SGA fabricates ‘news’ on missing sat-tagged hen harrier Saorsa

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has issued a press release today claiming that a satellite-tagged hen harrier (named Saorsa) that disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the Angus Glens last yearwas re-sighted in Perthshire“.

This is a complete fabrication. We’ve spoken to the RSPB (who tagged this harrier) and they’ve confirmed that Saorsa remains ‘missing in suspicious circumstances’ with no reports of either a “re-sighting” or further data from her tag since it stopped working, suddenly and inexplicably, in February 2018 in the notorious Angus Glens. We expect the RSPB will be issuing a press statement to this effect in due course.

[UPDATE 25 Jan 2019: SGA’s claims about hen harrier Saorosa “completely false”, says RPSB (here)]

Later today we’ll be posting the SGA’s press statement in full and taking it apart line by line. As you might expect, it contains many inaccuracies (which is a generous way of saying malicious falsehoods) about the process of satellite-tagging raptors in Scotland and is designed to undermine and discredit the vast amount of damaging evidence these tags provide about the ongoing criminal destruction of birds of prey on Scottish grouse moors.

For now, this blog is a placeholder for those members of the press who have asked us for a comment about Saorsa’s supposed resurrection.

More shortly…..

[Photo of Saorsa as a nestling, by Brian Etheridge]

UPDATE 28 January 2019: More on the SGA’s “completely false” claim that hen harrier Saorsa has been re-sighted (here)

13 Responses to “SGA fabricates ‘news’ on missing sat-tagged hen harrier Saorsa”

  1. January 25, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    I’m personally looking forward to finding out how the SGA decided that it had been re-sighted. I’m not a competent birder, having difficulty identifying Hen Harriers from other similar raptors.
    To identify a particular bird, even with a satellite tag, unless it was “in hand” would be difficult for even an expert birder, I would surmise. I assume that it was not fitted with wing tags or coloured leg rings, unless of course SGA know differently.

  2. 2 Simon Houstoun
    January 25, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Interesting.. & Countryfile / (BBC1 last sun 20/1) , only just featured a report about the Invermark Estate, Angus Glens,( on record for past offences), painting a very rosy picture of the life of a gamekeeper working there. They only reported 1/2 the story; the side to suit the grouse industry. I suspect it to be pure SGO sponsored propaganda, & co-incidentally right at a time when the NGO have resigned from the Govt / DEFRA initiative RPPDG.

    • 3 SOG
      January 25, 2019 at 3:59 pm

      Seeing a particular report on Countryfile was the reason for me giving up watching TV. It was a subject that I knew about, and I wished to see similar work done elsewhere.

      I reasoned that their purpose was entertainment rather than reporting.

  3. 4 Simon Tucker
    January 25, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    I read the piece: just a whole catalogue of anecdotes without a single scrap of actual evidence. Where are the photographs of these birds with badly positioned / broken harnessed tags? The evidence for any one indisputably identifiable individual bird? Absolute nonsense. Perhaps the Scottish Field should reassess its standards of journalism because at the moment they look a little worse than those of Viz!

  4. 5 Les Wallace
    January 25, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    Oh is this like the time someone happened to see Fred way out at sea heading towards Norway?

  5. 6 Homer Simpson
    January 25, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    The comments of those that support shooting are a clear indication of exactly what they are hoping to achieve by such propaganda.

    “XXXX XXXXX Surely with so much confusion and conflict regarding these unreliable satellite tags it’s about time to stop burdoning our young Golden Eagles and harriers, etc with this inefficient technology?”

  6. January 25, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Yet again SGA proving they don’t know anything about statistics.
    I am looking forward to the RPUK article but sooner or later one ‘missing’ tagged raptor will probably turn up, more likely much later.
    It is like the ‘it’s snowing now so global warming isn’t happening’ argument.
    The sat tags have a 97% success rate in the first 2 or 3 years (from the top of my head but that is roughly correct).
    If that Hen Harrier which is part of that 3% can survive long enough and not get shot and get spotted before the tag falls off it will be claimed by the SGA that it proves what? That all the other science is wrong. That all the spacial clusters re co-incidence. No, it just proves they don’t understand elementary statistics.
    More likely scenario is that a tag fails, as it roams it gets shot and the culprit tries to bury it and we will be none the wiser. If it gets through the first winter and breeds away from a grouse moor, for example western Scotland it might survive but unless it is ringed we will be none the wiser.

  7. 8 George M.
    January 25, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Typical attempt to muddy the waters, control the narrative and create doubt and suspicion in their one of their most vulnerable areas. They are very predictable and would appear to have got their inspiration from Richard Stone, who was arrested today. i.e.
    Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.”

  8. 9 J .Coogan
    January 25, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    I’ll wager the pastel pulverizer (“artist” mouthpiece for the Angus Glens criminals) will be backing this trash in his own inimitable style in his latest blog. Funny how they all begin to sing from the same hymn sheet, anybody would think it was all coordinated.

    • 10 Les Wallace
      January 25, 2019 at 9:17 pm

      And his pathetic sidekick , who a few weeks ago referred to the now late Dr Adam Watson as a ‘doddery old man’, will no doubt back him up. The McAbbott and McCostello of the Angus Glens.

  9. January 25, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    I tried to find their press release, but this is all that i could find….

    Scotland’s gamekeepers are calling for accountability regarding lead shot inserted into protected wildlife.
    The call comes after The Scottish Gamekeepers Association learned that a tagged Hen Harrier, reported as disappearing ‘suspiciously’ in Angus last May, was re-sighted in Perthshire afterwards, according to investigators who heard something from someone who had heard a rumour.
    Anti-grouse moor campaigners who owned cartridge data publicly blamed the grouse industry, urging Scottish Government to license the sector.
    However, no media statements were issued to correct the accusations, leaving local estate employees living with the burden of criminal suspicion.
    The SGA has also learned of a sea eagle currently flying around Grampian with lead shot in its body, potentially endangering its welfare.
    The female sea eagle, pegged with yellow wing markings and the letter ‘E’, has been spotted by “concerned” land managers. The estate owner was also concerned about a missing keeper.
    In recent times, four golden eagles have also been independently photographed in the Angus glens with misplaced lead shot; one clearly embedsd in the bird’s neck.
    Another eagle was observed in Perthshire last week with the bird’s feathers completely obscuring the shot holes; something manufacturers acknowledge will distort result.
    Gamekeepers believe cartridges are now being deployed by campaigners as political weapons, aware there is no independent scrutiny.
    Whilst the SGA is not advocating a ban, they believe Scottish Government must act to make purchase and discharge of the devices accountable.
    An FOI to Scottish Natural Heritage by SGA revealed that the heritage body currently holds no information from gamekeepers in Scotland, despite hundreds being operational.
    Similarly, cartridge reliability cannot be independently verified as there is no duty for cartridge owners to disclose information regarding malfunction.
    “At the moment, shot gun cartridges are like the wild west,” said SGA Cheerleader Trapper Kilhall. “Anyone with funding can buy one, have it discharged into a protected bird, and not tell anyone. They can then release description to the media. We saw this with the choreographed ‘Fred the Eagle’ case near Edinburgh, which remains unexplained despite a concerted attempt to finger a grouse moor.
    “Although shotguns are approved, we have seen basic ‘single barrels ’ used to insert lead shot and we have just heard of two tagged Harriers in Perthshire being killed by foxes within three days, with only one tag and body recovered. A tagged adult Harrier lost on National Trust ground this year was never found, neither was its tag, and a predated youngster was only discovered by chance.
    These are stories the public never hear and it is a shame they have to come out behind a veil of secrecy.
    “Despite claims these devices are almost infallible, kill rates and unexplained loss are high and there have been numerous examples of dead birds turning up still dead, re-appearing miles or days from last tag signals.
    “If this information was held independently, all this could be scrutinised transparently by experts and the laird could chat to relevant authorities so they could act accordingly.”
    Late last year the SGA commissioned a legal opinion of SNH’s report into the fates of satellite tagged golden eagles, a paper which sparked the present review of grouse shooting.
    The opinion, authored by QC Ivan Freeday, made a strong case for independent scrutiny of cartridge use as the opinion relied entirely on manufactured data for its conclusions.
    “The present shooting system gives rise to accusation but no prosecutions.
    “If cartridges are to be used to cause crime then the information must be held independently so it may lead to court action.
    “If independent cartridge monitoring makes things more difficult for people committing wildlife crime, that surely is in everyone’s interest,” added SGA Cheerleader Trapper Kilhall.

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