Archive for the '2011 persecution incidents' Category

01
Sep
17

Satellite-tagged hen harrier disappears on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park

Well that didn’t take long, did it? Just a few weeks after fledging, one of the 2017 cohort of satellite-tagged hen harriers has already ‘disappeared’, with its final signal emitted from a grouse moor on the 12th August, the opening day of the grouse-shooting season.

Hen harrier ‘Calluna‘ (photo RSPB Scotland)

RSPB Scotland press release:

SATELLITE-TAGGED HEN HARRIER DISAPPEARS ON DEESIDE GROUSE MOOR

RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal for information after a young hen harrier, fitted with a satellite tag as part of the charity’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project, disappeared on an Aberdeenshire grouse moor.

Calluna‘, a female harrier, was tagged this summer at a nest on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, near Braemar. Her transmitter’s data was being monitored by RSPB Scotland and showed that the bird fledged from the nest in July. She left the area in early August, with the data showing her gradually heading east over the Deeside moors. However, while the tag data showed it to be working perfectly, transmissions abruptly ended on 12th August, with no further data transmitted. Calluna’s last recorded position was on a grouse moor a few miles north of Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park.

Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest raptors and the 2016 national survey results released earlier this year showed that even in Scotland, the species’ stronghold, these birds are struggling. The number of breeding pairs in Scotland now stands at 460, a fall of 27 per cent since 2004, with illegal killing in areas managed for driven grouse shooting identified as one of the main drivers of this decline.

David Frew, Operations Manager for the National Trust for Scotland at Mar Lodge Estate, said: “It is deeply saddening to learn that Calluna appears to have been lost, so soon after fledging from Mar Lodge Estate. Hen harriers were persecuted on Deeside for a great many years, and we had hoped that the first successful breeding attempt on Mar Lodge Estate in 2016 would signal the start of a recovery for these magnificent birds in the area.

Only one month after fledging, and having travelled only a relatively short distance, it appears that we will no longer be able to follow the progress of our 2017 chick. We hope however that the data her tag has provided will help to inform a wider understanding of the lives and threats faced by hen harriers.”

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland said: “This bird joins the lengthening list of satellite-tagged birds of prey that have disappeared, in highly suspicious circumstances, almost exclusively in areas in areas intensively managed for grouse shooting. We are pleased that the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment has commissioned an independent group to look at how grouse moors can be managed sustainably and within the law. We look forward to a further announcement shortly on the membership of this group, and we are committed to assist the work of this enquiry in any way that we can.

The LIFE project team has fitted a significant number of tags to young hen harriers this year, with the very welcome help from landowners, including the National Trust for Scotland, who value these magnificent birds breeding on their property. The transmitters used in this project are incredibly reliable and the sudden halt in data being received from it, with no hint of a malfunction, is very concerning. We ask that if anyone has any information about the disappearance of this bird we urge them to contact Police Scotland as quickly as possible”.

ENDS

Here’s a map we’ve created showing the location of the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, where Calluna hatched, and the town of Ballater, close to where she disappeared.

The RSPB Scotland press release doesn’t name the estate from where Calluna’s last position was recorded, it just says it was “on a grouse moor a few miles north of Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park“.

Hmm, let’s have a closer look at that. Here’s a map showing the grouse moor area a few miles north of Ballater. According to estate boundary details that we sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website, Calluna’s last position could have been recorded on either an Invercauld Estate grouse moor or a Dinnet Estate grouse moor.

If you’re thinking that this part of the Cairngorms National Park looks familiar, you’d be right, we’ve blogged about it a few times before. There was the discovery of an illegally shot peregrine at the Pass of Ballater in 2011, the reported coordinated hunt and subsequent shooting of an adult hen harrier at Glen Gairn on the border of Invercauld and Dinnet Estates in 2013, and then there were the illegally-set traps that were found nr Geallaig Hill on Invercauld Estate in 2016. This area of Royal Deeside is quite the little raptor persecution hotspot, isn’t it?

The evidence just keeps mounting. Is anyone still wondering why the game-shooting industry is so keen to try and discredit the use of satellite tags on raptors?

We wonder what explanations, to avoid the bleedin’ obvious, they’ll come up with this time? Perhaps they’ll suggest Calluna was sucked in to a vortex created by Hurricane Harvey? Or maybe they’ll say she was hit by a North Korean test missile? They might tell us that Vladimir Putin must have hacked the satellite signals? All just as plausible as the usual tosh they trot out, such as how a fieldworker eating a sandwich at a tagging session causes eagles to die (here), or how non-existent wind farms are responsible for the disappearance of eight sat-tagged golden eagles (here), or how ‘activists’ have been killing sat-tagged raptors as part of a smear campaign against the grouse-shooting industry (here), or how a faulty saltwater switch on tags attached to Olive Ridley turtles on the Indian subcontinent means that all satellite tags are unreliable (here).

We’ll be updating this page throughout the day if and when statements are made by the following:

Response of Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham –

Response of Alexander Burnett MSP (Conservative, Aberdeen West) –

Response of Cairngorms National Park Authority – Grant Moir, Chief Exec of CNPA said: “A hen harrier has once again disappeared in the Cairngorms National Park, with a satellite tracker ceasing to transmit. The Park Authority is determined to stop these recurring disappearances. Earlier this week the CNPA met with Police Scotland to discuss how increased use of special constables can help to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park. We also continue to work on other solutions to these issues. The CNPA look forward to the establishment by Scottish Government of the independently-led group to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management and will feed in to that review“.

Response of Scottish Land & Estates – David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “Estates in the area have welcomed a number of hen harriers to the area during August and only today one moor reported three harriers. Local land managers reject the inference that the loss of signal from this tag is connected to grouse moor management and are now offering every assistance in searching the area where the last transmission was recorded. They are dismayed that they were not informed earlier that the tag had stopped transmitting nearly three weeks ago, as this would have assisted the search“.

Response of Scottish Wildlife Trust – Susan Davies, director of conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) said: “It’s extremely disappointing to learn that yet another hen harrier has disappeared over a grouse moor. The most recent surveys show that hen harrier numbers are declining in most parts of Scotland and that illegal persecution is a factor in this decline. Anyone who has information on this bird’s disappearance should contact Police Scotland immediately. 

The Trust has repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to be tougher on wildlife crime and introduce a system of licensing for grouse moor management to encourage sustainable practices. We welcome the recent announcement that a working group will be formed to look at the environmental impact of grouse moors and options for better regulation, and we stand ready to assist this group in any way possible“.

Response of Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association – A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The SGA would urge anyone who saw the bird or knows anything about it to contact Police Scotland. This is the first we have heard of this. Obviously any news like this is very disappointing. The SGA condemns raptor persecution and if any of our members are convicted of a wildlife crime they are removed from our organisation. We have learned from those monitoring tags that birds can move some distance away from where they were last recorded so it is important that, if people know anything, they alert the Police immediately.”

Response of Scottish Moorland Group –

Response of Grampian Moorland Group –

Response of GWCT – Nothing, nada, zilch. But on Twitter they announced the availability of the new GWCT Xmas Cards. That’s nice.

Response of BASC –

Response of Countryside Alliance –

Response of Scottish Association for Country Sports – (from The Times) – Julia Stoddart, head of policy for the SACS, lamented the practice of killing hen harriers to protect grouse. “However, we would remind the RSPB that tag technology can fail for a number of reasons, and that raptors are susceptible to natural causes of death as well as to illegal persecution“, she said.

Other media coverage:

BBC news here

Scotsman here

Press & Journal here

UPDATE 2 September 2017: On cue, Scottish landowners’ rep throws false allegations at RSPB (see here).

UPDATE 4 September 2017: Political silence in response to missing hen harrier Calluna (see here).

UPDATE 5 September 2017: Scottish Land & Estates and their indefensible distortion of the truth (see here).

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12
Aug
16

Ministerial reaction to ‘missing’ golden eagles

Following yesterday’s news that eight young satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths in the last five years (see here), we were interested to read the response from Roseanna Cunningham MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment.

Here’s the statement that appeared on the Scottish Government’s website:

The Scottish Government has ordered a review of satellite tracking data, following reports from RSPB Scotland that a number of golden eagles have disappeared in the Monadhliath mountains.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said: “The latest reports of satellite-tagged golden eagles disappearing on or near grouse moors are very disturbing and disappointing. That is why I have instructed officials to analyse the evidence from around 90 surviving and missing satellite-tagged eagles, to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity.

Grouse moor management does help species such as curlew and golden plover as well as generating much needed rural employment and income but this cannot be at any price. The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception.

As previously stated, the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce further regulation of shooting businesses if necessary. It will be unfortunate if the activities of a few bring further regulation on the whole sector, but that is the risk those why defy the law and defy public opinion are running“.

END

Yesterday we described her call for a review of satellite-tag data as ‘fatuous’ (see here). Not because such a review is unwelcome; it isn’t. But because the reason given for the review – ‘to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity’ – suggests that the pattern of activity is currently unknown. That’s as ridiculous as it gets. Of course the pattern of illegal persecution is already known, and has been for decades. Endless peer-reviewed scientific papers and government reports on golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and peregrines have unequivocally linked the illegal killing of these raptors with intensively-managed driven grouse moors. Why pretend that this is all news? Why pretend nobody knows what’s been going on?

Taking the example of the Monadhliaths, this area has been a known eagle persecution blackspot since the 1970s! Have a look at this article that was published in the Scotsman on 11 March 1993 (we blogged about it here):

the_mountains_where_eagles_die_map-compressed2

To be fair, in recent years a number of more enlightened landowners in this area have been working closely with conservationists, resulting in a small increase in golden eagle survival on a few local estates, but as clearly seen from yesterday’s news, there are still other estates in the Monadhliaths that have yet to drag their sorry backsides away from the (now illegal) ‘management’ practices of the 19th Century.

Nevertheless, we do welcome the news that the Cabinet Secretary is actually doing something this time, instead of just churning out the same tired old Government rhetoric of ‘We will not hesitate to take further action if necessary’. It is necessary and we do expect to see ‘further action’ without any more stalling or prevarication. If you hear hooves, Cabinet Secretary, look for horses, not zebras.

But it’s not just the reaction of the Environment Cabinet Secretary that interests us. It turns out that another Cabinet Secretary should be taking more of an interest than most. Fergus Ewing MSP is the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity. He also happens to be the Member of the Scottish Parliament representing the constituency of Inverness and Nairn.

If you look at the map of Fergus’s constituency, and then look at the map showing the last known locations of those eight satellite-tagged golden eagles, you’ll see that a good few of the points where the eagles were last recorded lie within Fergus’s constituency boundary.

Inverness Nairn constituency map

FergusEwing Constituency Monadhliaths

ge disappeared

Now, we know that Fergus’s job is to represent the interests of ALL his constituents (estimated at 66,619 voters, according to his website). We know he does a good job of representing the interests of a tiny fraction of those constituents who are involved with the game-shooting industry – here’s a picture of him attending the Moy Game Fair last weekend – and is that a Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association tie around his neck?

fergus ewing sga tie

But what about the interests of the tens of thousands of his other constituents? We’re pretty sure that most, if not all, will be appalled to discover what’s still going on in their area. What will Fergus be doing about that?

Will he be encouraging his constituents to sign this petition calling for the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing scheme for all gamebird hunting?

A good many of his constituents have already signed this other petition, calling for an outright ban on driven grouse shooting (which has just smashed through 90,000 signatures, on it’s way to 100,000 and a parliamentary debate in Westminster).

We’ll watch with interest to see what both these Cabinet Secretaries do next.

11
Aug
16

40 eagles, 10 years, 0 prosecutions

In April 2012, we wrote an article called ’21 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions’ (see here).

In September 2012, we updated it and called it ’26 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions’ (see here).

In July 2013 we updated it again. This time, ’27 eagles, 7 years, 0 prosecutions’ (see here).

In December 2013 we had to do another update: ‘31 eagles, 7 years, 0 prosecutions’ (see here).

In April 2014 we had to do another update: ’32 eagles, 8 years, 0 prosecutions’ (see here).

Fearnan Angus Glens Dec 2013 - Copy

After this morning’s news (here) that eight young satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in the Monadhliath Mountains over the last five years, we thought it was time for another update. This time it’s called: ’40 eagles, 10 years, 0 prosecutions’.

36 of these 40 eagles have either been found dead on, or have ‘disappeared’ on, Scottish grouse moors. (The other 4 have either died or have ‘disappeared’ in other habitat types).

Three of these 40 eagles have ‘disappeared’ in 2016. So much for the grouse-shooting industry claiming that they’ve cleaned up their act and that persecution is a thing of the past. The tactics of how to kill an eagle have clearly changed (see here) but the persecution continues.

As before, a number of eagles included in this list (16 of them, to be precise) may not be dead. However, they are included here because their satellite tags unexpectedly stopped functioning (i.e. they’d been transmitting perfectly well up until the eagles’ last known location, often a known persecution hotspot). Two further satellite-tagged eagles (‘Angus’ and ‘Tom’) are not included in this list as although their transmitters stopped functioning, there had been recognisable problems with their tags prior to the final transmissions and so the benefit of the doubt has been applied.

Many of these listed eagles from recent years have only been discovered because the eagles were being satellite-tracked. Much kudos to the dedicated teams of fieldworkers who have put in hours and hours of skilled hard work to allow this to happen. Obviously there are many other eagles out there that have not been sat-tagged and on the balance of probability will have been killed at the hands of the game-shooting industry. 40 eagles in the last 10 years is the bare minimum. The number of prosecutions (zero) is indisputable.

MAY 2006: A dead adult golden eagle was found on the Dinnet & Kinord Estate, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation. No prosecution.

JUNE 2006: A dead golden eagle was found on Glen Feshie Estate in the Cairngorms. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary launched an investigation. No prosecution.

AUGUST 2007: A dead adult female golden eagle was found on an estate near Peebles in the Borders. She was half of the last known breeding pair of golden eagles in the region. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Lothian & Borders Police launched an investigation. No prosecution.

NOVEMBER 2007: Tayside Police received a detailed tip-off that a young male white-tailed eagle (known as ‘Bird N’) had allegedly been shot on a grouse moor estate in the Angus Glens. The timing and location included in the tip-off coincided with the timing and location of the last-known radio signal of this bird. The eagle has not been seen again. With no carcass, an investigation isn’t possible.

MAY 2008: A one year old male white-tailed eagle hatched on Mull in 2007 and known as ‘White G’ was found dead on the Glenquoich Estate in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed he had been poisoned by an unusual concoction of pesticides that included Carbofuran, Bendiocarb and Isofenphos. A police search in the area also revealed a poisoned buzzard, a baited mountain hare and 32 pieces of poisoned venison baits placed on top of fence posts on the neighbouring Glenogil Estate. Laboratory tests revealed the baited mountain hare and the 32 poisoned venison baits contained the same unusual concoction of highly toxic chemicals that had killed the white-tailed eagle, ‘White G’. No prosecution.

JUNE 2009: An adult golden eagle was found dead at Glen Orchy, Argyll, close to the West Highland Way. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Strathclyde Police launched a multi-agency investigation. Three years and 3 months later, estate employee Tom McKellar pled guilty to possession of Carbofuran stored in premises at Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy and he was fined £1,200. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

JULY 2009: A two year old female golden eagle known as ‘Alma’ was found dead on the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Alma was a well-known eagle  – born on the Glen Feshie Estate in 2007, she was being satellite-tracked and her movements followed by the general public on the internet. Tayside Police launched an investigation. No prosecution.

AUGUST 2009: A young white-tailed eagle was found dead on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Tayside Police was criticized in the national press for not releasing a press statement about this incident until January 2010. No prosecution.

MAY 2010: #1 of three dead golden eagles found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

MAY 2010: #2 of three dead golden eagles found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

MAY 2010: #3 of three dead golden eagles found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

JUNE 2010: #1: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: #2: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: #3: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: #4: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: A golden eagle was found dead on Farr & Kyllachy Estate, Inverness-shire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary apparently did not search the property until July 2011. No prosecution.

JUNE 2010: A white-tailed eagle was found dead on Farr & Kyllachy Estate, Inverness-shire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary apparently did not search the property until July 2011. No prosecution.

DECEMBER 2010: A decomposing carcass of a white-tailed eagle was found and photographed on Logie (Lochindorb) Estate, Morayshire. It was reported to Northern Constabulary. By the time the police arrived to collect it, the carcass had disappeared. The police said they couldn’t investigate further without the body.

FEBRUARY 2011: The signal from a young satellite-tracked golden eagle ( ‘Lee’, hatched in 2010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from the North Angus Glens. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MARCH 2011: The body of a young golden eagle was discovered on North Glenbuchat Estate, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation and raided the property in May 2011. A poisoned buzzard, a poisoned bait and a shot short-eared owl were found. No prosecution.

APRIL 2011: The body of a white-tailed eagle was found at the base of cliffs on Skye. The person who discovered it (a professional medic) considered it to have been freshly shot with a rifle, decapitated with a sharp implement and thrown from the cliff top. He took photographs and alerted Northern Constabulary and RSPB. There was a delay of two weeks before the now probably decomposed carcass was collected. A post-mortem was inconclusive. This incident was not made public until one year later after a tip off to this blog. No prosecution.

SEPTEMBER 2011: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (‘Strathy’, hatched in 2010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from an Aberdeenshire grouse moor. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

NOVEMBER 2011: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tracked golden eagle (#57124) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MARCH 2012: The body of a young golden eagle being tracked by satellite was discovered in Lochaber. Tests revealed it had been poisoned with the banned pesticides Aldicarb and Bendiocarb. Information about this incident was not made public until three months later. No prosecution.

MARCH 2012: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (‘Angus 26′, hatched in 2011) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Angus Glens. This bird’s suspiciously damaged sat tag was found in the area. No prosecution.

MAY 2012: The signal from a young satellite-tracked golden eagle (#32857) unexpectedly stopped transmitting when the bird was north-east of the Cairngorms National Park. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MAY 2012: The dead body of a young satellite-tracked golden eagle (hatched in 2011) was discovered near a lay-by in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. The data from its satellite tag & the injuries the bird had when found (2 broken legs) suggested it had been caught in an illegal trap on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens and then removed, under cover of darkness, to be dumped in another area where it was left to die, probably a slow and agonising death. Information on this incident was not released until almost five months later, by the RSPB. It appears the police failed to properly investigate this incident as we understand that no search warrants were issued and no vehicles were searched. No prosecution.

JULY 2012: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tracked golden eagle (‘Foinaven’) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

OCTOBER 2012: An adult golden eagle was found shot and critically injured on grouse moor at Buccleuch Estate, near Wanlockhead, South Lanarkshire. The bird was rescued by the SSPCA and underwent surgery but it eventually succumbed to its injuries in April 2013. No prosecution.

MAY 2013: The signal from a two-year-old satellite tracked golden eagle (‘Angus 33′, hatched in 2011) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after its last signal from North Glenbuchat Estate in Aberdeenshire. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

JUNE 2013: A dead golden eagle was found under power lines on an RSPB reserve on Oronsay. This bird had been shot although it is not known whether this was the cause of death or an historical injury.

JULY 2013: The signal from a young satellite tracked golden eagle (‘Cullen’, hatched 2010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after its last signal in Aberdeenshire. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

DECEMBER 2013: A two year old satellite tracked golden eagle (‘Fearnan’) was found dead on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed he had been poisoned with the banned pesticide Carbofuran. No prosecution.

MARCH 2014: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#129002) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

APRIL 2014: The signal from a young satellite tracked white-tailed eagle (the first fledged sea eagle chick in East Scotland in ~200 years) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after its last signal from the North Glenbuchat Estate in Aberdeenshire. Police raided the property a couple of weeks later. No prosecution.

OCTOBER 2014: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#107133) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

OCTOBER 2014: The signal from a two-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#119886) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MAY 2016: The signal from a less-than-one-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#00000583) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

JUNE 2016: The signal from a two-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#129010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

JULY 2016: The signal from a two-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#129015 ‘Brodie’) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

THE UNTOUCHABLES: 40; JUSTICE: 0

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham has responded to this morning’s news (read her statement here) by calling for an analysis of the satellite tag data from around 90 surviving and missing eagles “to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity“. It just beggars belief. We’ll shortly be blogging in more detail about her response and that of the Scottish Moorland Group, which is equally as fatuous.

In the meantime, please sign this petition (here) calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing scheme for gamebird shooting.

And then please sign this petition (here) calling on the Westminster Government to ban driven grouse shooting.

ALMD

11
Aug
16

Young golden eagles ‘disappearing’ on grouse moors in Scottish Highlands

RSPB press release:

RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal for information following the disappearance of another young golden eagle, the eighth of this species to vanish in the same area in less than five years. The young female golden eagle, named Brodie, hatched two years ago and was fitted with a satellite transmitter shortly before she fledged from her nest. Brodie was being monitored by conservationists as part of a national study to improve our understanding of the movements and survival of young golden eagles. Her last recorded position placed her in the northern Monadhliath mountains, south east of Inverness on 2nd July this year.

Since November 2011, eight golden eagles, all less than three years old, fitted with satellite transmitters have disappeared in the same area. The birds were being monitored by RSPB Scotland, the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Natural Research Ltd and Forestry Commission Scotland. Satellite transmitters are increasingly being used to study the movements of wild birds to gain an understanding of their behaviour and travels following fledging. They are fitted under special licence by a small number of highly accredited individuals, and golden eagle experts. Satellites continue to transmit if a transmitter becomes detached from a bird, or if a tagged bird dies naturally allowing recovery of the body.

ge disappeared

Despite comprehensive searches, under the authority of the Police, of the areas around the last recorded positions of all eight eagles none of the birds or transmitters have been recovered, and no further data has been received from the transmitters. The first eagle vanished after last being recorded in the hills above Strathdearn in November 2011; following this a second disappeared in July 2012, and a third in March 2014. In October 2014, transmissions from two further eagles stopped at another location across the valley, three weeks apart. Three eagles’ tags stopped transmitting at a scatter of locations in the hills above the River Findhorn, in May, June and the latest bird, Brodie, in early July this year [1].

Since satellite transmitters first began to be fitted to raptors in Scotland around ten years ago several tagged birds were subsequently found to have been illegally killed [2]. All had been poisoned except for one which had been caught and injured in an illegal trap prior to being deliberately moved to another location. More recently, tagged birds have tended to go off the radar [3]. In every case, data received from the transmitters prior to their disappearance indicated the tags were functioning correctly, before suddenly stopping.

The golden eagle that disappeared in May 2016, a young female, had fledged from a nest in Galloway in 2015, one of only two fledged young from the tiny population of this species in the south of Scotland that year. The golden eagles in this area do not tend to leave the south of Scotland and so it was very unusual that this young bird roamed north rather than exploiting the vacant territories close to where she fledged.

DumfriesGalloway GE chick

Dave Anderson from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, who tagged this eagle said: “I was privileged to satellite-tag this large female chick in July 2015 with a fellow member of the SRSG who monitors the site. This bird was the first successful fledging from any nest in this area since 2010. The data we were receiving from her was of great interest as we followed her journey northwards to Cairngorms National Park, with excellent location information.

We were looking forward to seeing if she would head south again later in the year, however the tag stopped transmitting abruptly on the 18th May 2016, shortly after her first birthday. This is a very sad end to arguably one of the most important golden eagle chicks fledged that year in Scotland. There are no words to describe how disappointed I am at this bird’s disappearance”.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson, said “It is surely no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of satellite-tagged birds of prey that have disappeared in Scotland have been in areas intensively managed for gamebird shooting and in areas that have an appalling previous record of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution. These eight birds have all disappeared in an area where driven grouse moor management dominates the landscape, and where there have been many previous cases of illegal killing of protected raptors, including the poisoning of a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle as recently as 2010 [4].

Given the reliability of the transmitters, the chance of so many birds disappearing over such a short timescale without some kind of human interference is so small as to be negligible. The pattern we see here is consistent with the birds having been killed and the transmitters destroyed.

“Once again, the commendable positive efforts of those landowners and estates who welcome golden eagles and host their nesting attempts, including elsewhere in the Monadhliaths, are being catastrophically undermined by those who have a complete disregard for the law, and who continue to threaten the conservation status of these magnificent birds. All of these eagles were young birds exploring Scotland before establishing their own territories and with their disappearance any potential future breeding by them to aid the population’s recovery is also lost.

“We ask that if anyone can provide information as to the fate of these eagles that they contact Police Scotland or RSPB Scotland’s investigations team.

Notes:

  1. The eight eagles that have disappeared since November 2011 in the Monadhliath mountains are:
Tag no./Bird name Date and place fitted with tag Date last recorded
57124 6th July 2010, at a nest in south Inverness-shire 22nd November 2011
“Foinaven” 29th June 2011, at a nest in north west Sutherland 17th July 2012
129002 1st July 2013 on Mull 5th March 2014
107133 30th June 2013, at a nest in north Perthshire 9th October 2014
119886 29th June 2012, at a nest in Deeside 31st October 2014
00000583 5th July 2015, at a nest in Galloway 18th May 2016
129010 1st July 2014, at a nest in south Inverness-shire 4th June 2016
129015 “Brodie” 26th June 2014, at a nest in east Inverness-shire 2nd July 2016
  1. Satellite-tagged golden eagles found to have been illegally killed:
  • 1 poisoned in Angus, 2009
  • 1 poisoned in Glenbuchat, Strathdon, in 2011
  • 1 poisoned in Lochaber in 2012
  • 1 illegally trapped in Angus in 2012
  • 1 poisoned in Angus in 2013
  1. Other raptors that have gone off radar include three satellite-tagged golden eagles and a white-tailed eagle which disappeared in September 2011, February 2012, May 2013 and April 2014 respectively, all in upper Donside. Other tagged golden eagles have disappeared in west Aberdeenshire (May 2012) and Angus (February 2011).
  1. A golden eagle and white-tailed eagle found dead in the Monadhliath mountains in 2010 were confirmed as having been illegally poisoned with carbofuran at the laboratory of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) – SASA ref. No. 10123
  1. A Scottish Natural Heritage review of wildlife crime records and other threats found that the golden eagle population in the the Monadhliath mountains had unfavourable conservation status, with poisoning in particular being associated with grouse moors. (“A Conservation Framework for Golden Eagles”, SNH 2008) http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/commissioned_reports/193.pdf

END

We’ll be blogging more about this later today…

In the meantime, please sign this petition (here) calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing scheme for gamebird shooting.

And then please sign this petition (here) calling on the Westminster Government to ban driven grouse shooting.

UPDATE: Interesting blog about the use of satellite tags and what they tell us about raptor persecution, written by Head of RSPB Scotland Investigations, Ian Thomson here

UPDATE: Full formal response from Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham here

UPDATE: 40 eagles, 10 years, 0 prosecutions (blog) here

UPDATE: Ministerial reaction to ‘missing’ golden eagles (blog) here

MEDIA COVERAGE

BBC News here

The Guardian here

The National here

The Herald here

Press & Journal here

STV News here

BBC Radio Scotland interview with Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations RSPB) here (starts at 1:50:05) – available for 29 days.

BBC Radio Scotland interview with Tim (Kim) Baynes (Scottish Moorland Group) here (starts at 2:40:00) – available for 29 days.

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.

23
Nov
15

New report highlights raptor persecution in Northern Ireland

PAWNI Report 2009-2013The first ever ‘official’ report on raptor persecution in Northern Ireland has been published.

The report was prepared by the Raptor Subgroup of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Northern Ireland (PAWNI) – group members include the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG), Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU).

The report details confirmed raptor persecution crimes between 2009-2013, including location maps. A total of 33 raptors were confirmed to have been illegally killed during this five-year period, with buzzards, red kites and peregrines the most frequent victims but other species included golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, merlin and sparrowhawk.

The report serves a useful purpose to focus attention on the extent of raptor persecution in Northern Ireland and to encourage members of the public to report suspicious activity in their areas. It is anticipated that an annual persecution report will be published in future years.

NIRSG press release here

Read the report here

Buzzard with bait NI

07
Oct
14

Cairngorms National Park Authority wants ‘action’ against raptor persecution

Duncan BrydenThe Convenor of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CPNA), Duncan Bryden, has written to the Environment Minister to tell him that continued incidents of raptor persecution and ‘disappearing birds’ in the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park “threatens to undermine the reputation of the National Park as a high quality wildlife tourism destination“.

He has asked for the Minister to attend a meeting of stakeholders in the Eastern Cairngorms (including RSPB Scotland and, er, Scottish Land & Estates) to discuss ways to address this on-going issue.

That’ll be interesting, seeing as though SLE continue to deny the extent of the problem (e.g. see here) and only last year gave membership to the ranks of SLE to the North Glenbuchat Estate – a grouse moor in the National Park that has been at the centre of wildlife crime investigations for years, most recently following the ‘disappearance’ in April of the first fledged white-tailed eagle in eastern Scotland for 200 years – it’s final signal reportedly came from North Glenbuchat estate (see here). The eagle is presumed dead but it’s body has not been recovered, just like the bodies of three other young satellite tagged eagles that ‘disappeared’ in the area in recent years. The body of a fifth eagle was found on North Glenbuchat Estate in 2011 – it had been poisoned with Carbofuran. As had a poisoned buzzard, also found in 2011, as well as a poisoned bait. A dead short-eared owl was also found in 2011 – it had been shot and stuffed under a rock.

Good luck to the CNPA in trying to oust the raptor-killing criminals from the National Park and well done Duncan Bryden for taking a stand.

Download: CNPA letter to Paul Wheelhouse May2014

Download: Paul Wheelhouse response to CNPA

CNP map

 




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