More concerns raised about missing hen harrier

Calluna disappeared in suspicious circumstances north of Ballater on August 12. Pic: NTS staff.
Calluna disappeared in suspicious circumstances north of Ballater on August 12. Pic: NTS staff.

The National Trust for Scotland has echoed concerns about the unexplained disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier in the Cairngorms National Park.

The move comes after RSPB Scotland issued an appeal for information after Calluna, a young female hen harrier, vanished from a grouse moor in Aberdeenshire.

‘Calluna’ and hatched at Mar Lodge Estate, near Braemar in June this year. She was named following a public poll on Twitter organised by National Trust for Scotland staff.

Calluna’s hatching followed hard work by Trust staff and volunteers over many years to restore habitats in order to make the recovery of populations of various threatened species possible.

As reported, Calluna disappeared in suspicious circumstances north of Ballater on August 12 when her satellite tag abruptly ceased transmitting.

David Frew, The National Trust for Scotland’s operations manager at the Mar Lodge Estate, said: “Staff at Mar Lodge Estate and the National Trust for Scotland as a whole are deeply saddened by the apparent loss of Calluna. She was the result of only the second successful breeding attempt by hen harriers on the estate in living memory.

“We are not going to let this stop our vital conservation work. We are going to carry on at Mar Lodge and our other properties doing what we can to ensure the survival and recovery of endangered species. We will find and work with partners who can help us deliver mutually beneficial land management solutions through which people and nature will thrive together.

“The good news is that ‘Harriet’, another hen harrier chick we tagged in 2016, and was also named via a public poll, is alive and well, having overwintered in the Lake District and returned to Mar Lodge Estate in the spring of this year.

“We very much hope that our harriers will return to Mar Lodge Estate to breed again in 2018 – in the meantime you can keep watch on Harriet on the ‘Hen Harrier Life’ project website.”

Stuart Brooks, The National Trust for Scotland’s head of Conservation Policy, said: “If Calluna has been lost, as we fear, it is a sad day for us and Scotland.

“We have worked so hard over recent years to help nature return to the hills and glens of Mar Lodge, affirmed by its recent designation as the British Isles’ largest National Nature Reserve.

“If Calluna’s fate adds to the body of evidence that raptors are being killed we need the Scottish Parliament to act swiftly and decisively to minimise the risk of this happening again at Mar Lodge and elsewhere.”