Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in Northern Ireland' Category

02
Aug
18

Poisoning suspected after discovery of dead peregrine & tethered pigeon ‘bait’

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is investigating a suspected poisoning incident after raptor workers found the body of a dead young peregrine and the remains of what had probably been a live tethered pigeon close to the peregrine’s nest site. An adult peregrine is reported as ‘missing’ from the site.

The gruesome discovery was made by members of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) in the Scraghey area of Castleberg, Co Tyrone, on 10 July 2018. Toxicology results are awaited.

[Photo of the dead young peregrine, by NIRSG]

[Photo of the rock, baler twine & remains of a pigeon leg found at the site, by NIRSG]

Smearing a live pigeon with poison and then tethering it close to a peregrine breeding site to act as a flapping ‘bait’ is a barbaric yet all too common crime. We only blogged about a similar case a few weeks ago (see here).

Jim Wells from the NIRSG said: “The vigilance of several members of the Raptor Study Group and the very quick response by the PSNI have revealed what is likely to be one of the most serious incidents of peregrine persecution in Northern Ireland for several years.

This is nasty, very cruel and callous. We don’t know what the suspected poison is, but if someone had come along and tried to help the pigeon it could have hurt them too.

This has happened on several occasions in areas of Co Tyrone. There are around 15 sites in Tyrone, it’s an important breeding ground. But in some areas there is still a culture of poisoning birds, which is very damaging to the overall population.

All of the peregrine sites in Co Tyrone are monitored on a regular basis every year. This research has revealed that illegal persecution remains a problem in some parts of the county“.

Dr Eimear Rooney of the NIRSG and a representative on the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime NI said there are between 80 and 90 breeding pairs of peregrines across the whole of Northern Ireland, of which around 55 pairs are successful in producing young. She said:

The population of peregrines in Northern Ireland is limited by available nest sites and thus has remained fairly stable for several yearsHowever, illegal killing could result in serious implication for the viability of the species here. Peregrine falcons are primary predators and removal of such predators from our ecosystems can have serious consequences on a wide range of species.

It’s deeply frustrating to think that someone went out of their way to target these birds in such a heinous manner“.

Anyone with information about this suspected crime is encouraged to contact the PSNI (Tel: 101) quoting incident number 1550.10/7/18.

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20
Jun
18

Red kites found illegally poisoned at nest site

Press release from RSPB, 20 June 2018:

PAIR OF NESTING RED KITES FOUND POISONED IN COUNTY DOWN

RSPB (Northern Ireland) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are appealing for information after a pair of protected red kites died through illegal poisoning in County Down.

A male bird was found in distress close to a known nest site in the Katesbridge area on April 24. A member of the public alerted RSPB NI but the bird died shortly afterwards. When the RSPB NI red kite project officer attended the scene, she found the female parent bird immobile on the nest – she too was dead. A rescue mission was launched in an attempt to save three orphaned eggs found in the nest beneath the deceased mother.

[Photo by RSPB]

The bodies of the parent birds were collected and taken for toxicology testing by the PSNI. This has now revealed that both birds – known as Blue 21 and Red 63 because of their identifying tags – died from Carbofuran poisoning.

Red kites, along with all birds of prey, are protected in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011. Carbofuran is a highly toxic pesticide which has been banned across the EU since 2001 due to its high toxicity towards wildlife and humans.

Red kites mostly hunt within 2.5km of their nest site. The male bird brings food for the incubating female bird, so it is possible that the male bird found a poisoned bait – such as a rabbit – and likely brought this back to the nest to feed the female bird. The dead male’s first partner (Blue 13) also died by poisoning in 2014 in the same area.

Under licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the rescue operation ensured that the three eggs were fostered into two wild red kite nests, alongside other eggs, in the hope of saving them.

In one of the nests two transferred eggs failed as they were found intact (unhatched) during a follow-up inspection. In the other nest – which hosted one adoptive egg alongside two other eggs – one chick was found on the nest. As there were no egg shell remains it’s unknown if the sole chick on this nest was from the donor egg.

A nestcam was installed by RSPB NI to monitor this chick – which was named ‘Solo’ by RSPB NI red kite volunteers. This is the first time staff have been able to monitor behaviour and development as well as share the red kite’s early life with the public and schools participating in the RKites project, a funded red kite education and engagement project. A live stream on the nest is available to view at www.rspb.org.uk/niredkites

PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith, said, “Incidents such as this give rise to concerns, as poisons are generally very dangerous. We would have serious concerns over any poison but particularly over Carbofuran. We are disappointed that we are still dealing with cases involving Carbofuran, an incredibly dangerous substance and one which can kill birds of prey but also a child, family pet or any adult coming into contact with it. We would remind the public that if they discover a bird of prey that they suspect has been poisoned or killed in any other suspicious circumstances to leave the bird/s and/or bait in situ and call the PSNI as soon as possible. If anyone has information about the use of Carbofuran and/or the death of these protected birds then we would be really keen to hear from them. The person responsible needs to be identified to ensure that no further risk is posed to other wildlife, domestic pets, or even humans.”

Claire Barnett, RSPB NI Conservation Team Leader, added: “We are shocked and saddened by what is the loss of a generation of red kites. With only around 20 breeding pairs in Northern Ireland, our red kite population is particularly vulnerable to persecution.

Carbofuran is an illegal and deadly poison and should not be used in our countryside. It is such an incredibly dangerous substance.

We would like to once again make it clear that red kites are mostly scavengers and feed on roadkill and other dead animals they find on their foraging flights. During the breeding season, adults will often hunt young crows, magpies, rats and rabbits. They are no threat to livestock or game.”

Red kites were persecuted to extinction across the island of Ireland 200 years ago. A decade ago this summer, in 2008, the RSPB – along with project partners the Golden Eagle Trust and Welsh Kite Trust – began a reintroduction project that has been successful in encouraging the birds to breed here.

Like all birds of prey in Northern Ireland, red kites are specially protected as a Schedule 1 species under The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended). As a Schedule 1 bird, red kites are protected by special penalty and their nests are also provided with protection all year under Schedule A1. Those found guilty of persecution could be given a custodial sentence and/or fines of up to £5,000 per offence.

Mark Thomas, Senior Investigations Officer at the RSPB, said: “Carbofuran has a history of being used to kill birds of prey. Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected by law.

There have been 10 confirmed red kite persecution incidents recorded in this area in the last decade. This is not acceptable. We urge anyone with information about this incident to contact the police immediately on 101.”

Claire Barnett added, “We would like to thank communities, landowners and schools across Northern Ireland – particularly in County Down and County Armagh – for their ongoing support for the red kites project. There is always an outpouring of outrage when red kite persecutions are reported. It is so disappointing that a minority of people continue to endanger red kites by using illegal poisons including Carbofuran. But the majority of people here are behind the RSPB in our work to give these remarkable birds of prey a home in Northern Ireland.”

Anyone with information can contact police on the non-emergency number 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting reference number 802 of 24/4/18.

ENDS

23
Nov
17

New report reveals widespread raptor persecution in Northern Ireland

The Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI) has today published its latest report on bird of prey persecution 2015-2016.

The report reveals that there were five confirmed illegal persecution incidents reported in 2015 and a further six in 2016, involving the killing of 12 protected birds of prey in Northern Ireland (6 x buzzards, 5 x peregrines, 1 x sparrowhawk). As with every other annual raptor persecution report these figures are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The report’s lead author, Dr Eimear Rooney (Raptor Officer for the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group) commented: “This latest persecution report helps us all to understand the scale and distribution of the problem. It is particularly shocking to see new areas appear on the hot-spot maps, showing the issue of raptor persecution to be widespread. It is heart-breaking to think of the deaths of these protected birds but it is particularly shocking to see the continued usage of highly toxic Carbofuran. The PAW NI group will continue to take action to tackle raptor persecution and it is encouraging to see all the partners proactively working together on this report.”

Hotspot map of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution, and poisoned baits & wildlife, reported in Northern Ireland from January 2009-December 2016.

Download the PAW NI report here

Read the PAW NI press release here

On the subject of illegal raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, a 13-year old boy named Dara MacAnulty is doing a 45km sponsored trek in January 2018 to help raise funds for a new raptor satellite-tagging project in Northern Ireland.

Dara is a pretty special young man, passionate about the environment, especially raptors, and he has an exceptional talent for expressing his thoughts – have a read of his blog and you’ll be constantly questioning how a thirteen year old can possibly write so well!

Dara’s fundraising project is off to a good start but he needs more support. If you’ve got a few quid to spare, please consider supporting his efforts HERE. Thanks.

01
Nov
17

RSPB publishes Birdcrime 2016 report

Press release from RSPB:

REPORT REVEALS CONTINUED PERSECUTION OF BIRDS OF PREY IN UK

  • RSPB’s Birdcrime report reveals a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK during 2016, but many illegal killings are going undetected or unreported.
  • There were no prosecutions for these persecution offences, the first time this has happened in 30 years.
  • Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to see birds of prey in the UK but has serious consequences for their populations.
  • The RSPB is calling for police and other enforcing authorities to make full use of all existing powers to protect birds of prey as well as the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting to ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably.

Without urgent action some of UK’s birds of prey face a bleak future after the latest Birdcrime report revealed a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of illegal raptor persecution in 2016, without a single person prosecuted.

Birdcrime 2016 – the only report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK – revealed 40 shooting, 22 poisoning, 15 trapping and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors. Among the victims were hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites and buzzards. However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.

[Photo: this Marsh harrier was found shot next to a partridge release pen on a shooting estate in Yorkshire. Image via Jean Thorpe]

The report also revealed close to two-thirds (53) of the confirmed incidents took place in England, with particular concern for raptors in North Yorkshire. Over the last five years the county recorded the highest number of confirmed bird of prey persecution incidents in the UK, with 54 incidents since 2012 and 19 last year alone.

The problem wasn’t confined to England, with the report highlighting confirmed cases in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where there is growing concern over the repeated suspicious disappearance of satellite tagged birds of prey. This year, a study by Scottish Government examined the fate of 131 golden eagles fitted with satellite tags between 2004-16 concluding that ‘as many as 41 (one third) disappeared, presumably died, under suspicious circumstances connected with records of illegal persecution.’

Increasingly, people in the UK are being robbed of the chance to see these spectacular birds because of these illegal incidents, yet in 2016, there wasn’t a single prosecution arising from a confirmed incident, the first time this has happened in 30 years.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Birds of prey bring our skies to life. There is nothing like seeing a diving peregrine or a skydancing hen harrier. The sights of these spectacular birds are something we should all be able to enjoy, unfortunately illegal activity is stopping this and preventing the birds from flourishing. There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being put into action. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle illegal killing to protect our raptors for future generations to enjoy.”

Previous research has shown that illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting, leaving vast areas of our uplands without raptors. A Natural England study revealed ‘compelling evidence’ that persecution of hen harriers – associated with driven grouse moors – was the main factor limiting their recovery in England.

The RSPB believes the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting would help tackle the ongoing illegal persecution that occurs on these grouse moors. This would also help tackle the wider problems of intensive management of ‘big bag’ driven grouse shooting, like the draining of and burning on fragile peat bogs. A fair set of rules in the form of a licensing system could help ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably and introduce the option of restricting or removing a licence in response to the most serious offences, for example where staff on an estate have been convicted of illegally killing birds of prey.

The RSPB welcomes a recent announcement by Scottish Government that will see an independent panel established to review options for regulation of grouse shooting and to look at the economic and environmental costs and benefits of the industry.

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “This latest Birdcrime report continues to highlight that in the UK we have a major issue with birds of prey being deliberately and illegally killed, despite having full legal protection. This type of crime has serious consequences for the populations of species, such as the hen harrier, and we must see a change in attitude and more effective law enforcement to protect these birds for years to come.”

ENDS

Read the online Birdcrime 2016 report here

Birdcrime 2016 data appendices here

Well done to the RSPB Investigations Team for once again compiling and publishing these annual data, which help to dispel the oft-cited myth from the game-shooting industry that raptor persecution ‘is a thing of the past’. Have a look at this useful graph and draw your own conclusions – the data don’t lie, unlike the game-shooting industry:

Of course, it comes as no surprise that those within the bird shooting industry would want to mislead the public – as this pie chart reveals, gamekeepers are responsible for the vast majority of UK raptor persecution crimes:

The county of North Yorkshire once again comes top of the raptor-killing leader board, way ahead of every other county. Many of these crimes have taken place on driven grouse moors:

Tune in around this time next year, to read more of the same. Nothing has changed and nor will it change until the filthy and unregulated driven grouse shooting industry has been closed down. You can help hasten its demise by signing this e-petition calling for a ban: please join over 10,000 others and sign here.

MEDIA COVERAGE

BBC Breakfast news: Great interview with Guy Shorrock (RSPB Investigations). Available on iPlayer but only for 24 hrs (starts at 1:50) here

BBC news: here

New Scientist: here

Guest blog by Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations: here

Daily Telegraph: here (including a quote from Amanda Anderson, Moorland Association)

The Times: here (behind paywall)

The York Press: here

Statement from Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority: here

Yorkshire Post: here

UPDATE 1.30hrs: Reaction to RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report, compare & contrast (here)

22
Aug
17

Another red kite found shot dead in County Down

A three-month old red kite has been found shot dead in County Down, Northern Ireland.

The bird, hatched in May and tagged ‘Black 5W’, was found dead on a public road last Thursday (17 August 2017) outside Moneyslane, between Banbridge and Newcastle.

An initial x-ray revealed pieces of shot in the bird’s corpse and the body has now been sent for a full post-mortem.

Anyone with information on the incident can contact the Police Service of Northern Ireland on the non-emergency number 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, quoting reference number 837 of 17/8/17.

Further details on BBC News (here) and the Belfast Telegraph (here).

The tiny, reintroduced red kite population in Northern Ireland is under serious threat from on-going persecution. Another red kite was found shot in Co Down in 2015 (here) and in 2014, four kites were illegally killed in Co Down (one was shot, three were poisoned – see here).

In 2016, in response to a PAW report on raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, a new, multi-agency initiative called ‘Operation Raptor‘ was launched, aimed at targeting those who continue to kill protected birds of prey.

31
Mar
17

Peregrine found shot in Hampshire

The RSPB’s investigations team is reporting the discovery of a shot peregrine in Hampshire.

The bird, which hatched on Salisbury Cathedral in 2014, was found in King Somborne, Hants, on 11 March 2017, unable to fly.

It was taken to the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover where an x-ray revealed it had a fractured wing with gunshot fragments lodged next to the fracture site.

The peregrine is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Hawk Conservancy Trust.

For further details see the RSPB Investigations Team blog here, which also lists some of the other peregrines that have been found so far this year, either shot or found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has joined forces with the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group to proactively protect peregrine breeding sites throughout the region. Real partnership working – good for them. More information can be found on the NIRSG website here.

UPDATE 25 May 2017: Shot peregrine successfully rehabilitated and returned to the wild by Hawk Conservancy Trust (see here).

UPDATE 22 July 2018: Salisbury peregrine ‘Peter’ – shot last year, Dad this year (here)

31
Dec
16

Our year in review: July – December 2016

Our Year in Review: January – June 2016 can be found here.

Here’s part two.

JULY

An horrifically injured buzzard was found on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire (here). Illegally set traps were found on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park, with a critically injured common gull found caught by its legs in two of them. We were able to establish that the grouse moor was part of the Invercauld Estate (see here and here). Invercauld Estate issued a bizarre statement, via GWCT, denying that any crime had taken place or if it had, it was probably the work of someone trying to discredit the grouse shooting industry (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association issued a statement saying they would launch their own investigation (here).

In the courts the vicarious liability prosecution against Andrew Duncan (Newlands Estate) was adjourned, again (here), as was the case against Scottish gamekeeper Stanley Gordon, accused of the alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate in 2013 (here). Scottish gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal against his 2015 conviction for killing a buzzard was dismissed and his conviction upheld (here).

Hen harriers bred successfully on the Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park for the first time in decades (here) and some MSPs were taken for a ride up the Angus Glens (here) where presumably they weren’t shown how to light exploding banger ropes (here).

Glanusk Estate issued two statements (here and here) trying to downplay the mass poisoning of raptors that had taken place there in 2012/2013, and after a series of FoIs we learned that there would be no subsidy withdrawal by Rural Payments Wales as a result of this crime, the most significant wildlife poisoning incident ever recorded in Wales and the 2nd biggest recorded in the UK for 40 years (here).

Working with Chris Packham, Mark Avery and a crack film crew, we began to publish a series of videos aimed at educating the general public about driven grouse shooting. In the first video, Chris had a message for retailer Marks and Spencer about the unsustainability and toxicity of red grouse (here). The grouse-shooting industry reacted to this video with furious outrage (here, here) and accused Chris of ‘celebrity bullying’ and then set about on (another) campaign to have him removed from the BBC.

In Scotland the Scottish Raptor Study Group launched a petition calling for the Government to introduce a licensing scheme for all gamebird hunting (see here) and in England, the Government’s conservation agency Natural England issued a licence to a gamekeeper allowing him to kill buzzards to protect pheasants (here).

The RSPB grew a pair and announced the very welcome news that they were withdrawing their support for DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Inaction Plan due to the ongoing incidents of raptor persecution (see here). The grouse shooting industry reacted with comical aplomb (here).

North Yorkshire Police did the decent thing and admitted they’d made a mistake by not charging the pole-trapping gamekeeper from Mossdale Estate (see here). They said they’d used the wrong guidelines but had now revised their procedures.

We blogged about the Bowland Brewery in Lancashire, who were supporting the RSPB’s Hen Harrier conservation efforts but as a result had become the victims of a vile and vicious online hate campaign by some within the grouse shooting industry (see here). This backfired spectacularly when the general public, in support of the brewery, bought up ‘hen harrier’ beer by the caseload.

AUGUST

A buzzard was shot dead in Richmondshire, North Yorkshire (here), a buzzard was poisoned in Ayrshire (here), and satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Elwood’ ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging (here).

The RSPB reported that 8 young satellite-tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths in the last five years, including three this year (see here). We updated our ongoing eagle death blog to: 40 eagles, 10 years, 0 prosecutions. In response to the news of these latest eight ‘missing’ golden eagles, Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham ordered a review of all golden eagle satellite tag data to ‘look for patterns of suspicious activity’ (see here). This review was later upgraded to include data from hen harriers and red kites (here) following the ‘disappearance’ of hen harrier Elwood.

The grouse shooting industry tried to explain away these ‘disappearances’ with a number of desperately implausible excuses. First it was non-existent windfarms (here), then it was claimed ‘bird activists’ were responsible as part of a smear campaign against driven grouse shooting (here, here). But best of all was the claim by the Scottish Countryside Alliance of ‘faulty tags’. The SCA published a statement that claimed scientific research had shown that ‘tag failure rates could be as high as 49%’. We managed to track down this scientific research and discovered it referred to satellite tags that had been fitted to Olive Ridley turtles off the coast of India, where a saltwater switch was a known problem (see here).

In the courts a December trial date was eventually set (here) in the vicarious liability prosecution of Andrew Duncan (Newlands Estate). The case was continued against Scottish gamekeeper Stanley Gordon, accused of the alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate in 2013 (here).

We were able to reveal the location of a coordinated hunt and shooting of a hen harrier in 2013 – turns out to have taken place in Glen Gairn, on the border between Invercauld and Dinnet Estates in the Cairngorms National Park (here), not a million miles away from where the illegal traps had been discovered at Invercauld earlier this summer. And on that subject, Police Scotland issued a vague statement about what had been found at Invercauld (here).

Hen Harrier Day took place for the third year running with events across the UK (here) and the following week, Mark Avery’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting passed 100,000 signatures (here), the amount needed to trigger a parliamentary debate at Westminster.

The harassment and intimidation campaign against one of our bloggers continued when her mobile number was published by someone in the grouse shooting industry, resulting in threatening text messages being sent in the middle of the night (here).

The Scottish petition calling on the Government to introduce a licensing scheme for gamebird hunting came to a close and was submitted to the Public Petitions Committee (here), and Marks and Spencer announced that they had abandoned grouse sales again (here).

After a series of FoIs, more detail emerged about the individual licences that SNH had issued to Raeshaw Estate to allow the estate gamekeepers to continue their trapping/killing activities as though the General Licence restriction order didn’t even exist (see here), and Natural England revealed that their licensing policies relied on a flawed assumption that gamekeepers don’t illegally kill raptors (here).

We lost a good friend, Richard Evans (here).

SEPTEMBER

A young peregrine was shot in Devon (here), 3 poisoned buzzards were found in Ireland (here), a peregrine was found shot shot next to a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here) and a shot marsh harrier was found next to a pheasant pen on the Sledmere Estate in East Yorkshire (here).

Young satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park (here). The Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham issued a bland holding statement in response, and the Cairngorms National Park Authority published a non-statement that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on (here).

We blogged about the long-term persecution of raptors in the Cairngorms National Park (here) and suggested ways of how to bring it to an end (here). The CNPA convener issued a statement of the bleedin’ obvious when he said ‘raptor persecution in the Cairngorms National Park was a PR disaster’ (here).

In the courts a December trial date was set for Scottish gamekeeper Stanley Gordon, accused of the alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate in 2013 (here) and a November hearing date was set for Raeshaw Estate’s ongoing judicial review of SNH’s decision to impose a General Licence restriction (here).

A raptor conference took place in Sheffield with Angela Smith MP saying that illegal raptor persecution has to stop (here) and Philip Merricks of the Hawk & Owl Trust saying…..well, we’re not sure what he said (here).

Sticking with Philip Merricks, we had asked whether the HoT would remove itself from the hen harrier brood meddling plan in light of the pole-trapping crimes uncovered on Mossdale Estate – it turned out that the Hawk & Owl Trust’s ‘immoveable provisos’ were actually moveable after all (here). Rod Leslie, a prominent member of the HoT sent an open letter to Philip Merricks advising him to get his act together if he wanted to save the Trust’s reputation (here).

The Heads up for Hen Harriers charade continued (here) and we learned that tackling raptor persecution featured in the Scottish Government’s 2016-2017 work plan (here).

Compelling evidence on the reliability of satellite tags (94%!) was provided by a researcher involved with the long-term sat tagging of Montagu’s harriers (here).

The BBC stuck two fingers up to the nasty brigade when they ruled that Chris Packham’s involvement in the ban driven grouse shooting campaign had not breached any BBC regulations (here).

It emerged that the Royal family was using soldiers to work as private beaters on a driven grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here) and after a series of FoIs, we discovered that Invercauld Estate had taken ‘action’ in relation to the illegally set traps that had been discovered on their grouse moor in the summer. However, the details of that ‘action’ were not made public – it was a closely guarded secret between Invercauld Estate, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Scottish Government (here).

We reached the two year anniversary of the Scottish Government’s consultation on increased powers for the SSPCA and still a decision hadn’t been made (here).

OCTOBER

Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Rowan’ was found dead in suspicious circumstances in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here), a buzzard was found with shotgun injuries near Thirsk, North Yorkshire (here), a peregrine was found shot dead in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here) and a baited pole trap was found set next to a pheasant pen in Devon (here).

Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Hermione’ was found on Mull but the death was not thought to be suspicious (here).

There was extensive fire damage at Moy Estate after the heather had been treated to a ‘hair cut’ (here, here) and an investigation by Friends of the Earth revealed that driven grouse shooting was costing the taxpayer millions of pounds (here).

RSPB Scotland denounced SNH’s General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate as ‘farcical’ (here) and we exposed the partnership-working sham of SNH’s Heads up for Hen Harriers scheme (here).

Mossdale Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park came under fire from local residents (here).

A new report showed that the illegal persecution of red kites in northern Scotland was at the same level as it was 25 years ago (here) but another report suggested a bright future for white-tailed eagles in western Scotland (here).

Members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group gave compelling evidence on raptor persecution to the Public Petitions Committee at Holyrood (here) and we wrote a review blog about mountain hare massacres on Scottish grouse moors as charity OneKind announced a public protest would take place at Holyrood in November against mountain hare culling (here).

An evidence session on the issue of driven grouse shooting took place at Westminster (here, here) in preparation for the debate at the end of the month, and we also reviewed the written evidence that had been published in advance on the Parliamentary website (here).

Chris Packham received an Outstanding Achievement Award (a ‘Green Oscar’) at the 2016 Wildscreen Festival (here) and we paid tribute to Mark Avery on the eve of the Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting (here).

NOVEMBER

Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Tarras’ ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park (here), Cumbria Police issued a vague statement saying that satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Rowan’, whose body had been found in the Yorkshire Dales National Park last month, was ‘likely to have been shot’ (here). This is yet another cover up and we’ll be blogging about it in the New Year.

The shot marsh harrier that had been found next to a pheasant pen on the Sledmere Estate, East Yorkshire in September was successfully rehabbed and released back to the wild by Jean Thorpe (here).

In court the vicarious liability prosecution against Andrew Duncan (Newlands Estate) continued to drag on, with the December trial date now dumped and the case was continued (see here, here). The case was also continued against Scottish gamekeeper Stanley Gordon, accused of the alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate in 2013 (here).

We blogged about the Westminster debate on grouse shooting which had descended in to a pantomime with more than its fair share of comedy villains (here) and contrasted the performance with a debate in Holyrood where a series of MSPs stood up to speak with sincerity about being Species Champions (here).

The results of the 2015 national golden eagle survey showed an increase in the overall population but it was revealed that the species is still ‘missing’ from many driven grouse moors in the Eastern Highlands (here).

The 2014 annual report on wildlife crime in Northern Ireland was published (here), as was an annual report on wildlife crime in Scotland, although raptor persecution data was deliberately withheld from the Scottish report, for unknown reasons (here).

Mull Eagle Watch won another award (here) and we were told that the Scottish Government’s commissioned review on gamebird hunting licensing systems in Europe would be published shortly (here).

More Parliamentary Questions on mountain hare culling were posed by another MSP from the Scottish Greens (Alison Johnstone), and the Cabinet Secretary responded by saying that ‘more evidence’ was required before mountain hare culls would be regulated (here).

Meanwhile, OneKind held a successful protest rally at Holyrood against mountain hare culling and we revealed that a Cairngorms National Park board member had told Scottish gamekeepers to literally ‘cover up’ dead mountain hares so that embarrassing photographs couldn’t find their way on to social media (here). This cover up was later denied, rather unconvincingly (here).

A series of FoIs revealed what DEFRA’s hen harrier brood meddling team had got planned (here, here, here, here) as well as a little bit about the proposed ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers to southern England (here). We’ve since got some more FoI responses on this that we’ll blog about in the New Year.

DECEMBER

Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Beater’ was ‘lost, presumed dead (here).

An RSPB Investigations blog revealed that in 2015 a gamekeeper had been filmed with a poisons cache on the East Arkengarthdale Estate, next to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The CPS had decided not to prosecute but North Yorkshire Police revoked his firearms certificates. The gamekeeper appealed this decision and the judge reinstated this man’s firearms, even though it was accepted in court that he had indeed been involved with the illegal poisons cache (here). We asked some questions of the grouse shooting community about this case (here) – yet to receive a response. We also asked some questions about a potential subsidy penalty for this estate (see here) – we’ll be following up on this in the New Year.

arken

Also in the courts this month, yet another trial date was set for Andrew Duncan (vicarious liability prosecution) – the third time a trial date has been set for this case. It is now due to take place in April 2017 (see here). Stanley Gordon’s trial date was also dumped – the case has been continued until Feb 2017 (here). And yet another trial date was set in the case against Angus Glens gamekeeper Craig Graham – now scheduled to take place in May 2017 (here).

The buzzard that had been found in October with shotgun injuries near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, was successfully rehabbed and returned to the wild by Jean Thorpe (here).

We raised more questions about the Invercauld Estate illegal traps fiasco (here) – there appears to be something dodgy going on here and we intend to revisit this in the New Year.

RSPB Scotland denounced SNH’s general Licence system as a cover for the illegal destruction of birds of prey (here) and we learned that Scottish gamekeepers want to see white-tailed eagles, red kites, buzzards, sparrowhawks and ravens added to the list of species that can be killed under the remit of a General Licence (see here).

The Scottish Moorland Group and BASC ducked and dodged some awkward questions when they appeared in front of the Public Petitions Committee who are considering a petition to introduce licensing for gamebird hunting in Scotland (here).

We were told that giant buzzards are eating dogs in Tipperary (here) but even this unbelievable nonsense was eclipsed by the Gift of Grouse who claimed that ‘raptors are thriving on driven grouse moors (here). RSPB Scotland responded by dismissing it as ‘risible, make-believe tosh’ (here).

The Gift of Grouse propaganda machine was further exposed when a report was finally published about the breeding status of birds on Invermark Estate – it turned out that that the claims made by the Gift of Grouse weren’t true after all (see here) – who’d have guessed?

We published (much to the SGA’s annoyance) the minutes of a meeting between the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, which provide an endless source of entertainment (here).

The Scottish Justice Committee is examining the performance of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service and heard damning evidence from Scottish Environment LINK about questionable procedures (here).

Mark Avery won Birdwatch magazine’s Conservation Hero of the Year Award (here).

The Scottish Greens continued to ask excellent Parliamentary Questions when it was discovered that VisitScotland would be match funding a marketing campaign for Scottish country sports. Andy Wightman MSP asked whether public money would be given to landowners or managers where wildlife crime had been uncovered (here). We also raised the point that the partner agency in this scheme (Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group) was actively promoting a convicted wildlife criminal on its website and questioned why this group was afforded a Parliamentary reception (here).

It’s been an eventful year. Thanks for all your support!




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