Archive for April, 2015


Traditional sporting estates ‘outdated & ludicrous’

Dick Balharry pic from the timesTraditional sporting estates embody the selfish greed of a Victorian era, outdated and ludicrous“, said leading conservationist Dick Balharry during his recent acceptance speech for the RSG’s Geddes Medal.


There’s a good write up on this on Rob Edwards’ website here.


Henry’s Tour: Day 17

IMG_4813 (2) - Copy

Henry’s been in the NW of England where he went to visit young Findlay Wilde, a seasoned Hen Harrier campaigner even though he’s only just turned 13.

Read about the trip on Fin’s excellent blog here



White-tailed eagle found poisoned on nest

WTEpoisoned Connemara April 2015

Press release from Golden Eagle Trust:

A White-tailed Eagle has been found dead in its nest at Connemara in south-west Ireland. The six year old female eagle was discovered on 1st April by Conservation Ranger Dermot Breen and recovered by a team from the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 2nd April. Subsequent post-mortem at the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Athlone and toxicology analysis at the State Laboratory, Celbridge revealed the bird had been poisoned.

The female White-tailed Eagle was released in Killarney National Park in 2009 as part of a reintroduction programme for the species managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service. The female eagle settled in the Roundstone area of Connemara in 2012 where she paired up with a male. In 2014 the pair laid eggs at a nest in a remote site but the eggs failed to hatch chicks successfully. Both birds were on the point of nesting again this year at the same nest when tragedy struck. Indeed the post-mortem found the female to contain two developing eggs, so this female was within a few days of laying eggs.

The loss of this breeding female comes as a serious blow to the reintroduction project. White-tailed Eagles reach maturity and begin breeding at about 5 years of age. Seven pairs laid eggs in nests in the wild in 2014, with one nest near Mountshannon, Co. Clare, successfully fledging chicks in 2013 and 2014. It was hoped that the Connemara pair would be one of a number of successful nests in Ireland in 2015. The loss of a breeding adult has been found to lead to the desertion of breeding sites with potentially serious implications for the long-term viability of the reintroduced population.

This is the 13th confirmed poisoning of a White-tailed Eagle in Ireland since the reintroduction project began in 2007. The use of poisons to control foxes and crows has been banned since 2010 but the illegal use of such substances remains a huge threat to wildlife including birds of prey which consume carrion. Over the five years of the release phase of the project 100 young eagles were collected from nests in Norway and released in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. Thirty one of the released eagles have since been recovered dead with illegal poisoning by far and away the greatest threat to the recovery of this once native eagle to Ireland. Despite these losses the number of pairs in the wild rose to 14 in 2014 with most birds now mature enough to breed.

This is a very disheartening incident as the killing of this breeding female has effectively put an end to any breeding attempt of this incredible species in West Galway for at least another five years” said NPWS Conservation ranger Dermot Breen. “To see the female lying dead on her nest was a very sad and sickening sight especially with the knowledge that she would have been due to lay two eggs. Historically up to 14 pairs were known to have bred in the Connemara region up 1838. Connemara lost its White-tailed Eagles shortly after this with the introduction of poison. It’s deeply frustrating to see history repeating itself. I’ve encountered no negative feedback from any local farmers with regard to the presence of the eagles over the last three years. Many landowners would ask how the eagles were doing and would tell me if they had been lucky enough to see them in the locality. The loss of this female is also a great loss to tourism in the area. Connemara is world renowned for being an area of unspoilt beauty. Unfortunately this illegal and irresponsible action is likely to tarnish Connemara’s green image, an area that relies heavily on tourism”.

Although all losses impact the project, the loss of this female is very difficult to take”, said Dr Allan Mee, Project Manager with the Golden Eagle Trust. “She and her mate had been resident in Connemara for the last four years and it was only a matter of time before they produced chicks. It is likely the nest site they chose had been used by White-tailed Eagles in historical times, so losing this pair is devastating. Although the male may remain on his territory for some time, to date we have found that the loss of a breeding adult results in birds deserting the area and remaining some years before they find a mate again. The female’s mate is one of our satellite tagged eagles (male Star) who has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland several times before settling in Connemara. It’s tragic to see him lose his mate just on the point of nesting”.

Over the years we have endured too many losses to illegal and indiscriminate poisoning. We have tried to address this by raising awareness both of the law and the threat posed by poisons to wildlife and farm dogs. While we believe our awareness efforts have been productive it is clear that some individuals are still resorting to using poisons on meat baits such as dead livestock. While their target may be foxes and crows we know to our cost the devastation this causes to our rare and protected birds of prey. We have to continue to get the word out there that this practice is no longer acceptable. We hope that all farmers and farming organisations will rightly condemn this practice which has no place in today’s supposedly more enlightened environment”.



Another year, another interesting SGA donor

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association’s quarterly rag (Spring 2015) arrived on the doormat a couple of weeks ago. We always enjoy reading it to find out what these doyens of the wildlife-crime-fighting world have been up to in their crusade against the illegal persecution of raptors.

As in previous editions, there’s a list of generous donors. One caught our eye:

SGA donation Edradynate 2015 - Copy

Surely not the same Edradynate that we blogged about last year when another Mr Campbell (MDCC Campbell that time) donated a hefty sum (see here)?

How interesting.


Henry’s Tour: Day 16

Thurs 16 April Copy

Henry’s re-enacting a scene at Dersingham Bog, a National Nature Reserve situated on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.

On the evening of 24 October 2007, two hen harriers were allegedly shot at this site, according to an eye-witness account. The police were informed and they visited the site the following morning, after seeking access permission from the estate(!). No bodies were found. The police interviewed Prince Harry, one of his mates, and a Sandringham gamekeeper, who were known to be shooting ducks on the estate that evening, but they said they knew nothing about the incident. The CPS couldn’t progress the case based on such limited evidence (see here).

Sandringham Estate was reported to have undertaken its own investigation and, according to the Telegraph, declared ‘that there was probably no such shooting and that the supposed eye witnesses were, at best, mistaken over their claims’. Friends of the royal prince also claimed that it had all been a set-up (see here).

It’s all very familiar, isn’t it?

Eight years on, things have not improved for hen harriers. There was an estimated 20 pairs of breeding hen harriers in England in 2007; last year there were just four, and all needed around-the-clock protection. Scientists have estimated that more than 300 pairs could breed in England if they weren’t being shot, trapped, stamped on or poisoned.

It’s often inaccurately reported that hen harriers are doing okay in Scotland. In relation to the dire situation in England, they are. However, the story in some areas of Scotland is identical to the story in England; hen harriers are being systematically killed on many moors that are managed for driven grouse shooting (see here).

And just as in England, prosecutions for killing hen harriers in Scotland are virtually unheard of.

Whatever happened to the case we blogged about 15 months ago (see here)? It related to the illegal killing of a hen harrier in Aberdeenshire in June 2013 (almost two years ago now!) – a 58-year-old man had been reported by Police Scotland to the Procurator Fiscal in January 2014. It’s all been strangely (or perhaps un-strangely) quiet since then….


Man charged with attempting to kill sparrowhawk

SparrowhawkA man has been charged with attempting to kill a sparrowhawk after he was allegedly seen throwing stones at the bird in Ravenscraig Park, Kirkaldy.

Full story in Fife Today here

Great to see a swift response from Police Scotland and also good to see media coverage. Excellent.

Now, how about some press coverage from Police Scotland regarding the two ‘live, on-going’ poisoning cases that took place at least seven months ago? So far, the police have refused to release details on (a) the crime locations; (b) the victims of the poisonings; (c) the poisons used; and (d) whether they’ve carried out a search (we’re told by a local that at least one of these crimes has not, so far, resulted in a search, seven months on). These two ‘live, on-going’ cases were listed in the Government’s recent raptor crime map data but specific details were not provided.

It’s all well and good to release information about ‘random’ individual persecution incidents, such as the alleged attempt to kill a sparrowhawk in a local park, but what about reporting on the wildlife crimes that regularly take place on some game-shooting estates and arguably are the biggest threat to local populations of some raptor species? Why is information about these crimes still being deliberately withheld, seven months after the offences were committed?

Sparrowhawk photo: photographer unknown.


Henry’s Tour: Day 15

Weds 15 April  Copy

Abandon hope all ye Hen Harriers who enter here.

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