Posts Tagged ‘golden eagle

26
Apr
17

Raptor satellite tag review: the questions being addressed

As many of you will be aware, we are currently awaiting the publication of a review of raptor satellite tag data in Scotland.

This review was commissioned in August 2016 by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, in response to the news that eight satellite-tagged golden eagles had all ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths. She said she wanted to see whether the data demonstrated ‘a pattern of suspicious activity’.

Photo of a young golden eagle, satellite-tagged by members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group (Photo by Dan Kitwood).

The Cabinet Secretary later extended the review to not only look at golden eagle satellite tag data, but also data from tagged red kites and hen harriers. This was in response to the news of yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier (‘Elwood’) who also ‘disappeared‘ in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging.

We knew the review was being undertaken by two highly experienced and respected researchers (who each have a publication list as long as your arm) so there weren’t any concerns there, and we knew that the report was due to be submitted to SNH by the end of March 2017. Other than that, very little detail has emerged about what, exactly, the review would include.

Following a recent FoI to SNH about a related matter, we now have some information about the questions the review will address:

This information was revealed within some correspondence between Scottish Land & Estates and SNH in February this year. The name of the SLE correspondent has been redacted but it’s probably safe to assume it was (now recently departed) CEO Doug McAdam. It looks like SLE are a bit twitchy about what this review might reveal. Here’s a copy of the correspondence: Correspondence between SLE_SNH re sat tag review

So when can we expect the review to be published? We know a draft was submitted to SNH at the end of March 2017 and that it was sent to three experts for peer review. Almost a month has now passed so we would expect the peer-review process to have been completed and any proposed editorial suggestions to have been finalised. What we don’t know is whether the publication of this review will be delayed due to election purdah.

What we can be sure of is if the review has not been published by the time of the General Election on 8 June, SNH and the Scottish Government will be put under intense pressure to put it in the public domain. If they think the public will sit quietly for months, or years, awaiting publication, they are very much mistaken.

05
Apr
17

Police confirm RSPB staff did not have covered faces on estate search for missing eagle #338

For the benefit of those not on social media and who therefore may have missed this……

Further to yesterday’s blog (here) about the police search of North Glenbuchat Estate for missing golden eagle #338, Police Scotland has today stated that RSPB staff who assisted them on the search did NOT have covered faces (see twitter account of Ian Thomson, Head of RSPB Scotland Investigations, @Ian_M_Thomson).

So, the hysteria about ‘masked RSPB thugs’, ‘masked intruders’, and accusations that the RSPB is behaving like a ‘balaclava-clad paramilitary outfit’, whipped up by the likes of Bert Burnett (Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association) and other senior representatives of the game-shooting industry, was simply another failed attempt to distort the facts and create a diversion so that the focus of frequently ‘disappearing’ satellite-tagged eagles on grouse moors didn’t get the attention it merits.

We can expect more of this, in the run up to the publication of the forthcoming raptor satellite-tag review. The net is closing in on those within the game-shooting industry who continue to kill raptors, and they know it.

Photo of golden eagle #338 copyright Scottish Raptor Study Group

 

04
Apr
17

More on ‘missing’ golden eagle #338, North Glenbuchat Estate

On Saturday 1 April 2017, we blogged about a satellite-tagged golden eagle (#338) that the RSPB reported had ‘disappeared’ after its last sat tag signal pinged in from the North Glenbuchat Estate in the Cairngorms National Park in early March (see here).

The estate, via PR company Media House, issued a robust statement in response and posted a video clip of a young eagle, purportedly filmed on the estate on 30 March, that the estate’s head gamekeeper “firmly believed” to be golden eagle #338.

We commented at the time that the video footage was very poor quality and it was difficult to see whether the eagle in the video was even carrying a satellite tag. We also pointed out that other sat-tagged golden eagles are currently flying around Scotland so even if this eagle in the video was carrying a tag, it would have been virtually impossible for the head gamekeeper to know whether it was eagle #338 or one of the others.

Since then, various expert field ornithologists both in the UK and the USA, all of whom specialise in golden eagles, have contacted us about the video. All of them said that although the video quality was poor, the plumage characteristics of the eagle in the video were not consistent with that of a nine-month old male golden eagle, but appeared to be consistent with what they’d expect of a second year female golden eagle.

On Sunday 2 April 2017, Media House issued another press statement on behalf of North Glenbuchat Estate and published a second video, purportedly of eagle #338, filmed on the estate on Saturday 1 April 2017. The quality of this second video is even worse than the first video (you could be looking at a flying cabbage) so it’s not much use as the supplementary evidence it was clearly intended to be.

The text of this second press release via Media House is well worth a read: North Glenbuchat Estate press release_2

In it, Media House states that the RSPB staff who were involved in the police search of the estate last week (at the invitation of Police Scotland – good, partnership working) “were hooded and kept their faces covered“.

This sentence has been widely abused by the nasty brigade on social media and has been turned into phrases such as ‘Masked intruders‘, ‘Masked RSPB thugs‘ and ‘RSPB representatives conducting themselves like hunt saboteurs wearing intimidating hoods and masks‘. Doubtless spurred on by the following inflammatory commentary from Bert Burnett (Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association) on his facebook page:

So yet again, the focus of attention is dragged away from the issue at hand (the disappearance of yet another satellite-tagged raptor on a grouse moor) and moved on to the usual anti-RSPB rhetoric in an attempt to discredit anybody or anything that might point to on-going concerns about the frequency with which satellite-tagged raptors seem to ‘disappear’ in areas where intensive grouse moor management takes place.

This abuse of the RSPB is nothing new, of course, but it’s interesting that the false claims about the efficiency of satellite tags, the false claims that the RSPB does not follow PAW raptor protocols, and the attempted denigration of raptor workers and those who fit these satellite tags, has been extremely prevalent since August last year when the Cabinet Secretary announced her decision to undertake an independent review of raptor satellite tag data. The abuse will no doubt have not gone unnoticed by the Scottish Government.

But back to the missing golden eagle #338. As we’ve been writing this blog, a very interesting map has appeared on Twitter (see @Ian_M_Thomson). It’s a map showing the recent movements of three other satellite-tagged golden eagles around Glenbuchat in March – April 2017:

Clear evidence that the eagle filmed by the head gamekeeper could have been any one of these other eagles so his “firm belief” that he was filming eagle #338 may have been his genuine belief but in fact is nothing more than hopeful optimism.

Nice try, but no cigar.

Meanwhile, the satellite tag signal from golden eagle #338 remains silent.

UPDATE 5 April 2017 14.38hrs: Ian Thomson (Head of RSPB Investigations Scotland) has just tweeted the following:

@Ian_M_Thomson: ‘Regarding missing eagle #338, Police Scotland has provided clarification to @PAWScotland partners that have contacted them that @RSPBScotland staff assisting them on a search in Glenbuchat last week did NOT have covered faces. We look forward to @PAWScotland partners disseminating this information to their memberships’

01
Apr
17

Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’ on North Glenbuchat Estate in Cairngorms National Park

RSPB Scotland has released the following press statement:

APPEAL FOR INFORMATION AFTER ANOTHER SATELLITE-TAGGED GOLDEN EAGLE “DISAPPEARS”

RSPB Scotland has today issued an appeal for information following the disappearance of a satellite tagged golden eagle near Strathdon in Aberdeenshire.

The young male eagle was fitted with a transmitter by a licensed raptor study group member, before it fledged from a nest in Deeside in the summer of 2016. Data received from the tag allowed conservationists to study the movements of the bird, known as “338”, as it explored north-east Scotland’s countryside.

As with most young eagles, the bird spent the first few weeks after fledging in the area around its nest, before moving further away as it matured and was more able to fend for itself, spending much of its time on the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park.

Overnight on Sunday 5th/Monday 6th March, the tag fitted to 338 inexplicably stopped working, having being functioning perfectly up to that point. The bird’s last recorded position was in Glenbuchat just before nightfall on 5th March. No further data has been received.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “As soon as we became aware of this bird’s disappearance, we notified Police Scotland, in line with PAW Scotland protocols, who concurred that the circumstances were suspicious. These tags are very reliable, and the sudden cessation of transmissions strongly suggests the bird has died. Had the bird succumbed to natural causes, we would expect to continue to receive data and to be able to locate and recover the body of the eagle with ease”.

Follow up enquiries on the North Glenbuchat Estate by police officers, assisted by RSPB staff, yielded no sign of the bird.

In 2011, a satellite-tagged golden eagle was found illegally poisoned on the same estate, with a shot short-eared owl and poisoned buzzard also discovered. Another satellite-tagged golden eagle disappeared here in September 2011, with further such tagged birds also vanishing in the same area, in February 2012 and May 2013. In April 2014, the first young white-tailed eagle to fledge from a nest in the east of Scotland in one hundred years also disappeared here.

Ian Thomson continued “The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of eagle 338 are similar to a number of previous cases currently being considered by an independent review of satellite-tagged birds of prey commissioned by the Scottish Government. If this review reveals a geographical pattern to disappearing golden eagles, we will be pressing the Scottish Government for firm action, including the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting, with sanctions for licence removal from land where there is evidence of illegal practices. In the meantime, we appeal for any information about the disappearance of this bird to contact the police”.

Ends

Eagle 338 successfully fledged from a nest in Deeside in 2016. Photo copyright Scottish Raptor Study Group.

As the RSPB Scotland statement says, eagle 338 is not the first to ‘disappear’ on the North Glenbuchat Estate.

In March 2011 a satellite-tagged eagle (#57319) was found poisoned on North Glenbuchat Estate (toxicology tests confirmed the banned poison Carbofuran had been used). A follow up police search, under warrant, recovered the remains of a short-eared owl under a rock – a post mortem confirmed it had been shot; a poisoned bait (rabbit) laced with Carbofuran; and a poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nobody was prosecuted.

In September 2011 a satellite-tagged eagle (#95065, named Strathy) ‘disappeared‘ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

In February 2012 a satellite-tagged eagle (#57111) ‘disappeared’ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

In May 2013 a satellite-tagged eagle (#84133, named Angus 33) ‘disappeared‘ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

In April 2014 a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle (White 1) ‘disappeared‘ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

That’s a lot of catastrophic tag failures all in one small area, over a six year period, isn’t it? And it’s patterns like this that the forthcoming raptor satellite tag data review will be exploring. What’s the betting that similar patterns will be seen in other areas in Scotland where the land is managed intensively for driven grouse shooting (e.g. Monadhliaths, Angus Glens)?

Interestingly, two press releases have so far been issued in response to this RSPB Scotland press release. One is from the landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates and the other one is from the North Glenbuchat Estate. It’s interesting to note that both press releases came via ‘public relations and crisis management’ experts, Media House.

The statement from Scottish Land & Estates appears to be supportive of the RSPB’s appeal for information. Read it here: Scottish Land & Estates press release North Glenbuchat eagle

The statement from North Glenbuchat Estate is very different. Read it here: North Glenbuchat Estate press release North Glenbuchat eagle

The estate’s statement includes the following claim: “The estate head gamekeeper filmed what he firmly believes to be the eagle in question yesterday afternoon” (March 30 2017) and there is an accompanying video of this eagle (here). It’s well worth a look. It’s definitely a juvenile golden eagle and it’s definitely been filmed on Glenbuchat Estate. However, it’s not known when the footage was taken and it’s extremely difficult to see whether this eagle is even carrying a satellite tag. But even if it is carrying a tag, how on earth can the keeper “firmly believe” that this is eagle 338? Surely he / the estate knows that there are plenty of satellite-tagged eagles flying around Scotland at the moment and it could be any one of those!

It all looks a little bit lame and a teensy bit desperate, but maybe that’s just us. Maybe eagle 338 is still flying around the Cairngorms National Park, along with all the other ‘missing’ satellite tagged eagles. Perhaps, having learned to use jamming technology to block the signal from their satellite tags, they’re now hanging around the Co-op car park in Grantown on Spey, using their skills to block remote-locking car keys with criminal intent so they can steal the vehicles and go joy riding around the National Park.

There are bound to be further responses to today’s news over the coming days and we’ll be reviewing those as and when they appear, but the one response we’re really keen to hear is the one from the Environment Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham. We don’t plan to bombard her with outraged emails this time. She knows the score, she knows exactly what’s going on, and she knows that there is high expectation for her / the Scottish Government to finally address this issue with the full force it demands.

She will be considering the findings of the raptor satellite tag review over the next couple of weeks so while we wait to hear what action she intends to take, you can amuse yourselves by reading this article about the ownership of North Glenbuchat Estate, written by Andy Wightman in 2014.

(Photos by RPUK)

UPDATE 4 April 2016: More on missing golden eagle #338, North Glenbuchat Estate (here)

30
Mar
17

South Scotland Golden Eagle Project receives £1.3M lottery funding

The South Scotland Golden Eagle Project, which proposes to translocate eagles from the Highlands to boost the tiny eagle population in Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders, has been awarded over £1.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (see here).

This means the project can now move forward by submitting a licence application to SNH and, if the licence is approved, the plan is to start collecting eaglets from Highland nests during the 2018 breeding season, with the intention of releasing between five and ten young eagles in southern Scotland each year until 2022.

We’ve blogged about this project before, back in 2015 when the planned translocation was first announced. We had mixed feelings about it then (see here) and we still do now.

On the one hand, the south Scotland golden eagle population is on its knees and has been for some time (see here). If nobody intervenes, the last few pairs remain extremely isolated and vulnerable and there’s every chance this sub-population will disappear. For this reason, intervention by way of releasing more birds seems like a good idea.

However, unless the cause of this sub-population’s decline has been identified and removed or sufficiently reduced, it is absolutely pointless bringing in new birds that are likely to suffer the same fate.

One of the biggest constraints on golden eagle population recovery in southern Scotland is persecution. Raptor persecution in southern Scotland has definitely not been removed, nor sufficiently reduced. It has been argued (by Scottish Land & Estates) that raptor persecution in southern Scotland ‘may have been an historical factor’ in the demise of the south Scotland eagle population, but apparently it isn’t an issue any more. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t support that claim. 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. Does it look to you like raptor persecution isn’t an issue in southern Scotland?

The 2014 SNH-commissioned report on the status of golden eagles in southern Scotland also identified several areas where persecution is an ongoing concern, including the Lowther Hills, the Lammermuirs and the Moorfoots (all driven grouse moor areas – what a surprise), and stated that persecution needed to be brought under control in those regions if golden eagles were to thrive in southern Scotland once again.

On the basis of this evidence, we would argue that translocating golden eagles to southern Scotland in the immediate future is not a wise decision. But, there is a counter argument. Young golden eagles travelling around the Highlands during their early years are just as likely to be illegally killed in the north as they are in south Scotland (e.g. see here). So, if the risk is just as great in the north, why not bring those eagles to the south, where, under the intense public attention that this project will generate, the young birds may actually have a better chance of survival because the would-be raptor killers will know they’re under close scrutiny (each eagle will be satellite-tagged). Although that’s assuming the young birds remain in southern Scotland during their formative years – we know that a young eagle that fledged from the Dumfries & Galloway nest in 2015 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths just after her first birthday in 2016 (see here).

Others have commented that prey availability will pose a problem for an increasing eagle population in the south, but a recent report (here) has shown that ‘the region possesses a sufficient prey base to sustain a breeding population of golden eagles of 12-16 pairs’. Here is a photo of a young golden eagle at the one remaining productive breeding site in the Borders. Judging by the nest contents, prey availability doesn’t appear to be a problem.

Whatever the concerns may be, it looks like this project is going ahead (pending the licence application) and let’s be honest, at least the primary motivation for this scheme is NOT to appease the grouse-shooting lobby, unlike the ludicrous Hen Harrier brood meddling scheme in England, but to help improve the sustainability of this important sub-population. Our misgivings haven’t yet been allayed, but we still have fingers crossed for its success because inaction (i.e. waiting for illegal raptor persecution to stop) is no longer an option if this sub-pop is to survive.

27
Mar
17

‘Official’ 2016 raptor persecution maps are a misleading distraction

Today the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (Scottish PAW Raptor group) has published the so-called ‘official’ annual raptor persecution maps showing details of recorded raptor persecution crimes for 2016.

Once again, Police Scotland has withheld information about several incidents ‘for operational reasons’ and as such these are not included on the ‘official’ map. Some details have been included in the accompanying summary data tables but even information as basic as the species affected has not been published.

Here’s the ‘official’ map purportedly showing ‘ALL’ recorded bird of prey crimes in Scotland from 2013 to 2016:

However, just as last year, some incidents are not shown and so the title of this map is totally misleading. As we’ve said before, there is no point whatsoever publishing these maps if Police Scotland is going to keep some of these crimes a secret. Seriously, what is the point?

The PAW Raptor group is headlining today’s news as a “26% drop in recorded bird of prey offences during 2016“. No doubt this supposed ‘good news’ will be used by the game-shooting industry as evidence that things are improving. On a superficial level this looks like a reasonable conclusion, but as well as the withholding of known poisoning offences, other information has also been excluded.

For example, there is no mention at all about the four satellite-tagged golden eagles that are known to have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in 2016: three of them ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths and one ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens.

There is also no mention of the three satellite-tagged hen harriers that are also known to have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in 2016: ‘Chance‘ disappeared on a South Lanarkshire grouse moor in May 2016; ‘Elwood‘ vanished on a Monadhliaths grouse moor in August 2016;  and ‘Brian‘ vanished on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in August 2016.

PAW Scotland will argue that these data have not been included because they do not represent confirmed persecution crimes. Technically, that’s fair comment, but given the frequency with which satellite-tagged raptors are ‘disappearing’ on Scottish grouse moors, they point to a much more sinister picture, as recognised by the Environment Cabinet Secretary when she ordered a review of raptor sat tag data last year. She also mentions that review in her comments about today’s supposed ‘good news’.

As far as we’re concerned, the PAW Scotland raptor persecution maps are a misleading distraction from what is actually going on in the Scottish uplands. All eyes should be on the forthcoming raptor satellite tag review for a more meaningful and revealing picture.

PAW Scotland press release here

PAW Scotland persecution maps and data here

24
Mar
17

41 eagles, 10 years, 0 prosecutions

Regular blog readers will know that from time to time we publish a list of eagles that are known to have been illegally killed, or have ‘disappeared’ (i.e. their satellite tag suddenly stops functioning) in Scotland.

The last update was in August 2016 when the RSPB revealed that eight satellite-tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths between 2011 and 2016.

Last week we blogged about another ‘disappearing’ golden eagle, this time a young bird that had been tagged in Perthshire in 2014 and whose satellite signal suddenly stopped functioning two years later when the eagle was visiting an Angus Glens grouse moor. It’s time to add that eagle to our list.

As before, a number of eagles included in this list (17 of them, to be precise) may not be dead. However, they are included here because their satellite tags unexpectedly stopped functioning (i.e. they’d been transmitting perfectly well up until the eagles’ last known location, often a known persecution hotspot). Two further satellite-tagged eagles (‘Angus’ and ‘Tom’) are not included in this list as although their transmitters stopped functioning, there had been recognisable problems with their tags prior to the final transmissions and so the benefit of the doubt has been applied.

It’s also worth reiterating that the following eagles are only the ones we know about. How many un-tagged eagles are illegally killed each year?

MAY 2006: A dead adult golden eagle was found on the Dinnet & Kinord Estate, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation. No prosecution.

JUNE 2006: A dead golden eagle was found on Glen Feshie Estate in the Cairngorms. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary launched an investigation. No prosecution.

AUGUST 2007: A dead adult female golden eagle was found on an estate near Peebles in the Borders. She was half of the last known breeding pair of golden eagles in the region. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Lothian & Borders Police launched an investigation. No prosecution.

NOVEMBER 2007: Tayside Police received a detailed tip-off that a young male white-tailed eagle (known as ‘Bird N’) had allegedly been shot on a grouse moor estate in the Angus Glens. The timing and location included in the tip-off coincided with the timing and location of the last-known radio signal of this bird. The eagle has not been seen again. With no carcass, an investigation wasn’t possible.

MAY 2008: A one year old male white-tailed eagle hatched on Mull in 2007 and known as ‘White G’ was found dead on the Glenquoich Estate in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed he had been poisoned by an unusual concoction of pesticides that included Carbofuran, Bendiocarb and Isofenphos. A police search in the area also revealed a poisoned buzzard, a baited mountain hare and 32 pieces of poisoned venison baits placed on top of fence posts on the neighbouring Glenogil Estate. Laboratory tests revealed the baited mountain hare and the 32 poisoned venison baits contained the same unusual concoction of highly toxic chemicals that had killed the white-tailed eagle, ‘White G’. No prosecution.

JUNE 2009: An adult golden eagle was found dead at Glen Orchy, Argyll, close to the West Highland Way. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Strathclyde Police launched a multi-agency investigation. Three years and 3 months later, estate employee Tom McKellar pled guilty to possession of Carbofuran stored in premises at Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy and he was fined £1,200. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

JULY 2009: A two year old female golden eagle known as ‘Alma’ was found dead on the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Alma was a well-known eagle  – born on the Glen Feshie Estate in 2007, she was being satellite-tracked and her movements followed by the general public on the internet. Tayside Police launched an investigation. No prosecution.

AUGUST 2009: A young white-tailed eagle was found dead on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Tayside Police was criticized in the national press for not releasing a press statement about this incident until January 2010. No prosecution.

MAY 2010: #1 of three dead golden eagles found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

MAY 2010: #2 of three dead golden eagles found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

MAY 2010: #3 of three dead golden eagles found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. No prosecution for poisoning the golden eagle.

JUNE 2010: #1: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: #2: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: #3: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: #4: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: A golden eagle was found dead on Farr & Kyllachy Estate, Inverness-shire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary apparently did not search the property until July 2011. No prosecution.

JUNE 2010: A white-tailed eagle was found dead on Farr & Kyllachy Estate, Inverness-shire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary apparently did not search the property until July 2011. No prosecution.

DECEMBER 2010: A decomposing carcass of a white-tailed eagle was found and photographed on Logie (Lochindorb) Estate, Morayshire. It was reported to Northern Constabulary. By the time the police arrived to collect it, the carcass had disappeared. The police said they couldn’t investigate further without the body.

FEBRUARY 2011: The signal from a young satellite-tracked golden eagle ( ‘Lee’, hatched in 2010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from the North Angus Glens. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MARCH 2011: The body of a young golden eagle was discovered on North Glenbuchat Estate, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation and raided the property in May 2011. A poisoned buzzard, a poisoned bait and a shot short-eared owl were found. No prosecution.

APRIL 2011: The body of a white-tailed eagle was found at the base of cliffs on Skye. The person who discovered it (a professional medic) considered it to have been freshly shot with a rifle, decapitated with a sharp implement and thrown from the cliff top. He took photographs and alerted Northern Constabulary and RSPB. There was a delay of two weeks before the now probably decomposed carcass was collected. A post-mortem was inconclusive. This incident was not made public until one year later after a tip off to this blog. No prosecution.

SEPTEMBER 2011: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (‘Strathy’, hatched in 2010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from an Aberdeenshire grouse moor. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

NOVEMBER 2011: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tracked golden eagle (#57124) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MARCH 2012: The body of a young golden eagle being tracked by satellite was discovered in Lochaber. Tests revealed it had been poisoned with the banned pesticides Aldicarb and Bendiocarb. Information about this incident was not made public until three months later. No prosecution.

MARCH 2012: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (‘Angus 26′, hatched in 2011) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Angus Glens. This bird’s suspiciously damaged sat tag was found in the area. No prosecution.

MAY 2012: The signal from a young satellite-tracked golden eagle (#32857) unexpectedly stopped transmitting when the bird was north-east of the Cairngorms National Park. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MAY 2012: The dead body of a young satellite-tracked golden eagle (hatched in 2011) was discovered near a lay-by in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. The data from its satellite tag & the injuries the bird had when found (2 broken legs) suggested it had been caught in an illegal trap on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens and then removed, under cover of darkness, to be dumped in another area where it was left to die, probably a slow and agonising death. Information on this incident was not released until almost five months later, by the RSPB. It appears the police failed to properly investigate this incident as we understand that no search warrants were issued and no vehicles were searched. No prosecution.

JULY 2012: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tracked golden eagle (‘Foinaven’) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

OCTOBER 2012: An adult golden eagle was found shot and critically injured on grouse moor at Buccleuch Estate, near Wanlockhead, South Lanarkshire. The bird was rescued by the SSPCA and underwent surgery but it eventually succumbed to its injuries in April 2013. No prosecution.

MAY 2013: The signal from a two-year-old satellite tracked golden eagle (‘Angus 33′, hatched in 2011) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after its last signal from North Glenbuchat Estate in Aberdeenshire. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

JUNE 2013: A dead golden eagle was found under power lines on an RSPB reserve on Oronsay. This bird had been shot although it is not known whether this was the cause of death or an historical injury.

JULY 2013: The signal from a young satellite tracked golden eagle (‘Cullen’, hatched 2010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after its last signal in Aberdeenshire. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

DECEMBER 2013: A two year old satellite tracked golden eagle (‘Fearnan’) was found dead on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens. Tests revealed he had been poisoned with the banned pesticide Carbofuran. No prosecution.

MARCH 2014: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#129002) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

APRIL 2014: The signal from a young satellite tracked white-tailed eagle (the first fledged sea eagle chick in East Scotland in ~200 years) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after its last signal from the North Glenbuchat Estate in Aberdeenshire. Police raided the property a couple of weeks later. No prosecution.

OCTOBER 2014: The signal from a one-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#107133) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

OCTOBER 2014: The signal from a two-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#119886) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MARCH 2016: The signal from a satellite-tagged golden eagle (tagged in Perthshire 2014) unexpectedly stopped transmiting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Angus Glens. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

MAY 2016: The signal from a less-than-one-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#00000583) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

JUNE 2016: The signal from a two-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#129010) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

JULY 2016: The signal from a two-year-old satellite-tagged golden eagle (#129015 ‘Brodie’) unexpectedly stopped transmitting after a final signal from a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths. A technical malfunction or another mysterious ‘disappearance’?

37 of the listed 41 eagles have either been found dead on, or have ‘disappeared’ on, Scottish grouse moors. (The other 4 have either died or have ‘disappeared’ in other habitat types).

Four of these 41 eagles ‘disappeared’ in 2016. So much for the grouse-shooting industry claiming that they’ve cleaned up their act and that persecution is a thing of the past. The tactics of how to kill an eagle have clearly changed (see here) but the persecution continues.

Last summer, in response to the news that eight tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths over a five year period, Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham ordered a review of satellite tag datato discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity“.

We are expecting the review to be published some time in April and we expect it to show what decades of scientific research has already clearly demonstrated: that golden eagles (and several other raptor species) are routinely killed or suspiciously ‘disappear’ on land intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.

We expect this review to be a seminal piece of research and if it shows what we anticipate it will show, the Scottish Government can expect to be put under enormous pressure to respond appropriately.




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