Archive Page 2


BASC’s mask slips again as Director dismisses sat tag evidence as “hysterics”

Have a look at this tweet from Duncan Thomas, a regional director of the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC):

Dear oh dear. And BASC had been trying soooooo hard to convince everyone it accepted the findings of the recently published hen harrier satellite tag paper that showed at least 72% of sat tagged hen harriers were presumed illegally killed on grouse moors.

In response to that scientific peer-reviewed paper BASC’s Executive Director of Conservation had even stated:

We are grateful that this research has been carried out. Satellite tags are a tool in the fight against persecution. We have to make sure there is no place left for criminals to hide“.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Duncan Thomas has caused what should be considerable embarrassment to those at BASC’s head office – last time was when he went on the telly to claim that “there’s a tiny amount of persecution occurring” [in the Peak District National Park] despite overwhelming evidence that’s stacked up over the last two decades that shows otherwise –  see here.

Does this look like an organisation committed to tackling the illegal killing of birds of prey?

Why is BASC still a member of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG)? It boycotted the last RPPDG meeting and then shortly afterwards claimed it was still “committed to constructive dialogue“.

Does referring to the scientific findings of the hen harrier and golden eagle sat tag papers as “#raptorhysterics” look like constructive dialogue to you?

How will this appalling attitude help progress the work of the RPPDG?


Police target bird egg thieves in Operation Easter 2019

Press release from National Wildlife Crime Unit


Wild birds are nesting and the national campaign to protect them across the UK is underway. Egg thieves will go to any lengths to raid the nests of rare species but Operation EASTER is determined to stop them in their tracks.

Operation EASTER was developed in Scotland 22 years ago.  The operation is now facilitated by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) in conjunction with UK police forces and partner agencies.  The operation targets egg thieves by sharing intelligence across the UK to support enforcement action.

[Raptor eggs, photo by Tony Ladd]

In recent years the operation has also been expanded to look at those who might take raptor eggs or chicks to launder into falconry, those who are suspected of disturbing nests for photography and those who trade eggs online.

The taking of wild bird eggs is a serious crime yet it remains the pastime of some determined individuals.  Whole clutches of eggs can be taken from some of the UK’s rarest birds with potentially devastating impacts. The eggs are stored in secret collections.

Chief Inspector Lou Hubble, head of the NWCU, said: “As populations of many birds decline, the NWCU are committed to Operation EASTER.  We will be working alongside partners and police forces to help to protect nesting sites and would encourage anyone who witnesses suspicious activity to report it to their local police force”.

If you have any information on egg thieves, or those who disturb rare nesting birds without a licence, you should contact your local or nearest police station by dialing 101 and ask to speak to a wildlife crime officer if possible. Nesting will be in full swing by April so please contact the police if you see anyone acting suspiciously around nesting birds.

Information can also be passed in confidence to Crimestoppers via 0800 555 111.



‘Almost a fifth of Scotland is managed for grouse shooting’

‘Almost a fifth of Scotland is managed for grouse shooting’.

This claim was made in a 2018 report, The Case for Reforming Scotland’s Grouse Moors, authored by Ruth Tingay & Andy Wightman and published by Revive: The coalition for grouse moor reform.

The ‘almost a fifth’ claim is an attention-grabber and often shocks people, which is why it is regularly used by Revive as part of its campaign material. For example, here in a flyer advertising a fringe event hosted by Revive at the forthcoming SNP spring conference:

Unsurprisingly, there are some supporters of grouse shooting who appear to be intensely irritated by the ‘almost a fifth’ quote and have been trying to discredit it in recent weeks. Actually, not just discredit it, but apparently to “comprehensively destroy” it.

A bold claim indeed. Unfortunately not one that the claimant could live up to. The following screen grabs are from Matt Cross’s twitter account (he’s a ‘journalist’ who writes stuff for Shooting Times – not always accurately, see here & here). Thanks to the blog reader who sent them in:

Oh dear. It appears Mr Cross isn’t quite the brilliant researcher he thinks he is. First he claims that Revive “didn’t provide a source for the [one fifth] claim” and then he decides the source was a 28 year old publication.

He’s wrong. On both counts.

Had he read Revive’s report, which is readily available on the Revive website, he would have found this, on page 10:

So, to clarify. The ‘almost a fifth’ claim was based on two sources – one from the grouse moor owners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates and one from the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group. Neither of these sources are 28 years old.

The Revive report makes no comment on the validity of those two sources (as that would have been beyond the scope of the report) but used them in good faith as the best available evidence. The report also included the caveat that ‘Estimates of the extent of this land use vary depending upon definitions and the type of grouse moor management deployed’.

The report further explained (on page 11) ‘Further complications arise in estimating the extent of land used for grouse shooting when one particular aspect of grouse moor management (predator control) is taken in to account. Predator control occurs on the grouse moor itself but also beyond the boundary of the moor (e.g. in forestry blocks or on in-bye ground) so the mapping of moorland habitat alone is insufficient to calculate the full extent of grouse moor management as a land-use ‘type”.

For all these reasons, it is perfectly legitimate for Revive to state that ‘Almost a fifth of Scotland is managed for grouse shooting’.


Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson accused of 12 wildlife crimes

Further to previous blogs on the prosecution of Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson for alleged wildlife crimes in the Scottish Borders (see here, here here and here) further details have emerged about the charges he faces.

From the Peebleshire News (12/4/19) (and with thanks to the blog reader who sent us a copy):


A gamekeeper has been accused of 12 wildlife offences at Jedburgh Sheriff Court. Alan Wilson, 60, is charged with shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faces charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and no certificate for an air weapon.

Wilson, of xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx pleaded not guilty to all 12 charges and a trial date was set for June 13 with an intermediate hearing on May 27.


Please note: we will not be accepting comments on this news item until legal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.


Illegal trap user escapes trial after prosecution shambles

Here’s another example of another raptor persecution case collapsing.

This was published in the latest edition of Legal Eagle (#87), the RSPB Investigation Team’s newsletter:

It’s so frustrating. Yes, the CPS is massively under-resourced and struggling to cope with far more serious crimes than this, so even more justification, then, for the need for a specialist wildlife crime unit to investigate and then prosecute alleged offenders.

Who’d pay for that? Licence the entire game shooting industry, which is the industry responsible for the vast majority of raptor persecution crimes, and it’d raise millions. Sorted.


Interview with RPPDG Chair, Supt Nick Lyall in Shooting Times

A couple of weeks ago Shooting Times published an interview with Police Supt Nick Lyall, Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG).

The interview took place in February 2019, shortly after the Moorland Association, BASC, Countryside Alliance, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and Country Land & Business Association chose to boycott Nick’s first RPPDG meeting in a desperate attempt to block progress (see here, here, here, here).

It also took place before the publication of the damning scientific paper showing the link between English grouse moors and extensive hen harrier persecution.

Here’s the interview:

Let’s congratulate the editor of Shooting Times for commissioning and then publishing this, especially at a time when prominent organisations from the game shooting industry were giving Nick Lyall a metaphorical two-fingered salute by challenging his integrity and refusing to attend a so-called ‘partnership’ meeting.

The congratulations would have been more hearty had Shooting Times taken the opportunity to publish the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline number (0300 999 0101) one year after it was launched, but that still seems too difficult. Why is that? Even after the Raptor Crime Hotline was mentioned by Nick in the interview!

The interview itself wasn’t very enlightening, but that’s probably more to do with the style of presentation than anything else. We’re so used to listening to interviews on radio or podcasts, or watching them on TV, where both the question and answer can be heard, allowing us to place the answers in context. But for this interview, we have to rely upon someone else’s interpretation and that’s unsatisfactory for an issue as contentious as illegal raptor persecution because inevitably some answers will be given out of context.

For example, there is this floating paragraph:

Later in the interview, he [Nick Lyall] compared shooters involved with raptor offences to the smaller number of corrupt police officers‘.

Really? For such a significant (alleged) statement, it would have been good to have seen the context of that part of the conversation. As a stand alone statement it seems even more unlikely when you read what Nick had said about his understanding of who was committing raptor persecution crimes:

“…….there is clearly organised criminality in terms of multi-million pound industries that are committing persecution offences……..”

Gosh. Which “multi-million pound industry” is he thinking of?

There was also an odd bit at the end of the article where Nick is quoted during a discussion on the use of covert cameras:

I wouldn’t want to think that I’m sitting in my backyard and somebody is watching me without the authority to do so. So yes, I completely understand where people’s concerns would come from that respect“.

Again, this appears to have been taken out of context. We know, having had conversations with Nick about covert surveillance and the RIPA legislation, that he fully understands that covert cameras aren’t placed anywhere near anyone’s dwelling, let alone pointing at someone’s backyard, as this quote suggests. Rather, cameras are placed on remote moorland, miles from anyone’s house and any chance of intruding on their private lives. Typically they are pointed at the nests of Schedule 1 birds, which nobody should be visiting without a Schedule 1 Disturbance Licence anyway, or at illegally-set pole traps to find out who is operating the trap. To us, it looks like this quote has been included, out of context, simply to play to the shooting industry’s hatred of RSPB covert surveillance which, time and time again, has revealed what really goes on when the criminals think no-one is watching. E.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here

Fortunately Nick Lyall is savvy and proactive enough to be able to present his own views, via his twitter account (@SuptNickLyall) and via his RPPDG blog (here). We know that he continues to work hard behind the scenes and we’re looking forward to seeing the launch of his Operation Owl website in the very near future, which aims to educate, inform and inspire people to get involved with tackling illegal raptor persecution.


Sparrowhawk found tied to plastic bottle in Angus

The SSPCA is appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was found cable-tied to a plastic bottle in Carnoustie, Angus.

A member of the public found the bird on Sunday 7 April in a field at the top end of Lochend Road. The SSPCA attended and released the bird after checking it for injuries.

[Photos by SSPCA]

SSPCA rescue officer Dionne Boyack said, “We were notified by a concerned member of the public who came across the sparrowhawk. It was found to be tethered in an unusual way, so we don’t suspect this to be a falconer.  The bird was restrained with cable ties and attached to a bottle which was hindering its ability to fly. It is possible the bird got caught up in this unfortunate way by accident. After assessing the sparrowhawk for injury and being satisfied that he had none, I freed him and he flew away.

If anyone in the area has any information about how the bird came to be trapped in this way, please contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.”

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