Posts Tagged ‘golden eagle


Scottish Government statement on recent raptor persecution crimes

The Scottish Government has finally made a statement about the recent raptor persecution crimes.

The statement is about as impressive as the one from Leadhills Estate, just shorter but no less pathetic.

It appears to be a forced statement, made after a direct request from a journalist (Sean Bell from CommonSpace) rather than a proactive statement posted on the Government’s website to clarify its position.

Ready for this?

From an unnamed Government spokesperson:

The continued targeting of birds of prey is an extremely serious issue and we strongly condemn all those involved in it. We would urge anyone with information to contact the police. 

We are determined to protect birds of prey and have established an independent group to look at how we can ensure grouse moor management is sustainable and complies with the law. 

The review is due to report later this summer and we will consider fully any recommendations or proposed actions put forward by the group“.

The full article at CommonSpace can be read here.

It’s no wonder it took so long for the Government to say anything. It’s pretty clear from this that it has nothing new to say at all – just the same old rhetoric and platitudes and vague statements that don’t actually amount to anything. At all.

Here’s a stark reminder of the effectiveness the Scottish Government’s so-called ‘determination to protect birds of prey’. The spring-trapped hen harrier. He didn’t make it, despite the very best efforts of specialist vet Romain Pizzi and his team at the Scottish SPCA. [Photo by Ruth Tingay]

How many more victims will there be while we wait for the Scottish Government to actually do something?

Emails (polite ones, please) to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon at: 


Questionable commitment as Scottish Ministers ignore barbaric raptor persecution crime

Look at this.

It’s a personalised card, crafted in gold, pleading with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take action following the recent news that yet another two satellite-tagged golden eagles had vanished in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor, shortly after a satellite-tagged hen harrier had been found dead on another nearby grouse moor with an illegal leg clamped to its leg.

This exquisite artwork was sent to Ms Sturgeon by Jackie Morris, co-creater of The Lost Words.

It’s one of many that have been sent, inspired by a drawing by children’s author Gill Lewis, including drawings by seven and nine-year old boys, all sufficiently motivated by the loss of these eagles to want to ask for their protection (e.g. see here).

And there have been even more:

And it’s not just drawings. We know that many of you have been emailing the First Minister ( asking for action, following the example of Andy Wightman MSP, the golden eagle species champion who wrote to Ms Sturgeon the day the news broke that ‘his’ golden eagle, Adam, was one of those that had vanished.

The response from the First Minister, the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon? Complete and utter silence.

That was two weeks ago.

Then yesterday came the news of the sadistic trapping of another hen harrier on another Scottish grouse moor, with a graphic video showing the extent of this bird’s injuries and suffering. It was sickening viewing, made all the worse by knowing that the traps had been deliberately set to target this bird at its nest. This was no accident. It was a brazen, brutal and ruthless attack and because there were no witnesses, the perpetrator hasn’t been identified and is likely to escape justice, just like so many others on so many other occasions.

The public outpouring of shock and disgust on social media, even from many within the shooting community, was instantaneous. These were the responses of decent human beings, with a visceral reaction to the distress of that traumatised hen harrier.

The response from the First Minister, Environment Cabinet Secretary and Rural Affairs Minister?

Total silence.

It is utterly baffling why these three intelligent, thoughtful, decent and normally dynamic people have refused to comment on such barbarity. It’s not because they’re on holiday (they’re all still tweeting about other stuff) and it can’t possibly be because they don’t know what’s been going on.

No, this is clearly a political decision – but why? Who’s advising them?

Is it something to do with the Werritty review? Who knows, and to be quite frank, who cares? We don’t need to wait for the findings of yet another review (already overdue) to know that change must come and it must be led by these senior politicians. But even if they are waiting for Werritty to report, that still shouldn’t prevent them from condemning these ongoing crimes and committing to addressing the issue, once and for all. This silence is what we’ve come to expect from Westminster politicians, not those in Holyrood.

What can they possibly gain by remaining silent? If anything, their refusal to comment must actually be pretty damaging – it looks like they just don’t care and to be honest, I’m tired of making excuses for them.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr Martin Luther King.


Is Scottish Government’s silence an indication of indifference to illegal raptor persecution?

In the last week there have been two big news stories about the illegal persecution of birds of prey in Scotland.

The first was the news that a satellite-tagged hen harrier called Rannoch was found dead on a grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area of Perthshire, with an illegally-set spring trap attached to her leg (see here).

The second was the news of the suspicious disappearance (presumed dead) of satellite-tagged golden eagles Adam and Charlie, who vanished without explanation on the same morning from another grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area (see here).

Both of these news items received massive media interest and coverage, particularly the two missing golden eagles. It was all over social media, mainstream newspapers and websites, radio shows and even a slot on ITN’s News at Ten.

The general public responded to these stories as any decent human being would – with disgust, horror and in some cases, shock that this sort of criminality, both suspected and confirmed, continues within our supposedly progressive society.

Young kids (and some adults) were sufficiently motivated to draw pictures of eagles, write poetry and even create clay models of dead eagles to send to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon:

We know that many others have been sufficiently angered by the news that they’ve been motivated to follow MSP Andy Wightman’s lead and write to the First Minister, urging her to take action (

How come then, with this outpouring of public anger, senior politicians in the Scottish Government, who all routinely use Twitter to engage about their work, have failed to say a single word about either case?

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has been silent.

The Environment Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, has been silent.

The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, has been silent.

What’s going on there, then? Should we interpret their collective silence as indifference? That seems pretty unlikely, given that all three politicians have spoken out strongly, passionately and convincingly in the recent past about illegal raptor persecution and their determination to bring it to an end.

So why haven’t they this time? Even the official Twitter channel of the Scottish Government covering the environment and rural economy (@GreenerScotland) has been silent. There was one quote about the two missing eagles, widely used in the media from an unnamed Government spokesman, which simply said:

The disappearance of any bird of prey in suspicious circumstances is of concern and we would urge anyone with information to contact Police Scotland. ‘We are determined to protect birds of prey and have established an independent group to look at how we can ensure grouse moor management is sustainable and complies with the law“.

This was clearly a bog standard response to enquiries from journalists as we could find no formal statement on the Scottish Government’s website. We didn’t find any statement about the illegally-trapped dead hen harrier either.

It seems remarkable that a wide section of society, young and old, has expressed outrage on many different media platforms over the last week, and yet the three politicians who are key to making progress on this issue, have seemingly suppressed what we’d expect to be the normal human reaction to this news (i.e. expressions of anger, horror, determination for change etc) and instead appear to be toe-ing a party political line by saying absolutely nothing. At all.

The Government’s silence is deeply concerning.

Is it, we wonder, part of a strategy to manage expectations on the forthcoming Werritty Review? Will the Werritty Review fall short of expectations? Remember, Werritty was commissioned on the back of a Government-commissioned scientific review that showed satellite-tagged golden eagles were undoubtedly being killed on some Scottish grouse moors. We all expect Werritty’s review to address this issue head on and propose some tangible, meaningful actions to finally get these crimes under control. Are we going to be disappointed? (Expect an almighty firestorm if that is the case).

Why else might the Scottish Government remain silent, on such a high-profile and topical issue? This silence is the sort of response we’ve come to expect from Environment ministers in Westminster, who have shown nothing but wilful blindness to the extent of raptor persecution crimes in England for decades. This silence is not something we expect from the Scottish Government.

It’s worth remembering that the Scottish Parliament has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Twenty years ago, when the Parliament was established, the then Secretary of State Donald Dewar described illegal raptor persecution in Scotland as “a national disgrace”. He also said:

Although we are all aware of individual incidents of wildlife crime in Scotland, such as theft of eggs and shooting and poisoning of birds of prey, it is less well known that illegal persecution of some species, rather than the lack of suitable habitat, is the reason why in some areas the birds are scarce or non-existent. The government, and no doubt the Scottish Parliament will take all possible steps to eliminate persecution. The government is committed to strengthening protection for wildlife, and in due course the Scottish Parliament will consider proposals from the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime for stronger enforcement measures”.

If you’d like to write to the current First Minister and remind her of the importance of ensuring protection for golden eagles and other birds of prey on the grouse moors of Scotland, please consider sending a polite email to:

Thank you

[Hen harrier ‘Rannoch’ found dead on a grouse moor with an illegal trap clamped to her leg. Photo RSPB Scotland]


Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s smear campaign re: golden eagle Fred is defamatory shambles

On Monday (1 July), the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) published a statement on its website in response to the news that golden eagles Adam and Charlie had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area in Perthshire.

It was an astonishingly ill-judged response. It didn’t mention the loss of these two eagles – let alone condemn what looked to be yet another suspicious incident, identical to the loss of so many other sat-tagged eagles on grouse moors. Instead, it focused on the supposed ‘need’ for ‘independent scrutiny’ of satellite tag data (conveniently ignoring the fact that the police now routinely analyse the data of all sat-tagged raptors that have been reported as missing in suspicious circumstances).

To support its argument, the SGA highlight the disappearance of Fred, one of our sat-tagged golden eagles who vanished from the Pentland Hills just outside Edinburgh in January 2018 and whose tag then sent data from the North Sea, several days later, before finally stopping.

According to the SGA, and some of their clueless members/supporters on social media, we apparently withheld some tag data from Police Scotland. Their ‘evidence’ (ahem) to support this claim seems to be centred on two things:

  1. The fact that two videos were filmed by our team on the same day but published several weeks apart; and
  2. An FoI response from Police Scotland in response to some poorly structured questions.

Here’s part of the SGA’s post on the ‘need’ for independent sat tag monitoring:

And here is a copy of the Freedom of Information response from Police Scotland, also posted on the SGA’s website:

It appears the SGA have even persuaded their ‘legal advisors’ to show this ‘evidence’ to the police.

Good grief. Unsurprisingly, the police haven’t come knocking and here’s why (probably) –

Yes, we did film two videos on the same day, and published them weeks apart. So what? We’ve never tried to deny that, but much has been made of it over the past 18 months, much to our amusement and bemusement. Our time is valuable, our schedules are tight, we had our film crew in place, why not make the most of that situation and film as much as we could in one day, instead of having to organise another filming day sometime later?

What the SGA don’t know is that yes, at that time we had the additional meta data (that showed Fred’s tag pinging against various telephone masts on its route from the Pentlands to the North Sea) but we were still working out what those data actually meant (it’s not the type of data we were familiar with) and we filmed several versions of what we thought the data were showing us at that time. We were still taking advice from a number of independent experts for some weeks afterwards, including the police, and when we were happy that we understood the data and the limitations of the data parameters, that was the version that was published several weeks later, with the full support of the police.

The SGA thinks that Police Scotland received Fred’s tag data from us on 26 January (because that is what is implied in the Police’s FoI response). However, that is absolutely not the case, and is simply a reflection of the poorly constructed FoI question. Fred’s suspicious disappearance was reported to Police Scotland on 26 January, yes, but they did not ask to see Fred’s tag data at that time. Presumably because they had every confidence in us as legitimate, well-regarded researchers not to question our report that Fred’s disappearance was highly suspicious, along with the backing of experienced tag data analysts at RSPB Scotland. Let’s face it – if you look at the map showing Fred’s movements in the Pentlands and then several days later he’s suddenly 10 miles offshore in the North Sea, you don’t need to be a golden eagle expert or to look at raw data to know that something isn’t quite right. The police launched an immediate search in the Pentlands (and, for the record, worked admirably for the duration of this investigation).

The tag data and meta data were eventually requested by Police Scotland during a phone call on 19th February. It wasn’t clear why it was only then that the data were being requested but we suspected pressure was being placed on the police by, let’s call them ‘external forces’. The data request was fine by us. It was agreed that it would be good for us to meet and go through the data together, including the meta data files. The earliest date that was mutually convenient for us all was one week later on Monday 26 February. We met, discussed the data and agreed that it would be better for the police to have a copy of the original raw data files directly from the tag manufacturer, rather than our files, just to avoid any accusations that we may have tampered with the files (unfounded accusations which were, of course, doing the rounds on social media by those seeking to discredit us and to distract attention from the circumstances of Fred’s disappearance – those ‘external forces’ again).

Incidentally, it was at this time that SGA Director Bert Burnett claimed on social media that we’d fabricated the whole incident with Fred (and thus perverted the course of justice), and made another claim that Chris Packham had refused to turn over the tag data to the police. Quite astonishing (and defamatory) accusations based on no evidence whatsoever. Nothing new there, then.

Immediately after our meeting with the police to discuss the tag data we contacted the tag manufacturer, gave permission for our data to be shared with the police, put the two parties in touch with one another and the original raw data files were sent to the police on 1 March (as accurately stated in the police’s FoI response).

Where the SGA’s logic completely falls down is this. Why on earth would we want to withhold evidence (the meta data) from the police, especially when we believed that evidence supported our earlier suspicions that Fred had been killed in the Pentlands and then his tag (and perhaps Fred too) was transported by road to North Berwick and dumped in the North Sea?

Sorry, SGA, your desperate attempts to smear and discredit us can be seen for exactly what they, and you, are. Pathetic.



Chris Packham responds to Scottish Gamekeepers Association with the contempt they deserve

There has been a massive amount of media coverage on the the suspicious disappearance of two satellite-tagged golden eagles, Adam and Charlie, who vanished from a grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area on the same April morning.

Here’s some of that coverage:

The Guardian

The Times

BBC News


Daily Record

ITV News at Ten

Our favourite one, though, so far, is this one from The Herald:

Journalist Jody Harrison first discusses the disappearances of golden eagles Adam and Charlie, but then moves on to some defensive guff put out yesterday by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), who seem to think that satellite-tag data aren’t independently scrutinised by the police in each case of a suspicious disappearance (er, asking for the tag data is the first thing the police do when a sat-tagged raptor is reported as missing under suspicious circumstances).

Here’s Chris Packham’s exquisite response to the SGA:

The article also includes a good response from RSPB Scotland’s Ian Thomson, who not only accuses the SGA of trying to “muddy the waters” but also welcomes the idea of independent scrutiny, especially if it’s extended to the amount of wildlife-killing that goes on as part of routine grouse moor management.

We’re not sure who is advising the SGA on its media strategy these days but whoever it is, thanks a lot, you’re handing them to us on a plate.


‘Please Nicola, let’s show eagles our love & protection’ says 9-year-old boy

Following yesterday’s news that two golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor (here), schoolchildren are making a direct appeal to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to protect these birds.

This drawing, sent to Ms Sturgeon, is by nine-year-old Freddie. It was shared on Twitter yesterday by his family @blackerschat

And this one was drawn by Nicola Penfold’s seven-year-old boy, also called Freddie [@nicolapenfold]:

This idea was suggested by award-winning children’s author Gill Lewis. Gill’s latest book is ‘Eagle Warrior‘ and was inspired by the story of golden eagle Fred who vanished under suspicious circumstances from the Pentland Hills last year and whose satellite tag ended up in the North Sea.

In December last year we blogged about some amazing schoolchildren in Glasgow (Sunnyside Primary School) who had drawn ‘missing’ posters as they learned about the disappearance of golden eagle Fred.

Following yesterday’s news of golden eagles Adam and Charlie, Gill posted her own drawing of an eagle and a plea to the First Minister on Twitter to ‘stop the persecution’ and encouraged others to do the same:

So far, the First Minister and the rest of her Cabinet have remained silent about the news of Adam and Charlie. They have also failed to comment about the recent discovery of hen harrier ‘Rannoch‘ who was found dead in May on another Strathbraan grouse moor with its leg caught in an illegal trap, and they’ve remained silent about the suspicious disappearance of hen harrier ‘Marci‘ who vanished from a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in April.

We’ve been encouraging blog readers to email the First Minister [ ], as Andy Wightman did yesterday (see here) to call for action against those who continue to kill birds of prey in Scotland.

But if you’ve got kids who like to draw, sending the First Minister a picture and a plea to help from them cannot be so easily ignored.


“It is long past time for reviews & inquiries”: Andy Wightman’s letter to Nicola Sturgeon

This morning we blogged about two satellite-tagged golden eagles, named Adam and Charlie, who have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor (here).

We published a video about the loss of these eagles and we all watched an emotional Andy Wightman MSP try to retain his composure as he talked to Chris Packham about how he felt when he was told that ‘his’ eagle, Adam, was one of those that had vanished.

Watch the video here:

This afternoon, Andy has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her to take action against the ongoing issue of illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors.

Here is a copy of that letter:

Like Andy, you too can write to the First Minister. You can write her an email.

You can talk about how you felt when you heard about these two missing golden eagles.

About how you felt about the 50+ other satellite-tagged golden eagles that have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on or near to grouse moors in the last ten years.

About how you feel every time you read another news article about the illegal killing of birds of prey on land managed for game shooting.

About how you feel when what looks like clear cut video evidence of an alleged crime against birds of prey is thrown out of court and the suspect walks free without trial.

About how you feel every time the Scottish Government says ‘raptor persecution won’t be tolerated’ but then it is, time and time again.

Please take the time to contact Nicola Sturgeon. She’ll be delighted to find out just how many people would support her to take action. You don’t need to be a Scottish resident to write to her – in fact the more correspondents from overseas, the better. This is an international embarrassment to Scotland and the time has come for regulation.

Please send your emails to:

Thank you.

The next blog will include some AMAZING eagle illustrations that have been drawn today and sent to the First Minister. If you thought Andy’s interview was powerful, wait until you see these…..

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 5,212,231 hits


Our recent blog visitors