCee and her fantastic brood of five healthy chicks (see here). Well, I’m now delighted to share that all five have fledged successfully from land owned and managed by Forestry Commission Scotland in Argyll – two of them sporting shiny new Hen Harrier LIFE Project satellite tags!

    Three of DeeCee's five chicks, July 2017 (Image: RSPB…

    • 31 Jul 2017
  • Exciting times: Hen harriers the next generation

    We've received more brilliant news this week - in her first ever breeding attempt, our Northumberland female, Finn, is successfully rearing one chick at her nest in Southwest Scotland! The discovery was made by specially trained and licensed staff following up on Finn's welfare. 

    Finn's offspring - a single, large but still downy chick hidden in the heather. (Image: RSPB) 

    Hen harriers don't always breed…

    • 21 Jul 2017
  • Guest Blog: Stunning hen harrier chase on Isle of Man

     Peter Christian is a birdwatcher and photographer with a keen eye for detail. Here, he describes how he was lucky enough to capture an incredible photographic series of a hen harrier in pursuit of a meadow pipit, providing a rarely glimpsed view into lives of these extraordinary birds. All photographs are kindly reproduced with Peter's permission and remain his copyright. 

    As a keen birdwatcher and hobby photographer…

    • 18 Jul 2017