Posts Tagged ‘Cairngorms National Park

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“.

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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

 

04
Sep
17

Political silence in response to missing hen harrier ‘Calluna’

Raptor persecution, and particularly the illegal killing of hen harriers, has been identified as a National Wildlife Crime Priority.

Interesting then, that following last Friday’s news that Police Scotland is investigating the disappearance of another missing hen harrier (‘Calluna‘), who vanished in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in August, the political response has been total silence.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP, the Environment Cabinet Secretary, said nothing.

Mairi Gougeon MSP, the Hen Harrier Species Champion, said nothing.

Alexander Burnett MSP, in whose constituency Calluna ‘disappeared’, said nothing.

The PAW Scotland website, hosted by the Scottish Government, said nothing.

Alexander Burnett MSP (Conservative), presumably no relation to Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, has spoken before on the subject of illegal raptor persecution, as well he might, given the high number of reported raptor persecution incidents in his Aberdeenshire West constituency, particularly those recorded on grouse moors areas either within or close to the Cairngorms National Park:

Unfortunately, Alexander doesn’t agree that a licensing scheme for gamebird shooting is required. During the recent deliberations of the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee, he said the proposed licensing system was “inappropriate, disproportional and unworkable for the issue of wildlife crime that it seeks to address” and he voted for the licensing petition to be dropped in favour of keeping the status quo.

He also told one of his constituents earlier this summer, in response to a letter about the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors, that:

Game management on grouse moors can make an important contribution to biodiversity by providing cover for wildlife, and through the creation and care of habitats such as woodland, grouse moors, beetle banks and hedgerows‘.

Hmm, that statement sounds familiar. Where have we heard that before? Ah yes, it was part of a standard response trotted out to constituents by a succession of Westminster Conservative MPs last year in the run up to the Westminster ‘debate’ on driven grouse shooting. As pointed out by Mark Avery at the time:

Grouse shooting does not help create or protect woodland – in fact trees are not welcome on grouse moors. Grouse shooting does not create beetle banks – these are conservation measures in arable fields. Grouse shooting does not protect hedgerows – these are not a feature of grouse moors. Take out those errors and your letter says ‘grouse shooting provides grouse moors’.

Have another look at that raptor persecution map of the Aberdeenshire West constituency. If it is of concern to you, and you are one of Alexander Burnett’s constituents, please consider writing to him and ask him to explain the widespread criminality within his constituency, particularly in areas managed for grouse and pheasant shooting, and ask him how he intends to address your ongoing concerns.

Email: Alexander.Burnett.MSP@parliament.scot

01
Sep
17

Satellite-tagged hen harrier disappears on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park

Well that didn’t take long, did it? Just a few weeks after fledging, one of the 2017 cohort of satellite-tagged hen harriers has already ‘disappeared’, with its final signal emitted from a grouse moor on the 12th August, the opening day of the grouse-shooting season.

Hen harrier ‘Calluna‘ (photo RSPB Scotland)

RSPB Scotland press release:

SATELLITE-TAGGED HEN HARRIER DISAPPEARS ON DEESIDE GROUSE MOOR

RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal for information after a young hen harrier, fitted with a satellite tag as part of the charity’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project, disappeared on an Aberdeenshire grouse moor.

Calluna‘, a female harrier, was tagged this summer at a nest on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, near Braemar. Her transmitter’s data was being monitored by RSPB Scotland and showed that the bird fledged from the nest in July. She left the area in early August, with the data showing her gradually heading east over the Deeside moors. However, while the tag data showed it to be working perfectly, transmissions abruptly ended on 12th August, with no further data transmitted. Calluna’s last recorded position was on a grouse moor a few miles north of Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park.

Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest raptors and the 2016 national survey results released earlier this year showed that even in Scotland, the species’ stronghold, these birds are struggling. The number of breeding pairs in Scotland now stands at 460, a fall of 27 per cent since 2004, with illegal killing in areas managed for driven grouse shooting identified as one of the main drivers of this decline.

David Frew, Operations Manager for the National Trust for Scotland at Mar Lodge Estate, said: “It is deeply saddening to learn that Calluna appears to have been lost, so soon after fledging from Mar Lodge Estate. Hen harriers were persecuted on Deeside for a great many years, and we had hoped that the first successful breeding attempt on Mar Lodge Estate in 2016 would signal the start of a recovery for these magnificent birds in the area.

Only one month after fledging, and having travelled only a relatively short distance, it appears that we will no longer be able to follow the progress of our 2017 chick. We hope however that the data her tag has provided will help to inform a wider understanding of the lives and threats faced by hen harriers.”

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland said: “This bird joins the lengthening list of satellite-tagged birds of prey that have disappeared, in highly suspicious circumstances, almost exclusively in areas in areas intensively managed for grouse shooting. We are pleased that the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment has commissioned an independent group to look at how grouse moors can be managed sustainably and within the law. We look forward to a further announcement shortly on the membership of this group, and we are committed to assist the work of this enquiry in any way that we can.

The LIFE project team has fitted a significant number of tags to young hen harriers this year, with the very welcome help from landowners, including the National Trust for Scotland, who value these magnificent birds breeding on their property. The transmitters used in this project are incredibly reliable and the sudden halt in data being received from it, with no hint of a malfunction, is very concerning. We ask that if anyone has any information about the disappearance of this bird we urge them to contact Police Scotland as quickly as possible”.

ENDS

Here’s a map we’ve created showing the location of the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, where Calluna hatched, and the town of Ballater, close to where she disappeared.

The RSPB Scotland press release doesn’t name the estate from where Calluna’s last position was recorded, it just says it was “on a grouse moor a few miles north of Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park“.

Hmm, let’s have a closer look at that. Here’s a map showing the grouse moor area a few miles north of Ballater. According to estate boundary details that we sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website, Calluna’s last position could have been recorded on either an Invercauld Estate grouse moor or a Dinnet Estate grouse moor.

If you’re thinking that this part of the Cairngorms National Park looks familiar, you’d be right, we’ve blogged about it a few times before. There was the discovery of an illegally shot peregrine at the Pass of Ballater in 2011, the reported coordinated hunt and subsequent shooting of an adult hen harrier at Glen Gairn on the border of Invercauld and Dinnet Estates in 2013, and then there were the illegally-set traps that were found nr Geallaig Hill on Invercauld Estate in 2016. This area of Royal Deeside is quite the little raptor persecution hotspot, isn’t it?

The evidence just keeps mounting. Is anyone still wondering why the game-shooting industry is so keen to try and discredit the use of satellite tags on raptors?

We wonder what explanations, to avoid the bleedin’ obvious, they’ll come up with this time? Perhaps they’ll suggest Calluna was sucked in to a vortex created by Hurricane Harvey? Or maybe they’ll say she was hit by a North Korean test missile? They might tell us that Vladimir Putin must have hacked the satellite signals? All just as plausible as the usual tosh they trot out, such as how a fieldworker eating a sandwich at a tagging session causes eagles to die (here), or how non-existent wind farms are responsible for the disappearance of eight sat-tagged golden eagles (here), or how ‘activists’ have been killing sat-tagged raptors as part of a smear campaign against the grouse-shooting industry (here), or how a faulty saltwater switch on tags attached to Olive Ridley turtles on the Indian subcontinent means that all satellite tags are unreliable (here).

We’ll be updating this page throughout the day if and when statements are made by the following:

Response of Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham –

Response of Alexander Burnett MSP (Conservative, Aberdeen West) –

Response of Cairngorms National Park Authority – Grant Moir, Chief Exec of CNPA said: “A hen harrier has once again disappeared in the Cairngorms National Park, with a satellite tracker ceasing to transmit. The Park Authority is determined to stop these recurring disappearances. Earlier this week the CNPA met with Police Scotland to discuss how increased use of special constables can help to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park. We also continue to work on other solutions to these issues. The CNPA look forward to the establishment by Scottish Government of the independently-led group to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management and will feed in to that review“.

Response of Scottish Land & Estates – David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “Estates in the area have welcomed a number of hen harriers to the area during August and only today one moor reported three harriers. Local land managers reject the inference that the loss of signal from this tag is connected to grouse moor management and are now offering every assistance in searching the area where the last transmission was recorded. They are dismayed that they were not informed earlier that the tag had stopped transmitting nearly three weeks ago, as this would have assisted the search“.

Response of Scottish Wildlife Trust – Susan Davies, director of conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) said: “It’s extremely disappointing to learn that yet another hen harrier has disappeared over a grouse moor. The most recent surveys show that hen harrier numbers are declining in most parts of Scotland and that illegal persecution is a factor in this decline. Anyone who has information on this bird’s disappearance should contact Police Scotland immediately. 

The Trust has repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to be tougher on wildlife crime and introduce a system of licensing for grouse moor management to encourage sustainable practices. We welcome the recent announcement that a working group will be formed to look at the environmental impact of grouse moors and options for better regulation, and we stand ready to assist this group in any way possible“.

Response of Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association – A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The SGA would urge anyone who saw the bird or knows anything about it to contact Police Scotland. This is the first we have heard of this. Obviously any news like this is very disappointing. The SGA condemns raptor persecution and if any of our members are convicted of a wildlife crime they are removed from our organisation. We have learned from those monitoring tags that birds can move some distance away from where they were last recorded so it is important that, if people know anything, they alert the Police immediately.”

Response of Scottish Moorland Group –

Response of Grampian Moorland Group –

Response of GWCT – Nothing, nada, zilch. But on Twitter they announced the availability of the new GWCT Xmas Cards. That’s nice.

Response of BASC –

Response of Countryside Alliance –

Response of Scottish Association for Country Sports – (from The Times) – Julia Stoddart, head of policy for the SACS, lamented the practice of killing hen harriers to protect grouse. “However, we would remind the RSPB that tag technology can fail for a number of reasons, and that raptors are susceptible to natural causes of death as well as to illegal persecution“, she said.

Other media coverage:

BBC news here

Scotsman here

Press & Journal here

UPDATE 2 September 2017: On cue, Scottish landowners’ rep throws false allegations at RSPB (see here).

UPDATE 4 September 2017: Political silence in response to missing hen harrier Calluna (see here).

UPDATE 5 September 2017: Scottish Land & Estates and their indefensible distortion of the truth (see here).

25
Jul
17

Scottish Raptor Study Group letter in response to estate licensing scaremongering claims

Earlier this month we blogged about two articles that were published in the Scottish Mail on Sunday about so-called ‘draconian’ proposals to introduce a licensing scheme for game shooting estates (see here).

One piece was just a review of various organisations’ positions and the other one was a fairly lengthy comment piece written by Carrieanne Conaghan, a gamekeeper’s wife and coordinator of the Speyside Moorland Group. Carrieanne claimed that the introduction of estate licensing would ‘penalise‘ law-abiding estates, although she didn’t explain how she thought this would work.

Logan Steele, the estate licensing petitioner (on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group) contacted the Mail on Sunday and asked for the opportunity to provide a comment piece in response, especially as Carrieanne had made a number of unsubstantiated (and inaccurate) claims about his motivation for launching the petition. The Mail on Sunday refused (surprise!) but did say he could write a 150-word letter, an option Logan described in a comment on this blog as “a pretty second rate alternative“.

Nevertheless, Logan did submit a letter and it appeared at the weekend. He says it’s been “butchered” (the published version is only 89 words) and they couldn’t even spell his name correctly. Even so, he makes his points well:

A quick bit of background research has led us to believe that Carrieanne’s husband is employed as a gamekeeper at Glenlochy, near Grantown-on-Spey in the Cairngorms National Park. This estate is no stranger to police investigations into alleged raptor persecution (e.g. see here) although nobody has ever been prosecuted. This history, perhaps well before her husband’s employment, might help explain Carrieanne’s concerns about the introduction of an estate licensing scheme.




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