Why Wendy is so important!
There has been so much information coming from satellite tagged Hen Harriers. Most of them have gone missing on Red Grouse moors presumed shot when no bird or transmitter can be been found. Birds dying of natural causes have been found with out any trouble suggesting birds that have been shot have been removed and the transmitters made redundant.
Bowland Betty was a bird that had been shot but not killed. She later died of her wounds and was found. She previously had traveled several times to Scotland as far north as Caithness from Bowland only to die in Yorkshire near Colsterdale . Only a small fraction of Hen Harriers breeding in Britain can have transmitters fitted due to the cost of them. This means many birds in Scotland are only followed by their BTO rings which have to be found on either recaptured birds or dying where they can be found and the ring read and passed onto the BTO.
There was a time when wing tags were used to follow such birds with colours being changed by area and year. Some information was gained this way but due to colours fading this was not always a safe way to monitor the birds. One example occurred here at Geltsdale with an eight year old female seen from this house. The bird had a white wing tag but as so few birds could live that long in this country due to persecution the record was discarded, Marsh Harriers can live up to 16 years with Hen Harrier recorded as 15!
Rings can't lie so a female moving from Colonsey in the Inner Isles to Newbiggin next to Geltsdale was an important ring recovery as it showed Hen Harriers moving from an area where Wildlife Tourism is an important financial factor for encouraging people to come to the island. This bird dyed without being tested for lead shot but could have been the first example of Red Grouse shooting removing income from an isolated community.
Hermione was a Hen Harrier satellite tagged on Mull but just a few days, RSPB Investigation staff located her body and the transmitter, only a few kilometers from her nest – apparently it was clear that she had died naturally, and her remains had been partially eaten. With such a high eagle population she could have been predated especially if the tag was causing her problems.
Next year more harriers will be tagged on Mull to see where they go when leaving the island. Hen Harriers killed on Red Grouse will be eating into the £millions the island is worth for Wildlife Tourism. To make the point Wendy tagged in Strathclyde has made Mull her home in the winter 2016 using islands close to Mull like Ulva and Little Colonsey showing how harriers move from mainland to islands and birds like the one from Colonsey move from islands to mainland and in this case, sadly could not return. It will be interesting to see if Wendy remains to breed with Mull having 42 pairs of Hen Harriers in 2016.
With satellite tagging if the information comes back that large numbers of harriers moving from known wildlife tourism areas have been killed on Red Grouse moors then the Scottish and English Government will have to finally stop protecting Red Grouse moors of areas of mass destruction of birds of prey and loosing £millions of income from Wildlife tourism. Wendy will have a £price tag if she remains on Mull to breed. Something which will not fade like a wing tag!!