07
Jul
15

Satellite-tagging golden eagles in Scotland

ge GUARDIAN pics 2015

There is a series of absolutely stunning photographs in the Guardian (photographer Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) of golden eagles being satellite-tagged in the Scottish Highlands – see here.

They feature the work of some of the top class fieldworkers from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, notably Justin Grant and Dr Ewan Weston. These two, along with a handful of others, are among the best in the world – they have spent years monitoring, ringing and sat-tagging white-tailed and golden eagles (as well as many other species!), all under licence, and it’s thanks to their expertise and dedication that not only have we learned a lot about the dispersal movements of these iconic species, but we’re also now able to see where many of them are being poisoned, trapped, shot, or simply ‘disappearing’ – see here.

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17 Responses to “Satellite-tagging golden eagles in Scotland”


  1. 1 Les Wallace
    July 7, 2015 at 1:37 am

    I doubt Justin Grant, Ewan Watson or any of the other people doing this vital work have ever described themselves as great naturalists or conservationists, but they are. Compare this with the ‘blawhards’ in a certain profession who do little else but claim so when in fact they are ensuring the country is an ecological slum. Big mouths, small brains.

  2. 2 Chris Roberts
    July 7, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Recently I was watching the Ospreys at their nest not too far from Kingraig, When to my absolute pleasure a Golden Eagle came into view, very high up, through my binoculars. People that kill these birds just don’t realize how much pleasure they give to others.

    • 3 Dougie
      July 7, 2015 at 10:19 am

      “People that kill these birds just don’t realize how much pleasure they give to others.”

      Sorry, Chris, you are very wrong. They realise perfectly well. They don’t care !

  3. 4 Reg Oakley
    July 7, 2015 at 9:37 am

    You must understand, if things are not stunning etc, they become iconic :-) Reg >

  4. 5 Anand Prasad
    July 7, 2015 at 10:04 am

    And yet the Guardian also falls into the same often repeated BBC meme that Golden Eagles ‘numbers have increased steadily’.
    I have always thought the Golden Eagle population in the UK is generally accepted as being stable but suppressed in certain areas by persecution. Without trawling all the data, i can see in the first book i looked in (Brown 1976) that there were at least 489 occupied territories in 1964-8 and the article states ‘At the previous count, there were 440 breeding pairs’. Where does this ‘steadily increasing’ meme come from? The SGA?
    Annoyingly there were no comments available in the Guardian article.
    Ref: Birds of Prey of Britain, Leslie Brown, 1976

    • 6 Anand Prasad
      July 7, 2015 at 11:12 am

      The Guardian may have got it from the RSPB web-page on the Golden Eagle survey
      http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/390553-golden-eagle-numbers-to-be-revealed-by-fourth-national-survey
      but as usual with environmental articles journalists misrepresent the facts, in this case short term v long term and ignoring short term variability and statistical significance.
      The RSPB web page states ‘Long term monitoring has shown that although the golden eagle population has remained stable there is a variation in numbers across different areas. The most recent survey in 2003 revealed that the overall number of breeding pairs had increased, since 1992, by 20 to 442’.

      If anything the population has decreased from 489 pairs in 1968 (Golden Eagle Survey 1964-68) and the most recent atlas states specifically ‘The Golden Eagle population has been broadly stable since at least 1982’.
      Surely the most sensible conservation approach is to look at the highest historical breeding estimates which show population potential rather than short term increases and it would be great if the Guardian could pick up on that rather than this ‘increase’ meme which is SGA fodder. It would of course be great if the on-going survey produced another short term increase but we should be looking at regaining the full population potential both in numbers and range for this species.

      Perhaps someone can explain this quote below from the RSPB web-page because it seems to be confusing breeding success with population. The last sentence implies that there was a lower population in the 1960s but, as the 1964-68 survey shows, the breeding territories were higher in the 1960s (489).
      ‘Part of the surviving population in Scotland suffered a sharp decline in breeding success in the 1960s due to organochlorine pesticides which caused mass infertility and eggshell thinning.
      Although numbers of these majestic birds have slowly recovered.’

      I would appreciate it if anyone has the statistics for overall population on one place. I have population estimates in different books and magazines and I am sure i am missing some data.
      I know for example that the 1982 population was estimated at 420 breeding pairs (i.e. same as in 1992).

  5. 7 Patrick Stirling-Aird
    July 7, 2015 at 11:21 am

    This is a 100% A1 series of photographs via “The Guardian.” Congratulations to Ewan and Justin. The photographs plus captions usefully flag up this year’s national golden eagle survey, the fourth such although in each intervening year between the national surveys a large proportion of the golden eagle population has been and will continue to be checked anyway.

    Although I am a naturally unreconstructed pessimist (not least where habitat and wildlife conservation is concerned) let’s look on the optimistic side this time. The golden eagle can and should be a flagship emblem for species conservation. If the golden eagle can be promoted in this way but looking to the moorland aspect alone, let’s use it as an example to press for better times also for the hen harrier, the peregrine and (where it adjoins the uplands) the goshawk. That implies encouraging those involved in land management who do leave these species alone but coming down much harder on those who do not. It implies also STRONGER SUPPORT FROM CENTRAL GOVERNMENT AND THE STATUTORY AGENCIES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT.

  6. July 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Putting research or persecution abatement aside, do you think that harnessing a satellite transmitter to an eagle’s back is good for the bird in the long term?

    • 9 Marian
      July 7, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Or any bird.
      I’ve never heard anyone ask this before, Dave, but I have often wondered myself.
      It must be good to collect data, but I can’t see it being anything other than an encumbrance to the bird.
      Does that not matter?

  7. July 7, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Reblogged this on wingsandwildhearts and commented:
    Diligence and effort pays off to be able to tag and track Golden Eagles for their protection.

  8. 11 Dave Dick
    July 7, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Not arguing with the main points of those above….here in South Scotland with its pitiful few pairs of golden eagles in a large empty landscape I give short shrift to anyone suggesting eagles are “doing well”…but to take the Leslie Brown 1960s figures as anything other than a guesstimate would be unwise and unsupportable. The 1982 RSPB/NCC Golden Eagle survey was the first ever serious attempt at a full survey, using realistic levels of manpower and organisation. That’s your baseline here. All studies since, have shown that the UK population total may be stable but that number is virtually meaningless in terms of trends, masking the very welcome increases where killing by “sheep interests” has declined to very low levels [the islands and NW] and the increasing levels of criminal persecution on the grouse moors of Central, East and Southern Scotland which have wiped out known “traditional” home ranges over the last few decades.

  9. 13 tarring brush
    July 7, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    90% of these eagles having come from keepered ground, not just keepered ground but land also managed with a grouse interest. Surely not I hear you say? This would be the same ground where mountain hares are ‘massacred’ according to this fine web page, so what are there eagles feeding on!? 90% of there ‘so called raptor deserts with nothing but grouse’ with active eyries have for decades been involved with the raptor study groups, have been involved with radio tagging, sending eagle chicks to Ireland, predator – prey study and a lot of good ‘conservation’. Some eyries having had cameras placed on them as study and heaven forbid the keeper had changed the DVD and collated info along side the raptor study groups. Now this does seen far fetched you say as gamekeepers are all ‘evil buggers out to kill everything’. Well quite the contrary the game industry has sent massive reform in the last 50 or so years, but seemingly not good enough for the fine website that is – raptor persecution. Will it ever be? All keepers must be wildlife criminals in the same way all religious ministers preachers etc abuse children. The sensationalist tarring brush comments we have all come accustomed to are doing nothing but alienating the folk of the countryside, the people who actually live in the uplands the keepers, shepherds and rangers all who have a intimate, passionate and informed understanding of our flora and fauna. An understanding many readers here could only dream of! But keep up the good work, raptor mascots in butts and tabloid style statements are making your view look increasingly daft and unfounded. So keep up the good work.

    Yours sincerely a soon to be tarred illiterate wildlife criminal and monstrous bird hater.

    • 14 Bimbliing
      July 7, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      Great. Good to see gamies involved in raptor work where they can be.

      Now all that remains is to get your mates to stay within the law and we’ll see lots more eagles, harriers, peregrines, goshawks, red kites.

      I look forward to it.

  10. 15 Een Historicus
    July 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Stigmatising is of course never OK. About expertise: I think, there are lot´s of guys who know about nature and it´s to me not important if they are the milkman from the village, hunters or professor at a university, as long as they RESPECT fauna and flora, without misusing it and only think of business in stead of the planet. I just want to say, I admire people who ring or satellite-tag nestlings, because it could be a pretty depressing job: “How long will this bird live, plus how and where is he/ she going to die?”

  11. 16 John Miles
    July 8, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Well it always comes down to the gamekeeper who was actually a birder! What was the worst part of his job? Trying to respond to the neighbouring keepers why he had both Goshawk and Buzzard breeding on his beat. He was never sacked by his boss because he could always produce the goods. So this story ask the question ‘Why can’t you produced the goods without killing the BOPs’? And if its your boss who wants rid of these birds let us hear from you via the back door. Then may be we can all enjoy reading this blog with a name change to ‘What a wonderful world we live in’!

  12. 17 Stewart Love
    July 8, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Have had some doubts about Satellite Transmitters to. Wondered if the harness could catch on tree branches and leave a bird hanging from them, and how long will a harness be on a bird until it rots away and falls off, will the harness fall off at once or come of a bit at a time, maybe some parts hanging loose but still being attached to the bird. Has any research been done into this and/or is the material of the harness been tested so that it only lasts a certain time.


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