Archive for the '2018 persecution incidents' Category


Golden eagle Fred: some facts

The rumour mill about our satellite-tagged golden eagle Fred has been in full-on overdrive since we announced his highly suspicious disappearance last week.

As we’d promised at the start of this project, we set out to provide as much transparency as we could about the circumstances of Fred’s disappearance, including detailed information about his last known location. The problem with doing this is that information then gets accidentally misinterpreted, or deliberately distorted in some cases by those who seek to play down the possibility that Fred has become yet another victim of illegal persecution.

There are many reasons why some would want the public to believe that illegal persecution couldn’t possibly have played a role in Fred’s disapearance. It has become clear to us over the last week or so that various organisations are, behind the scenes, actively pursuing a damage-limitation offensive, particularly some of those involved with the planned reintroduction of golden eagles to south Scotland later this year, and that includes senior officials at the statutory nature conservation agency SNH.

Obviously the highly suspicious disappearance of a golden eagle in south Scotland is going to raise questions about how wise it is to release eagles in a region where persecution is still a problem. Indeed, this has been a long-standing concern about the reintroduction project but has previously been brushed aside by some officials claiming that eagle persecution was an historical, not a current issue. Fred’s suspicious disappearance suggests otherwise but rather than address this concern head on, attempts are currently being made to discredit members of our project team and the project itself.

Let’s just be clear here. At no point have we stated that Fred was killed on a driven grouse moor. We haven’t even stated that he is dead. What we have said is that Fred’s disappearance is highly suspicious, and that, like many other satellite-tagged eagles, he disappeared in an area close to a driven grouse moor. These are indisputable facts.

We have suggested that he was illegally killed, and we have very good reason to think so, which will become clear when we’re able to discuss the details after the police investigation.

At this stage we can address some of the statements that have been made (some of which have been made in good faith, others have not).

  1. Fred’s last tag signal came from a wind farm – incorrect.
  2. Fred last tag signal came from Bonaly Country Park – incorrect.
  3. Nobody went to check on Fred’s welfare while he was alive in the Pentlands – incorrect.
  4. Fred’s tag battery failed to charge in low winter light – incorrect.
  5. There has been no raptor persecution in the Pentlands – incorrect.
  6. There are no driven grouse moors in the Pentlands – incorrect.
  7. Fred did not disappear in an area where driven grouse shooting takes place – incorrect.
  8. Satellite tag mapping suggests that Fred was not actively foraging – incorrect.
  9. Because mountain hares are locally extinct, Fred must have been weak and starving – incorrect.
  10. Fred’s tag was not functioning properly because it was in woodland – incorrect.
  11. A decision was taken not to search for the tag in the North Sea – incorrect.
  12. The police aren’t interested because they are siding with the landowners – incorrect.
  13. Fred’s body was found and the tag had killed him so the story of his disappearance was fabricated to lay the blame elsewhere – incorrect.
  14. Fred was never tagged in the first place – incorrect.

Fred’s story has generated a lot of media interest over the last week, which has been very welcome. Obviously, a lot of people are very angry about Fred’s suspicious disappearance and they have every reason to be. Anger is the appropriate reaction to what looks like yet another incident of illegal raptor persecution. However, we’ve been informed that some people are directing their anger in an abusive way towards members of the Pentlands Ranger Service. Please, think about what you’re saying and to whom. The Ranger Service certainly doesn’t deserve it and we are working closely with them as this investigation continues. Thanks.


Further information about missing satellite-tagged golden eagle Fred

Last week we blogged about the suspicious disappearance of one of our satellite-tagged golden eagles.

‘Fred’ vanished in the Pentland Hills close to Edinburgh in late January and then 3.5 days later his satellite tag indicated that he (or at least his tag) was in the North Sea, some 15 miles offshore from St Andrews until the tag finally stopped sending data a couple of days later (see here).

Since Fred’s disappearance, we have been talking to many experts and among them, the engineers at the tag manufacturing company. They have recently provided us with some further technical data from the tag which are shedding light on the circumstances of Fred’s highly suspicious disappearance.

These new data have been passed to Police Scotland who are following up. Obviously at this stage we are unable to comment further but rest assured we will have more to say in due course.

In the meantime, if anyone has any information about Fred’s disappearance please contact Police Scotland, Tel: 101, or alternatively call the RSPB’s new confidential raptor crime hotline: 0300-999-0101.


Golden eagle ‘Fred’ disappears 7 miles from Scottish Parliament

Last summer, in partnership with Chris Packham, we satellite tagged a shedload of golden eagles in Scotland (see here for project details).

We haven’t blogged much about these eagles since then because they’ve been hanging around in their parents’ territories and those locations need to remain secret.

However, in mid-January 2018, one of those young golden eagles finally decided to leave home and go exploring. He had hatched at a nest site in the Scottish Borders and his parents are the only breeding pair of golden eagles in the region. This nest site has been protected for decades by the landowner and he is fiercely proud of his eagles, so much so that he named this eagle chick Fred after his grandson. The landowner and his gamekeeper joined us last June as we fitted Fred with a state-of-the-art transmitter and we were all excited at the prospect of following Fred’s movements over the coming years, with the hope that he would thrive and help to increase this tiny, vulnerable breeding population in the Borders.

Golden eagle Fred, June 2017. Photo by Ruth Tingay

Fred headed to the Pentland Hills and spent a few days ‘woodland hopping’ around the northern edge, at one point just half a kilometre from the City Bypass.

His tag was working perfectly and was providing us with accurate and frequent GPS locations.

Maps copyright RPUK:

On 20th January, Fred roosted overnight in a shelter belt overlooking a grouse moor (Black Hill) near Balerno. This is a photograph of the roost site. Fred was in the trees at the top left-hand corner of this field.

Fred’s tag continued to record his position there until just before 10am on 21st January, when his tag suddenly and inexplicably stopped. The last signal came from the trees half-way along this shelter belt:

We didn’t receive any new GPS locations from Fred’s tag until three and a half days later when, on the evening of 24 January, Fred’s tag began transmitting again but the GPS location showed it was in the North Sea, some 10 miles offshore from St. Andrews. His tag continued to provide GPS data until 26 January, showing his final position at approximately 15 miles offshore. No further data have been received.

Dr Tingay of RPUK said: “It is beyond doubt that Fred’s disappearance is highly suspicious. Golden eagles don’t generally fly out for miles over large bodies of sea water but even if Fred had done so, apart from defying everything we’ve learned about Scottish golden eagle behaviour, we would have seen excellent tracking data plotting his route given the reliability of his tag.

“While we will probably never know for sure, it seems likely that Fred was killed soon after 10am on 21 January, his tag was hidden to suppress the signal and then he and the tag were dumped in the North Sea. If this is indeed the case, it’s just the latest example of when those who have killed a protected bird of prey have tried to cover up evidence of their crime”.

Chris Packham said: “Once again, we have the suspicious disappearance of a satellite-tagged golden eagle in an area managed for driven grouse shooting. What’s truly shocking about this case is that it didn’t take place in a remote Highland glen miles from anywhere, but it happened within a stone’s throw of Edinburgh, right under the noses of the Scottish Government. What must the good people of Edinburgh think, to learn that golden eagles aren’t even safe on their doorstep? That they’ve been denied the opportunity to see this iconic, magnificent bird in their local hills? This doesn’t bode well for the planned reintroduction of golden eagles to south Scotland, due to begin later this year”.

Over the coming days we’ll be blogging about the implications of Fred’s disappearance for the proposed South Scotland Golden Eagle Reintroduction Project, which was already a controversial issue before Fred’s story even began.

When we launched this golden eagle satellite tagging project at the British Birdfair last year, we said that our project would be different from other satellite-tagging projects in that if any of our tagged eagles ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances, rather than sit on that information for months/years and then only give a vague description of the location where the bird had vanished, we would publish much more detailed information as soon as any police investigation was complete. We’ve fulfilled this promise and we’ve also made a video which includes an exclusive interview with Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham. You can watch it here:

We are immensely grateful to Roseanna Cunningham for granting us an audience despite her incredibly busy schedule. We are also grateful to Police Wildlife Crime Officer Andy Loughlin and the RSPB Scotland Investigations for their quick and diligent response to our concerns.

If anyone has any information about Fred’s disappearance, please contact Police Scotland on 101.


Daily Express here

Scotsman here

STV news here with a fascinating quote from Scottish Land & Estates:

We understand that the bird’s disappearance is not being investigated as a crime.

We need to learn the full facts prior to establishing any conclusions but it should be noted that the location where the eagle disappeared is not an area of intensive grouse shooting“. We’ll be blogging about this quote soon.

The Times here (behind a paywall)

Herald here

BBC news here

Guardian here

Courier here

Press & Journal here


Barn owl with horrific injuries found in North Yorkshire

A barn owl with horrific injuries has been found near Marishes in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire.

According to expert raptor rehabilitator Jean Thorpe, the barn owl was found close to death. It had suffered two broken legs and its injuries were consistent with having been caught in a spring trap. Jean believes the owl had been released from the trap and then left to die a lingering death, unable to hunt with badly infected wounds.

The owl was taken to Jean’s wildlife centre but died shortly after arrival.

This area is a notorious raptor persecution blackspot. Spring traps are only legal if they are set within either a natural or artifical tunnel to prevent non-target species getting caught in the trap’s jaws.

Anybody with any information about this horrific case please contact Wildlife Police Officer Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station (Tel: 101).

Photos by Jean Thorpe. Map by RPUK.


Concern for the safety of one of our satellite-tagged golden eagles

Last summer, in a joint project with Chris Packham, we satellite-tagged a shedload of golden eagles in Scotland (for background project information please see here).

We haven’t blogged much about these eagles yet because they are still hanging out in their natal territories and we need to keep these locations confidential. As soon as the eagles begin to disperse, we’ll be able to share much more information.

However, one of our eagles has recently left its parents’ territory and we are deeply concerned about its safety. We are working closely with Police Scotland and will report in more detail in the very near future.

We are immensely grateful to the Police Wildlife Crime Officer leading this investigation who has been proactive, communicative and very quick to respond.


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