Archive for May, 2015


Gas-gun bird scarers deployed on Leadhills Estate grouse moor

These photographs were taken a couple of days ago on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in South Lanarkshire. They show three propane gas guns set out on the grouse moor (one inside a grouse butt).

These gas guns are routinely used for bird scaring on agricultural fields – they are set up to produce a periodic booming noise to scare pigeons, geese etc away from crops. The audible bang can reach volumes in excess of 150 decibels.

Can’t imagine why they’d be deployed on a driven grouse moor during the critical stages of the hen harrier’s breeding season, can you?

Bird scarer 1 - Copy

bird scarer 2a

bird scarer 3 - Copy


Henry’s tour day 33: occupy the butts

Fri 29 May Copy

No ifs no butts


Illegal tampering with traps – results of BASC Scotland ‘study’ shows not widespread

297__333x222_cage-trapEarlier this month we read a fascinating article published in Fife Today about the alleged illegal tampering of traps (see here).

Landowner Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn (Rankielour Estate) was talking about how he’d installed CCTV cameras ‘following a spate of incidents’ where ‘vicious’ crows had been released from traps to ‘wreak damage in the countryside’ (yep, you get the idea – he has links with GCT so what do you expect?). The article also suggested that Police Scotland  ‘is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with’.

Is that right? Well, how about we look at the evidence.

Regular blog readers may recall former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse telling the RACCE Committee in November 2013 that there wasn’t any evidence to support or refute claims from the game-shooting industry of widespread trap interference/damage, but that a study (funded by Scottish Government – i.e. tax payers) was about to begin to try and assess those claims (see here).

That year-long study began in April 2014 and finished at the end of March 2015. BASC (Scotland) issued a press release in February 2014 to announce the start of the study, and it’s really worth a read (see here) – especially the comments attributed to Mike Holliday (BASC Scotland), Tim (Kim) Baynes (Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group) and Alex Hogg (SGA), who all claimed that trap interference was widespread (ooh, is that the old victim card being played once more?). As well as BASC, the study was reportedly widely supported by SLE, SGA, GWCT (Scotland), Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Assoc for Country Sports and NFU Scotland. Pretty good coverage then.

So how did the study go? What were the findings? An FoI has revealed all. See here:

FoI April 2015_ Illegal interference with traps and snares BASC – Copy

It turns out that this alleged problem isn’t widespread after all.

Let’s just ignore the fact that none of the data were independently verified, and assume that the gamekeepers who submitted the data were honest (because gamekeepers never lie, right?). In which case, there were 19 alleged trap interference/damage incidents throughout the year-long ‘study’. BASC has actually submitted 25 alleged incidents, but 6 of these can be immediately discounted because they allegedly took place before the study had begun and one of them didn’t even involve alleged disturbance or vandalism: “Snares being used with tag number belonging to another person”.

Of the 19 which apparently took place during the official study period, only 11 were reported to the police. Interesting then, that the article in Fife Today states ‘Police Scotland is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with‘. On what evidence is Police Scotland making this claim?

If you look closely at the details of the 19 alleged incidents, you’ll notice that over one third of them took place on a single estate in Crieff. If those alleged incidents did actually take place, it suggests that there is a localised problem in that particular area; the claim of the problem being ‘widespread’ simply isn’t supported by these figures.

And what about Fife, home to Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn, who claimed in Fife Today that there had been ‘a spate of incidents’? According to the BASC data, there were only two reported incidents in Fife during this year-long study. Do two incidents (one of which didn’t even involve the release of ‘vicious’ crows from a trap) constitute ‘a spate of incidents’ or is this indicative of wildly exaggerated claims?

According to the FoI, BASC Scotland will be analysing the data and submitting a report to the Scottish Government. We look forward to reading it, especially to find out how the data were independently verified, how they assessed whether a trap/snare had been deliberately interfered with as opposed to accidentally damaged (e.g. see here) and how they justify the claim that trap interference is ‘widespread’.


Henry’s tour day 32: back in the badlands

Weds 27th May Copy

Henry’s gone north again, back to the badlands of North Yorkshire.

“Welcome to Richmondshire” (where, if you’ve got talons and a hooked beak, you can expect your body to be peppered with shotgun pellets, just like this sign).


Henry’s tour: day 31

Tues 26 May Copy

Henry spent last week in Bowland, Lancashire, dodging bullets.

He made it out alive, which is more than can be said for a lot of his friends (see herehere, here, here,here).

He spent the Bank Holiday weekend relaxing in Cley, Norfolk, gathering his thoughts and bracing himself for another trip north in search of one of those elusive females.


Hen harrier charity t-shirt

The very talented @YoloBirder has created a witty t-shirt design, available to order until 10pm on 31st May 2015. All profits will go the RSPB’s Skydancer Project.

Order one now! SEE HERE

hen diagram yolobirder


Botham off-target



There’s an amusing article in today’s Mail on Sunday from Ian Botham, frontman of the increasingly-ludicrous You Forgot the Birds ‘campaign’, funded by the grouse-shooting industry.

It follows on from last week’s attempt by YFTB to discredit the RSPB (see here). This time, Botham is playing the victim card and is threatening legal action because he thinks that the RSPB has accused him of killing birds of prey (see here).

Playing the victim card is nothing new from the game-shooting industry – we’ve seen it played over and again, especially when video evidence, collected by the RSPB’s Investigations teams, has been used to successfully convict criminal gamekeepers of wildlife crimes. It’s all just so unfair.

Botham also claims that the RSPB is ‘constantly slurring gamekeepers as criminals’. Poor, slurred gamekeepers. Why ever would anyone think their industry is a hot bed of criminal activity against protected wildlife? Perhaps this has something to do with it:

In January 2012, the RSPB reported that since 1990, over 100 gamekeepers had been convicted of raptor persecution crimes (here).

And here’s a list of 29 gamekeepers convicted of wildlife crimes in the last 5 years alone, many of whom were convicted thanks to the work of the RSPB:

Feb 2011: Gamekeeper Connor Patterson convicted of causing animal fights between dogs, foxes and badgers.

May 2011: Gamekeeper Ivan Mark Crane convicted of using an illegal trap.

May 2011: Gamekeeper Ivan Peter Crane convicted of using an illegal trap.

May 2011: Gamekeeper Dean Barr convicted of being in possession of a banned poison.

May 2011: Gamekeeper James Rolfe convicted of being in possession of a dead red kite.

June 2011: Gamekeeper Glenn Brown convicted of using an illegal trap.

October 2011: Gamekeeper Craig Barrie convicted of illegal possession & control of a wild bird

Dec 2011: Gamekeeper Christopher John Carter convicted of causing a fight between two dogs and a fox.

Dec 2011: Gamekeeper Luke James Byrne convicted of causing three animal fights and possession of three dead wild birds (heron, cormorant, buzzard).

Jan 2012: Gamekeeper David Whitefield convicted of poisoning 4 buzzards.

Jan 2012: Gamekeeper Cyril McLachlan convicted of possessing a banned poison.

April 2012: Gamekeeper Robert Christie convicted of illegal use of a trap.

June 2012: Gamekeeper Jonathan Smith Graham convicted of illegal use of a trap.

Sept 2012: Gamekeeper Tom McKellar convicted of possessing a banned poison.

Nov 2012: Gamekeeper Bill Scobie convicted of possessing and using a banned poison.

Jan 2013: Gamekeeper Robert Hebblewhite convicted of poisoning buzzards.

Feb 2013: Gamekeeper Shaun Allanson convicted of illegal use of a trap.

Feb 2013: Gamekeeper (un-named) cautioned for illegal use of a trap.

May 2013: Gamekeeper Brian Petrie convicted for trapping offences.

June 2013: Gamekeeper Peter Bell convicted for poisoning a buzzard.

July 2013: Gamekeeper Colin Burne convicted for trapping then battering to death 2 buzzards.

Sept 2013: Gamekeeper Andrew Knights convicted for storing banned poisons.

Dec 2013: Gamekeeper Wayne Priday convicted for setting an illegal trap.

Feb 2014 Gamekeeper Ryan Waite convicted for setting an illegal trap.

May 2014 Gamekeeper Derek Sanderson convicted for storing five banned poisons.

July 2014 Gamekeeper Mark Stevens convicted for setting illegal traps.

October 2014 Gamekeeper Allen Lambert convicted for poisoning 11 raptors, illegal storage and use of pesticides & possession of a poisoner’s kit.

December 2014 Gamekeeper George Mutch convicted for illegal use of traps, illegal killing of a goshawk, illegal taking of a goshawk, illegal taking of a buzzard.

May 2015 Gamekeeper James O’Reilly convicted for illegal use of leg-hold traps and illegal use of snares.

It’s not that they’re all at it; on the contrary, we personally know some fantastic gamekeepers who contribute a massive amount to wildlife conservation. The problem is, they are few and far between and many within the gamekeeping industry are most definitely at it. You don’t get population-level effects on a species’ distribution and abundance (think hen harriers, golden eagles, peregrines, red kites) if ‘only a few rogues’ are at it.

In a lot of ways, Botham’s attack on the RSPB is a soft target. They’re high profile and subject to strict conditions laid down by the Charity Commission – there’s only so much they can say and do (although some of us think that they could do more than they already are, even within those constraints). However, it’s not the RSPB that Botham & his grouse-shooting industry mates should be worried about. It’s not just the RSPB who are aware of what is going on. He (and the industry he is representing) should perhaps be more concerned about the growing rise in ordinary members of the public who are finding out the truth about the game-shooting industry. We know what’s going on and we’re not hampered by Royal Charters or other bureaucratic constraints. And we’re getting louder and stronger by the day. It’d be foolish to underestimate us.

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