Missing sea eagle Blue T: statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority

Following last week’s news that a young satellite-tagged sea eagle (Blue T) had ‘disappeared’ on Invercauld Estate, the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s CEO, Grant Moir, has published a statement:

The frustration is evident and it’s clear that a great deal of thought has gone in to this statement, which is a huge improvement on previous CNPA statements about ‘disappearing’ satellite-tagged raptors in the National Park (e.g. see here), but we wanted to pick up on a few things.

The news that SNH will shortly be launching the next phase of its raptor tracker project is great – any technological developments that might provide more detail about the fate of ‘missing’ satellite-tagged raptors will be warmly welcomed by most (but probably not by the criminals within the grouse-shooting industry).

However, Grant seems to think that knowing exactly where and when a tagged bird was killed will “take the ambiguity away from the situation“. It won’t.

As we’ve blogged before, if the tag/raptor is destroyed on an estate that employs multiple gamekeepers, the issue of identifying the individual culprit(s) will remain, especially if all the staff give the standard ‘no comment’ police interview. There will also be the sometimes plausible argument that the raptor had been shot/poisoned on a neighbouring estate and died just over the boundary of the estate under scrutiny. And as we’ve seen in recent years, even with clear video evidence of an individually identifiable gamekeeper killing a raptor, a successful prosecution is highly unlikely because the Crown Office will declare the evidence inadmissible or will claim it’s not in the public interest to proceed.

Sorry, Grant, but the so-called ‘ambiguity’ will remain – although there’s nothing ambiguous about the robust & statistically significant findings of the golden eagle satellite tag review, which demonstrated a clear relationship between suspicious raptor disappearances and land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting in and around the Cairngorms National Park:

One other thing in Grant’s statement that we wanted to pick up on –

Invercauld Estate is part of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership and I genuinely do believe that progress has started to be made across a wide range of subjects with the Estates involved……”

Really? What progress is that, then? Any progress on stopping the illegal persecution of raptors?

The East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership was established in December 2015 and comprises six estates working in ‘partnership’ with the CNPA.

The Partnership’s statement of purpose can be read here.

Here are the estates (boundaries sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website):

  1. Glenlivet Estate. 2. Glenavon Estate. 3. Mar Lodge Estate (National Trust for Scotland). 4. Invercauld Estate. 5. Mar Estate. 6. Balmoral & Birkhall Estate.

Last October, almost two years after this Partnership was established, we wanted to find out what progress had been achieved. We submitted an FoI to the CNPA asking for copies of all correspondence relating to the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership since 1 January 2016.

Here’s the reply we received in November 2017:

We have searched our Corporate Drives for the period as above and we hold no information‘.

Impressive amount of progress, eh?

We do know that in February this year the CNPA was advertising for a part-time East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership Officer, on a decent salary of £28,770 – £34,633 pro rata.

Assuming someone has now been employed in this new position, they’ve certainly got their work cut out in delivering the objectives set out in the Cairngorms National Park Management Plan 2017-2022, which includes improving raptor populations in the National Park. Recent peer-reviewed science has revealed that the local hen harrier population has crashed (here) as has the local peregrine population (here).

Oh, and satellite-tagged hen harriers keep going ‘missing’ in highly suspicious circumstances inside the National Park, just like hen harrier Calluna, as do satellite-tagged eagles such as sea eagle Blue T and golden eagle #338.

National Park or National Disgrace?

9 Responses to “Missing sea eagle Blue T: statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority”

  1. 1 Alex Milne
    May 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    It is clear to me that although CPNA are disappointed, they are not disappointed enough. I am livid.
    This is just not good enough from my local National Park. I want to see real anger, not just disappointment. Scotland, and the Cairngorms in particular, are well placed to benefit from wildlife tourism. That a major local estate resorts to PR tactics to avoid answering why outlr East coast eagles are being decimated by the local estates is just awful. That they are supported by our major media outltes surprises and literally grates with me. If my anger is not clear, sorry. It is meant to be.

  2. 2 Robert Grant
    May 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    The barely contained restraint by the CNPA is evident here. It is toeing the party line but barely. I guess to be fair to them outright hostility and accusation gets nowhere without breaking down completely the already strained relationships between sporting estate owners and landowners and those government bodies trying to work in amongst the murky waters. I know. Previously I worked at CNPA and know how heartfelt and dedicated the staff are about conservation in very tricky circumstances. Myself and the dog were wandering around Braemar on Sunday by the River Dee and it was with some sadness that I strolled along on despite the sunny weather, occasionally looking around hoping for a glimpse of some signs. Just months before we were walking nearby and saw a Golden Eagle, I was overjoyed that day, a long day in the hills rewarded, all too often we see nothing but grouse and deer. Keep up the good fight guys the tide is turning, albeit with many more unwelcome disgraceful events like this likely to be on the road to the revolution.

    • May 15, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      The complete breakdown of the relationship between the national parks and the shooting estates might be desirable. It would leave the shooting industry completely isolated and disgraced: which would make licensing / closer control almost inevitable. Politicians (apart from the Tories) would almost certainly feel duty bound to follow the lead of the national parks.

      You never know, the Crown Office and police might start to take wildlife crime seriously if everybody else in authority is opposed to the crimes perpetrated by the estates. I appreciate that not all estates are guilty of committing crimes – but they, and their representatives, are all guilty of not taking effective action to sort out the criminals in their midst.

  3. May 15, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    This is excellent analysis of this letter and the situation. The letter is quite good, but as pointed out the issue of progress with the “Moorland Partnership” is illusory. Yes, these shooting interests talk up a good one about making progress and they are very convincing. However, if this “progress” was real, in the last 20 years or more when these partnerships of various types have been running, there should have been a year on year decline in illegal raptor persecution. But there has not been. If anything, raptor persecution on managed intensive driven shoots, is at it’s highest level of decades.

    In other words, shooting interests have been conning us, and it really is time to call them out. They’ve been given decades to put their house in order, with various supposed partnerships with both official conservation bodies and NGOs. Far from seeing any progress, we’ve seen situations like no successful breeding of Hen Harriers in the whole of England and the disappearance of breeding Peregrines from areas of managed grouse moors, where previously many pairs successfully bred.

    I personally think shooting interests only want to engage in these supposed partnerships to get inside information of how much conservation organizations know about the illegal persecution of raptors. What is absolutely obvious from the scale of these disappearing satellite tagged birds, is that illegal raptor persecution is very widespread. That means a lot (note I have not said all) of these managed shoots are being very disingenuous and dishonest about their supposed opposition to illegal raptor persecution. In other words they make all the right noises, whilst in the secrecy of their private estates, they cynically illegally persecute raptors.

    It is crystal clear now that these shooting interests are incapable of putting their own house in order, and it is about time governments introduced new powers to monitor the activity of these estates. There needs to be full time access to monitor raptors on these estates. The shoots cannot complain about this, They have claimed that they were going to put their house in order, but are self-evidently incapable of self-regulation. Now the authorities need to clamp down, or they are facilitating this illegal raptor persecution.

  4. 5 Martin
    May 15, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Is blue T the sea eagle that was found by a shepard. I have had photos on my facebook page of a dead sea eagle with a tracker. But do nit know old the pictures are or when they were taken. Just curious that is all

  5. 6 Alan Cranston
    May 15, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    I have been pressing Peter Argyle at CNP since this latest incident. Generally I try to stay within what I think is possible for whomever I am lobbying, and I suppose they score 7/10 here. Of course they could have done better but I take the statement as tantamount to an expresssion of support for regulation. It could have been stronger, but the message to the estates is clear.

    On tagging, I accept the point you make but knowing exactly where a tag failed is at least progress. I’ve asked for more information about their technical innovation challenge.

    On partnership etc, the park score nul points. The estate broke protocol to launch their damage limitation exercise and I think we have to concede it was successful. I’ve made a formal complaint to the BBC about that but surely the park, believing in cooperation etc, could have publicly regretted Invercauld’s breach of the protocol? We’re past the point of private remonstration on that. In many ways I am with Simon Tucker, a complete breakdown in the relationship is probably needed, but I’m not sure I see that happening, for all sorts of reasons including the membership of the CNP Board.

  6. 7 Jimmy
    May 15, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    You can sense the frustration building as the shooting estates continue to drag the reputation of our national parks through the mud – the grouse bothers are obviously too arrogant and smug from years of getting away with heinous wildlife crimes to realize the hole they are starting to dig for themselves

  7. May 15, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Would “Who owns Scotland” be able to identify all of the estates in the eastern national park…that have obviously been invited to sign up for the scheme…but who must have deliberately refused to do so?

  8. 9 crypticmirror
    May 15, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Estate number 6 on that list is the one I’d like to see nationalised. Whether or not it would solve the grouse problem I don’t know, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

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