23
Mar
18

New information reveals more about Golden Eagle Fred’s suspicious disappearance

RPUK/Chris Packham press release:

NEW INFORMATION REVEALS MORE ABOUT GOLDEN EAGLE FRED’S SUSPICIOUS DISAPPEARANCE

On 21st January, a GPS satellite tag fitted to a young golden eagle called Fred suddenly and inexplicably stopped sending data close to a grouse moor in the Pentland Hills on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Up until that point the tag had been working perfectly and was providing accurate and frequent location information about Fred’s travels.

Photo of Fred by Ruth Tingay:

Strangely, three and half days later, the tag began to transmit again for a short period, but astonishingly, it was in the North Sea, 15 miles offshore from St Andrews. No further GPS data have been received.

Map showing Fred’s movements in the Pentland Hills and the last known position of his tag in the North Sea:

The researchers who had been tracking Fred’s movements (Dr Ruth Tingay of Raptor Persecution UK and broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham) alerted experts at RSPB Scotland who immediately notified Police Scotland who began an investigation into Fred’s suspicious disappearance.

The analysis of new technical data, provided by the tag manufacturer, has now shed some light on the approximate location of Fred’s tag during those three and a half days of lost GPS transmissions.

Although the tag’s GPS transmissions were suppressed, the tag’s technical data, which includes time & date, shows that the tag was still functioning and was periodically communicating briefly with a series of mobile phone masts closest to the tag’s then location. These data, that gave locational information for the phone masts, suggest that in the days after Fred’s disappearance his tag moved eastwards away from the Pentlands, along a route similar to that of the Edinburgh City Bypass and subsequently the A1 towards Haddington, before it travelled to the North Berwick area on the East Lothian coast. From there, it is likely that the tag went into the sea as the data then show that the tag began to connect with phone masts along the Fife coast, across the Firth of Forth. Later, the tag was then able, briefly, to resume giving locational GPS transmissions, but by then it was well offshore.

Map showing the phone masts (red dots) with which Fred’s tag was communicating between 21-25 January 2018. The green dot shows the final known GPS position of the tag on 25th Jan. (Map: RPUK)

Dr Tingay said:That someone might have been travelling around the Edinburgh City Bypass with a dead golden eagle in the boot of a vehicle is sickening.

These new tags we’re using to track golden eagles like Fred offer a highly sophisticated technical opportunity, not just to learn about the eagles’ movements when they’re alive but also, it seems, an insight in to the lengths someone will go to try and remove evidence to cover their crime”.

Chris Packham said:We don’t know whether this tag was still attached to Fred as it travelled across East Lothian and in to the North Sea but we do know that the tag’s movements are a clear indication of foul play.

Whether it was an amateurish attempt to mask the illegal killing of Fred in the Pentlands by dumping the tag, and possibly Fred, in the North Sea to make it look like he had drowned, we’ll never know. We do know that, once again, we’ve lost a young golden eagle in the vicinity of a grouse moor and nobody will be held to account.

The Scottish Government needs to do more, immediately, to protect Scotland’s birds of prey. It’s crystal clear that raptors continue to be killed and the criminals responsible think they are untouchable”.

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland said:This new information makes the probability of Fred’s death being a wildlife crime even more likely.

The continued denials of any suspicion around the case, and attempts at coming up with elaborate alternative versions of events, have been identical to those in virtually every other case where a satellite-tagged raptor has disappeared.

It is a great shame that some representatives of the gamebird shooting industry, who profess to be “true conservationists” and “guardians of the countryside”, are the same individuals who seek more to shoot the messenger than to face up to and marginalise the criminals who exist in plain sight in their community.

Lothian MSP Andy Wightman said:The evidence uncovered from Fred’s satellite tag is sufficient to convince me that he died in suspicious circumstances. Further details may never be known but it is beyond contempt that protected species such as Golden Eagles continue to be persecuted across Scotland.

I urge all those who use the Pentlands Regional Park on a regular basis to remain vigilant and am extremely grateful to Dr Ruth Tingay and Police Scotland for their diligence and perseverance in a very difficult case.

Last year a Scottish Government-commissioned report showed that 41 of 131 satellite-tagged golden eagles had disappeared (presumed dead) in suspicious circumstances in Scotland, predominantly on or near to some driven grouse moors. In response to that report’s findings, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, ordered a review of grouse moor management practices with a view to introducing a licensing scheme for game-shooting estates.

Anyone with information about Fred’s disappearance is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101, or the RSPB’s confidential raptor crime hotline 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

We’ve produced a video about the location of Fred’s tag between 21-25 January:

The new information we’ve been able to retrieve from the tag (as discussed by Chris Packham in the video) deserves a little bit more explanation.

It’s important to understand that the new data do NOT provide detailed GPS locations of the tag – i.e. the new information only tells us which nearby phone mast the tag was communicating with, it does NOT tell us the exact position of the tag when it was ‘talking’ to the phone masts, as the tag’s GPS function was disabled (more on this below).

Nevertheless, the position of the phone masts and the times/dates the tag was communicating with them does show a very clear direction of travel from the Pentlands and out in to the North Sea. For investigative reasons, we are not yet revealing the times/dates those phone masts were ‘pinged’.

The disabling of the tag’s GPS function is interesting. It is surprisingly easy to suppress the tag’s GPS signal. For obvious reasons, we have no intention of providing a description of how to do that, but needless to say you don’t need a Faraday cage or indeed any specialist equipment to block the signal of this particular tag type.

That begs the question, was Fred’s tag deliberately disabled to hide the GPS data transmissions? Let’s assume for a minute that it was. Whoever did that, was smart enough to know how to suppress the GPS signal but not smart enough to know that the tag would still be trying to communicate with the nearest phone mast. Schoolboy error.

An alternative explanation is that the tag was not deliberately disabled at all. Whoever took that tag (and perhaps Fred’s corpse) from the Pentlands might just have been banking on the idea that the tag only sends data at set periods of time inbetween battery-charging periods (as with the Hen Harrier satellite tags), and so they may have thought they could get it to the coast and in to the sea without anybody who was monitoring the tag’s data knowing that something was wrong. They may have decided to dump the tag (and possibly Fred) in to the sea to make it look as though he flew out there of his own accord and simply drowned. Again, schoolboy error. We are not using the same type of tag as those used on Hen Harriers.

We know from reading various, frankly laughable, theories posted on social media over the last few weeks that the majority of commentators have no clue/understanding of (a) the type of tag we are using, (b) the tag’s capabilities, and (c) the high frequency rate that the tag was transmitting data, throughout every day and night.

We’ve released this new information about the route Fred’s tag took from the Pentland Hills to the North Sea in the hope that someone will come forward to help progress the police investigation into Fred’s highly suspicious disappearance. If you know anything, please contact Police Scotland on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential raptor crime hotline 0300 999 0101.

We’d like to put on record our immense gratitude to the two Police Wildlife Crime Officers who have been leading this case. They have gone way above and beyond what we expected them to do (and again, we are not detailing the specifics of their investigation) and they have impressed us with their diligence and professionalism. Many thanks to them for their efforts to date.

We are also grateful to the tag manufacturer and particularly the senior engineers for providing the additional technical data from Fred’s tag and helping us and the police with the analysis.


42 Responses to “New information reveals more about Golden Eagle Fred’s suspicious disappearance”


  1. March 23, 2018 at 1:37 am

    North Berwick’s harbour isn’t that big. There are a few boats there… but how many would have been putting out to sea at THAT time, on THAT day. Someone will have seen it.

  2. 2 Mick
    March 23, 2018 at 1:49 am

    I can’t wait to see how those involved with shooting explains this new information. Somehow I think they’re going to have to look for new straws to clutch at.

    Technology really is coming of age and these sat tags do look as if they could become a game changer.

  3. 3 heclasu
    March 23, 2018 at 2:52 am

    [Ed: Thanks for your comment. Not publishing it, for obvious reasons. But yes, done]

  4. 4 raggyjeans
    March 23, 2018 at 7:18 am

    I am a little concerned that by publicizing how the information has been obtained, in future there will be a more concerted effort to destroy tags and lose the potential for a similar analysis. I am also wondering, is there contact data from the masts and therefore the possibility of identifying a phone making a similar contact pattern at the same times?

    • March 23, 2018 at 8:22 am

      Hi raggyjeans,

      It’s a fair comment and is something we spent a long time discussing before deciding to release the information.

      To be honest though, since the first few sat-tagged eagles were found dead (poisoned), gamekeepers have generally become wise to the fact that a tag will continue to transmit even if the bird is dead, thus leading the authorities straight to the crime scene. These days the gamekeepers have changed their tactics & tend to destroy the tag immediately, removing all evidence of the crime (hence all those ‘disappeared’ eagles and hen harriers).

      The circumstances of Fred’s disappearance are quite unusual and perhaps are an indication that whoever was involved was not as savvy with sat tag technology as others within the game shooting industry.

      However, it’s worth bearing in mind that as the tag technology develops, we’re expecting new tags to be able to send out an alert as soon as the bird is killed, so even if the tag is subsequently destroyed we’ll already know what happened, and where it happened.

      Re: your question about the phone mast data – at this stage we’re not releasing any details about any analyses the police may or may not have conducted.

  5. 6 Alba52
    March 23, 2018 at 8:00 am

    I imagine that information is going to spoil someone’s/some peoples morning.

  6. 7 Michael Miller
    March 23, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Perhaps the shooting of Grouse etc, should be banned. Then there will be no need to shoot Eagles and other birds who predate for food

    • 8 SOG
      March 23, 2018 at 9:28 am

      You don’t wonder if the shooters might continue killing raptors for revenge against the birders who’d stopped their killing fun?

      • 9 Les Wallace
        March 23, 2018 at 12:40 pm

        I don’t doubt that they would, and in fact am pretty sure they’re taking their spite out on the conservation/birding community already – there was the little bustard that was delighting birdwatchers in Norfolk that turned up shot dead at the side of the road and the same year that also happened with a red footed falcon in Shropshire, the latter hunt just like kestrels and I imagine wouldn’t be difficult to locate and shoot. Then there was that Pallid harrier in the Forest of Bowland that seems to have dropped of the radar. And of course there was the crane in the Somerset levels that got blasted. My room for optimism is that if they lose their jobs on the moors they’ll have to go to a lot of trouble to kill and maim birds of prey at their own time, money and effort. I think that will take it out of them too much, but there will be some retaliation, I think we bank on that. I have to say that in my soon to be 51 years on this planet I have never, ever come across such a twisted, ignorant, nasty, obnoxious and pathetic bunch as the apologists and trolls that accompany field’sports’, driven grouse shooting especially. Does DGS bring out the worst in people or does it attract the worst people? Either way it needs to go.

        • 10 lothianrecorder
          March 23, 2018 at 1:46 pm

          I agree this must be what is happening in some cases; a pertinent case is the Merlin nest shot out in the Pentlands which is featured in the original video on Fred – I think it is widely accepted that Merlins present little/no threat to driven grouse shooting interests (ref Lammermuirs study published last March*) but clearly represent a species of known value to people who care about conservation, and the general public, hence are targeted – evidence left in situ to make sure it is found and reported? Via @ScotLandEstates (who don’t reply to comments on their posts) I became aware of a campaign by Brechin born artist to discredit satellite tagging, despite the SNH review – unfortunately they are full of subjective opinion and the first line of the second para of the first of his blogs contains a factually incorrect statement “where a couple of historic persecution cases occurred”*. The Merlin nest was shot out last summer 2017. Nothing “weird and nonsensical” about the suggestion that another raptor may have been deliberately targeted in same area, indeed quite the contrary it would be odd if that did not happen?! Incidentally, Merlin numbers have in fact been pretty erratic recently in the Pentlands, for unknown reasons. And the reality is there are no Hen Harriers left to persecute, long gone from the Pentlands – the last record was a migrant N over Scald Law on 11 May 2010 – while there was only one previous record of Golden Eagle, at Green Cleugh on 9 September 2012 – and not due to lack of observers…

          * Heavisides, A., Barker, A. & Poxton, I. (2017) “Population and breeding biology of merlins in the Lammermuir Hills”. British Birds 110: 138-154

      • 11 SOG
        March 24, 2018 at 9:50 am

        I wonder if there is another aspect, where the shooters don’t want enthusiasts visiting, and perhaps witnessing their actions.

        • 12 Les Wallace
          March 25, 2018 at 2:02 pm

          I’d never thought of that. It fits in with the way they are now trying to blame ramblers…yes ramblers…for the ‘disturbance’ that’s supposedly driving birds of prey away from grouse moors. You never know what people are going to come across.

  7. 13 Greenpig
    March 23, 2018 at 9:10 am

    If 41 tagged Golden Eagles have disappeared, how many without tags have been “disappeared”? Do we know what proportion of the Scottish Golden Eagle population are tagged?

  8. 14 callumjmacgregor
    March 23, 2018 at 9:19 am

    You’ll need to change your Hugh Webster quote! “They can hide the bodies, they can’t hide the tags properly, so the pattern is pretty bleeding obvious”…

    Anyway, great to hear that the tagging tech you’re using is an upgrade on the hen harrier tags. I’m very bored of hearing the ‘disappeared during the charging cycle so could have been anywhere’/’died on its back so the tag couldn’t charge’ class of arguments. Fingers crossed in this case the trail leads all the way to the person responsible.

  9. 15 Trevor Watson
    March 23, 2018 at 9:29 am

    This seems to be very good news indeed. Since the cell-towers and time/dates are known, I presume that all Police Scotland need to do is to find which other phones followed a similar route and ended up at North Berwick at the same time as Fred’s tag. I’d imagine this would lead to less than a handful of people to consider and interview, so I’m hoping that good news about the perpetrator(s) will be winging it’s way over here soon (sorry for the pun).

    • 16 crypticmirror
      March 23, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      Cross reference ANPR traffic cameras at time of ping and North Berwick Harbour CCTV cameras; once you find the same vehicle on both then Bob’s your uncle, surely?

  10. 17 Colin McP
    March 23, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Its moved from suspicion to clear evidence of illegal killing which now includes the route someone took to dispose of the body.

    It will be interesting to see how the SGA, SLE and Scottish Moorland Association respond to this. Will it be denials and ‘lets wait till the police investigation concludes’ -which is more of the same from the representative bodies / apologists, or will it be an acknowledgement that the bird was killed illegally and how it was disposed of as the new evidence pretty conclusively shows. Or – nothing – as denials won’t wash in light of the facts, and condemnation won’t wash with their mentality. If they continue to represent the criminal elements in their ranks, then they should be ignored and ought to be thrown out of any political consultations and working groups. And other particpants should refuse to work with them.

    Well done RPUK and Chris Packham.

    And well done the police; probably a maximum of 10 cellphones will have pinged the same masts at the same time as Fred’s tag. A quick call to the phone providers will get their numbers and their registered owners. Lets hope that person (and the boss of their estate) is reading this and don’t sleep well tonight. Probably too late for them to dispose of their own phone by now and claim it was someone else who did it….

    • 18 Bill Gilmour
      March 23, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      It might be xxxxxxxxxxxxx himself. As you say, there could be phone records and also traffic cameras, with number plates. A pic of xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, on North Berwick Harbour wall would be good to see!

  11. 19 George M
    March 23, 2018 at 10:53 am

    Thanks to all who contributed to this very effective piece of sleuthing, from the wildlife crime officers through to Dr. Ruth Tingay and Chris Packham. I’ve watched the progress made in publicising raptor persecution and the resulting affect of the deployment of more efficient technolgical resources over the past few years. Now the ball is in the court of the politicians as far as passing more legislation but it is up to those who enforce the law to take a more proactive stance. The confidence of the police should be boosted by a legal establishment which will now engage in less obfuscation and thus gain more convictions. Harsher penalities and the immdeiate withdrawal of a firearm certificate for any individual convicted of a wildlife crime should also become the norm . It has become increasingly more obvious that the crux of the problem in solving the issue of raptor persecution in Scotland lies in the professional upper reaches of our society. Those on the bottom rung of the ladder attract the majority of the condemnation while those at the top continue to rake in the money. They use that infleunce to exercise a form of hidden power and dream up yet even more bizzare excuses as to how our raptors are not actually being massacred.

  12. March 23, 2018 at 11:43 am

    I won’t hold my breath waiting for an apology for the disgraceful disinformation pumped out by shooting interests about this matter.

  13. 21 AnMac
    March 23, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    At last we have a really good piece of information on what happened to Fred and how he nearly reached the Bell Rock.

    I am sure the final details of the journey and who was responsible will hopefully unfold to the general public in due course. Just let us hope that it will be in a courthouse and that the evidence will be permissible as no camera’s were involved in the process of gathering the evidence. Justice may just be about to be delivered but not holidng my breath at present.

  14. 22 J .Coogan
    March 23, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Wonder how the deranged pastel pulverizer from the Angus Glens will explain this away. Don’t hold your breath for an apology, when you are as delusional as him you cannot be wrong.

    • 23 Dylanben
      March 24, 2018 at 11:50 pm

      Let’s not forget the technical wizardry which is progressively improving the quality and range of data which it is possible to retrieve from these tags. Whoever is responsible for this ongoing development deserves our full appreciation. If this case comes to a successful conclusion, there will be little room for doubt where the praise should be directed. What is being achieved is, quite simply, sensational. Anyone know a gamekeeper who is not sleeping well?

    • 24 AA
      March 25, 2018 at 12:03 am

      Coincidence that him and a certain Mr Richardson are both Facebooking about watching raptors and waders in the Angus Glens on the same day? Apologists’ day out perhaps?

  15. 25 AA
    March 24, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    As I’ve said before, I’m totally on your side but I feel like I’m being a bit thick here. Surely the data is meaningless without the specific times and chronological sequence of the pings (which I fully appreciate you can’t reveal at the moment)? I’m presuming that you must have the above information, showing the first few pings happening very close together (over the course of, say, an hour) and are very comfortable that it therefore indicates a vehicle travelling at 60/70mph and definitely not the meandering flight of an eagle. But for someone like me who does not have the ping times or sequence, I don’t see how it proves human interference….yet.

    Well done for keeping the story in the public eye though. Thanks!

  16. March 25, 2018 at 9:54 am

    what I see is those who are meant to uphold the laws seem to protect the law breakers. even when they have clear evidence. its heartbreaking. If I were PM I would tell the Police to remove all gun licences for a start. I know these brutes use poisons etc but there are so many people who just take a sick pleasure in shooting all birds of prey and not anywhere near grouse shooting. the dig out badgers and shoot foxes in the night. the dullard mafia love killing wildlife.

  17. 27 Alan Mackintosh
    March 25, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    You may have done this/be doing this anyway, but you should look at the marine traffic ship/boat identifier link to see if you can correlate any boats leaving the harbour with your specific time window. Especially if they head out towards the area where the signals are picked up.
    http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ports/14206/United%20Kingdom_port:NORTH%20BERWICK

  18. 28 Lurker
    March 26, 2018 at 7:14 am

    I presume there is a temporal sequence to these phone mast pings. Any comment on the Carnoustie ping?

  19. 30 Stewart McCallum
    March 27, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    I have to say, I find this whole scenario in this instance, unlikely to be that of persecution.
    This new information takes this young eagle (if it was alive), into the territory of the nesting pair of sea eagles at tentsmuir.
    Could it be (and I’m just putting this out there), that the tag did develop a fault with its gps technology and that the young eagle did follow the positions indicated in the latest data released, ending up in the Tay estuary and suffering an injury after a fight?
    I’m not an expert at all, but just wondering if this was a possibility.

    • March 27, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      ‘I find this whole scenario in this instance, unlikely to be that of persecution.’

      Based on what? What is your alternative theory?
      Are you saying that a White-tailed Eagle destroyed the tag and then it magically fixed itself out at sea?
      I am sure you’re not but how do you account for the transmitter not sending proper signals for three and a half days
      If as you say ‘This new information takes this young eagle (if it was alive), into the territory of the nesting pair of sea eagles at tentsmuir.’ Then why wasn’t it transmitting during that time?
      If you hear the sounds of hooves don’t look around for zebras (thanks RPUK for that saying).

      I hear hooves and it fits a horse: the eagle was killed, the transmitter was tampered with to such a degree that it failed to send a signal (even if only wrapped in tin foil or put in the boot of a car). It was then dumped in the sea where after 3 days the obstacle preventing the signal being sent was somehow removed. I don’t know if the transmitter would float but if not it may have been attached to the eagle. That is the simplest explanation which is totally plausible. Why is it ‘unlikely’?
      There are four steps. The killing of the bird and the disposal of the body. There appears to be a third step of obstructing the signal but that could have been accidental by putting the carcass in the boot of a car and the fourth the unblocking of the transmitter could also have been accidental as it happened in the sea, the body could have come to the surface through bloating or the obstruction (e.g. foil) came loose. I think the idea that someone removed the obstacle whilst in a boat is far fetched but that too only requires giving the carcass to a fisherman to dump.
      Do any other theories survive Occam’s Razor?

      • 32 Stewart McCallum
        March 27, 2018 at 6:50 pm

        Why is it unlikely you ask.
        I like how you have broke it down into four parts, as this makes it easier for me to explain why.
        I have no experience at all in tags or how they operate, the technology and the information they send back so I can’t comment. However, it does seem a mystery as to how it was able to partially communicate in a way then to start working three days later out at sea before failing again.
        But I can answer the other two parts. Firstly, the alleged killing of the bird. I think this is why the arguement starts and stops in the eyes of the game keeping fraternity. It is so far fetched to believe that this bird was killed in its location of its last ping – by anybody connected to a grouse moor anyway. Now, I don’t know if it’s feasible if this bird flew elsewhere after that last ping, let’s say onto the grouse moor, then met an untimely end and did not transmit a ping before that event occurred. But it says it transmits upto 6mins, so that theory may well be the case? Again, highly unlikely due to location, time of day and day of the week – but is slightly more plausible than the theory that it was killed at the location of the last ping.
        The second point you have mentioned is the disposal of the bird. Answer me this; has there every been any other cases of ‘all tag birds’ which have stopped transmitting suddenly, presumed dead, thrown up such a strange set of circumstances as this? I suspect not and again, this is where the arguement starts and stops in the game fraternity for obvious reasons. There undoubtedly is persecution going on and those who are still doing it wouldn’t do what’s been hypothesised. It’s as fantasised as shooting it in woodland on a Sunday morning at 10am. So this is why I say it’s unlikely.
        The sad thing is that persecution goes on and this case drives a further wedge between the main stakeholders – both taking stupid stances in my opinion (game industry & the conservationists).

        • 33 Alex Milne
          March 27, 2018 at 7:56 pm

          Without leaving the RPUK site I can show something similar to which you refer:
          “Answer me this; has there every been any other cases of ‘all tag birds’ which have stopped transmitting suddenly, presumed dead, thrown up such a strange set of circumstances as this? I suspect not and again, this is where the arguement starts and stops in the game fraternity for obvious reasons.”
          If you look at this page
          https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/why-is-it-so-difficult-to-investigate-the-illegal-killing-of-a-golden-eagle/
          you will discover that a tagged bird managed to travel overnight from it’s being trapped in the Angus glens to a lay-by near Aboyne. It is more than unlikely that it flew. The bird in this case was not presumed dead, it was dead. There is a common factor though. It vanished from a keepered area where the bird was known to be, strange but not unique unfortunately.

          • 34 Stewart McCallum
            March 27, 2018 at 8:51 pm

            Thanks for pointing that out but I don’t think you can compare that to this case. I would say that incident you referred to is pretty much an open and shut case as to something untoward/persecution happening and whilst I’m not saysing categorically saying that’s not the case here too, I find it extremely hard, if not impossible, to believe that this can be in anyway related to a nearby grouse moor on the Pentlands.

        • March 28, 2018 at 12:31 am

          You didn’t answer my questions clearly but never mind. Still puzzled about the White-tailed Eagle?

          One reason you appear to find it implausible is that it ‘disappeared’ during the day time. Last year a bird of prey was shot in full view of drivers on a motorway through the borders and if i remember right there were two incidences within a few weeks of each other. At Sandringham harriers were shot out of the sky in front of nature reserve wardens.
          So again what is so unbelievable? Or is this a case of wilful blindness? What is unbelievable is that this happens all the time and yet no one gets caught.

          • 36 Jeff P
            March 28, 2018 at 9:15 am

            Re: time of day. I’ve seen lots of apologists saying any shooting would have taken place on a Sunday in an area frequented by dog walkers etc and yet nobody has reported hearing any shots. What the shooters fail to take into account is that most normal people don’t know anything about shooting seasons or whether shooting is allowed on a Sunday. Furthermore, given the preponderance of gas guns and other loud noises in the countryside the majority of people take no notice of loud bangs so it is entirely plausible that a gunshot(s) may have rang out on a Sunday morning without anybody paying the slightest bit of notice to it.

  20. 37 Bill Gilmour
    March 28, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Although I have walked in the Pentland Hills for years, I have never been to Fred’s Wood (as I am now calling it). So, I decided to go and have a look. The wood is a mature Scots Pine shelter belt. From there, you can look down on Edinburgh, over the Forth to Fife and on to snow peaks in Perthshire. When you go in it is quite dark. There is an understory of shrubs with a grass and leaf mold floor. Very nice. My GPS took me to where Fred died. Nearly his last Way Point. I stopped to think. Then I blinked. To my utter astonishment, I found a fenced off rearing pen, where young game birds have been bought on, before being released onto the moors.

    The SGA piece makes a lot of where Fred’s last signal came from, “The wood that is close to one of the biggest car parks in the Pentland Hills Regional Park”. In fact, in a straight line the wood is 1.6 kilometres from the carpark. It is remote from the paths network – off the beaten track. The approach is from a narrow country road, which is a cul-de-sac, then along a one kilometre track through fields, followed by 250 metres over a field and another dead end. Part of the dyke has been cast down, so there is an entrance. This wood is not, “one of the busiest public areas close to Edinburgh”. It is so secure and secluded, that the local land managers have chosen it for raising and feeding, game birds. The pen is about 50 metres square. The fence is about six feet high. There are a large number and a wide selection of different types of feeders. Many are shop bought models, others are reused plastic barrels and dustbins. A water supply has also been laid on, with a header tank and drip valves. The SGA, will know, how import it is to put these in rearing pens, in secluded places. While the local land managers, with know how secluded this wood is.

    As close as I can tell, from the published data, the pen is within 50 metres, of where Fred’s last signal came from. The north edge of the pen is at 55.87927N 3.28854W. It goes from there to the south edge of the wood. The long track described above is visible from the wood, so anyone in the wood could see an unwelcome approach. It would take five minutes, to walk 250 metres from the wood to a van or a Land Rover on the track.

    At the end of winter, feed pens are always windblown and so is this one. Was it was used last year? 50/50. It casts further doubt on claims that these woods and moors are not shot over. The 2018 Google Earth Image shows signs of moor burn. As I have written before, within a mile or two, there are several notice boards extolling grouse moors. There are also many shooting butts on the hillsides.

    While, I was in and around these wood, this week, I saw three pheasants, a pair of snipe and a pair of roe deer. The pine woods are ideal for both raptors and corvids. They are common in similar woods a mile west, which are owned by Scottish Water. I did not see or hear any, around Fred’s Wood.

    I took several photographs.

    Other than my remarks about local knowledge (or a lack of it) I do not mean to infer anything about any one. I also assume that Police Scotland visited the locality, before me and have taken appropriate action.

    • 38 Northern Diver
      March 28, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks Bill. Valuable factual information here from someone at the actual location.

    • March 28, 2018 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks, Bill.

      It’s our understanding that this gamebird release pen was not used in 2017, and judging by the state of disarray, the evidence supports this. We are told that it was last used in 2016 and that a local shooting syndicate used it for pheasants.

      We saw one adult pheasant in the wood.

  21. March 28, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    Could I point out that we have no direct evidence on the cause of death of this bird?….why did it have to be a shooting?..Poisoning would be every bit as likely in or next to, a wood being used for game rearing [thanks Bill Gilmour!] put out for all predators or scavengers. Eagles can and do die very quickly from the modern [carbamates mainly] poisons in illegal use….One thing that doesnt match with the grouse moor scenario however, is the presence of a release pen in the wood – that will almost certainly have been for pheasants…but that presupposes that Fred died in the wood. Enough!!

    • 41 Bill Gilmour
      March 30, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      Dave,

      As you and the Editor say and I agree, this is a pheasant rearing pen.

      However, the point about the it is the local land managers have chosen the location, because it is off the beaten track. The SGA has talked about its proximity to a large carpark. Writing above, people have said that no one would shoot here, because it is so public. That is quite wrong. The tragedy is that Fred’s very presence confirms the land manager’s assessment that Whiteside Wood is quiet and remote.

      And yes, I agree, we have no of evidence of how Fred died.

      Like many millions of others, I have used GPS on land and sea for over 30 years; as a driver, a hill walker and sailing offshore in UK waters and on singlehanded oceanic cruises. I simply do not know how many times, I have gone below to sleep and trusted myself to the auto helm and my GPS or in Force 8 gales have let them to con the boat, while I attended to other things. I have certainly made mistakes, put in incorrect formation or let the batteries go flat. But that was me letting the instrument down. Not it letting me down. Like all other modern solid state electronics: our phones, radios, television and the rest, GPSs are astonishingly reliable. Literally billions of us know that from our own experiences. We bang and batter our phones and most of us can’t use 20% of their potential. We miss dial. We let the batteries go flat. We might be out of coverage. But, they themselves work and work, until after 3 to 5 years, the batteries fail or they go out of fashion and we “need” to replace them. GPS are at least as robust than our phones.

      Our confidence is confirmed, if we look at the records of Fred’s make and model of GPS, when used in the USA. You will know the, “SNH Commissioned Report No. 982 Analyses of the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland”. In defiles or in heavy woodland, their accuracy can fall off and even fail but on flying eagle, Fred’s GPS would be accurate to 5 metres. The malfunction rate of Fred’s is 2% over their potential life of 5 years and is usually caused by the batteries failing (which will have phone user’s heads nodding). Days after leaving the Pentlands, Fred was transmitting his position from the North Sea, so his batteries had not failed the, while the GPS receiver and the data transmitter were working.

      Fred’s GPS sent one last a signal from a tree top in Whiteside Plantation, within an hour the signals were partially attenuated but continued to be sent from the roads, between the Pentlands and North Berwick. The signals did not stop. They were reduced, by being put in a vehicle (a partial Faraday Box) which would block the incoming GPS signal but pass the outgoing Data Signals.

      No, we do not know how Fred died. However, at 10.30ish he was 60 feet up a Scots Pine and an hour later, he was in the back of a vehicle and on the way to be thrown into the Firth of Forth.


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