More illegal raptor persecution hotspots revealed in new map

Ian Thomson, Head of RSPB Investigations Scotland has written an interesting blog examining the ‘disappearance’ and/or illegal killing of satellite tagged red kites and hen harriers – see here.

It’s well worth a read. And take a close look at this map, illustrating the locations of suspicious disappearances as well as where the corpses have been found:

Here’s a direct quote from Ian:

It is clear from this map that, like golden eagles, the distribution of illegally killed or suspiciously disappeared satellite-tagged red kites and hen harriers is far from random, and shows clear clusters in some upland areas. As with the “hotspots” for eagles, these clusters are almost entirely coincident with land dominated by driven grouse shooting management, again including areas like the northern Monadhliaths and the Angus Glens. But, harriers and kites have clearly being targeted in other regions – notably, but not exclusively, upper Strathspey, Strathnairn and the Lowther Hills of S Lanarkshire‘.

Following the recent news that the RSPB, in partnership with LUSH, has satellite-tagged a record number of hen harriers this year, we can expect many more dots to appear on this map, most of them will be added before Xmas.

We’ll be undertaking some finer analyses of this map, probably next week, and we’ll be asking blog readers to get involved. More on that soon.

There’s one other point in Ian’s blog that is worth highlighting here, in response to the unsubstantiated yet repeated claims by some that raptors do better on driven grouse moors than they do on RSPB reserves:

More pairs of hen harriers bred successfully on one RSPB reserve on Islay in 2017, than on the grouse moors of Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire, Angus and the Scottish Borders put together. In fact, RSPB nature reserves hold 10% of Scotland’s breeding population of hen harriers, with 46 pairs in 2016‘.

How many hen harriers do you think bred successfully on Scottish grouse moors in 2016 (where driven shooting took place – not on moors which are currently not being shot)?

Photo of hen harrier Annie, who was found shot on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire in 2015. (Image: RSPB Scotland).


16 Responses to “More illegal raptor persecution hotspots revealed in new map”

  1. 1 Chris Roberts
    August 11, 2017 at 11:06 am

    All those green dots south of Inverness tell a story. Scottish SNP minister Fergus Ewing, has just spent time there praising the work of the gamekeepers and the shooting estates. Little wonder they get away with it.

  2. 2 Tony Lightley
    August 11, 2017 at 11:58 am

    RSPB were against a potential translocation project of Red Kite to the borders, specifically South East borders which is isolated in relation to existing populations so it is wrong to include this remark in a statement.

  3. 3 Paul V Irving
    August 11, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    It is to Natural Englands’ shame that we have not the same maps for Hen Harriers in England, which I’m sure would reveal a similar pattern of clusters of disappearances on grouse moors. Currently of course as a result the innocent ( or at least less guilty) are tarnished with the guilty as there is no differentiation and we KNOW MANY ARE GUILTY.

  4. 5 George M
    August 11, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Well said Ian. It’s about time their statement about more harriers breeding on grouse moors than in RSPB Reserves was put into context where everyone can see where the truth lies..

  5. 6 SOG
    August 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I think it needs someone in his constituency to contact Fergus Ewing about this, then ask his opinion. And I’m an SNP supporter.

  6. 9 Alan
    August 11, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    As per isle of man and Orkney, are there any foxes on Islay.

    • August 11, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Are there any foxes on driven grouse moors?

      • 11 Iain Gibson
        August 12, 2017 at 1:29 am

        The sooner this question is widely regarded as irrelevant the better. Foxes are natural predators of ground nesting birds, and an important species within the wider ecosystem. It’s high time we stopped lining up with the shooting community to demonise them. The estimated failure rate of harrier nests due to foxes is approximately one in three, so in an average breeding season the overwhelming factor inhibiting species recovery is persecution by gamekeepers. I have my doubts about conclusions that bad weather is significant; in my experience the Hen Harrier is a species well adapted to surviving relatively harsh conditions. Even nestlings from about two weeks old know to huddle together in a ‘pyramid’ to shelter from heavy rain. We need to keep it simple and tackle gamekeepers and grouse shooting as the important problems, not the interactions of natural predators and prey. It shocks me to hear some nature conservationists and ecologists adopting the gamekeeper approach to foxes, which philosophically seems to be highly hypocritical. I hear all sorts of prejudice and false logic being expressed which is too close to gamekeeper opinions to be comfortable. Also having spent a considerable part of my life monitoring Hen Harriers and closely observing corvid behaviour, I see no justification in regarding Carrion Crows (and definitely not Ravens) as posing any significant threat to harriers. And yes, there are foxes on driven grouse moors. Even the SGA admits their members manage to reduce the fox population by only about 45%. Even that doesn’t have a significant effect on grouse productivity, because although foxes are opportunistic predators and carrion scavengers, essentially their numbers are controlled by field vole populations on grouse moors.

        • August 14, 2017 at 1:03 pm

          My point was supposed to be that it doesn’t make sense to blame the lack of Hen Harriers on driven grouse moors on fox predation. If that were the case then there should be more Hen Harriers on heavily keepered land i.e. driven grouse moors than other habitats. The reverse is true. Not only that but fox predation on Hen Harriers would surely be lowest where there were thousand of grouse chicks to predate.
          I accept there must be some foxes surviving on grouse moors before most of not all are eventually killed but i wouldn’t take any statistics of the SGA as fact.

  7. August 11, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    ” I hear no whistling, only the clock ticking ”
    Driven Grouse shooting, like the UK’s membership of the EU is on borrowed time.

    Keep up the pressure !

  8. August 12, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    thanks for passing on the benefit of your long experience studying hen harriers over many decades Iain. Am in total agreement on your comments re foxes too-
    hope so much you can pass on some of your wealth of knowledge at the next Save HenHarriers event as a speaker

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