Archive for October, 2012



23
Oct
12

BBC Radio 4 discusses raptor persecution, today at 11am

Today’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Saving Species’ programme will be discussing raptor persecution at 11am today.

Radio 4 Saving Species Episode 8 trailer here

If you missed the programme, you can listen to it on BBC iPlayer here

23
Oct
12

Trial underway for alleged raptor egg trader

The trial against alleged raptor egg trader Keith Liddell is finally underway at Inverness Sheriff Court after a period of long delays.

Liddell, of Holm Dell Drive has denied allegations of keeping, buying and selling the eggs from his home, and possession of a large egg collection including red kite, merlin, black kite, snowy owl, griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture and rough-legged buzzards, among other species.

The case is being prosecuted by specialist wildlife fiscal, Kate Fleming and is expected to last for five days.

This case has rumbled on for a long time (see here, here, here, here and here).

20
Oct
12

Update on ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tracked raptors: hen harrier, Northern England

Last but not least in this mini-series of updates (well, five ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tracked raptors is plenty to be going on with) is the other Langholm hen harrier chick, ‘Barry’.

Barry managed to survive a couple of weeks longer than his sibling, Blae, but by all accounts he’s probably now dead, especially as “most of his previous movements were associated with grouse moors” (see here). His last signal was received on 2nd October and a search for him got underway. Three weeks later – no news.

So, there we have it. Five ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tracked raptors, and then let’s not forget the golden eagle recently found shot and severely injured on a grouse moor in Dumfries & Galloway (here).

Now, what was it Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said recently about raptor persecution? Ah yes, here it is:

“The unlawful killing of any raptors has no place in today’s Scotland and we will continue to work hard to eradicate this criminal activity. We believe that the partnership approach with the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, is bringing the reduction in bird of prey poisoning that can be seen in the statistics in recent years. However we are not complacent and if there is evidence of a switch to other methods of persecution we will take action to bear down on those methods”.

How much more evidence do you need, Paul? What action are you going to take? And no, industrial-scale sweeping doesn’t count!

20
Oct
12

Update on ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tagged raptors: hen harrier, Scottish Borders

Regular readers will know all about the Langholm hen harrier chick, ‘Blae’, who was alive for just a few short weeks. She was found dead ‘about’ 11th September 2012 in the Scottish Borders (see here).

It’s now 20th October and still there’s no word about the location where she was found dead, nor the circumstances of her demise.

It’s coming up to six weeks – just how long does it take to do a post-mortem? We understand that Rugs-R-Us are doing a roaring trade in Langholm High Street…

20
Oct
12

Update on ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tracked raptors: marsh harrier, Galloway

In July 2012, Roy Dennis and friends sat-tagged two marsh harriers at a nest in Moray.

The male, ‘Reed’, took the sensible option and by-passed the UK on his migration south, heading out across the North Sea before navigating towards Spain (view his flight map here).

His sibling, a female called ‘Willow’, chose a different route for her migration. It appears she didn’t even make it out of Scotland (see here). According to the last update on Roy’s Highland Foundation for Wildlife website:

Willow’s last location was close to Whithorn at 10.45pm on 22nd September and there have been no signals since. We are afraid that the most likely reason is that shw [sic] has been killed bearing in mind the serious illegal persecution of harriers. We hope we are wrong and that her transmitter suddenly bursts back into life“.

20
Oct
12

Update on ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tagged raptors: buzzard, Angus Glens

In June 2012, Roy Dennis and friends attached a satellite tag to a young buzzard near Nethybridge. Named ‘Buzz’, he was thought to be the first sat-tagged buzzard in Scotland.

In August he set off on his travels and we were able to follow his movements via Roy’s Raptor Track website (see here).

Buzz didn’t last long. The last entry on the tracking website shows us that Buzz was on the NW side of Brechin in Angus (hmm, sound familiar?) on 19th September 2012. There are no further updates on his movements. Is that because he’s not moving anymore?

20
Oct
12

Update on ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tagged raptors: golden eagle, Grampian

Let’s start with the sat-tagged golden eagle that was found dead, with two broken legs, in a lay-by in Aboyne in May. This is the eagle whose death was not reported until four months after it was found dead (see here). The evidence suggests this bird was caught in a trap on a grouse moor near to Brechin, Angus and was moved, while still alive, in the middle of the night and dumped in a lay-by in Aberdeenshire and left to die.

This incident prompted widespread outrage and the new Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, was apparently inundated with letters of complaint. Most people who wrote have now received a response, probably all similar to this one (see here). The Minister’s response provoked almost as much fury as the actual death of this eagle, and particularly the second paragraph:

I agree that the media reports were a terrible story of the suffering of a young golden eagle. The reports may suggest that the circumstances of this incident were suggestive of an offence however there is no hard evidence and it remains possible that there is an alternative explanation. It is therefore inappropriate for me to comment”.

We have since received unverified information (but from several independent sources) that the police have accepted the veterinary evidence that showed this eagle was indeed caught in a trap. We also understand that this veterinary evidence has been passed to the SGA and that apparently they are not disputing the findings (although they have yet to make a public statement – we wait with interest to hear about the findings of their own ‘inquiry’ (see here).

Why then did the Environment Minister’s response suggest that this eagle’s death was not neccessarily linked to a criminal offence? What possible “alternative explanation” is there to account for the death of this eagle? We’d like to hear it, and we’d also like to see details of the veterinary report. If these details can be released to the SGA then they should be released into the public domain for everyone to see. Send your email request to: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

19
Oct
12

North Yorks gamekeeper arrested over alleged misuse of bird trap

A news article in today’s York Press reports that an un-named gamekeeper has been arrested over the alleged illegal use of cage traps.

North Yorks Police said a live buzzard was found caught inside a trap, which apparently was inside a pheasant pen (?!) in the Pickering area. The buzzard was released unharmed, and a second trap containing a live pigeon was found nearby.

The article can be read here. There’s no mention of who the gamekeeper is, nor the name of the estate/farm/land which was searched under a police warrant. There’s also no information about when these alleged incidents took place. No information is available on the North Yorks police website either.

A statement attributed to investigating police officer PC Stewart Ashton appears in the newspaper article:

Police are receiving a growing amount of evidence that raptors are being routinely shot, trapped and poisoned by gamekeepers throughout the Ryedale area. This is just the latest incident in what appears to be a persistent breaking of the law by a significant number of gamekeepers. This is a hidden crime which usually goes unreported. Sadly, what we are seeing is just the tip of a very big iceberg“.

An earlier blog entry from March 2012 about a poisoned red kite found in this area can be read here. Again the story was published in the York Press but precious few details were released.

In May 2011, a gamekeeper from Ryedale was convicted of shooting a badger. David Stephen Welford pleaded guilty at Scarborough Magistrates Court and was fined £385 and ordered to pay £100 court costs. York Press news article here.

19
Oct
12

Overview of parliamentary wildlife crime report

Regular readers will have been aware of the cross-party parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the extent of willdife crime in the UK (see here, here, here and here for previous blog entries on this topic).

Yesterday, the EAC published what can only be described as a damning report. You can read it here, and the supplementary written evidence here. Apparently, DEFRA will be responding to the report in December.

Much has been written about these findings so rather than repeat what has already been printed we thought it might be useful to provide all the links in one place so you can read it for yourselves.

BBC News article here

RSPB press release here

The Guardian article here

The Independent article here

Mark Avery’s blog here

We’ve looked for press releases from the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, Moorland Association, Countryside Alliance and BASC (all of whom gave evidence to this inquiry) but so far we haven’t found anything.

18
Oct
12

Appeal for info after Marsh harrier poisoned (in May!)

The RSPB has put up a £1,000 reward for information leading to a conviction after a marsh harrier was found poisoned on Goxhill marshes in Humberside. Their reward money is probably quite safe, as the harrier was found poisoned on 27th May 2012!

It’s worth noticing again that it’s the RSPB putting out the news of this latest poisoning incident, and not the police, and yet again it’s many months (almost five) too late. Isn’t it strange that we have to rely upon a charity to inform us about these crimes. Where are the police and where is the sense of urgency??

Full details of this poisoning can be read here




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