Archive for September, 2016

30
Sep
16

Young peregrine shot in Devon

Devon & Cornwall Police are appealing for information after a peregrine was found shot in Ipplepen, south Devon, in August.

The young bird (hatched this year from a coastal site in Devon) was found with an injured wing on 23 August 2016. An x-ray revealed an air rifle pellet had caused fractures and the bird is currently in the care of a wildlife rehabilitator. Whether it recovers sufficiently to be released back to the wild remains to be seen.

devon-perg-1

devon-perg-2

This incident is now subject to a police investigation and Devon and Cornwall’s Police Wildlife Crime Officer Josh Marshall is appealing to anyone who can help to contact them with information that will assist in locating the offenders.

He said: ‘These types of investigation are incredibly hard to investigate as very often there are no witnesses or lines of enquiry. It is clear that someone in the local community will hold the key to what has taken place.

This Peregrine Falcon will have been shot by someone having a clear motive to destroy this rare bird of prey. The community in this area need to be aware of this incident and every effort should be made to bring the offender to justice.

Within the community of Ipplepen are extremely privileged to have such magnificent birds on doorstep. I am calling on those residents to stand up, come forward and report to me any concerns or suspicions they have around those that may be responsible for such an act.

The RSPB is offering a reward of £1000 for information leading to a conviction.

Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the south west said: “We know that Devon has long been a bird of prey persecution black spot and the area where these birds were found has seen five such incidents over the past 25 years alone. We need to stop this.

Whatever drives a person to do this, it’s important to understand that killing birds of prey is not only barbaric, it is also against the law. This makes the perpetrators, however they seek to justify their behaviour, no more than common criminals and we’d expect them to be treated as such.

The incident at Ipplepen follows a long history of persecution within the local area. Nowhere else in Devon do birds of prey suffer as they do in the Teignbridge area”.

Confirmed poisoning incidents within the Teignbridge area over the last 25 years

1992 Two Peregrine Falcons located dead along with poisoned bait

2000 Peregrine Falcon located dead, poisoned

2005 Peregrine Falcon and poisoned bait found

2005 Live pigeon covered in poison left as bait for Peregrine Falcons

2011 Peregrine Falcon – poisoned

If you have any information that can help the police with their investigations of this crime, please contact 101@dc.police.uk or call 101, quoting reference CR/069253/16

Information can also be passed on anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

devon-perg-3

29
Sep
16

‘Missing’ hen harrier Brian: official responses from Environment Secretary & Cairngorms National Park Authority

Two days after the news that young satellite-tagged hen harrier Brian has gone ‘missing’ in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), we now have official responses from Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and from the CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Grant Moir.

brian-july16_jennyweston

Well done to journalist Christopher Foote (STV news) for publicising this incident (here) and for managing to get these official responses.

Let’s start with the response from the Environment Cabinet Secretary:

I take this issue very seriously and it shows the need to establish whether the disappearance of these birds is indicative of criminal activity. 

It is clearly suspicious, but we must ensure that a robust statistical analysis of all the data from over 200 tagged birds supports any conclusion. 

I will consider what action to take in the light of the full evidence, and I am not ruling out any options.”

Well, at least she didn’t trot out the usual Ministerial line that we’ve heard repeatedly from successive Environment Ministers over a period of several years (e.g. “I’m very disappointed” and “I will not hesitate to bring in further measures if they are deemed necessary“). And at least she has acknowledged this incident, which is better than remaining silent about it. But other than that, this is just yet another holding statement.

We’re partly sympathetic to her position. She has recently instructed a review of raptor satellite tag data (which we fully support) but that review is not expected to be finished until March 2017. That six month delay is not her fault, and nor is it the fault of the review’s authors. They need to conduct a thorough interrogation and analysis of the data and their methods will need to stand up to potential legal scrutiny depending on the Secretary’s subsequent decision to act. We’re well aware (as Roseanna will be) that the well-financed grouse shooting industry will take whatever legal action it can to prevent any Governmental challenge to its current practices, so this review does have to be robust and that will, inevitably, take time. On that basis, a holding statement at this stage is probably the best we could expect.

However, we’re also partly unsympathetic to Roseanna’s position. As we’ve said before, many, many, times, the evidence of criminal activity on grouse moors is already overwhelming and has been available for several decades. It has built and built and built. We don’t need to wait for yet another study to reach the same conclusion. It’s hugely frustrating that we have to put up with the constant stalling tactics from the Government before any action is taken. Again, Roseanna Cunningham isn’t entirely responsible for the stalling – every other Environment Minister has played their part in that, and some more than others – but eventually, a point is reached where the stalling and inaction is no longer tolerable.

Let’s now look at the statement from Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority:

We are working with Police Scotland, SNH and Scottish Government to look at next steps around wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park.”

Really, Grant? 48 hours of thinking time and that’s the best you can offer? You needn’t have bothered. No, really, you needn’t have bothered.

Photograph of hen harrier Brian by Jenny Weston

28
Sep
16

Heads up for hen harriers? How about heads in the sand?

Last week we were treated to yet another ‘partnership-working’ charade, this time under the guise of PAW Scotland’s ‘Heads up for Hen Harriers’ project.

This project was established in 2013. It aims to ‘better understand the threats facing Scotland’s hen harriers –and ultimately promote recovery of the species – by working in partnership with land managers‘ (see here). The idea is that nobody knows why hen harrier nests are failing in certain areas (yes, really!) but by putting cameras on nests we might learn more about these ‘mystery issues’.

The whole project has been a farce right from the start (we blogged about it here), although, to be fair, it does seem that asking the public for hen harrier sightings has been fruitful in one or two cases. But the part of the project that relies on nest camera evidence is just absurd. It’s going to lead to a huge sampling bias because these cameras are only placed at nest sites with the landowner’s permission. Nobody in their right mind is going to illegally persecute those nesting hen harriers or their chicks with a camera pointing right at them, thus, any subsequent nesting failures documented by the project will be the result of natural causes, not illegal ones, allowing the grouse moor owners to proclaim that illegal persecution isn’t a problem.

Last year we criticised the project (here) because nest cameras were not deployed on any intensively driven grouse moors. Tim (Kim) Baynes, a spokesman for Scottish Land & Estates, disingenuously used those 2015 results (from non-driven grouse moors) to claim that nest failures ‘on grouse moors’ that year were due to the weather and fox predation. We argued that it was pointless, propaganda-fuelling bollocks to place cameras on nest sites in areas where persecution isn’t an issue (walked-up grouse moors) and then use those results to claim that persecution isn’t an issue on driven grouse moors.

Much the same has happened this year. In last week’s media releases (SNH press release here; Landward programme here [available for 27 days]; BBC news here [which is basically a shortened version of the Landward programme]), we were told that there was an increase in project uptake from estates this year (five estates in 2015, 13 this year) and this was seen as huge progress. However, only three estates had successful nests and none of those estates were intensively managed driven grouse moors. Well, one of them was Langholm and as they’re still not shooting grouse there and still not illegally killing hen harriers there, it can hardly be seen to be representative of driven grouse moors.

What was new this year was that some of those 13 signed-up estates ARE intensively managed driven grouse moors – notably some in the Angus Glens and further north in Aberdeenshire. But none of them had breeding hen harriers this year so they didn’t really actively ‘take part’ in the project, as is being claimed. It’s all very well signing up for the project and saying you’re part of it and how much you love hen harriers and want to understand what the issues are; it’s a lot like the grouse moor owners in northern England who claim to have signed up to DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Inaction Plan – it sounds great but has resulted in exactly zero breeding hen harriers on any driven grouse moors in England this year. It’s an easy PR stunt for these estates to pull but when hen harriers haven’t bred in these areas for ten years (Angus Glens – see here) or the hen harrier population has suffered a catastrophic population decline thanks to illegal persecution (Aberdeenshire  -see here), and when you’re still deploying gas guns, banger ropes, and inflatable screeching scarecrows at the critical breeding time for hen harriers, it’s probably a safe bet that you’re not going to have breeding hen harriers this year but hey, you can still say you’re engaged in ‘partnership-working’ and thus score some brownie points.

Of the nests that were successful this year, much has been made of the weather and of fox predation. Again, this is all just another opportunity to hide the known impact of illegal persecution. Yes, weather will affect productivity (as it can for most species) and yes, natural predation will occur (as it does in any ecosystem), but so what? We all know these natural causes of nest failure will occur in places, but we also know that illegal persecution has been identified as the main threat to hen harriers on driven grouse moors across the UK.

These estates, and SNH, need to stop pretending otherwise.

UPDATE 3 October 2016: Heads up for Hen Harriers: the ‘partnership-working’ sham (here)

27
Sep
16

Too embarrassing for words

Following this morning’s news that satellite-tagged hen harrier Brian has ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging (see here), we’ve been waiting to see what the Environment Secretary and the Cairngorms National Park Authority had to say about it, and more importantly, what they intended to do about it.

This won’t take long……they’ve said absolutely nothing at all.

All as silent as Brian’s satellite tag.

Nothing on the CNPA news website, nothing on their twitter feed, nothing on the PAW Scotland website, and nothing on the Environment Secretary’s twitter feed.

Sorry Brian, you’re just too embarrassing for words.

brian-july16_jennyweston

UPDATE 29 September 2016: Official response from Environment Secretary and CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority (here)

27
Sep
16

Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappears’ in Cairngorms National Park

Another of this year’s hen harrier chicks has ‘disappeared’ just a few weeks after fledging, this time in the Cairngorms National Park.

This one was called Brian, after raptor worker Brian Etheridge, and he had hatched in a nest in Perthshire, within the National Park. After fledging, he stayed within the Park boundary until his signal, ‘suddenly and without warning‘, stopped abruptly on 22 August 2016 a few miles from Kingussie. Searches for his body and tag proved fruitless. The details of Brian’s short life can be read here on the RSPB Skydancer blog.

kingussie

brian-july16_jennyweston

This is a photo of Brian taken at the nest in July with his newly-fitted satellite tag (photo by Jenny Weston).

Brian is the second of this year’s cohort to suddenly ‘disappear’ – in early August, hen harrier Elwood also vanished, in the grouse moor ridden Monadhliath mountains just to the NW of the Park (see here).

The area around Kingussie is also ridden with driven grouse moors. In fact, it wasn’t far from here where hen harrier Lad’s corpse was found in September 2015, suspected shot (see here).

So what now? A few weeks ago, following the ‘disappearance’ of eight satellite-tagged golden eagles, as well as hen harrier Elwood, in the Monadhliaths, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a review of the sat tag data of three raptor species – golden eagle, hen harrier, red kite – to ‘look for patterns of suspicious activity‘ (see here). That review is very welcome but the team working on the analysis is not expected to report until March 2017 at the earliest. That’s six months away. And then there’ll be further delays as the Government digests the review’s findings and thinks about how to respond, or not.

And to be frank, we don’t need to wait for the review to detect ‘patterns of suspicious activity’ – the pattern of illegal persecution has been known for years. The cause of these raptor disappearances is not unreliable sat tags (94% reliability in a recent study of Montagu’s harriers – see here), nor is it non-existent wind farms (see here), nor is it ‘bird activists’ killing the birds to smear the grouse shooting industry (see here).

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. Endless peer-reviewed scientific papers and government reports on golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and peregrines have unequivocally linked the illegal killing of these raptors with intensively-managed driven grouse moors. Why pretend nobody knows what’s going on?

The ‘disappearance’ of Brian is bad enough, but for this ‘disappearance’ to take place in the Cairngorms National Park just adds to the ever-increasing catalogue of shame that the Park Authority needs to address. Cue expressions of ‘disappointment’ and more stalling tactics (futile partnership-working and discussions) from the CNPA.

Here’s that catalogue of shame, in full:

2003

Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie, CNP

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch, CNP

2004

May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich, CNP

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

2005

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie, CNP

2006

Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett], CNP

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie, CNP

2007

Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee, CNP

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul, CNP

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater, CNP

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore, CNP

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

2008

Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

2009

May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo, CNP

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul, CNP

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon, CNP

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul, CNP

2010

Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy, CNP

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten, CNP

2011

Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown, CNP

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat, CNP

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown, CNP

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat, CNP

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater, CNP

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy, CNP

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon, CNP

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon, CNP

2012

Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee, CNP

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater, CNP

2013

Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark, CNP

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn, CNP

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat, CNP

2014

Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty, CNP

2015

Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore, CNP.

2016

May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon, CNP

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld, CNP

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ ‘disappears’, near Kingussie, CNP

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).

And let’s not forget the on-going massacre of mountain hares, taking place annually within the boundary of the National Park (e.g. see here, here).

Let’s see how the Environment Secretary and the Cairngorms National Park Authority respond this time. We’ll add links to any statements if/when they appear throughout the day.

UPDATE 18.40 hrs: Too embarrassing for words (here)

UPDATE 29 September 2016: Official responses from Environment Secretary and Cairngorms National Park Authority (here)

23
Sep
16

BBC Trust ruling: Chris Packham did not breach guidelines

A year ago, Tim Bonner, Chief Exec of the Countryside Alliance complained to the BBC (see here) about Chris Packham describing various ‘countryside’ organisations as “the nasty brigade” and accused him of other alleged breaches of the BBC’s editorial code.

Earlier this summer, just as the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting was gaining serious momentum, poor Timmy was furious to learn that the BBC Trust would not publish its decision until September. The Countryside Alliance clearly hoped that Chris’s participation in the highly successful ban driven grouse shooting campaign could be curtailed (see here) so they stamped their feet and pressed the BBC Trust to publish its decision without delay.

The BBC Trust gave the Countryside Alliance a metaphorical middle finger and stood firm. Today, the Trust has published its decision: Chris Packham did not breach any BBC guidelines – read the Trust’s full findings here: bbc-trust-ruling-on-chris-packham

v happy Copy

Meanwhile, as the appropriately named nasty brigade have been baying (braying?) for his blood, Chris has remained focused on more important issues. He’s just launched a new e-petition calling for a moratorium on shooting woodcock, snipe and golden plover until the cause of their population declines have been determined by independent scientific assessment – you can sign his petition here.

Oh, and one last thing. A few months ago, Chris was asked to choose a name for one of this year’s satellite tagged hen harriers as part of the Lush Skydancer Bathbomb campaign. Anyone recall the name he chose? Watch the video here and listen carefully! [Cue outraged complaint to the BBC….]

Don’t worry Countryside Alliance, next year, assuming there are some hen harrier chicks around to satellite tag, one can be called Olive and another Ridley, in honour of those marine turtles you know so much about.

23
Sep
16

Satellite tag reliability: compelling evidence from Montagu’s Harrier study

Satellite-tagged hen harriers regularly ‘disappear’ in the UK uplands, mostly in areas managed as driven grouse moors. Indeed, according to data from Natural England, of 47 hen harriers that were satellite-tagged between 2007-2014, a staggering 78.7% were listed as ‘missing’ (see here). That means a significant and suspiciously high proportion (37 tagged hen harriers) vanished without trace.

And of course it’s not just hen harriers. Last month we learned that eight satellite-tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in the Monadhliath mountains (see here).

Various unsubstantiated ‘explanations’ for these ‘disappearances’ are routinely trotted out by the persecution apologists, including claims that ‘bird activists’ are killing the birds to smear the grouse shooting industry (here) or that the birds have been killed at windfarms and their bodies removed to avert bad publicity….quite plausible until we discovered that the majority of the windfarms blamed for the disappearance of eight golden eagles hadn’t actually been built (see here).

And then we get the old familiar excuse that it must have been a technical failure with the satellite tag. Again, quite plausible if it happened every so often, but not if it’s happening with the frequency with which the grouse-shooting industry claims. Last month, the credibility of this excuse was blown apart when the Scottish Countryside Alliance published the following statement in response to the news about the eight ‘missing’ sat tagged golden eagles:

Contrary to claims that transmitters are reliable, research papers published in 2013 studied three decades of wildlife radio telemetry and concluded that failure rates could be as high as 49%“.

It turned out that the SCA was disingenuously using data from satellite-tagged Olive Ridley turtles in India where problems with a saltwater switch on the tag is a known and on-going issue and so the SCA’s claim of a 49% failure rate was actually based on a totally irrelevant study and as such was highly misleading (see here). You can make up your own minds about whether this was a case of the SCA’s inability to interpret simple scientific data or whether it was deliberate propaganda pushed out to divert attention from illegal killing in the hope that nobody would check the details.

Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of relying on misrepresentative data from marine turtles in the Indian Ocean, there was a relatively comparative study of satellite tag reliability on, say, a harrier species in western Europe.

Oh, hang on, there is!

Have a look at this blog that has just been published on the RSPB’s website. It’s written by Dr Raymond Klaassen of the Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation. Raymond and his colleagues have been satellite-tagging Montagu’s harriers (67 of them since 2006), using the same make and model as the sat tags being fitted to hen harriers in the UK.

raymond-klaassen-monty-by-mark-thomas

So what does Raymond say about satellite tag reliability in his study? Amongst other things, he says this:

Technical failures generally are rare. We have recorded a few throughout the years (6% of all cases), however failures have always been preceded by irregular transmission periods and, most importantly, a drop in battery voltage (another parameter monitored by the transmitter). This makes it relatively straightforward to distinguish between a likely mortality event and a likely transmitter failure“.

Wow. A six per cent technical failure rate over a ten year period. It turns out that these harrier satellite tags are actually highly reliable. Who knew? Compare that six per cent failure rate with the 78.7% rate of ‘disappearing’ hen harriers over a seven year period, supposedly the victims of satellite tag ‘technical failures’.

We trust this compelling evidence of satellite tag reliability will be included in the Scottish Government’s review of satellite tag data from three raptor species that routinely ‘disappear’ on grouse moors across Scotland (see here).

Photo of Raymond with a satellite-tagged Montagu’s harrier by Mark Thomas.




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 2,803,603 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors