Archive for April, 2015



16
Apr
15

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.

16
Apr
15

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….

15
Apr
15

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.

15
Apr
15

Henry’s Tour: Day 15

Weds 15 April  Copy

Abandon hope all ye Hen Harriers who enter here.

14
Apr
15

Henry’s Tour: Day 14

Tues 14 April Copy

Henry’s hoping Prince Harry is still in Australia.

14
Apr
15

Ten conservation groups call for 3-year ban on grouse moor mountain hare slaughter

Ten conservation groups in Scotland have called on SNH to implement an immediate three-year ban on the mass slaughter of mountain hares that has been taking place in Scotland.

The indiscriminate and unregulated mass killing of mountain hares has been taking place on grouse moors for many years. We’ve blogged about it a lot (see here for previous posts) and many others have also been campaigning against this obscene bloodbath.

Mountain hares are (supposedly) protected under European legislation and SNH, as the Government’s statutory conservation agency, has a legal duty to ensure the population has a favourable conservation status. The problem is, nobody really knows how many hares there are (previous surveys have only resulted in crude and pretty meaningless results). More importantly, nobody knows how this persistent mass culling is affecting the status of the overall hare population.

The latest call for an immediate ban comes hot on the heels of SNH’s recent call for grouse moor managers to exercise ‘voluntary restraint’ with their culls – a system that’ll never work because it relies entirely on the altruism of grouse moor managers (see here).

The ten groups calling for the immediate three-year ban include National Trust for Scotland, John Muir Trust, RSPB Scotland, RSZZ, Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Raptor Study Group, The Cairngorms Campaign, the Mammal Society and the Badenoch & Strathspey Conservation Group. There are some quite hefty credentials there and SNH would be wise to take heed. You get the feeling that if they don’t, they might just find themselves facing (another) complaint to the EU.

Naturally, representatives from the grouse-shooting industry have reacted strongly against the call for a ban. According to the SGA, calling for a ban is “environmentally irresponsible” and “it will be bad for birds and bad for biodiversity”.

Tim (Kim) Baynes from Scottish Land and Estates claims the ban would be “ill-informed” and “heavy-handed”.

These are unsurprising responses and just provide further evidence that SNH’s ‘voluntary restraint’ plea will go unheeded because these grouse moor landowners and their gamekeepers don’t think there’s anything wrong with the current level of hare culling.

Calling for an immediate ban is just the first step. Several of the ten organisations calling for the ban will next call for a meeting with SNH and Scottish Government officials to discuss the issue further and, presumably, keep the pressure on SNH to stop procrastinating and actually do something meaningful to bring the carnage to a halt.

BBC News article here

RSPB Scotland press release here

Here’s what happens to mountain hares on many grouse moors in Scotland, including inside the Cairngorms National Park:

hares-glenshee-feb-2014-11 - Copy

mh4 - Copy

mountain-hare-cull-angus-glens-large - Copy

13
Apr
15

Henry’s Tour: Day 13

Mon 13 April Copy

Today Henry visited a National Nature Reserve.

It’s part of a very well-known estate.

This site should be perfect for Hen Harriers.

But it isn’t.

Find out why later this week….

10
Apr
15

Chough-ing hell

Chough control - CopyAn article appeared in the Scotsman the other day (see here) written by someone called Katrina Candy, Head of PR at GWCT (Scotland).

It was all about the apparent benefits of corvid ‘control’ (the words ‘trapping’ and ‘killing’ aren’t great words to use when your job is Head of Public Relations for an organisation that promotes game-shooting as a wildlife-friendly pastime).

It would seem that Ms Candy hasn’t read the latest research on the impact of corvids on other bird populations – see here for a good overview.

Her article was further discredited by the choice of illustration – none other than a chough, a highly protected species listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act. Let’s hope the error was made by a picture editor at the Scotsman and not by the Head of PR for GWCT (Scotland).

The article also mentioned a current ‘study’ being undertaken by GWCT and SASA, ‘to investigate how corvid traps are used under the current General Licence system in Scotland’. This ‘study’ involves asking trap-users (mostly gamekeepers) to keep records of what they’ve caught. These records (which of course are going to be unbiased and 100% truthful) will be analysed against data collected from trail cameras set at crow traps for ‘short periods of time’.

The proposed use of the trail cameras has apparently caused “some concerns” amongst members of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. GWCT and SASA have had to reassure participants that the cameras will only be set with the trap-user’s permission and the footage will not be used “for policing trap-users” (see here).

Can’t imagine what they’re worried about.

It’ll be interesting to see the results.

10
Apr
15

Henry’s Tour: Day 12

Fri 9th April - Copy

Henry orders a Carbofuran-free mippit omelette with a side order of voles. He’s feeding up because he’s on his way to the badlands and doesn’t know when he’ll next find a safe meal.

After dinner his minders are taking him to the Pictures to see this new release from the Haltwhistle Film Project.

09
Apr
15

Muirkirk hen harrier: shot and killed at nest site

hh LAURIE CAMPBELLLast June we blogged about the death of an adult female hen harrier near Muirkirk, south west Scotland. Her corpse had been found in May 2014 on moorland close to a nest containing two young hen harrier chicks (see here). At the time, Police Scotland refused to reveal the cause of death. A statement from Detective Inspector Graham Duncan of Kilmarnock CID went as follows:

Whilst at this time we cannot divulge how the bird was killed, we do believe it was the result of a criminal act and we need to establish why this has happened“.

Quite an astonishing statement if you’re aware of the 30+ years of hen harrier persecution in this supposed Hen Harrier Special Protection Area (e.g. see here).

We didn’t hear anything else from Police Scotland about this ‘investigation’.

Eight months later in February 2015 we blogged about this case again (see here) when SASA published a report on persecution cases in 2014. Here’s what the report said about this particular crime:

Cause of death withheld due to specialist knowledge“.

Now 11 months after the bird was killed, we finally find out the cause of death. She’d been shot. We only know this because the information was released as part of the Government’s raptor persecution crime maps, published 10 days ago (see here).

Wonder if/when SNH is going to place a General Licence restriction order on this moorland? Although SNH’s track record for implementing restrictions hasn’t been very impressive to date (e.g. see here).

HH shooting Ayrshire May 2014 highlight - Copy




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