Posts Tagged ‘buzzard

21
Aug
18

SNH wilfully blind to threat of persecution of golden eagles in south Scotland

The project to translocate golden eagles from the Scottish Highlands to south Scotland has finally got underway this year, with news out today that three eagles have been successfully released this year.

There’s an article about it on BBC Scotland (here) including some video footage.

Unbelievably, Professor Des Thompson, Principal Advisor for Biodiversity and Science at SNH, is quoted in both in the video and in the article as follows:

This is the icon of wild Scotland. We are on the threshold of giving something very exciting back to the south of Scotland. Scotland has just over 500 pairs, just two to four breeding pairs in the south of Scotland where they are really struggling.

Young golden eagles are heavily persecuted. A third of them have been killed either through shooting or poisoning.

Down here in the south of Scotland we’ve been able to reassure ourselves persecution is not an issue. It’s just a small fragmented population that needs this helping hand from us. We have been overwhelmed by the support we are getting from landowners and we are reassured these birds are going to be welcome“.

Did he actually just say that? “We’ve been able to reassure ourselves persecution is not an issue“. What, you mean in the same way that SNH reassured itself that the scientific justification for the Strahbraan raven cull was sound?

You couldn’t make this up. Has he switched jobs and is now representing Scottish Land & Estates? He might as well be as this is exactly the line they were trying to spin several years ago (see here).

The south of Scotland is well known for the illegal persecution of raptors, including golden eagles. Only this year a young satellite-tagged golden eagle (Fred) ‘disappeared’ in the Pentland Hills in highly suspicious circumstances (here) in an area where previously a merlin nest had been shot out and breeding ravens had also ‘disappeared’.

[Golden eagle Fred, by Ruth Tingay]

Then there’s Raeshaw Estate, currently operating under a General Licence restriction and an Individual Licence restriction, due to evidence of alleged ongoing raptor persecution (here); there’s a forthcoming prosecution of a gamekeeper in the Borders for a long list of alleged wildlife crime (here); there’s the land managed for driven grouse shooting in South Lanarkshire (close to the golden eagle translocation area) where over 50 confirmed reported incidents of dead raptors and poisoned baits have been recorded since 2003, including a shot golden eagle in 2012 (it didn’t survive, here), the reported shooting of a short-eared owl in 2017 (here), the reported shooting of a hen harrier in 2017 (here), and the reported shooting of a buzzard in 2018 (here); and then there’s been at least four raptor poisonings in south Scotland this year alone (here).

But don’t worry, folks, despite all evidence to the contrary, Professor Thompson is “reassured” that raptor persecution won’t be an issue for these young golden eagles.

Here’s a map from the 2008 Golden Eagle Conservation Framework showing the conservation status of golden eagles in Scotland (red = unfavourable conservation status), overlaid with ten years of raptor persecution data (all species, 2005-2015) gleaned from ‘official’ persecution maps. It doesn’t include data from the last three years. Does it look to you like raptor persecution isn’t an issue in southern Scotland?

We’ve blogged about the South Scotland Golden Eagle Project several times over the years (e.g. here, here, here) and we still have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand the south Scotland golden eagle population is in dire straits, and has been for some time, and urgently needs a boost. Translocating eagles from other parts of the Scottish range seems a decent strategy.

However, fundamental to translocation and reintroduction projects is the need to identify and resolve the underlying cause(s) of the species’ decline in that area. The authorities have not come anywhere near to resolving this issue, either in south Scotland or beyond. The chances remain high that these young eagles will be killed. Having said that, they’re just as likely to be illegally killed further north in Scotland so in that sense, moving them a few hundred km south probably won’t make much difference to their chance of being illegally killed.

At least these three young eagles have been satellite-tagged so their movements can be followed. The question is, if/when each eagle goes off the radar in suspicious circumstances, who will decide whether this news is suppressed or publicised?

We’ll be taking a close interest.

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23
Jul
18

Buzzard shot dead in Dorset

RSPB press release (23 July 2018):

DEAD BIRDS OF PREY FOUND IN DORSET

A shot buzzard and dead barn owl spark concerns of a local persecution problem

Dorset Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a dead buzzard and a dead barn owl were found near Melplash, Dorset in May 2018.

[Photo of the shot buzzard via RSPB]

The buzzard was taken to a nearby vets, where an X-ray revealed the presence of a piece of shot in the bird’s skull, which is believed to be the cause of death. A barn owl was also found dead in suspicious circumstances under its nest box, though the body was too decomposed to determine cause of death. Sadly there are also previous reports of another dead barn owl and a number of dead buzzards in this area, though the bodies were not recovered for testing.

Local enquiries by Dorset Police have not uncovered any leads so far, and they are appealing to the public for information.

Birds of prey and owls are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it an offence to intentionally harm them. Anyone found to have shot or killed these birds faces an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail.

Tony Whitehead from RSPB South West Regional Office said: “The deliberate persecution of birds of prey is not only brutal but illegal. Raptors are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem, not to mention a glorious sight to see. We are grateful to the member of the public who took the trouble to report these incidents and we urge anyone with information to come forward.”

The illegal persecution of birds of prey is a widespread and unrelenting problem which continues to affect the conservation status of some raptor species in the UK. As a result, the RSPB has set up a confidential ‘Raptor Crime Hotline’ to give whistleblowers a chance to speak out in confidence and help end this culture of criminality.

Claire Dinsdale of Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “Raptor persecution is one of the UK Wildlife Crime Priorities which includes poisoning, shooting, trapping, habitat destruction and nest destruction or disturbance. There is a clear responsibility with legitimate firearm users to accurately identify the species before any shot is taken. It is totally unacceptable to act outside the law and shoot these protected birds. I would urge anyone with any information to speak to us or the RSPB in confidence.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, please call Dorset Police online in confidence at www.dorset.police.uk/do-it-online and quote reference 55180073229. Or contact the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form here.

ENDS

30
Jun
18

Peregrine & two buzzards found poisoned: police appeal for info

Press release from South Wales Police (Bridgend & Vale of Glamorgan), 29th June 2018:

We are appealing for witnesses after three birds of prey were poisoned.

We are investigating the deaths of a peregrine falcon and two buzzards at Ruthin Quarry in the Vale of Glamorgan. The birds were found dead in the quarry on March 26.

[RPUK map]

A toxicology report confirmed that the birds were killed using a poisoned bait bird which was laced with a banned pesticide.

PC Mark Goulding, wildlife and environmental crime officer, said: “The killing of birds of prey is a serious wildlife offence. Raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority.

The poisoned birds ingested bait laced with the banned pesticide which was deliberately set out. I would urge anyone who may have witnessed this crime or who has information about this incident to come forward.

Anyone with information on illegal use of pesticides against wildlife can call us on 101 quoting 1800106122 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111“.

ENDS

The police press release didn’t include any photographs but from what has been described (“using a poisoned bait bird”) and given the location, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that this crime involved a live pigeon smothered in poison and tethered to a rock so that its helpless flapping attracted predators. This is a well-known barbaric persecution method that has been used for years, especially in Wales and Ireland, by some involved in pigeon racing who want to take out peregrines on the pigeon racing routes (e.g. see here).

Photo of a poison-smeared tethered pigeon at a quarry in Wales in 2012 (photographer unknown)

28
Jun
18

British Game Alliance: more greenwash from the shooting industry?

The UK gamebird-shooting industry is in crisis at the moment, with ever-increasing numbers of gamebirds being reared and released (estimated in the region of 50+ million pheasants & red-legged partridge each year) but supply is outstripping demand as game dealers struggle to sell the shot birds for human consumption. This has resulted in the widespread and illegal dumping of shot birds in the countryside (e.g. see here, here, here, here) which is causing serious damage to the reputation of the shooting industry.

Fearing enforced regulation, the shooting industry has come up with ‘the way forward’ and has established an organisation called the British Game Alliance, ‘the official marketing board for the UK game industry’, which, according to the Countryside Alliance, “aims to run a ‘British Game’ assurance scheme to ensure our game meets the highest standards“.

The British Game Alliance’s standards are quite high (see here for what is expected) and apparently compliance with these standards will be regulated and monitored by external auditors.

Sounds good, eh? In principle, yes, but our expectations were low in March 2018 when the Shooting Times revealed some of the individuals involved, including one name that made us laugh out loud given his links to estates with long histories of alleged (and sometimes proven) wildlife crime.

The British Game Alliance was launched with much fanfare and political support in May 2018 and we’ve been watching its website to find out which shoots (and sporting agents) have met the organisation’s ‘shoot standards’ to become listed as an ‘assured’ member. So far, the website hasn’t listed any of its assured members but promises that registered members will be ‘listed soon‘.

However, the British Game Alliance’s twitter feed (@BritishGame) has been more forthcoming. We were scrolling through this morning and were surprised to read this:

A police investigation took place at Wemmergill in 2015 after the discovery of two short-eared owls which had been shot and their corpses shoved inside a pothole (see here). There wasn’t a prosecution.

Another police investigation took place at Wemmergill in February this year following the sudden and explicable ‘disappearance’ of satellite-tagged hen harrier Marc (see here).

Even more surprising to read on the British Game Alliance’s twitter feed was this:

Edradynate Estate will be a familiar name to regular readers of this blog.

It is currently serving a three-year General Licence restriction imposed by SNH following sufficient evidence (substantiated by Police Scotland) that raptor persecution has taken place but insufficient evidence to prosecute a named individual (see here).

Edradynate Estate has been at the centre of investigations for alleged wildlife crime for a very, very long time. It’s well worth reading an earlier summary we wrote (here) which includes some fascinating commentary about the estate by former RSPB Investigator Dave Dick, who claimed as far back as 2004 that the estate was “among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime“, and commentary by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart, who said in 2005, “Edraynate Estate has probably the worst record in Scotland for poisoning incidents, going back more than a decade“.

The details involve a disturbingly high number of poisoned birds and poisoned baits that were found over the years, as well as a number of dropped prosecution cases. The most recent dropped prosecution case came just last year, when the Crown Office refused to prosecute an Edradynate gamekeeper for alleged buzzard poisoning, despite Police Scotland urging otherwise (see here).

Despite at least 22 police investigations over several decades (according to Alan Stewart), nobody from Edradynate Estate has ever been successfully prosecuted for any of these alleged wildlife crimes.

And there lies the problem with the British Game Alliance’s shoot standards. If you look at shoot standard #19, ‘Where a shoot or its employees are successfully prosecuted for wildlife crimes, the shoot will be expelled from the BGA and their membership revoked‘.

Given the well-documented difficulties of securing a successful prosecution for wildlife crime, which is an issue even recognised by the Scottish Government, hence the recent introduction of General Licence restrictions, it’s quite clear that some undeserving estates will get the official seal of approval from the British Game Alliance, thus reducing any confidence the public may have had in this well-intentioned scheme.

17
May
18

Police appeal after buzzard found shot in North York Moors National Park

APPEAL FOR INFORMATION FROM CLEVELAND POLICE, 17th May 2018:

SHOT RAPTOR APPEAL

At some point on Friday 4th May between 1pm – 6pm a buzzard was shot near to Lockwood Beck Reservoir in East Cleveland.

The buzzard had received serious wounds to its legs and unfortunately had to be put to sleep by a local vet.

We are appealing for anyone who may have been in the area at the time and seen person / persons / vehicles acting suspiciously.

Please contact Police on 101 quoting event no: SE18078559 and for the attention of PC Ward 542

ENDS

Lockwood Beck Reservoir is in the North York Moors National Park:

08
May
18

Three dogs & two buzzards die after being ‘deliberately poisoned’ in Perthshire

BBC News article (8 May 2018):

DOGS AND BUZZARDS DIE AFTER BEING DELIBERATELY POISONED

Police in Highland Perthshire are appealing for information after three working dogs and two buzzards were deliberately poisoned.

The incidents took place between October 2017 and April this year in and around the Edradynate and Pitnacree Estates area.

The poisons used to kill the dogs and birds are banned in the UK.

[Photo of a poisoned buzzard found in the area in 2015, by RPUK]

A Police Scotland spokesman said the animals’ owners were “understandably upset” at the loss of their dogs.

He said: “Once again, we also find ourselves investigating the illegal killing of raptors and this is extremely disappointing.

We have searched the areas and our investigations to date would suggest that there is not a wider threat to public safety.

However, all members of the public in the area are asked to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour, especially during the hours of darkness.”

ENDS

Hmm. Edradynate Estate has been at the centre of investigations for alleged wildlife crime for a very, very long time. It’s well worth reading an earlier summary we wrote (here) which includes some fascinating commentary about the estate by former RSPB Investigator Dave Dick, who claimed as far back as 2004 that the estate was “among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime“, and commentary by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart, who said in 2005, “Edraynate Estate has probably the worst record in Scotland for poisoning incidents, going back more than a decade“. The details involve a disturbingly high number of poisoned birds and poisoned baits that were found over the years, as well as a number of dropped prosecution cases (nobody has ever been convicted for any of the alleged offences). The summary also includes information about links between the estate and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.

[Edradynate Estate, photo by RPUK]

More recently, in March 2015 two dead buzzards were found near to the estate. Toxicology tests revealed they’d been poisoned with a banned substance (although the name wasn’t revealed). A police raid of the estate uncovered a third dead buzzard. A thorough police investigation followed but in May 2017 the Crown Office rejected a plea from Police Scotland to bring proceedings against an estate gamekeeper (see here). The Crown Office has so far not provided a clear explanation for this decision.

However, in September 2017 SNH imposed a three-year General Licence restriction on Edradynate Estate, presumably in response to the alleged buzzard poisonings in 2015 (see here). Some felt sympathy for the new gamekeeper who would now be subjected to these restrictions even though he’d only just begun his employment following the ‘retirement’ of the previous Head gamekeeper in February 2017.

And talking of that previous Head gamekeeper, you may remember last year he was charged with a number of offences including the alleged malicious damage of crops on Edradynate in April 2017 (it is claimed he poisoned them by spraying with an unknown substance, causing them to rot and perish) and the alleged theft of a thermal imaging spotting scope (see here). This resulted in some court proceedings that were mysteriously shrouded in secrecy (here).

Presumably he has pleaded not guilty as we now know a trial will take place at Perth Sheriff Court on 11 June 2018 for alleged ‘malicious mischief’.

27
Apr
18

Buzzards found poisoned & decapitated in Co Cork

Reported on BirdWatch Ireland’s facebook page on 24 April 2018, news of three dead buzzards found in a field at Ring, near Clonakilty, Co Cork.

The birds were found in January and collected by staff from the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) to be sent for post-mortem. X-rays showed no sign of lead shot but two of the buzzards had missing heads and one had a missing leg.

Toxicology results have revealed high levels of the highly toxic pesticide Carborfuran as well as two rodenticides.

The NPWS is investigating and calling for information.

More details on the BirdGuides website (here).

Photo of the dead buzzards in evidence bags [photo by NPWS]




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