Archive for October, 2018

31
Oct
18

Parliamentary questions on poisoned peregrine in Pentland Hills

Earlier this month we blogged about the discovery of a dead peregrine in the Pentland Hills Regional Park just south of Edinburgh (see here). The dead adult male, part of a breeding pair, had been found in May and toxicology results confirmed he had been killed with a highly toxic banned poison, capable of killing a human.

[Photo of poisoned peregrine found dead next to footpath]

There was widespread concern that Police Scotland hadn’t bothered to mention this illegal poisoning incident for many months (not until prompted to do so by us). Given the toxicity of the posion and the frequency with which the public use the footpath where the poisoned bird was found, this silence was unacceptable.

The illegal killing of the peregrine is just the latest in a growing list of wildlife crime incidents uncovered close to grouse moors in the Pentland Hills. In addition to the poisoned peregrine and the subsequent disappearance of its mate and chicks in the nest, other incidents include a raven that was found shot dead on its nest, a merlin’s nest that had been shot out, and a satellite-tagged golden eagle (Fred) who had ‘disappeared‘ in highly suspicious circumstances.

It could be argued that there is political gain to be had from keeping quiet, especially at a time when the Scottish Government-supported South Scotland Golden Eagle Project is underway and project partners SNH are keen to pretend that raptor persecution “is no longer an issue” in the area, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

In addition to the incidents in the Pentland Hills, elsewhere in south Scotland there’s Raeshaw Estate, currently operating under a General Licence restriction and an Individual Licence restriction, due to evidence of alleged ongoing raptor persecution (here); there’s a forthcoming prosecution of a gamekeeper in the Borders for a long list of alleged wildlife crime (here); there’s the land managed for driven grouse shooting in South Lanarkshire (close to the golden eagle translocation area) where over 50 confirmed reported incidents of dead raptors and poisoned baits have been recorded since 2003, including a shot golden eagle in 2012 (it didn’t survive, here), the reported shooting of a short-eared owl in 2017 (here), the reported shooting of a hen harrier in 2017 (here), and the reported shooting of a buzzard in 2018 (here); and then there’s been at least four raptor poisonings in south Scotland this year alone (here), five if you include the Pentlands peregrine.

Fortunately not all MSPs are content to remain silent on this issue. Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens) spoke out earlier this month when news broke of the poisoned peregrine, stating that she would be asking questions of the Scottish Government’s failure to protect birds of prey (see here). She’s as good as her word. Alison has since lodged several Parliamentary questions as follows:

S5W-19574: To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the reported recent cases of illegal raptor persecution, what action it is taking to address wildlife crime in the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

S5W-19575: To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the risk to (a) the public and (b) wildlife of the use of banned poisons in the countryside, and what action it is taking to address this issue.

S5W-19576: To ask the Scottish Government, in light of it attracting an estimated 600,000 visitors annually, what its response is to reports that the public was not advised about the presence of a highly toxic banned poison in the Pentland Hills Regional Park

Expected answer date for all three questions is 7 November 2018.

Well done, Alison, and thank you.

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27
Oct
18

Red kite shot in Ashwell, Hertfordshire

Press statement from Hertfordshire Constabulary (25 Oct 2018):

Red kite shot in Ashwell

Officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Rural Support Team are currently investigating the shooting of a Red Kite.

The injured bird was spotted by a local gamekeeper on a bridleway called Green Lane, just off Northfields Road in Ashwell, on Saturday September 29. However he was unable to catch it until October 3. He then took the bird to a local vet where x-rays indicated that it had been shot and had also sustained broken wings. Sadly, it was therefore put to sleep.

Officers are appealing for anyone who has any information about the bird and its injuries to contact them as soon as possible.

Detective Constable Amanda Matthews said: “The reintroduction of Red Kites has been a fantastic success story and the expansion of the population into Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire has allowed more people to see these amazing birds.

The persecution of birds of prey is a National Wildlife Crime Priority and we treat all incidents of this nature very seriously. We are therefore urging people to come forward with any information that could assist us to progress this matter.

Anyone who has any information about the incident is asked to contact DC Amanda Matthews via the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 41/47461/18. You can also report information online.

Alternatively, you can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their anonymous online form. No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will never need to go to court.

ENDS

Full credit to the gamekeeper whose persistence enabled this critically-injured kite to be put out of its misery.

 

26
Oct
18

At least Scottish Ministers are listening. Those at Westminster? Not so much

Today’s earlier blog post (here) on the hypocrisy of the Scottish Government’s reaction to #Goatgate took a bit of a side swipe at the length of time it’s taking the Scottish Government to introduce regulation, enforcement and accountability to the driven grouse shooting industry.

But here’s a bit of perspective on the matter. At least the Scottish Government is listening to concerns, even though it seems to perpetually cycle through reviews and consultations without actually doing very much.

But as for the Westminster Government – the following says it all:

Dr Therese Coffey MP is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). She has special responsibility for the natural environment, including biodiversity.

Shameful wilful blindness, summed up in her one word response.

26
Oct
18

Trophy-hunting of goats is no less peverse than driven grouse shooting – New Statesman opinion piece

An opinion piece for the New Statesman today, discussing the Scottish Government’s quick reaction to the peverse trophy-hunting of goats and its less-than-quick reaction to the equally peverse trophy-hunting of driven red grouse.

Article available here

25
Oct
18

Buzzard caught in illegally-set trap near Moy

Once again, we’re having to report on the deliberate persecution of a protected bird of prey in the Moy area of Highland Scotland, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot.

RPUK map showing location of Moy:

Police Scotland has issued the following appeal for information this morning:

Appeal after buzzard reported trapped south of Inverness

Police Scotland can confirm that an investigation is ongoing following a report of a trapped buzzard near Moy south of Inverness.

The buzzard was discovered by a member of the public earlier in October. However, following a subsequent search of the area by police the bird has not been located.

The trap was close to a fence near to a rough, marshy grazing area close to the B9174 and the national cycle path between Moy and Craggie.

Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: “This unfortunately appears to be an example of deliberate unlawful use of a legal trap to cause suffering to a bird of prey.

A lot of good work has been done in the Highlands and this has been a good season for raptors locally, so any evidence of continued persecution is disappointing.

The location next to the national cycle network path will hopefully help us identify anyone seen acting in a suspicious manner in the area.

Anyone seen near the fence lines, walking up the fence lines, placing articles on the fence posts would be of great interest to us.

We are appealing for anybody who has information about this incident or any other wildlife persecution in the Highland area contact us on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

ENDS

The road number cited in the police press release appears to be inaccurate. The police say it is the B9174 but it looks like this should read the B9154 as this is the road that runs between Moy and Craggie.

Interestingly, Police Scotland has not published the pictures of the trapped buzzard, photographed by the member of the public who found the bird in distress. However, from the police press release, especially the penultimate sentence, it seems reasonable to conclude that this buzzard was caught in a pole trap. A pole trap is a spring trap that has been fixed to the top of a post. When a bird lands on it, the jaws of the trap smash the birds legs, often breaking them. As the trap is fixed to the post, the bird cannot fly away and it is left to dangle upside down, held by its legs, until it dies or until the trap operator comes along and kills it.

Here’s a photo from our archives of another buzzard that had been caught in a illegal pole trap. It didn’t survive its horrific injuries.

These are barbaric devices that cause immeasurable suffering and as such have been banned from use since 1904. However, pole traps are still routinely used as a weapon of choice on game-shooting estates as we see all too often (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here). Anyone caught using these traps deserves a lengthy custodial sentence. There is simply no excuse for such savagery in 21st Century Scotland.

We’ve blogged about raptor persecution in the Moy area many many times, including the illegal use of traps and reports of armed masked gunmen visiting the nest sites of protected species. Here are a few examples: here, here, here, here, here and just last year there was a report of another buzzard that had been caught in an illegally-set trap in this area (here).

[RPUK map showing the B9154 road between Moy and Craggie. The red dots are confirmed raptor persecution incidents in this area]

And of course, this grouse moor dominated area has also been identified as one of the hotspot areas where satellite-tagged golden eagles ‘disappear’:

24
Oct
18

New paper from Langholm study shows effectiveness of hen harrier diversionary feeding

Diversionary feeding of hen harriers (where alternative food is provided for breeding birds to reduce the number of red grouse chicks they might otherwise have taken) has long been an option for grouse moor managers who complain that hen harriers eat ‘too many’ grouse.

This practice has been studied in depth during the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (phase 1 and phase 2).

[Photo of diversionary feeding in action at Langholm, by Laurie Campbell]

It’s been known for a while just how successful this technique can be. For example, during the Langholm 1 study the proportion of red grouse found in the diet of hen harriers where diversionary feeding was NOT in place was 12%. During the Langholm 2 study, the proportion of red grouse found in the diet of hen harriers where diversionary feeding WAS in place had dropped to between 0 – 4% (see here and here).

These findings have now been formally written up and published in the scientific journal Bird Study. Unfortunately due to publishing restrictions we’re not permitted to publish the entire paper but here’s the abstract:

It’s good to see this paper finally out and especially good to see that the lead author, as well as several co-authors, is employed by GWCT.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if, at the forthcoming High Court challenge against hen harrier brood meddling (a management option of which the GWCT is one of the biggest supporters), lawyers acting on behalf of challengers Mark Avery and the RSPB presented this paper as evidence that Natural England’s decision to licence brood meddling was unlawful because all other management options (i.e. diversionary feeding) hadn’t been exhausted?

23
Oct
18

Werritty Review: evidence of raptor persecution on some grouse moors ‘compelling & shocking’

The Scottish Government-commissioned review of grouse moor management continues, with the Review Group, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, taking evidence from a variety of individuals and organisations.

For new blog readers, this review was ordered in May 2017 by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham after the publication of another review, ‘Analyses of the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland‘, which showed clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution in some areas managed intensively for driven grouse shooting.

The Werritty Review is due to report next year.

[Golden eagle ‘Fearnan‘, found poisoned on an Angus Glens grouse moor. Nobody was ever prosecuted for killing this eagle. In fact nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted for killing a golden eagle in Scotland. Photo by RSPB]

A number of general updates about the Review Group’s activities have been published by Professor Werritty and we were especially pleased to read his comments about the evidence presented to the group on illegal raptor persecution. It’s not very detailed but there’s little ambiguity in his words:

“Whilst we noted that many raptor species in Britain have recovered in terms of their post-war population sizes and distributions (with some strikingly successful reintroduction/reinforcement conservation programmes for sea eagles, red kite and osprey) the evidence linking raptor persecution to some areas managed as grouse moors appears both compelling and shocking”.

Professor Werritty’s full report on that meeting, which also included evidence on legal predator control and mountain hare culls, can be read here.

There have been further evidence sessions, and also a ‘consultation’, of sorts, that took place over the summer. We’ll be blogging about that ‘consultation’ separately.




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