Archive for the '2004 persecution incidents' Category

03
Jan
16

More raptor persecution uncovered in the Scottish Borders

We’re still working our way through RSPB Scotland’s recently published twenty-year review (see here) and what a fascinating read it’s proving to be. We’ve already blogged about two things that caught our eye (see here and here), and now here’s the third.

On page 14 of the report, the following has been written:

Lines 5, 6 and 7 of Table 4 describe the finding at one site, in an area intensively managed for driven grouse shooting, of a set crow trap, hidden within a small area of woodland, which was found to contain two feral pigeons indubitably being used as illegal lures to attract birds of prey. Under a tree, only a few metres away, were found the decomposed carcasses of four buzzards that had been shot, while a short distance from the crow trap a pigeon was found in a small circular cage, with four set spring traps set on the ground, hidden under moss, attached to the trap“.

Here’s a copy of Table 4, with lines 5, 6 and 7 highlighted:

Nr Heriot 2014

Also included in the report is a photograph of the pigeon inside a small cage with the four set spring traps hidden under moss:

Pigeon in trap Heriot 2014

So, according to the RSPB report, these offences were uncovered in May 2014 on a driven grouse moor in the Borders, with the location given as “nr Heriot“. Funny, we don’t remember seeing anything in the press about these crimes.

Hmm. Could these wildlife crimes be in any way related to SNH’s recent decision to serve a General Licence restriction order on parts of the Raeshaw Estate and Corsehope Estate (see here)? Both Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Estate can be described as being ‘nr Heriot’; indeed, the recorded property address for Raeshaw Estate is given as ‘Raeshaw House, Heriot, EH38 5YE’ (although the owner is only listed as Raeshaw Holdings Ltd., registered in the Channel Islands, natch), according to Andy Wightman’s excellent Who Owns Scotland website. And according to SNH, the General Licence restriction order on these two estates was served due to “issues about the illegal placement of traps” (see here). It’s possible that they’re connected, but it’s also possible that these crimes are unconnected with SNH’s General Licence restriction order on these two estates because Raeshaw isn’t the only grouse moor that could be described as being ‘nr Heriot’. Unfortunately, the (lack of) detail available in the public domain doesn’t allow us to be conclusive. Perhaps there’ll be some transparency once the legal arguments (see here) about the General Licence restrictions have concluded (which should happen fairly soon). Then again, perhaps there won’t.

If these crimes were not uncovered on either the Raeshaw or Corsehope Estates, we hope there’ll at least be a General Licence restriction order served on whichever grouse moor these traps were found because there’s been a clear breach of the General Licence rules – pigeons are not permitted as decoy birds in crow cage traps; set spring traps are not permitted out in the open; oh, and shooting buzzards is also illegal. There should also be a prosecution of course, but that’s highly improbable given the track record of non-prosecutions for raptor crimes uncovered in this part of the Borders.

There’s been a long history of raptor persecution “nr Heriot“, dating back to at least 2001. Here’s a list we’ve compiled of confirmed raptor persecution crimes, all listed within RSPB annual reports:

2001 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot Dale”. No prosecution

2003 Feb: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Mar: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Apr: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Nov: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Feb: Carbofuran (possession for use) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Feb: two poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Oct: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2005 Dec: poisoned buzzard & raven (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2006 Sep: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2006 Oct: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Mar: two poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Jun: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Jun: 4 x poisoned baits (2 x rabbits; 2 x pigeons) (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2010 Nov: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2011 Jan: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot” No prosecution

2013 Jun: shot + poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2014 May: crow trap baited with two live pigeon decoys “nr Heriot”. Prosecution?

2014 May: four set spring traps beside live pigeon decoy “nr Heriot”. Prosecution?

2014 May: four shot buzzards “nr Heriot” Prosecution?

Not included in an RSPB annual report (because it happened this year): 2015 Jul: shot buzzard “found by side of road between Heriot and Innerleithen” according to media reports (see here). Prosecution?

Interestingly, also not included in the RSPB’s annual reports but reported by the Southern Reporter (here) and the Guardian (here), a police raid on Raeshaw Estate in 2004 uncovered nine dead birds of prey, including five barn owls, two buzzards, a kestrel and a tawny owl, described as being “poisoned or shot“. In addition, “a number of illegal poisons were discovered but no-one was ever prosecuted“. According to both these articles, during a further police raid on Raeshaw in 2009 ‘three injured hunting dogs were seized by the SSPCA on suspicion of involvement with badger baiting’. We don’t know whether that resulted in a prosecution.

Also not included in the above list is the sudden ‘disappearance’ of a young satellite-tagged hen harrier in October 2011. This bird had fledged from Langholm and it’s last known signal came from Raeshaw Estate. A search failed to find the body or the tag.

Fascinating stuff.

07
Apr
13

Going to the Scottish Birdfair? Read this first

PrintThere’s an article today in the Sunday Herald about the RSPB’s controversial choice of venue for next month’s Scottish Birdfair. For the second year running, the RSPB has chosen to hold this event at Hopetoun House, the stately home of Lord Hopetoun whose family also owns the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in South Lanarkshire, a grouse moor that has been at the centre of raptor persecution allegations for years. Sunday Herald article here.

Regular blog readers will know we’ve commented on this issue at length: see here, here, here, here, here and especially here.

In today’s article, veteran Scottish Raptor Study Group member Ronnie Graham urges potential Birdfair attendees to “make an informed decision” about going.

The following information might help. This is a list of confirmed persecution incidents listed at Leadhills/Abington between 2003-2011. This information has been sourced from the RSPB’s own annual persecution reports, in addition to Scottish Government data. The list does not include other ‘unconfirmed’ or ‘probable’ incidents, such as the discovery of skeletal raptor bodies found buried in forestry or dead raptors found shoved inside rabbit holes. Data are only available up to 2011, so any incidents that might have occured in 2012 or the first quarter of 2013 are not included. There are 41 confirmed incidents on this list; of these, only a couple have been successfully prosecuted (see here for a good example of why prosecutions fail). The list is a good example of why conviction rates should not be used to indicate the extent of criminal activity.

2003 April: hen harrier shot

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed

2004 May: buzzard shot

2004 May: short-eared owl shot

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran)

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran)

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran)

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran)

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown)

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran)

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran)

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran)

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran)

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran)

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran)

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran)

2010 October: short-eared owl shot

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap

2011 December: buzzard shot

16
Mar
10

two peregrines poisoned on nature reserve, Aberdeenshire

dead peregrine

Two recently-fledged peregrines were found poisoned on the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Longhaven Reserve, Aberdeenshire, in July 2004. They were found by two climbers and tests proved they had been poisoned by eating from a pesticide-laced bait.

Police wildlife crime officer, George Sangster, said peregrines had been the victims of illegal persecution for many years, and he and his colleagues had seen “a worrying trend in the last few years in the north east of Scotland, with an increase in the persecution of peregrines”. Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3896793.stm

Six years later, not much has changed. According to a 2009 RSPB report, recent estimates suggest that 27% of nests in southeast Scotland, 24% of nests in northeast Scotland and over 10% of examined sites in Cumbria were subject to interference or killing. More info: http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=1674

10
Mar
10

Perthshire gamekeeper fined for possession of illegal poisons

On 15th Dec 2004, a 39 year old Perthshire gamekeeper (name removed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974) of Taymist, Ballinluig, was fined £1200 after he was found to have two hazardous chemicals. The keeper, who runs shooting parties, admitted illegally storing alpha chloralose in his car and Cymag in his unlocked garage.

Chloralose has been used to kill thousands of birds, including golden eagles, kestrels and buzzards, in recent years. Two tins of Cymag were found in the keeper’s garage. The chemical, which gives off a lethal gas, has been used to clear mole and rabbit holes but will be banned at the end of the year.

06
Mar
10

Gamekeeper fined for shooting short-eared owl on Leadhills Estate, South Lanarkshire

A Short Eared Owl

A gamekeeper was convicted of shooting a short-eared owl on a Lanarkshire grouse moor in May 2004.

The 23 year old gamekeeper (name removed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974) who works for a shoot on Abington Farms Estate (often known as the Leadhills Estate), appeared at Lanark Sheriff Court on 31 July 2005. Two local bird of prey workers told the court how they had seen a short-eared owl fly up from the heather as the keeper drove across the moor on a quad bike. They saw the keeper stop the bike, take out his shotgun and walk towards the spot where the owl had settled on the hillside. When it flew up, he fired three shots at it and it fell to the ground. He collected the spent shotgun cartridges, but failed to find the owl.

After a search of the heather, the two witnesses found the bird, still alive but badly injured. It died a few minutes afterwards. They had recognized the keeper, and used a mobile phone to call Police Wildlife Crime Officer Phil Briggs. Within minutes the Strathclyde Police helicopter was searching the moor, but no one could be found. The keeper was later detained at his home, where clothing was recovered matching the description provided by the witnesses.

The keeper was convicted of killing a short-eared owl under section 1(1)(a)of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and fined £500. It was his first conviction.

He remained employed on the estate. The area has a long history of confirmed and alleged cases of bird of prey poisoning and persecution.

Short-eared owls nest on the ground and feed almost exclusively on small mammals such as voles. They pose no threat to game birds.

04
Mar
10

Gamekeeper guilty of multiple bird deaths on Barns Estate, Peebleshire

A gamekeeper on the Barns Estate near Kirkton Manor, Peebleshire, was found guilty of killing 20 raptors by poisoning them. The keeper was charged with killing 25 birds originally, but several of the corpses were too badly decomposed to ascertain their cause of death. The gruesome discovery on the Barns Estate, where the accused had worked as a gamekeeper for 17 years, was made in March 2004 and included buzzards, a goshawk and a tawny owl. Investigators found 12 rabbit and pheasant carcasses that had been slit open and laced with blue poison granules.

The keeper’s defence lawyer: “He is clearly someone who has respect for the countryside. I think it would have been wrong to portray [him] as someone who has no respect for birds of prey”.

Fortunately, Sheriff James Farrell (Selkirk Sheriff Court) disagreed and the keeper was convicted and fined £5,500.

A spokesman for Wemyss & March Estates Ltd (who manages the Barns Estate) said he was completely unaware of his gamekeeper’s illegal activities.

Further info: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3597952.stm




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