Posts Tagged ‘Cairngorms National Park

16
May
18

Good grief, Cairngorms National Park!

For those of us hoping to see a progressive move away from intensive grouse moor management inside the Cairngorms National Park, we may have a long wait.

We’ve just found the following written on the VisitCairngorms website (‘the official website for the Cairngorms National Park’). It’s so bad it could have been written by one of the large grouse-shooting estates……..oh, it was.

Good grief! How the hell did that get approved for publication?

A couple of years ago, Will Boyd Wallis, Head of Land Management & Conservation for the Cairngorms National Park Authority wrote an excellent and encouraging blog about how the Park needed to ‘move with the times’, referring specifically to issues associated with intensive grouse moor management within the Park (well worth a read, see here).

He said, “We need to see practical action and clear demonstration that moorland managers are universally responding to modern needs and demands“.

There doesn’t appear to be any evidence of that response in the VisitCairngorms article with talk of Highland retreats for wealthy owners, killing ‘vermin’ (whatever that is), controlling predators by shooting and trapping, protecting game from poachers, and breeding gamebirds for release in to the wild.

A National Park, long considered a jewel in Scotland’s environmental crown? Or just a private playground for shooting parties, where killing wildlife for fun (‘sport’) is celebrated, even by the Park Authority?

Come on Cairngorms National Park, get a grip on this. There are some fantastic, forward-thinking estates within the Park and there are also many conservation-oriented staff at the CNPA. Remove the website guff about how Victorian-styled gamekeepers are the ‘life blood’ of the Park’s estates and let’s hear more about some of the conservation initiatives that some estates, and CNPA staff, are pushing forward.

UPDATE 17 May 2018: We’ve been asked to clarify that the VisitCairngorms website is not run by the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the CNPA has no editorial control. The VisitCairngorms website is run by the Cairngorms Business Partnership (the Chamber of Commerce) on behalf of their business members, and even though the website is adorned with the CNP logo and claims to be the Cairngorms National Park’s ‘official website’, it has its own Board and staff and its views are not neccesarily those of the CNPA. Clear? As mud.

Interestingly, the current Chair of the Cairngorms Business Partnership is Angus McNicol. By coincidence, the Factor of Invercauld Estate is also called Angus McNicol.

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15
May
18

Missing sea eagle Blue T: statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority

Following last week’s news that a young satellite-tagged sea eagle (Blue T) had ‘disappeared’ on Invercauld Estate, the Cairngorms National Park Authority’s CEO, Grant Moir, has published a statement:

The frustration is evident and it’s clear that a great deal of thought has gone in to this statement, which is a huge improvement on previous CNPA statements about ‘disappearing’ satellite-tagged raptors in the National Park (e.g. see here), but we wanted to pick up on a few things.

The news that SNH will shortly be launching the next phase of its raptor tracker project is great – any technological developments that might provide more detail about the fate of ‘missing’ satellite-tagged raptors will be warmly welcomed by most (but probably not by the criminals within the grouse-shooting industry).

However, Grant seems to think that knowing exactly where and when a tagged bird was killed will “take the ambiguity away from the situation“. It won’t.

As we’ve blogged before, if the tag/raptor is destroyed on an estate that employs multiple gamekeepers, the issue of identifying the individual culprit(s) will remain, especially if all the staff give the standard ‘no comment’ police interview. There will also be the sometimes plausible argument that the raptor had been shot/poisoned on a neighbouring estate and died just over the boundary of the estate under scrutiny. And as we’ve seen in recent years, even with clear video evidence of an individually identifiable gamekeeper killing a raptor, a successful prosecution is highly unlikely because the Crown Office will declare the evidence inadmissible or will claim it’s not in the public interest to proceed.

Sorry, Grant, but the so-called ‘ambiguity’ will remain – although there’s nothing ambiguous about the robust & statistically significant findings of the golden eagle satellite tag review, which demonstrated a clear relationship between suspicious raptor disappearances and land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting in and around the Cairngorms National Park:

One other thing in Grant’s statement that we wanted to pick up on –

Invercauld Estate is part of the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership and I genuinely do believe that progress has started to be made across a wide range of subjects with the Estates involved……”

Really? What progress is that, then? Any progress on stopping the illegal persecution of raptors?

The East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership was established in December 2015 and comprises six estates working in ‘partnership’ with the CNPA.

The Partnership’s statement of purpose can be read here.

Here are the estates (boundaries sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website):

  1. Glenlivet Estate. 2. Glenavon Estate. 3. Mar Lodge Estate (National Trust for Scotland). 4. Invercauld Estate. 5. Mar Estate. 6. Balmoral & Birkhall Estate.

Last October, almost two years after this Partnership was established, we wanted to find out what progress had been achieved. We submitted an FoI to the CNPA asking for copies of all correspondence relating to the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership since 1 January 2016.

Here’s the reply we received in November 2017:

We have searched our Corporate Drives for the period as above and we hold no information‘.

Impressive amount of progress, eh?

We do know that in February this year the CNPA was advertising for a part-time East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership Officer, on a decent salary of £28,770 – £34,633 pro rata.

Assuming someone has now been employed in this new position, they’ve certainly got their work cut out in delivering the objectives set out in the Cairngorms National Park Management Plan 2017-2022, which includes improving raptor populations in the National Park. Recent peer-reviewed science has revealed that the local hen harrier population has crashed (here) as has the local peregrine population (here).

Oh, and satellite-tagged hen harriers keep going ‘missing’ in highly suspicious circumstances inside the National Park, just like hen harrier Calluna, as do satellite-tagged eagles such as sea eagle Blue T and golden eagle #338.

National Park or National Disgrace?

20
Mar
18

Pilot scheme for special constables to tackle wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park

Press release from Police Scotland / Cairngorms National Park Authority (16 March 2018):

WILDLIFE SPECIAL CONSTABLES TAKE UP DUTIES IN CAIRNGORMS

An initiative to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms was launched today when the first Police Scotland Special Constables to tackle wildlife and rural issues within Cairngorms National Park formally took up their duties.

The Scottish Government and the Cairngorms National Park Authority is funding the pilot project, which will see five officers, who are all currently Special Constables and based across the three Police Scotland divisions which are covered by the National Park area, concentrate on wildlife and rural crime issues. They will engage with other agencies to prevent wildlife crime and build on existing relationships with those living and working in the Cairngorms National Park.

Detective Chief Superintendent David McLaren from Police Scotland said, “Tackling wildlife crime in Scotland is something that Police Scotland takes very seriously. Our priority should be preventing these crimes in the first place and we can only do this through strong partnership working and with the help of the public.

It is our hope that by having this additional policing resource within the Cairngorms National Park we will be able to deter wildlife criminals. By building good relationships with those using the park, for work or leisure, we will also seek to better educate the public in identifying and reporting suspicious activity.”

Grant Moir, CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority said, “Wildlife crime is unacceptable and damages the reputation of the Cairngorms as an outstanding National Park for nature. I am pleased to see the start of the special constable pilot with Scottish Government and Police Scotland to tackle this issue, but of course I would much prefer that this sort of resource was not needed to tackle an issue that should not be happening in 21st century Scotland.

This is just part of the work that we are all undertaking to tackle this issue and the CNPA look forward to working closely with the Special Constables and Police Scotland.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “Scotland’s wildlife is precious and a huge part of our national identity, and these additional officers will be a valuable resource in tackling wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park.

I announced this programme following a report that found many of our golden eagles are disappearing in suspicious circumstances. Golden eagles are in the news again with reports of another missing bird, which further underlines the importance of this work.

It is my hope that the success of this pilot scheme will allow us extend it more widely across Scotland. We are absolutely determined to crack down on those who commit crime against our wildlife.”

Anyone with any relevant information on the fates of missing golden eagles or suspected wildlife crime in general, is urged to report this to Police Scotland on 101.

ENDS

This initiative is one of a number of measures announced by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham last May, in response to the findings of the golden eagle satellite tag review which showed clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution, particularly on some driven grouse moors in and around the Cairngorms National Park.

This map shows the last known location of satellite-tagged golden eagles that were either found illegally killed or had disappeared in suspicious circumstances in and around the Cairngorms National Park.

And it’s not just satellite-tagged golden eagles that have been killed / disappeared in suspicious circumstances in this area. A number of satellite-tagged red kites and hen harriers have suffered the same fate, and since the golden eagle report was published (May 2017), another golden eagle has vanished in the area (see here) as has another hen harrier (see here).

Not one of these incidents, depicted on this map below, has resulted in a prosecution:

With the greatest of respect to the five wildlife special constables, who undoubtedly want to make a difference by volunteering in their spare time, will this pilot scheme really make any difference? It’s hard to know, of course, until the nine month scheme has ended, but even then, we don’t know the criteria by which success will be measured.

We don’t even know the details of the scheme’s operational framework – how will these special constables carry out their wildlife crime duties within the Park? Will they be targeting specific estates? If so, how? They can’t just rock up and do spot searches without having good reason to suspect a wildlife crime has taken place. Nor can they undertake covert surveillance without authority under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act (RIP(S)A), authority which will not be forthcoming because wildlife crimes are not formally categorised as being serious enough to warrant RIP(S)A authority.

There was mention of “strong partnership working” within the official press release – we’ve come to learn that this is a mostly meaningless phrase often used in the field of raptor persecution detection and prevention as a bit of window-dressing, simply trotted out to portray a harmonious relationship between the good guys and the bad guys but with few, if any, tangible results.

It’s easy to see why the Scottish Government chose the Cairngorms National Park to trial this pilot scheme. It has the full support of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (and presumably any resources the CNPA is able to provide) and some areas of the Park are well-known hotspots for wildlife crime, particularly the illegal killing of birds of prey.

Here is a map of raptor persecution crimes recorded in and around the Cairngorms National Park since 2005. As far as we’re aware, only one of these, just beyond the Park boundary (Kildrummy Estate, 2012), resulted in a successful prosecution:

The following list, which we’ve compiled from various data sources but predominantly from the RSPB’s annual persecution reports, documents over 60 illegal raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) since 2002. (The Park wasn’t formally established until 2003 but we’ve included 2002 data as the area had been mapped by then). This list includes just the crimes we know about. How many more went unreported/undiscovered?

2002

Feb: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Mar: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 rabbit baits. Cromdale (No prosecution)

2003

Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie (No prosecution)

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch (Successful prosecution)

2004

May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich (No prosecution)

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

2005

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie (No prosecution)

2006

Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett] (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie (No prosecution)

2007

Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee (No prosecution)

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul (No prosecution)

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

2008

Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

2009

May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo (No prosecution)

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)

2010

Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten (No prosecution)

2011

Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater (No prosecution)

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

2012

Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee (No prosecution)

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater (No prosecution)

2013

Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn (No prosecution)

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

2014

Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty (No prosecution)

2015

Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore (No prosecution)

2016

May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld (No prosecution)

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ ‘disappears’. Kingussie

2017

Mar: Satellite-tagged golden eagle #338 ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ ‘disappears’. Ballater

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).

20
Oct
17

Wise words from Glen Tanar Estate

There are a number of estates whose names crop up with depressing regularity on this blog, usually for all the wrong reasons.

Glen Tanar Estate isn’t one of them.

We have written about this estate over the years (e.g. here, here, here), as have others (e.g. here, here, here) but we’ve only ever had good things to say about its welcome approach to raptor conservation. Today’s blog follows that trend.

Glen Tanar sits on the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park, an area that includes many intensively managed grouse moors and consequently is an area that continues to be plagued by illegal raptor persecution. This regional notoriety makes Glen Tanar’s positive attitude towards birds of prey even more remarkable.

[Estate boundary sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website]

Now, have a read of this blog recently written by Glen Tanar’s Wildlife Manager, Colin McClean, where he describes the grouse moor management at Glen Tanar. Colin’s approach should be a benchmark, not only for the other grouse-shooting estates within the Cairngorms National Park but for the entire UK grouse shooting industry.

We were particularly taken with his final paragraph:

Big bags are not essential and most of our guests are happy to spend a day chatting to friends in beautiful surroundings while watching the dogs tirelessly work. Perhaps only 10-20 birds will be shot. But amidst the chat and the income, the debate surrounding grouse shooting rages on. Jobs and economy on one side, raptor persecution on the other. Political scrutiny is now intense. For me there is little political threat to grouse shooting provided the sector obeys the law of the land. There are far too many jobs involved for politicians to take action lightly. However obeying the law is a must and this remains a challenge for some. The recent review of satellite tagging of golden eagles shows an unambiguous pattern of regular disappearances above grouse moors when they rarely disappear over anywhere else. For me its not the RSPB or campaigners like Chris Packham or Mark Avery who threaten grouse shooting. They are just campaigning for the law to be obeyed. The threat to grouse shooting comes from those who refuse to abide by the law and continue to persecute raptors. If a ban ever does come about, then the responsibility for losing all the traditions, all the economy and all the jobs will lie entirely at their door“.

17
Oct
17

Another Parliamentary question on conservation status of mountain hares

Last week we discovered that SNH had reported to the EU Commission in 2013 that the mountain hare was in ‘Favourable Conservation Status’ (see here).

This startling revelation was revealed after a Parliamentary question from Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone. We wanted to know more detail about how SNH had made its assessment, and it seems we’re not the only ones. Alison has submitted a further Parliamentary question, as follows:

Question S5W-12001: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 13/10/2017

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the 2007 assessment regarding an ‘unfavourable/inadequate’ status, for what reason its 2013 Article 17 Habitats Regulations report to the EU Commission assessed the mountain hare population as “favourable”, and whether it will provide a breakdown of the (a) criteria it used and (b) the evidence it received.

Expected answer date 10/11/2017

Kudos to Alison Johnstone MSP!

The grouse-shooting industry has previously said that large scale culls no longer take place. Photographic evidence from the Cairngorms National Park in 2016 suggests otherwise.

08
Sep
17

GWCT twisting the truth about hen harrier persecution, again

A few days ago we blogged about a series of letters published in The Times (Scotland) relating to the disappearance of a young satellite-tagged hen harrier Calluna, who recently vanished after visiting a Deeside grouse moor.

Scottish Land & Estates used the incident as an opportunity to falsely accuse the RSPB of not following agreed protocols, presumably in a pathetic attempt to detract attention from the ongoing criminality associated with the driven grouse shooting industry. We’ve come to expect no better from this organisation.

As a follow on from those letters, another industry figure, Andrew Gilruth from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), decided to join in and spew out some more fakery, this time in The Times (London edition). Here’s what he wrote, published 7 Sept 2017:

HEN HARRIER HABITAT

Sir,

The RSPB are right to say an organisation must not “ignore facts to suit its narrow agenda” (letter, Sep 5). The most productive location for hen harrier nests, 47 fledged young from 12 nests, was achieved by gamekeepers on Langholm Moor just three years ago. However, their improvement of the moorland habitat and protection of these ground nesting birds from foxes has now ended, because conservationists could not agree on how to also recover grouse numbers. Should hen harrier numbers drop to the two pairs there were before these gamekeepers arrived in 2008, the birds might ask who has the narrowest agenda.

Andrew Gilruth
Director of Communications
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

You’ll notice how Andrew’s distraction technique has cleverly moved the story away from the news of Calluna’s suspicious disappearance from a grouse moor and has instead tried to re-focus the story on to how great grouse moors are for hen harriers. Unfortunately for Andrew, choosing the Langholm Moor study as an example to support this theory was not the brightest idea.

Here’s why, succinctly explained in a letter published in The Times (London) today:

ABSENCE OF HARRIERS

Sir,

Andrew Gilruth’s letter (September 7) brings to mind Kipling’s poem ‘If’ for the manner in which it twists the truth to make a trap for fools.

The single and only reason Langholm Moor supported 12 harrier nests that fledged 47 young was that the gamekeepers working on this collaborative demonstration project were under strict instructions not to kill them and operate within the law. It is very telling that no other driven grouse moors in Scotland (or the rest of the UK) can equal this hen harrier population or productivity. What this statistic actually suggests, therefore, is the rampant scale of illegal killing of this majestic bird, given its landscape-wide absence and the lack of breeding success on all other driven grouse moors and which our members, (who are licenced by Scottish Natural Heritage), monitor across Scotland every year.

Logan Steele

Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG)

Logan hits the nail on the head. If driven grouse moors are so great for breeding hen harriers, why are we seeing an almost total absence of breeding hen harriers on these moors, year after year after year? Of course, the disgusting truth is already well known.

Andrew Gilruth’s letter has been widely shared on social media by the criminal apologists and has been followed up with other examples of supposedly typical driven grouse moors that have good hen harrier breeding figures this year. Unfortunately, these people are as scientifically illiterate as Andrew Gilruth and have used wholly inappropriate examples to illustrate their (fake) claims, e.g. Leadhills Estate, which had nine hen harrier nests this year, but this estate hasn’t seen any driven grouse shooting for a number of years (see here). There are other claims of “an estate in Perthshire” with 12-15 hen harrier nests this year – the estate hasn’t been named (natch) but they might be referring to Atholl Estate, which these days is a pretty good estate with a sympathetic management approach to breeding raptors, but only offers walked-up grouse shooting, not driven grouse shooting, so any successfull hen harrier nests there this year cannot be attributed to driven grouse moor management. Sorry, trolls, you must try harder.

Anyway, getting back to the actual news, that hen harrier Calluna is the latest in a long, long, long, long line of satellite-tagged raptors that ‘disappear’ after visiting certain driven grouse moors, it’s been a week since the RSPB appealed for information.

We’ve been looking at the social media accounts of various shooting industry organisations to see how much effort these ‘leaders’ have put in to encouraging their members to pass on information to the police. You can probably guess what we found (or didn’t find). That tells its own story about the sincerity and commitment of the industry to rid itself of its dirty criminals. Mark Avery has a pretty good explanation about the industry’s refusal to reform (see here) and Andrew Gilruth’s chronic propaganda patter gives Mark’s theory much credence.

06
Sep
17

Impromptu demo outside Scottish Parliament, Friday 1pm

In response to last week’s news about missing hen harrier Calluna, who disappeared from a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging, there will be a peaceful protest this Friday outside the Scottish Parliament against the continued persecution of hen harriers.

This demo is a spontaneous response, hastily organised by two ordinary members of the public who have had enough. They don’t have a large campaign fund behind them, nor the resources or experience of a campaigning charity – it’s just them, wanting to make their voices heard at the door of power.

It’s very short notice, but if you’ve had enough of hen harrier persecution and you’re able to support these two people they’ll be outside Holyrood between 1-2pm on Friday 8 September.

#StopKillingHenHarriers

 




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