The RSPB is in a new pickle over a hen harrier. The bird charity is trying to monster gamekeepers and believed it had the perfect story in 2016 when the transmitter on a hen harrier stopped working. The charity announced that the bid it called ‘Highlander’ had undoubtedly been killed by a gamekeeper in order to protect grouse stocks. At the time, RSPB Bowland project officer James Bray said: “We must turn that anger into a determination to stop persecution of birds of prey.”

The RSPB offered a £10,000 reward for information about its disappearance. Imagine its embarrassment when Highlander reappeared this week in the Forest of Bowland with what turns out to be a faulty transmitter.

The RSPB used the disappearance of the bird from its monitors as an excuse to pull out of the Hen Harrier Action Plan, which is the government-backed scheme to look after the species. The RSPB is showing no shame about its action, however, and refuses to rejoin the action plan. It has put out a flurry of press releases in English and Welsh condemning the gamekeeping profession.

Sir Ian Botham, the former England cricket captain and keen advocate of grouse shooting, said the sighting of Highlander undermined the credibility of the RSPB’s allegations.

Hen harrier egg on the RSPB’s face