Last year we celebrated the news of the first sea eagle chick to fledge in East Scotland for over 200 years (see here).
This year we’re discussing his ‘disappearance’ (in all likelihood his death) in a well-known grouse moor area in the Cairngorms National Park.
This bird was a significant one. He marked an important milestone in the East Scotland Sea Eagle Reintroduction Project, being the first to fledge from a nest there in over 200 years. He was also our symbol of hope, following the news earlier in the year that the nest tree of another pioneering pair had been illegally felled with a chainsaw, bringing their breeding attempt to an abrupt halt (see here).
When we blogged about the successful fledging of this young eagle last year, we ended the post with this:
“Here’s hoping this year’s pioneering young male manages to stay alive (keep away from grouse moors) for long enough to raise his own family – the next big milestone for the East Coast Project will be Scottish-born sea eagles rearing their own young. Good luck kid”.
He didn’t make it. He didn’t even make it to his first birthday.
He had been fitted with a satellite tag before he fledged, allowing researchers to monitor his movements. In mid-April, the signal from his transmitter stopped. The last signal had come from the North Glenbuchat Estate in Strathdon.
North Glenbuchat Estate has been at the centre of a series of wildlife crime investigations over a number of years. These have included the prosecution and conviction of the then head gamekeeper (in 2006) for poisoning offences; the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle in 2011 (killed by Carbofuran – no prosecution); the discovery of a poisoned buzzard in 2011 (killed by Carbofuran – no prosecution); the discovery of a poisoned bait in 2011 (no prosecution), and the discovery of a dead short-eared owl in 2011, that had been shot and stuffed under a rock (no prosecution). (See here for details of these discoveries).
Not only that, but a number of young satellite-tagged eagles have all mysteriously ‘disappeared’ in this area over the last few years, including one in September 2011, one in February 2012, one in May 2013 and now this latest one in April 2014. Including the poisoned golden eagle found in 2011, at least five young eagles are presumed dead. We only know about these young birds because they were all fitted with satellite transmitters. How many other young eagles have ‘vanished’ in suspicious circumstances in similar black holes across the central and eastern uplands, the heartland of driven grouse moors?
North Glenbuchat Estate was bought by the Marquess of Milford Haven in 2008. According to the Glenbuchat Heritage website, he “began an ambitious programme of renovating Glenbuchat Lodge and its dependent properties and improving the grouse moor”.
In 2013, North Glenbuchat Estate became a member of Scottish Land & Estates:
Today’s police raid of the estate (reported by the BBC here) is welcome news, although the chance of finding any evidence to link to a suspect is pretty slim, especially if the bird has been shot, as is suspected.
We’re almost at a loss what to say. What can we say that hasn’t already been said each and every time? What words are there to describe the fury, rage, sadness, sorrow and overwhelming frustration about what is going on, right under our noses, in our own countryside? The Untouchables strike again. It is out of control and the Government seems powerless to stop it.
Only they’re not powerless. They’re actually very powerful and they could stop this at the drop of a hat if they really wanted to. The Environment Minister has said over and over again that if persecution continues, he will ‘not hesitate’ to bring in further measures. It’s time to stop hesitating, Mr Wheelhouse – get a grip on this insidious criminality and do what you’re paid to do. No more excuses.
Please email the Environment Minister and demand further action. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org