Angus Glens Moorland Group downplays significance of missing satellite-tagged raptors

There was an article in yesterday’s Courier (here) highlighting the “impoverished” status of wildlife in the Angus Glens.

This claim was made by Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland) and an unnamed investigator from the SSPCA in relation to the number of vacant breeding territories for hen harrier, the number of satellite-tagged raptors that have ‘disappeared’ in the area, and the number of indiscriminate traps laid out to kill wildlife in order to protect red grouse for shooting parties.

Head gamekeeper’s wife Leanne MacLennan, coordinator of the Angus Glens Moorland Group (AGMG) dismissed the claims and made two extraordinary statements. Here’s the first:

There is a welcome sea change in these glens and members of the Angus Glens Moorland Group will continue to move on, if others can’t“.

By claiming that AGMG members (gamekeepers) have “moved on”, she’s surely not suggesting that they had anything to do with the long, long history of illegal raptor persecution for which the Angus Glens have become notorious, is she?

For as long as we can remember, gamekeepers have denied any involvement with any of these crimes (even though banned lethal poisons were found on game bags used by estate staff, according to this article) and nobody has ever been prosecuted for these offences so how can Lianne now claim a “sea change” if she doesn’t know who was responsible for those crimes? It’s a bit odd, isn’t it?

[Photo of golden eagle Fearnan, found poisoned on an Angus Glens grouse moor, photo by RSPB Scotland]

Lianne’s second extraordinary statement was this:

There have been no confirmed incidents of criminality towards protected species in this area for several years, despite attempts at speculation“.

What a fascinating claim.

If the claim is based on the number of raptor corpses found containing lead shot or lethal poison or having horrific injuries consistent with being caught in an illegally-set spring trap, then yes, you might argue that, superficially at least, things appear to have improved.

However, if you’ve got even a moderate understanding of the issue you’ll understand that across the UK, those mystery people who kill raptors on grouse moors have simply changed tactics to avoid detection (less poisoning and more shooting in the dead of night using military grade night vision and thermal imaging equipment) and they’re now much more savvy about hiding the physical evidence of their crimes, in which case you’d treat Lianne’s claim with the contempt it deserves.

What Lianne dismisses as “speculation”, the Scottish Government has accepted as strong evidence of continued raptor persecution. The so-called ‘speculative’ incidents are, of course, the findings of the Government-commissioned review on the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles, published just last year, which identified the Angus Glens as one of six grouse moor hotspots where satellite-tagged golden eagles keep vanishing. Rather than refering to these findings as ‘speculation’, Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham refered to them as follows:

The findings of this research are deeply concerning and will give rise to legitimate concerns that high numbers of golden eagles, and other birds of prey, continue to be killed in Scotland each year” (see here).

Here’s a map based on the findings of that report showing the satellite-tagged golden eagles that have either been found illegally killed or have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in the Angus Glens. These include two golden eagles that were found poisoned, one that was caught in an illegally-set trap (and then transported and dumped elsewhere overnight), four eagles that have vanished, and one tag that had been cut from an eagle and ‘stabbed’ with a sharp instrument.

The map doesn’t include records of other satellite-tagged raptors that have also ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in recent years, including two red kites and at least one hen harrier, Saorsa, who vanished in February this year.

We suspect that other satellite-tagged raptors may have also vanished in the Angus Glens in the last two years but strangely, nobody wants to talk about it. Our suspicions have been raised by SNH’s responses to various FoI questions about satellite-tagged raptors in the Angus Glens (basically they’re refusing to discuss the issue, even in very broad terms). We will continue to pursue other lines of enquiry to get to the bottom of who’s covering up what, and why.

And talking of a lack of transparency, there’s the recent news of a dead red kite that was found by a member of the public on an Angus Glens grouse moor and was reportedly collected by a gamekeeper. Recent questions about this red kite (see here) remain unanswered. Did the gamekeeper submit the corpse for a post mortem so that the cause of death could be established? If so, where was it submitted and what were the findings? If it wasn’t submitted, why not, and where is the corpse now?

But it’s not just disappearing satellite-tagged raptors that provide us with such a clear indication of on-going illegal persecution. You only have to look at the findings of recent regional and national surveys, particularly for golden eagles, hen harriers and peregrines, to see these species continue to remain absent from large numbers of breeding territories on grouse moors in central, eastern and southern Scotland.

What’s that saying? ‘They can hide the bodies, they can hide the tags, but they can’t hide the pattern’ (Dr Hugh Webster).

[‘They’ being the unidentified mystery raptor killers, natch]

8 Responses to “Angus Glens Moorland Group downplays significance of missing satellite-tagged raptors”

  1. 1 Alan
    July 27, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    It would be interesting if you put dates on these stars. The Angus Glen s are one of the areas that has had a great resurgence of raptors in the last few years. Maybe the team behind this site should visit some of these Glen s themselves and report what they see. The majority of the North East kites roost just east of the Glen s all winter, visiting the Glen s to feed each day and seem to be increasing year on year. If these Glen s are so short of eagles, why take some to Ireland to starve. Though there should be more harriers.

    • 2 A
      July 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

      Why do you think there aren’t more Hen harriers, Alan?

    • 3 Les Wallace
      July 28, 2018 at 1:46 am

      ‘take some to Ireland to starve’ re the use of Scottish golden eagles in the Irish reintroduction project this is a typical example of wilful misunderstanding used by the raptor haters to try and undermine genuine conservationists. Of course they might just be really thick. All birds taken were the youngest in two chick nests – essentailly about half of these die if nature takes its course so many of the birds collected wouldn’t have made it if they hadn’t been taken. The other point is that given the ‘disappearance’ of many sat tag eagles in eastern Scotland, confirmed persecution incidents and the two thirds of potential territories that are empty golden eagles don’t have much of a lifespan there (why’s that do you suppose?) and probably would have a better chance in Ireland – many were doomed if they hadn’t been taken. Of course a lot of young birds die naturally no matter where they are so some of the birds that went to ireland didn’t make it – that’s nature and life not a fault of the reintroduction project which after all can’t make eagles immortal. Do yourself a favour and get educated – this report is excellent and if you look at the second and fourth papragraphs on page 49 you’ll see that the SGA gets harsh criticism for its misreporting, which must have been really bad to have been noted in a report of this nature. https://raptorpersecutionscotland.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/irishgoldeneagleproject_review-2009.pdf

    • 4 Peter
      July 28, 2018 at 9:48 am

      Been in several of the Angus Glens this year, for several hours at a time, never saw one raptor. Where is this resurgence?

    • 5 crypticmirror
      July 28, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      “The Angus Glen s are one of the areas that has had a great resurgence of raptors in the last few years.”

      [citation needed]

      And a number of birds coming in, and then vanishing in a puff of gunsmoke does not count.

  2. July 27, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    I do hope that Mr MacLennan keeps his guns safely locked away as his wife seems to be in the habit of shooting herself (and by implication the grouse shooting industry) in the foot.

    • 7 Loki
      July 29, 2018 at 9:04 am

      The Angus Glens Moorland Group block you on FB if you have any dissenting views. Clearly they can’t cope with open debate.

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