Posts Tagged ‘golden eagle


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Golden eagle Fred, by Ruth Tingay]

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be taking a close interest.


More shameless Hen Harrier propaganda from Scottish Land & Estates

It’s no coincidence that on the opening day of the grouse shooting season, and the day after Hen Harrier Day, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE, the landowners’ lobby group) has come out with more fake news about how shooting estates are “committed” to hen harrier conservation.

You might have seen a couple of articles about this in the press today, including in The Times (here, but behind a paywall) and in The Express (here, not behind a paywall and virtually identical to the article in The Times so you might as well read this one).

Fortunately, the journalists writing these articles didn’t rely solely on the press release from SLE (see below) but instead did their own research and included information about the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors, the long-term population decline in hen harriers, and also added a bit about the Scottish Government’s commissioned review on grouse moor management following the damning findings of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, which demonstrated 31 of 141 sat-tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on driven grouse moors.

It is indeed fortunate that the journalists did their own homework instead of simply cutting & pasting SLE’s press release, because if they hadn’t, this tosh is what would have appeared in today’s papers. Thanks to the journalist who sent us a copy:

Either SLE hasn’t read/understood the scientific papers and reports on this issue, or it has read/understood them but has chosen to ignore the findings and instead publish a load of made-up nonsense in a desperate attempt to mislead the public about how great grouse moors are for raptor conservation. Actually, we know that SLE has read/understood the papers because Tim (Kim) Baynes of SLE is quoted in this BBC article last year as saying the most recent population decline in hen harriers was ‘disappointing’.

Hen harrier numbers in Scotland HAVE NOTremained static“, as SLE claims. The last national survey (2016) revealed the Scottish hen harrier population has suffered a decline of 27% since the 2004 national survey. That’s over a quarter of the population gone in twelve years. In what way can that possibly be described as “remaining static“?

There is also no evidence whatsoever that “raptor crime of all types has been dropping steadily” and that “real progress has been made“, as SLE claims. What we do have is evidence of the continued suppression of various raptor species on land managed for driven grouse shooting as revealed by national and regional surveys (e.g. red kitehen harrier, golden eagle, peregrine), and evidence that the raptor killers have changed their tactics, no longer relying so much on the use of illegal poisoned baits (which are easy to detect) but instead preferring to shoot these raptors and then quickly remove the evidence, although if the shot raptor is carrying a satellite tag, the associated data evidence is impossible for the criminals to hide. Does this recent tally of ‘missing’ sat tagged raptors, just in the space of the last year, look like “real progress has been made“?

And as for SLE’s claim that golden eagles “thrive” on grouse moors – it’s a well-rehearsed claim that was rightly condemned by the RSPB as “risible, make-believe tosh” the last time it was made in 2016 (see here). And of course since then the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review has shown that golden eagles are 25 times more likely to suddenly and inexplicably ‘disappear’ in highly suspicious circumstances on some driven grouse moors than anywhere else in the world.

How on earth does SLE (and it’s associated bodies such as the Scottish Moorland Group and the Gift of Grouse) keep getting away with publishing such drivel?

The Heads up for Hen Harriers project is supposedly a partnership – do the rest of the partners (PAW Scotland Raptor Group and all its members, and SNH) support these false claims? If not, why aren’t those partner organisations saying something about this? Why hasn’t SLE been booted off this ‘partnership’?

And speaking of the Heads up for Hen Harriers project, you may remember we’ve blogged extensively about this partnership sham, and it was slammed in Parliament by Andy Wightman MSP as “a greenwashing exercise” (see here).

We blogged last December about some of our concerns about the claims being made about this project (see here) but we needed to do a bit more research to confirm our suspicions. We haven’t forgotten about this; we’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to get some information out of SNH via a series of FoIs but SNH has consistently refused to provide the requested information. So we’ve had to do some fact checking via various different routes, which has been time-consuming, but we’re just about there. We intend to blog about our findings shortly, and it doesn’t look good for either SLE or SNH.


(Deliberate) misinformation about welfare of satellite-tagged raptors

The Honorary Professors of Idiocy at the Angus Glens Institute for Critical Thinking are at it again.

Not content with embarrassing themselves with the laughable critique of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review earlier this year (see here), they’re now on a mission to further detract attention from the damning evidence of illegal persecution being revealed by these satellite-tagged raptors.

[Photo of a satellite-tagged golden eagle that was caught in a trap on an Angus Glens grouse moor, suffering two broken (almost severed) legs, and then transported in the middle of the night several km north and dumped in a layby and callously left to suffer what must have been an excruciating death over several days. Photo by RSPB]

The Honorary Professors’ claim this time is that satellite-tagging raptors is “cruelty at its worst” and that those involved are “medieval practitioners of torture” (a claim made without the faintest hint of irony).

The evidence they’re using to whip up this hysteria and contrived concern comes from a scientific study that demonstrated awful lesions on the bodies of four red kites, caused by badly-fitting tag harnesses. The Honorary Professors suggest that this is evidence “they do not want you to see“. ‘They’, presumably, being anyone drawing attention to the ongoing persecution of raptors as demonstrated by the tag data from satellite-tagged golden eagles and hen harriers.

Hmm. Researchers went to real extremes to cover up these findings – so much so that the study was written up and published in a scientific journal that is freely available on t’internet for anyone to read. Damn those researchers, concealing their findings like this!

Here’s a copy of the freely available paper that the Honorary Professors suggest has been covered up:

Peniche et al 2011 Vet Record red kite harness

It’s well worth a read. It’s indisputable that those harnesses on those four red kites caused serious damage and that they likely contributed to the death of at least some of those four kites.

The Honorary Professors are suggesting that despite this shocking evidence, raptor workers are continuing to fit satellite tags using harnesses and therefore the researchers “don’t care” about the birds’ welfare and that it’s these poorly-fitting harnesses that are killing the raptors, not criminal gamekeepers.

One of the more stupid Honorary Professors even claims “The stats for birds affected by sat tag lesions [four red kites] seems to correlate with numbers of vanishing eagles [41 and counting]”. Er, no, not quite. That’s as idiotic as saying ‘the number of sausage rolls on display in the window of Greggs seems to correlate with numbers of patients admitted to Dundee Royal Infirmary with gastroenteritis’.

You see, what the Honorary Professors have failed to notice (or have chosen to deliberately exclude from their argument) is that the paper by Peniche et al (2011) detailing the lesions found on the tagged red kites was considered in great detail in the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, as part of the authors’ assessment on whether satellite tagging was causing harm to golden eagles (Chapter 7). Here’s what they found:

So, the type of harness used on the red kites in those early years of tagging has not been used on golden eagles in Scotland (and if you read the Peniche et al paper you’ll see that as a direct result of the findings, the licensing authorities have now issued a specific post mortem protocol for harnessed birds to enable the detection of any further problems – gosh, they’re such an uncaring lot, aren’t they?); the problem with the red kite harness was likely attributed to one person improperly fitting harnesses, rather than a more general problem with tagging; and that there has been no evidence of harm being caused by tagging after post mortems of 28 dead tagged birds in Scotland, nor in the wider context of similar harnesses fitted in Europe and the USA.

Sorry, Honorary Professors, your claims are wholly unfounded. Again.

We really must pay tribute to the criminals whose persistent killing of satellite-tagged golden eagles led the Environment Secretary to commission the sat tag review; the superbly comprehensive and forensic analyses undertaken by the review authors (Dr Alan Fielding & Dr Phil Whitfield), amusingly still being described as “crap science” by one of the Honorary Professors, and the consistent efforts of the Honorary Professors of Idiocy for providing us with ongoing opportunities to keep drawing attention to this review’s findings, over a year after it was first published.

We’ll finish with this, taken from the end of Chapter 7 of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, that points out that even if tagging is harmful to golden eagles (which it hasn’t been proven to be), it still doesn’t explain the geographic clustering of all those ‘missing’ sat tagged eagles that just happen to coincide with areas of land intensively managed for driven grouse shooting, including, er the grouse moors of the Angus Glens:

“They can hide the bodies, they can hide the tags, but they can’t hide the pattern” (Dr Hugh Webster)


Angus Glens Moorland Group downplays significance of missing satellite-tagged raptors

There was an article in yesterday’s Courier (here) highlighting the “impoverished” status of wildlife in the Angus Glens.

This claim was made by Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland) and an unnamed investigator from the SSPCA in relation to the number of vacant breeding territories for hen harrier, the number of satellite-tagged raptors that have ‘disappeared’ in the area, and the number of indiscriminate traps laid out to kill wildlife in order to protect red grouse for shooting parties.

Head gamekeeper’s wife Leanne MacLennan, coordinator of the Angus Glens Moorland Group (AGMG) dismissed the claims and made two extraordinary statements. Here’s the first:

There is a welcome sea change in these glens and members of the Angus Glens Moorland Group will continue to move on, if others can’t“.

By claiming that AGMG members (gamekeepers) have “moved on”, she’s surely not suggesting that they had anything to do with the long, long history of illegal raptor persecution for which the Angus Glens have become notorious, is she?

For as long as we can remember, gamekeepers have denied any involvement with any of these crimes (even though banned lethal poisons were found on game bags used by estate staff, according to this article) and nobody has ever been prosecuted for these offences so how can Lianne now claim a “sea change” if she doesn’t know who was responsible for those crimes? It’s a bit odd, isn’t it?

[Photo of golden eagle Fearnan, found poisoned on an Angus Glens grouse moor, photo by RSPB Scotland]

Lianne’s second extraordinary statement was this:

There have been no confirmed incidents of criminality towards protected species in this area for several years, despite attempts at speculation“.

What a fascinating claim.

If the claim is based on the number of raptor corpses found containing lead shot or lethal poison or having horrific injuries consistent with being caught in an illegally-set spring trap, then yes, you might argue that, superficially at least, things appear to have improved.

However, if you’ve got even a moderate understanding of the issue you’ll understand that across the UK, those mystery people who kill raptors on grouse moors have simply changed tactics to avoid detection (less poisoning and more shooting in the dead of night using military grade night vision and thermal imaging equipment) and they’re now much more savvy about hiding the physical evidence of their crimes, in which case you’d treat Lianne’s claim with the contempt it deserves.

What Lianne dismisses as “speculation”, the Scottish Government has accepted as strong evidence of continued raptor persecution. The so-called ‘speculative’ incidents are, of course, the findings of the Government-commissioned review on the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles, published just last year, which identified the Angus Glens as one of six grouse moor hotspots where satellite-tagged golden eagles keep vanishing. Rather than refering to these findings as ‘speculation’, Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham refered to them as follows:

The findings of this research are deeply concerning and will give rise to legitimate concerns that high numbers of golden eagles, and other birds of prey, continue to be killed in Scotland each year” (see here).

Here’s a map based on the findings of that report showing the satellite-tagged golden eagles that have either been found illegally killed or have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in the Angus Glens. These include two golden eagles that were found poisoned, one that was caught in an illegally-set trap (and then transported and dumped elsewhere overnight), four eagles that have vanished, and one tag that had been cut from an eagle and ‘stabbed’ with a sharp instrument.

The map doesn’t include records of other satellite-tagged raptors that have also ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in recent years, including two red kites and at least one hen harrier, Saorsa, who vanished in February this year.

We suspect that other satellite-tagged raptors may have also vanished in the Angus Glens in the last two years but strangely, nobody wants to talk about it. Our suspicions have been raised by SNH’s responses to various FoI questions about satellite-tagged raptors in the Angus Glens (basically they’re refusing to discuss the issue, even in very broad terms). We will continue to pursue other lines of enquiry to get to the bottom of who’s covering up what, and why.

And talking of a lack of transparency, there’s the recent news of a dead red kite that was found by a member of the public on an Angus Glens grouse moor and was reportedly collected by a gamekeeper. Recent questions about this red kite (see here) remain unanswered. Did the gamekeeper submit the corpse for a post mortem so that the cause of death could be established? If so, where was it submitted and what were the findings? If it wasn’t submitted, why not, and where is the corpse now?

But it’s not just disappearing satellite-tagged raptors that provide us with such a clear indication of on-going illegal persecution. You only have to look at the findings of recent regional and national surveys, particularly for golden eagles, hen harriers and peregrines, to see these species continue to remain absent from large numbers of breeding territories on grouse moors in central, eastern and southern Scotland.

What’s that saying? ‘They can hide the bodies, they can hide the tags, but they can’t hide the pattern’ (Dr Hugh Webster).

[‘They’ being the unidentified mystery raptor killers, natch]


Species Champion Andy Wightman visits golden eagle satellite-tagging team

Earlier this year Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman took on the role of Golden Eagle Species Champion.

Species Champions are members of the Scottish Parliament who have agreed to lend their political support to the protection of Scottish wildlife, in an award-winning scheme organised by Scottish Environment LINK.

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

As a long-time reader and supporter of this blog, Andy shares our concerns about the on-going threat to golden eagles from illegal persecution in some areas of Scotland. He’s also well aware of the compelling evidence published in the Scottish Government-commissioned review of the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles, which demonstrated that almost one-third (n = 41) of sat-tagged eagles in Scotland have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances, most of them on or close to intensively managed driven grouse moors.

As many of you will know, last year in partnership with Chris Packham we satellite-tagged a shedload of golden eagles as part of a wider collaborative scientific study on the dispersal and land-use of juvenile golden eagles, to help inform conservation planning for this species. One of those eagles, Fred, ‘disappeared’ from the Pentlands in January this year in the same highly suspicious circumstances as the other 41 ‘missing’ eagles (and this grim tally has since increased following the recent suspicious disappearance of golden and white-tailed eagles on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths (here), the Cairngorms National Park (here), and the Strathbraan area of Perthshire (here)).

This year we’ve satellite-tagged more eagles (another shedload) and Andy joined a team of expert licensed fieldworkers from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, who, with support from local landowners, have been visiting nest sites across Scotland.

We anticipate releasing a short film and an interview with Andy in due course.

Meanwhile, here’s one of this year’s satellite-tagged golden eagles. This is ‘Adam’, named by Andy in tribute to Dr Adam Watson, an influential character during Andy’s formative years on the hill!

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]


Why we satellite tag raptors and why the grouse shooting industry wants to stop us

A year ago today saw the publication of the Government-commissioned Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, which showed how almost one-third of all satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland (41 of 131 eagles) had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances between 2004-2016, many of them vanishing in particular clusters on or close to driven grouse moors:

It seems timely then to undertake a review of how many more satellite-tagged raptors (not just golden eagles) have ‘disappeared’ since that damning analysis was undertaken (data cut off point 15 January 2017), a period of just 15 months between then and now.

An astonishing 14 sat-tagged raptors have vanished during this short period: 3 x golden eagles, 2 x white-tailed eagles, 8 x hen harriers, 1 x Montagu’s harrier. Eight of these ‘disappeared’ in Scotland, five in England and one in Wales. In addition to the missing 14, a further two satellite-tagged raptors (hen harriers) were found dead and post mortem results indicated illegal persecution.

Here’s the list:

January 2017: Hen harrier Carroll, Northumberland

March 2017: Golden eagle #338, Cairngorms National Park

August 2017: Hen harrier Calluna, Cairngorms National Park

August 2017: Montagu’s harrier Sally, Norfolk

October 2017: Hen harrier John, Yorkshire Dales National Park

October 2017: Hen harrier Manu, North Pennines

October 2017: Hen harrier Kathy, Argyll & Bute

December 2017: Golden eagle, Monadhliath Mountains

January 2018: Golden eagle Fred, Pentland Hills

February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin, Wales

February 2018: Hen harrier Marc, North Pennines

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa, Angus Glens

March 2018: White-tailed eagle Blue X, Strathbraan, Perthshire

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn, nr Moffat

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue, Cumbria

May 2018: White-tailed eagle Blue T, Cairngorms National Park

Of course, not one of these 14 recently ‘disappeared’ sat-tagged raptors will make it in to the ‘official’ wildlife crime stats (just as none of the 41 missing golden eagles and 60+ missing hen harriers have made it there) because, without a body, the police’s hands are tied. This suits the grouse-shooting industry because they can point to the ‘official’ crime stats and claim, disingenuously, that raptor persecution is in decline and argue that this is evidence that the industry has cleaned up its act.

Unfortunately for the shooting industry, the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged raptors still makes headline news because, quite obviously, in the vast majority of these cases there is no other plausible explanation other than illegal persecution. The authoritative golden eagle satellite tag review demonstrated 98% tag reliability (supported by robust statistical analyses) and showed that sat-tagged golden eagles were 25 times more likely to ‘disappear’ in Scotland than anywhere else in the world where golden eagle tagging studies, using identical tags, have taken place.

As Dr Hugh Webster said: “They can hide the tags. They can hide the bodies. But they can’t hide the pattern“.

[Satellite-tagged golden eagle Fred, who disappeared in suspicious circumstances in January. Photo: Ruth Tingay]

As a result of this ongoing publicity, the game-shooting industry has spent considerable time and effort trying to undermine the satellite-tagging of raptors, either by launching disgusting personal & abusive attacks against those involved in the projects or by arguing that raptor satellite-tagging should be banned because it’s ‘cruel’ and the tag data serve no purpose other than to try and entrap gamekeepers. The industry knows how incriminating these sat tag data are and so is trying to do everything in its power to corrode public and political confidence in (a) the tag data and (b) the justification for fitting sat tags to raptors.

As ever though, the game shooting industry hasn’t done its homework.

One of the latest claims being made by some in the industry is that there’s no need to fit sat tags to species like golden eagles because ‘we know all we need to know’ and ‘fitting tags doesn’t stop illegal persecution so why bother fitting them’? There are also repeated claims that tag data are ‘not shared’.

Let’s just nip this in the bud, shall we? The main reason for fitting sat tags to golden eagles is not to entrap gamekeepers; it’s to provide information for conservation and scientific research. Sure, if a tagged eagle then ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances of course that’s going to be publicised – why shouldn’t it be? But that is NOT the main objective of satellite-tagging eagles. And tag data ARE shared, just not with armed criminals intent on killing eagles, and who have a long track record of doing exactly that.

For those still struggling to understand the simple rationale behind golden eagle sat-tagging, below is a summary list of research & conservation studies in Scotland that are benefitting from golden eagle satellite tag data. As you can see, it’s all collaborative, there’s plenty of open data-sharing amongst research groups, and far from ‘knowing all we need to know about golden eagles’, the sat tag data are showing us exactly how little we actually did know prior to the availability of this new technology:

Peer-reviewed scientific paper: Weston, E.D., Whitfield, D.P., Travis, J.M.J. & Lambin, X. 2013. When do young birds disperse? Tests from studies of golden eagles in Scotland. BMC Ecology 13, 42. [Co-authors: University of Aberdeen and Natural Research; tagging data from several institutions.]

Peer-reviewed scientific paper: Weston, E.D., Whitfield, D.P., Travis, J.M.J. & Lambin, X. 2018. The contribution of flight capability to the post-fledging dependence period of golden eagles. Journal of Avian Biology 49. [Co-authors: University of Aberdeen and Natural Research; funding contribution from SSE; tagging data from several institutions.]

Regional Eagle Conservation Management Plan (RECMP). A joint initiative to encourage the conservation of golden eagles in the Central Highlands Natural Heritage Zone (NHZ 10), involving SSE, The Highland Council, Natural Research, Haworth Conservation, RSPB, SNH, Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, and other contributors. Research funded by SSE. The RECMP research has produced data from 15 eagle nestlings tagged in or near to NHZ 10 which are pooled with other tagging research initiatives. Data from satellite tagged birds have also been contributed and are available as a resource for ongoing and future initiatives on education and community outreach also associated with RECMP.

Ongoing research projects under RECMP (projects involve several collaborators from different institutions; analyses involve tagging data shared by several institutions):

  • A simple topographic model to predict golden eagle space use [Golden Eagle Ridge Model: GERM]. Manuscript to be submitted shortly to ornithological journal.
  • Displacement of young golden eagles from wind farms in Scotland.
  • Age of first breeding and natal dispersal distance in Scottish golden eagles.
  • Use of settlement areas by dispersing golden eagles in Scotland.
  • Variation in dispersal behaviour of young golden eagles in Scotland.

Raptors and Forestry Joint Working Group. Current membership involves SNH, FCS, FES, RSPB, Haworth Conservation, CONFOR, Borders Forest Trust, Natural Research and Scottish Raptor Study Group. Evidence base for use of forestry by golden eagles is being supported by research derived from satellite tagged birds, to lead to guidance for practitioners. Preliminary research work, involving eagle satellite tagging data (including GERM: model development also supported by SNH and FCS), presented at a Sharing Good Practice event organised by FCS and SNH, 14 May 2018.

Scottish Natural Heritage, with assistance from Natural Research. Programme of tagging young eagles in National Nature Reserves (NNRs) to increase knowledge of connectivity with wider environment.

Scottish Raptor Study Group. Data used by several regional SRSG workers to identify ‘new’ territories if dispersing birds occupy a territory; and used to identify any gaps between known territories. Data improve efficiency of survey and monitoring.

Novel proposals for development and forestry. Data from satellite tagged eagles supplied and available to SNH, private/independent forestry consultants and Forestry Commission Scotland (forestry proposals); and SNH and ornithological consultants for EIA (e.g. wind farm or power line planning proposals). Data improve assessments of new proposals.

SNH Commissioned Report 982, funded by Scottish Government and SNH, included analyses which apart from the priority of analysing the ‘suddenly disappeared tags and birds with these tags’ also led to results on survival of dispersing young and lack of any evidence of tagging causing ‘harm’, for example.

As you can see, there’s a hell of a lot of scientific research going on to help inform conservation strategies for golden eagles in Scotland (some of which will also be applicable elsewhere in the world), and most of this research would be virtually impossible to achieve without satellite tag data. The gamekeepers, ridiculously, think it’s all about them; it clearly isn’t, although the criminal activities of some of them is certainly impacting on the conservation of golden eagles in some parts of Scotland, as has been well documented. For that reason, we, and others, will continue to highlight and publicise the illegal persecution of golden eagles (and other raptors) for as long as it takes to force the authorities to take meaningful action against the criminals responsible.


New podcast: the illegal persecution of satellite-tagged eagles in Scotland

An excellent new podcast is now available on the illegal persecution of satellite-tagged eagles in Scotland.

Charlie Moores (a producer at LUSH) interviews Ian Thomson (RSPB Scotland Head of Investigations) about the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged golden eagles and white-tailed eagles in areas intensively managed for driven grouse shooting, and how the raptor killers’ tactics have changed since satellite tags became more commonly used.

Well worth 25 minutes of your time.

Listen to the podcast on the LUSH player HERE

[Ian with Chris Packham holding a picture of satellite-tagged golden eagle Fred who ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances earlier this year, photo by Ruth Tingay]

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