Young hen harrier disappears in Cairngorms

Marci's tag stopped  transmitting on April 22. Picture: Shaila Rao
Marci's tag stopped transmitting on April 22. Picture: Shaila Rao

A young hen harrier has gone missing in the Cairngorms.

The female, named Marci, was satellite tagged as a chick in 2018.

She fledged from a nest on National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, and her movements had been tracked until the tag stopped transmitting on April 22. Her last recorded position was near Strathdon,

The most recent UK hen harrier population survey revealed a worrying decline of 13% between 2010 and 2016 to an estimated 545 pairs.

While Scotland is the UK stronghold for the population with 460, numbers here were down by 9% since 2010, and 29% since 2004.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project manager said: “These sudden disappearances of our satellite-tagged hen harriers are depressingly frequent.

“Marci didn’t even get to make it through her first year before vanishing.

“The satellite tags are highly reliable so a sudden stop in transmitting gives us immediate cause for concern.

“If Marci had died of natural causes the tag should have continued to transmit, allowing our team to find her.”

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg said: “The SGA condemns persecution and we act accordingly in proven cases.

“Satellite tags fail, some are poorly fitted, some are never found - whether persecution is suspected or not - and some tags signal hours apart.

“This can make final signal locations meaningless.”