Posts Tagged ‘Invermark Estate

22
Dec
16

Gamekeepers want sea eagles, kites, buzzards, sparrowhawks & ravens added to General Licences

Further to this morning’s blog about RSPB Scotland’s damning response to SNH’s General Licence consultation (see here), we said we’d write a separate blog about some of the other responses that SNH received.

SNH has now published all the responses, and they’re well worth a read: all-responses-to-snh-general-licence-consultation-2016

There are many organisations and individuals calling for ravens to be added to the General Licences (no surprise) and, yet again, there are a number of requests for buzzards and sparrowhawks to also be added, which would allow these species to be casually killed across Scotland without any monitoring or regulation, although some have suggested these raptors should be on ‘regional’ General Licences to limit the casual killing to a particular area. How thoughtful.

One of the reasons given for adding ravens and buzzards to the General Licences was this: “There are arguably too many of them around and they cloud the skies in our local area“.

Here’s a photograph of some ravens and buzzards clouding the skies:

Actually, this is a photograph (by Richard Barnes) of Dunlin flocking on the coast of North America but it could just as easily be a plague of swarming raptors over a Scottish grouse moor, if you happen to be a pathological raptor hater stuck with an 18th century attitude, that is.

Take a look at the consultation response from Garry MacLennan. Surely not the same Garry MacLennan, Head Gamekeeper at Invermark Estate? Aren’t raptors supposed to be ‘thriving’ there? Perhaps the headline should have read ‘Raptors are thriving on Scottish grouse moors and we want licences to kill them’.

Also have a look at the responses from Iain Hepburn (the same Iain Hepburn as the head gamekeeper at Dunmaglass Estate?), Duncan Mackenzie and Calum Kippen (the same Corrybrough Estate gamekeepers who attended the recent meeting between the Cairngorms National Park Authority & the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association?). Aren’t these the gamekeepers who want licences to monitor and ring raptors? Don’t they see a bit of a conflict of interest there if they also want licences to kill these raptors?

Best of all though, is the response from Bert Burnett (presumably of the SGA). Bert suggests that ravens should be added to the General Licences and argues that regional general licences “could be rolled out for various species that may start to cause problems like sea eagles and kites etc“. Ah yes, that very serious problem of sea eagles mistaking small children for prey.

Of course, these calls for licences to cull raptors are nothing new. Scottish (and English) gamekeepers and land owners have been asking for these for 20 years (see here, here, here, here, hereherehere). So far, SNH has resisted but given Natural England’s recent capitulation on buzzard-killing licences, how much longer before we see the same in Scotland?

09
Dec
16

Gift of grouse: their propaganda exposed

The Gift of Grouse – a campaign run by the Scottish grouse-shooting industry to promote the so-called ‘benefits’ of driven grouse shooting, have been well and truly caught with their pants down.

(Gift of Grouse for you anagram fans: to fog figures]

Some of you may remember a story from last year, where the Gift of Grouse made great claims about the number of bird species that had been recorded on three driven grouse moors – Invermark & Glenogil (both in the Angus Glens) and Glenturret in Perthshire. We blogged about these claims (here) and have since made repeated requests to see the actual data/reports (as have others – e.g. Andy Wightman here), but all to no avail. The Gift of Grouse refused to publish the reports and instead pointed everyone to a summary, written by The Gift of Grouse and not by the ecological consultants who had conducted the surveys.

Pay attention to some of the specific claims made in that Gift of Grouse summary about the survey undertaken on Invermark Estate:

The consultants “used a variety of techniques to record birds, butterflies, mammals and other species across 80 sq km of upland habitats which are specifically managed for grouse“.

And

“…..with an overall total of 81 bird species recorded as either breeding on the site or using the area as a valuable feeding resource“.

The clear intention from these statements was for people to believe that these three driven grouse moors support a wide range of avian biodiversity.

Indeed, on the back of these apparent survey results, the Gift of Grouse even held a prestigious Parliamentary reception at Holyrood, hosted by Graeme Dey MSP on 23 November 2015,  with wide media coverage, to “celebrate diversity through grouse moor management“. Here’s a photo of them at that parliamentary reception, including Alex Hogg (SGA), Graeme Dey MSP and a load of gamekeeepers including some from the Angus Glens and some from the Lammermuirs.

81andflying

The Gift of Grouse have been pumping out this so-called success for a year now, and only the other day they referred to these survey results in another press release (here) when they claimed that ‘raptors are thriving on Scottish grouse moors’ – a press release that was dismissed by RSPB Scotland as “a pile of risible, make-believe tosh” (see here).

Well guess what? It turns out that the Gift of Grouse had good reason not to release the actual survey report from Invermark Estate because if they had, their misinterpretation (we’re being kind) of the data would have been exposed.

Unfortunately for the Gift of Grouse, a new summary report, written by the ecological consultants (Taylor Wildlife) has now been published and it makes for very interesting reading indeed.

Download it here: invermark-wildlife-audit-2015-and-2016

According to the Taylor Wildlife report, there were NOT81 bird species recorded as either breeding on the site or using the area as a valuable feeding resource” in 2015 as the Gift of Grouse had claimed. There were actually only “52 species considered to be breeding on site, 19 additional species noted during surveys as flying over and 10 species documented as incidental sightings“. How on earth can birds recorded as “flying over” a site be listed as “either breeding on the site or using the area as a valuable feeding resource“?!

Furthermore, the survey was not conducted “across 80 sq km of upland habitats which are specifically managed for grouse” as the Gift of Grouse had claimed. According to the Taylor Wildlife report, the habitats surveyed included “blanket bog, bracken, broadleaved and mixed woodland, coniferous woodland, dwarf shrub heath, improved grassland, inland rock and montane heath“. Since when has broadleaved and mixed woodland, coniferous woodland, improved grassland and inland rock been “managed specifically for grouse“?!

That RSPB Scotland quote, “a pile of risible, make-believe tosh” springs to mind.

It looks very much like the Gift of Grouse have misled everyone, including Graeme Dey MSP, doesn’t it? You can make up your own minds whether this misinterpretation of the Invermark survey results was a deliberate and cynical ploy to portray driven grouse shooting in a favourable environmental light, or whether it was just an honest inability to grasp the simple interpretation of bird survey data.

As an aside, it’s also interesting to note that these surveys were conducted as a requirement of the estate claiming Basic Payments. Funny that. Didn’t the grouse shooting industry claim that no public subsidies were used to support driven grouse shooting?

We should make it clear here that we are not having a go at Taylor Wildlife. On the contrary, we thank them for publishing this summary report. This morning, Andrew Whitelee, one of the ecological consultants involved in the survey, wrote a comment on one of our earlier blogs. We’re reproducing it here:

Hello everyone,

I work for Taylor Wildlife, who have been subject to a lot of speculation on this website recently. As with any other ecological consultancy, client confidentiality would normally prevent us from discussing specific surveys and data. However, in this instance the client (Invermark) have made the data public which means I can take this opportunity to clarify a few points. The Taylor Wildlife summary report can be found on this link.

Over the past two field seasons (2015 and 2016) Taylor Wildlife staff have been surveying on the Invermark Estate as part of the Basic Payment Scheme Farm Environment Surveys. This Government scheme requires us to undertake bird surveys using a modified version of the Brown and Shepherd methodology. This methodology is usually used for recording upland waders but for the purposes of the scheme we are required to record all species we encounter on surveys. We are not required to disturb the nests of Schedule 1 birds and our surveyors work completely within the law. The SGRPID/SNH guidelines we (and any other consultancy undertaking surveys) are bound by for the scheme are on the link below (page down to Annex A).

https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/basic-payment-scheme/basic-payment-scheme-full-guidance/eligible-hectares-and-minimum-activity—bps/

As I am sure you will all appreciate, we have no control over how our data is interpreted by others once it is published, so I would ask you to take a look and make up your own mind. At the end of each survey season we are required to submit our data and report to SNH/SGRPID for review. We also give our data to the relevant organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, The Mammal Society or Birdtrack (via the bulk upload option).

There seems to be a misconception that Taylor Wildlife provided the majority of the data used in the Gift of Grouse statement. However, we only collected data on Invermark so that is the only part I can pass comment on. Two years of Invermark data starts to give us a baseline, more data collected in the coming years may help us to identify trends and hopefully provide useful data for informed land management decisions in the future. In my opinion the more data collected in upland environments the better.

If anyone wants to contact me to discuss the above, then please feel free to do so, my email address is andrew@taylorwildlife.co.uk

Andrew Whitelee
Senior Ecologist
Taylor Wildlife

04
Dec
16

Scottish landowners pretend that raptors are ‘thriving’ on driven grouse moors

Gift of GrouseWe’ve come to expect outlandish propaganda from the Gift of Grouse campaign group, designed to portray driven grouse moors as models of excellence for raptor conservation. But this time they’ve exceeded all expectation. Forget their usual unsubstantiated post-truth drivel, wholly disconnected to reality, because that’s got nothing on their latest effort, which takes the stretching of credibility to new depths.

The following press release from the Gift of Grouse is set to hit the headlines tomorrow:

ENCOURAGING NUMBERS OF BIRDS OF PREY SIGHTED ON SCOTTISH MOORLANDS

An increasing number of birds of prey are thriving on Scottish grouse moors due to gamekeepers’ conservation efforts.

More than 10 different raptor species including golden eagles, red kites and hen harriers have been identified on prominent grouse moors this year. They are among the 86 bird species that have been recorded on estates in the Angus Glens.

A snap shot from a range of estates across the Angus Glens Moorland Group highlighted encouraging evidence with gamekeepers on Invermark Estate in particular sighting nine raptor species including buzzards and golden eagles. Some of these are nesting and successfully breeding on the estate.

A number of other estates also reported healthy numbers with Ballogie Estate, Royal Deeside, revealing a total of 15 buzzards regularly hunting on the moor. Figures from the Speyside Moorland Group were equally as strong with 12 species of birds of prey recorded on Strathspey Estate alone. Atholl Estate in Perthshire are also monitoring 12 different raptor species.

Garry MacLennan, head gamekeeper on Invermark Estate, said: “Scottish grouse moors are far from being raptor deserts, as some opponents of shooting claim. We have monitored a growing number of buzzards, kestrels, golden eagles and white-tailed eagles. Keepers and estate managers do recognise there are some areas of the country where there are fewer raptor species but there is plenty of hard evidence to show that raptors are successfully nesting on grouse moors.”

The findings from Invermark are part of annual surveys undertaken using SNH guidelines.  These surveys were conducted by Taylor Wildlife, an ecological consultancy specialising in upland environments.

Richard Cooke, manager of Invermark Estate, said: “The survey is an extremely helpful way for us to monitor the biodiversity of the estate and which species are benefitting the most from our habitat management practices. Throughout the year we carry out rotational muirburn and control predation under the general licence, including foxes, stoats and other mustelids in particular.  This is to the benefit of many ground nesting birds and is reflected in the rich birdlife recorded by the annual audit.

The Tayside Moorland Group has also carried out species monitoring at a number of estates throughout the region with Glenturret Estate in Perthshire recording no less than 12 different raptor species hunting and nesting on the moorland this year. The estate tally included several breeding pairs of hen harriers, a nesting pair of peregrine fledging four chicks, short eared owls and numerous red kites.

Conservation training, conscientious moorland management and favourable weather conditions can all impact positively upon species numbers found on Scottish moorland.

Figures revealed in Wildlife Estates Scotland’s latest annual report show that 11 accredited estates reported the presence of golden eagles, with seven of these reporting 19 pairs. Eleven estates also recorded sightings of hen harriers with four reporting 18 breeding pairs. Buzzards were also reported on 20 estates, with a total estimated population of over 920 birds.

It was also recently revealed in a national survey that golden eagle numbers have surpassed 500 pairs giving them a ‘favourable conservation status’ in the UK. Eagles have made a home on several moorland estates across Scotland with Millden Estate, a member of the Angus Glens Moorland Group, recording a particularly high number of sightings.

Jason Clamp, head gamekeeper on Millden Estate, commented: “We are fortunate enough at Millden to have regular sightings of golden eagles. Seeing several of these magnificent birds on a daily basis has to be one of the highlights of my job. We are also very careful to leave a sustainable population of mountain hares for birds of prey, such as golden eagles, to hunt.

At Millden our team of gamekeepers has taken a proactive role in ensuring that we have a suitable breeding habitat for various birds of prey such the merlin, of which we currently have four nesting pairs. This has been brought about through controlled heather burning ‘muirburn’, which creates micro habitats suited to ground-nesting birds like the merlin.

We are delighted that the golden eagle, a species of conservation concern, amongst many other species, has found a safe and suitable environment in which to flourish in such impressive numbers, where careful moorland management has been imperative.”

ENDS

Wow! Where to start with this? It’s such ludicrously far-fetched bollocks it could have come straight from the mouths of gamekeepers and grouse moor managers. Oh, hang on…

Perhaps the idiots behind the Gift of Grouse campaign didn’t see the results of the latest national golden eagle survey, published just a few short weeks ago. You know, the survey that showed breeding golden eagles are still largely absent from driven grouse moors in the Eastern Highlands, just as they were in the last national survey conducted in 2003. Only 30% of known territories were occupied in this area – that’s a pathetic 34 out of 91 territories.

Perhaps the idiots behind the Gift of Grouse campaign didn’t see the results of the recent study on northern red kites, showing that illegal persecution on driven grouse moors in this region is just as bad now as it was in 1989.

Perhaps the idiots behind the Gift of Grouse campaign didn’t read the recent scientific paper showing hen harriers have suffered a ‘catastrophic decline’ on the driven grouse moors of NE Scotland.

Perhaps the idiots behind the Gift of Grouse campaign didn’t read the scientific paper showing peregrines continue to suffer a ‘long-term decline’ on the driven grouse moors of NE Scotland.

It’s all very well saying that raptors have been ‘sighted’ on grouse moors – of course they’ve been seen there – they are drawn to those areas precisely because of the absence of territorial breeding adults (as well as an abundant food supply). Nobody disputes that you can see raptors over these moors – the crucial distinction, which the Gift of Grouse idiots have carefully avoided, is how many raptors are breeding there? Remember, no breeding hen harriers in the Angus Glens for ten years!

It’s interesting that this press release refers to the grouse moors of the Angus Glens – a well known hotbed of illegal raptor persecution for over a decade. Here’s a map to illustrate the point:

Four grouse moor estates are highlighted in red (Invermark, Millden, Hunthill, Glenogil [with thanks to Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website for estate boundaries]). You see those purple dots? They represent confirmed illegal raptor persecution crimes. Are we seriously being asked to believe that raptors are ‘thriving’ in this region?

It’s also interesting to note that the ‘data’ behind the Gift of Grouse propaganda come from an ‘annual audit’ carried out by Taylor Wildlife consultancy. We’ve blogged about this group before – these are the ‘experts’ who claimed to have recorded 81 species of birds ‘feeding or breeding’ on an Angus Glens grouse moor last year. The problem is, their survey methods didn’t adhere to the usual industry standard – rather than conduct their breeding bird survey between March and June, when you’re supposed to do it, they conducted their survey between June and August, which is, er, after the breeding season!

Will we get to see this year’s report to scrutinise the methods and results? Highly unlikely – we’re still waiting to see their 2015 report but apparently it’s a secret and we’re not allowed to read it. Can’t think why.

Also of note in this latest press release is the reference to Glenturret Estate in Perthshire, another well-known driven grouse moor. We’ve blogged about this estate before, when it was claimed that Hen Harrier Day protesters might ‘disturb’ hen harriers – a species that has consistently failed to breed successfully on this moor. This year, they are claiming to have ‘several breeding pairs of hen harriers’ amongst other species. That’s interesting, because according to monitoring data from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, there was only one hen harrier breeding attempt on Glenturret this year, and, as has so often happened here in recent years, the nest failed for ‘unknown reasons’. Unfortunately it’s not possible to work out why hen harriers keep failing here because the estate has apparently refused to allow nest cameras to be installed.

Glenturret used to have lots of successfully breeding raptors, but these days, not so much. They certainly don’t have breeding golden eagles anymore because the eagle’s eyrie was burnt out last year. Here’s a photograph of the cliff face, taken in April 2015 – note the blackened hillside. Spontaneously combusting eagle eyries are a common problem on some Scottish grouse moors. Either that or golden eagles need to learn to discard their fag butts with more care.

We’ll add updates to this blog tomorrow when we see which newspapers have swallowed the Gift of Grouse guff hook, line and sinker. We’ll be particularly interested to see whether SNH issues a statement to rebutt the claims being made – SNH has access to the actual raptor breeding data via the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme – let’s see them put it good use.

UPDATE 5 December 2016: “Risible, make-believe tosh”: RSPB responds to Gift of Grouse propaganda (here).

07
Jun
16

The ‘secrets of the Angus Glens’ that Countryfile forgot to mention

On Sunday evening, Countryfile included a piece about the grouse moors of Invermark Estate in the Angus Glens and how it was “a haven for wildlife”.

It can be viewed on iPlayer here for the next 28 days (starts at 22 mins in).

Inane, vacuous and unquestioning, this piece was heralded in previews as ‘uncovering the secrets of the glen’.

Invermark is only one of several grouse moor estates in the Angus Glens. Here are some secrets of the wider Angus Glens that weren’t mentioned on Countryfile:

2004 May, near Edzell: long-eared owl and two short-eared owls starved to death in crow cage trap.  No prosecution.

2004 May, Invermark Estate: peregrine nest destroyed. No prosecution.

2006 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 May, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. No prosecution. Estate owner had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments. This was being appealed, but it is not known how this was resolved.

2006 July, Millden Estate; poisoned sheepdog (Lindane). No prosecution.

2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird allegedly been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, Glenogil Estate: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 October, ‘Glenogil Estate: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 April, Millden Estate: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2009 July, Millden Estate: poisoned golden eagle ‘Alma’ (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 August, Glenogil Estate: poisoned white-tailed eagle “89” (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 September, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Chloralose). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2011 February, Airlie Estate: buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. (see below)

2011 March, Airlie Estate: 3 x buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. Prosecution (!) but dropped after statement from suspect given to SSPCA deemed inadmissible.

2011 April, Millden Estate: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 April, ‘Nr Noranside’: Remains of buzzard found beside pheasant pen. Suspicious death.

2011 June, Rottal & Tarabuckle Estate: dead kestrel inside crow cage trap. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Edzell’: spring-trapped buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Bridgend’: remains of buzzard found under a rock. Suspicious death.

2012 May, Millden Estate: satellite-tagged golden eagle seemingly caught in spring trap, then apparently uplifted overnight and dumped on Deeside with two broken legs & left to die. No prosecution.

2012 May, Glen Esk: disappearance of sat-tagged red kite. No further transmissions or sightings of bird.

2013 January, Invermark Estate: white-tailed eagle nest tree felled. No prosecution.

2013 June, Glen Ogil: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2013 July, Glen Moy: illegal hawk trap. No prosecution.

2013 September, nr Edzell: unset spring trap next to bait. No prosecution.

2013 November, Glen Lethnot: poisoned golden eagle ‘Fearnan’. No prosecution.

2014 August & September, Glenogil Estate: alleged snare offences. Prosecution of gamekeeper underway (currently ongoing).

2014 October, Nathro: shot buzzard. Prosecution? Unknown.

And some more secrets of the Angus Glens that weren’t mentioned:

No breeding hen harriers on the grouse moors of the Angus Glens since 2006 (see here).

Mountain hare massacre on the grouse moors of the Angus Glens (see here).

Angus Glens gamekeeper facing trial for alleged pole-trapping offences (see here).

Mark Avery has written an alternative and more accurate Countryfile script (see here) than the one that was aired on Sunday evening.

Plenty of people on social media have been asking when Countryfile will do a piece on illegal raptor persecution. To be fair, they did one in 2014 (we blogged about it here) and it was fairly well balanced, but this then begs the question why Countryfile researchers hadn’t done their homework for this latest episode.

Had they done so, here are some of the images they would have found from those ‘wildlife haven’ grouse moors of the Angus Glens. From the top down, an illegally poisoned golden eagle, another illegally poisoned golden eagle, an illegally poisoned white-tailed eagle, an illegally trapped golden eagle that was then dumped in a layby with two broken legs and left to die, the nest tree of a white-tailed eagle that was illegally chainsawed to the ground, and a pile of rotting shot mountain hares. The grouse moors of the Angus Glens a wildlife haven? Hardly. They’re notorious wildlife crime scenes.

Petition to ban driven grouse shooting here

Fearnan

alma

whiteg

deeside eagle

wtenesttree

mountain-hare-cull-angus-glens-large-copy

29
Sep
15

The gift of grouse: spectacular propaganda from the Angus Glens

Gift of GrouseWe love it when the grouse shooting community produces its propaganda pieces to spoon-feed to the (sym)pathetic right wing elements of the national press. It’s usually a masterclass in foot-shooting and provides us with ample material for a good laugh.

Take this month’s latest offering –  a published, commissioned report from the University of the Highlands & Islands:

Grouse Shooting, Moorland Management and Local Communities: Community Perceptions and Socio-Economic Impacts of Moorland Management and Grouse Shooting in the Monadhliaths and Angus Glens

and a video produced by the Angus Glens Moorland Group (basically all the gamekeepers that work there) entitled:

The Untold Story: Driven Grouse Shooting’.

The publication of these two pieces was celebrated at a Parliamentary reception last week (see here) hosted by Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism (a long-standing supporter of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association) and attended by gamekeepers and luminaries from the grouse shooting industry such as Doug McAdam from Scottish Land & Estates.

The report mostly suggests that there is great support for grouse moor management and all its ‘benefits’, from within the two communities surveyed. We’re not going to say very much about these findings at the moment other than to say that we are aware that someone has been analysing the survey questionnaire data and has discovered some fundamental flaws that basically render the report’s findings obsolete. We’ll return to this once the analysis has been completed. The report can be downloaded here: Grouse Shooting Moorland Management and Local Communities_2015

What we do want to blog about now is the hilarious video produced by the Angus Glens gamekeepers. This video (watch it here) was first published on the Inglorious 12th, timed to coincide with the opening of the grouse shooting season. It formed part of a new campaign called ‘The Gift of Grouse’, which is a one-year propaganda offensive, heavily promoted (and maybe even funded) by Scottish Land & Estates, and others, aimed at cleaning up the media image of the grouse shooting industry. Check out their website here.

For some reason, the video has now been re-launched this month, perhaps to coincide with the publication of the commissioned report. Whatever, that doesn’t really matter. This video really is a gift and an almighty own-goal.

You would think that if the grouse-shooting industry wanted to portray an image of lawful, environmentally-sensitive management, that they’d choose to focus on an area that wasn’t notorious as a massive wildlife crime scene, wouldn’t you? Well, apparently not.

This video is brilliant. It includes interviews with head gamekeepers from five grouse-shooting estates in the Angus Glens; some of these estate names will be very familiar to regular readers of this blog. The interviewees are: Jason Clamp (Millden Estate), Garry MacLennan (Invermark Estate), Martin Taylor (Glenlethnot Estate), Danny Lawson (Glenogil Estate) and Bruce Cooper (Glenprosen Estate). [Incidentally, one of these head keepers shares his name with a gamekeeper who was formerly employed on Skibo Estate in 2010 when three poisoned golden eagles were found poisoned. What an amazing coincidence. No prosecution for poisoning those eagles, natch, although the sporting manager was done for possession of a massive stash of banned Carbofuran].

The video provides a heart-warming narrative of the daily lives of gamekeepers in the Angus Glens, complete with a soothing musical backing track, where the keepers are keen to explain how they care for the welfare of all the wildlife in the Glens and how the emphasis is no longer on just the grouse, apparently.

Jason Clamp (Millden) says: “We’re not looking for massive bags of grouse” and “We’re not looking to kill thousands of grouse“.

That’s an odd statement coming from the head keeper of perhaps one of the most intensively-managed grouse moors in the area. According to the Millden Estate sales brochures (2010 and 2011) great emphasis is placed on the record number of grouse that have been killed / are available to be killed and this is a prime selling point. Record bag sizes are also apparently the main reason the estate owner decided to withdraw his estate from sale in 2011 (see here).

We’re also told by Garry MacLennan (Invermark) that the Angus Glens are great for raptors (ahem – see below) and the video bizarrely cuts to show what looks remarkably like a Gyr/Saker hybrid falconry bird….whatever it is, it certainly isn’t a native species and it certainly isn’t a wild bird living in those Glens.

Probably the most amusing thing about this video (and there is an awful lot to laugh at) is the title: ‘The Untold Story’. Oh, the irony.

Here are some of the untold bits of the untold story that, unsurprisingly, don’t feature in this film:

Known raptor persecution incidents in the Angus Glens 2004-2014 – 

2004 May, near Edzell: long-eared owl and two short-eared owls starved to death in crow cage trap.  No prosecution.

2004 May, Invermark Estate: peregrine nest destroyed. No prosecution.

2006 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 May, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. No prosecution. Estate owner had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments. This was being appealed, but it is not known how this was resolved.

2006 July, Millden Estate; poisoned sheepdog (Lindane). No prosecution.

2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, Glenogil Estate: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 October, ‘Glenogil Estate: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 April, Millden Estate: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2009 July, Millden Estate: poisoned golden eagle ‘Alma’ (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 August, Glenogil Estate: poisoned white-tailed eagle “89” (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 September, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Chloralose). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2011 February, Airlie Estate: buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. (see below)

2011 March, Airlie Estate: 3 x buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. Prosecution (!) but dropped after statement from suspect given to SSPCA deemed inadmissible.

2011 April, Millden Estate: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 April, ‘Nr Noranside’: Remains of buzzard found beside pheasant pen. Suspicious death.

2011 June, Rottal & Tarabuckle Estate: dead kestrel inside crow cage trap. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Edzell’: spring-trapped buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Bridgend’: remains of buzzard found under a rock. Suspicious death.

2012 May, Millden Estate: satellite-tagged golden eagle seemingly caught in spring trap, then apparently uplifted overnight and dumped on Deeside with two broken legs & left to die. No prosecution.

2012 May, Glen Esk: disappearance of sat-tagged red kite. No further transmissions or sightings of bird.

2013 January, Invermark Estate: white-tailed eagle nest tree felled. No prosecution.

2013 November, Glen Lethnot: poisoned golden eagle ‘Fearnan’. No prosecution.

2014 October, Nathro: shot buzzard. Prosecution? Unknown.

There’s also no mention of the massacre of mountain hares known to take place across the Angus Glens. This photo shows a pile of slaughtered hares photographed on Glenogil Estate in 2012:

mountain-hare-cull-angus-glens-large - Copy

And no mention of the “savaged, stripped and blasted land” as portrayed in this photograph of Millden Estate in 2014 (by Chris Townsend):

Interestingly, a Parliamentary Motion has now been lodged (Jamie McGrigor, Tory) congratulating the Angus Glens gamekeepers on their video and welcoming the Gift of Grouse initiative. The motion hasn’t attracted a lot of support although some of the signatories are surprising, to say the least (see here).

23
Mar
15

Hare-brained propaganda from the grouse shooting industry

Over the last couple of years we’ve blogged a lot about the obscene massacre of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors (see here for previous posts).

It’s quite the hot topic these days, resulting in Parliamentary questions, public petitions, and even a call from SNH/GWCT/SLE for grouse moor managers to practice “voluntary restraint”  – a pointless exercise in our opinion (see here).

It seems that SNH doesn’t have much faith that voluntary restraint will be employed – a few weeks after they issued their plea to landowners, they asked hill-walkers to report any evidence of large-scale culls (see here).

Today, the grouse-shooting industry issued their own press release about mountain hares on grouse moors. We thought it was an early April Fools’ Day stunt but apparently it isn’t. It reads as follows:

MOUNTAIN HARES ON THE MARCH AFTER GROUSE BONANZA

(Issued on behalf of a Scottish Moorland Group)

The Highlands are celebrating a special conservation bonus following two very good grouse seasons.

Scottish moorland managers are reporting large numbers of the much loved and easily recognised mountain hare, linked to last year’s ‘best in a generation’ grouse season. The Scottish population of hares is thought to be around 350,000 and in some areas they are now at historically high levels – the hares have the red grouse to thank!

Concern has been expressed recently that hare numbers may be going down; however grouse moors in the Angus Glens, Speyside and Highlands report that their numbers have increased along with grouse levels. Heather moorland managed for red grouse is an extremely good habitat for hares to thrive on.

The mountain hare is the only native species of hare or rabbit in Britain, easily distinguished by its white plumage during the winter months and brown during the summer. It is known that its population fluctuates in 7-10 year cycles, however actively managed moorlands give this iconic Scottish species a sustainable future.

Danny Lawson, head gamekeeper on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens, said: “I have seen more mountain hares this year than at any time since I came here. Our mountain hare population has been increasing along with grouse over the last three years because our heather management gives them good grazing and because of predator control over the estate and other neighbouring estates.

Good weather in the breeding season helps mountain hare numbers and the last two seasons, 2013 and 2014, have been very good for both grouse and mountain hares. Like grouse, mountain hare populations have to be carefully managed. Culling is legal and is necessary in some circumstances and such management should be done sustainably and be supported by a sound management plan.”

Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, says: “There are surprising gaps in our collective knowledge about this secretive animal.  This can lead to assumptions about population changes which are not correct and we support the research project commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage to get a better handle on how to accurately count hares on the open hill.  What does seem certain from the long term observations of moorland managers on the ground is that there is a strong link to land use; hare numbers are likely to go down where moorland is unmanaged or afforested but will increase where managed for red grouse.”

-ENDS-

Anyone convinced that grouse moor managers view mountain hares as “much loved”? Anyone convinced that hare culls by grouse moor managers are “carefully managed”?

Have a look at the photographs at the foot of this blog and make up your own minds.

What’s also interesting about this press release is the decision to include a quote from the head gamekeeper of Glenogil Estate. We’ve blogged a lot about Glenogil Estate over the years (see here). Glenogil Estate is one of several grouse-shooting estates in the Angus Glens. Here’s some information about raptor persecution in the Angus Glens, mainly gleaned from the RSPB’s annual BirdCrime reports and SASA’s annual reports:

2004 May, near Edzell: long-eared owl and two short-eared owls starved to death in crow cage trap.  No prosecution.

2004 May, Invermark Estate: peregrine nest destroyed. No prosecution.

2006 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 May, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. No prosecution. Estate owner had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments. This was being appealed, but it is not known how this was resolved.

2006 July, Millden Estate; poisoned sheepdog (Lindane). No prosecution.

2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, Glenogil Estate: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 October, ‘Glenogil Estate: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 April, Millden Estate: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2009 July, Millden Estate: poisoned golden eagle ‘Alma’ (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 August, Glenogil Estate: poisoned white-tailed eagle “89” (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 September, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Chloralose). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2011 February, Airlie Estate: buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. (see below)

2011 March, Airlie Estate: 3 x buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. Prosecution (!) but dropped after statement from suspect given to SSPCA deemed inadmissible.

2011 April, Millden Estate: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 April, ‘Nr Noranside’: Remains of buzzard found beside pheasant pen. Suspicious death.

2011 June, Rottal & Tarabuckle Estate: dead kestrel inside crow cage trap. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Edzell’: spring-trapped buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Bridgend’: remains of buzzard found under a rock. Suspicious death.

2012 May, Millden Estate: satellite-tagged golden eagle seemingly caught in spring trap, then apparently uplifted overnight and dumped on Deeside with two broken legs & left to die. No prosecution.

2012 May, Glen Esk: disappearance of sat-tagged red kite. No further transmissions or sightings of bird.

2013 January, Invermark Estate: white-tailed eagle nest tree felled. No prosecution.

2013 November, Glen Lethnot: poisoned golden eagle ‘Fearnan’. No prosecution.

2014 October, Nathro: shot buzzard. Prosecution? Unknown.

Can we take it then, that as this press release was issued by the Scottish Moorland Group – a sub-group of Scottish Land & Estates – that Glenogil Estate is a member of SLE? If so, surely the partner organisations of the PAW Scotland Raptor Group will be asking questions at their next ‘partner’ meeting.

A few newspapers have picked up on this press release today, including an article in the P&J entitled, ‘Mountain hare thriving thanks to grouse management‘.

Here are some pictures of ‘much-loved’ mountain hares ‘thriving’ on Scottish grouse moors, including one photograph that was taken on, er, Glenogil Estate.

mountain-hare-cull-angus-glens-large - Copy

mh4 - Copyhares-glenshee-feb-2014-11 - Copymh2 - Copymountain-hares-deeside-2010 - Copyslry30 - Copyhares-glenshee-feb-2014-21 - Copymh3 - Copy

07
Aug
14

East Scotland sea eagle chick fledges: what fate awaits this one?

For the second consecutive year, a young white-tailed eagle has successfully fledged from a nest in east Scotland.

His sibling, who hatched in 2013, un-mysteriously ‘disappeared’ earlier this year in a notorious raptor persecution blackspot in the Cairngorms National Park (see here and here). He was the first sea eagle to fledge in east Scotland in over 200 years but he didn’t even survive to see his first birthday. His satellite transmitter went silent after he’d visited a driven grouse moor where previously a head gamekeeper had been convicted of poisoning offences (2006), a poisoned golden eagle had been found in 2011 (no prosecution), a poisoned buzzard had been found in 2011 (no prosecution), poisoned bait had been discovered in 2011 (no prosecution) and a short-eared owl had been found in 2011 that had been shot and shoved underneath a rock (no prosecution). The police raided the estate in April this year but found no trace of the eagle.

He might not have been the first sea eagle to fledge in Scotland in over 200 years if another east Scotland pair had not had their nest tree felled by someone with a chainsaw (see here – no prosecution).

The BBC is running an article on this year’s fledgling (see here) and includes a telling remark from RSPB Scotland saying they hoped the young bird would avoid areas where birds of prey have been poisoned or trapped. In other words, steer clear of driven grouse moors.

He’s got at least five years in which to run the gauntlet before he becomes mature enough to breed – we don’t rate his chances much.

Go west, kid, go west.

wtse fife 2014 ian francis

19
Dec
13

Golden eagle found poisoned on Angus grouse moor

A two-year old golden eagle named ‘Fearnan’ has been found dead on a Scottish grouse moor. He had been poisoned with a banned pesticide. The poison hasn’t been named but we’ll take an educated guess at Carbofuran, the gamekeepers’ poison of choice.

Interestingly, there are three separate press releases about this latest disgraceful crime:

One from the government via PAW (here)

One from the police (here)

One from RSPB Scotland (here)

Usually, we’re lucky to see anything for at least 4-5 months after the crime so it’s somewhat surprising to see the scuffle for media attention on this one. Could this be a sign that Environment Minister Wheelhouse has put his foot down and demanded that timely press statements are released? We can’t think of any other reason why the police should suddenly change their tactics from seemingly apathetic to seemingly responsive.

Of course, regular blog readers will already know that Fearnan is not the only poisoned eagle to have been found dead in the Angus Glens. In fact, there’s been a fair bit of raptor persecution over the last nine years. Here’s a list of incidents we’ve compiled from various published reports:

2004 May, near Edzell: long-eared owl and two short-eared owls starved to death in crow cage trap.  No prosecution.

2004 May, Invermark Estate: peregrine nest destroyed. No prosecution.

2006 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 May, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. No prosecution. Estate owner had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments. This was being appealed, but it is not known how this was resolved.

2006 July, Millden Estate; poisoned sheepdog (Lindane). No prosecution.

2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, Glenogil Estate: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 October, ‘Glenogil Estate: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 April, Millden Estate: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2009 July, Millden Estate: poisoned golden eagle ‘Alma’ (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 August, Glenogil Estate: poisoned white-tailed eagle “89” (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 September, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Chloralose). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2011 February, Airlie Estate: buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. (see below)

2011 March, Airlie Estate: 3 x buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. Prosecution (!) but dropped after statement from suspect given to SSPCA deemed inadmissible.

2011 April, Millden Estate: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 April, ‘Nr Noranside’: Remains of buzzard found beside pheasant pen. Suspicious death.

2011 June, Rottal & Tarabuckle Estate: dead kestrel inside crow cage trap. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Edzell’: spring-trapped buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Bridgend’: remains of buzzard found under a rock. Suspicious death.

2012 May, Millden Estate: satellite-tagged golden eagle caught in spring trap, then apparently uplifted overnight and dumped on Deeside. No prosecution.

2012 May, Glen Esk: disappearance of sat-tagged red kite. No further transmissions or sightings of bird.

2013 January, Invermark Estate: white-tailed eagle nest tree felled. No prosecution.

2013 November, Glen Lethnot: poisoned golden eagle. Prosecution? Highly unlikely!

We think you’ll agree, this is overwhelming evidence that some people in the Angus Glens are systematically persecuting birds of prey, they have been for many years, and those same people are avoiding criminal justice for their disgusting and illegal activities. We call them The Untouchables.

Why have they been able to avoid prosecution for so long?

Now would be a good time to ask the Environment Minister for an explanation. While you’re at it, please also mention your revulsion about the continued practice of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors. The time for estate licensing is here; the game-shooting industry, quite clearly, cannot or will not self-regulate.  Emails to: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

RIP Fearnan.

posioned GE Lethnot 2013

16
Jun
13

More false allegations about this blog

About two months ago the landowners’ organisation, Scottish Land & Estates, made a series of false allegations about this blog (see here).

It seems they just can’t help themselves. Two days ago (14th June 2013) they published the following on their website, in response to our blog about the discovery of poisoned baits on Leadhills Estate (our original article here) –

Information about police investigation leaked by anonymous website

Confidential information about an active police investigation on a grouse moor has again been leaked to the media.

This relates to an incident in March at Leadhills Estate where according to the police, some items were removed for scientific analysis and a number of people were detained, but no charges have been made. An anonymous website, allegedly with close links to the animal rights movement, found out confidential information that Government science laboratory analysis of the items had tested positive for carbofuran and published this confidential information, resulting in media coverage on 11th June.

Although there were no birds of prey involved, the whole land management and shooting industry is very concerned about a possible attempted poisoning after such a sharp drop in such incidents over the last three years. However, little is known about the detail of this case and it is vital that nothing is done or said which might risk prejudicing the legal process or cause unjustifiable damage to the reputations of anyone connected to the estate. Questions certainly need to be asked about the leaking and publication of material information about the case while this is still under active police investigation.

The media stories included a comment from Scottish Land & Estates which said: “It would be inappropriate to comment while the facts of the matter have still be established. As an organisation, we are actively involved in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime and our membership undertakes an enormous amount of good work in this area.”  The Scottish Gamekeepers Association also said “Because this appears to be subject of a live investigation, it would not be appropriate to comment other than to reiterate that the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association does not condone illegal poisoning.”

Here is the link to the article on their website.

Let’s start with their sub-header: “Confidential information about an active police investigation on a grouse moor has again been leaked to the media”. This may well be an active police investigation but in terms of reporting restrictions that is irrelevant. What is important is when the actual criminal case becomes active. Once the criminal case, not the police investigation, becomes active, this then triggers certain reporting restrictions relating to the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Under Scottish law, a criminal case becomes active once an arrest warrant has been issued, or someone has been arrested, or someone has been charged. Thus, in this instance, SL&E’s use of the phrase ‘an active police investigation’ is misleading as it suggests information has been leaked in contempt.

Now let’s look at their first paragraph, and particularly the sentence: “An anonymous website, allegedly with close links to the animal rights movement, found out confidential information that Government science laboratory analysis of the items had tested positive for carbofuran and published this confidential information, resulting in media coverage on 11th June”. They don’t name the ‘anonymous website’, but as we were the only anonymous website to publish the original article then we have to assume they are referring to us. In which case, we would like to know the basis of their claim that we allegedly have close links to the animal rights movement. In our view this is a crudely attempted slur on our credibility. The stereotypical image of the animal rights movement as portrayed in the media has traditionally focused on the illegal activities of those involved in campaigns against animal testing laboratories – the image of a black-clothed, balaclava-wearing extremist intent on breaking the law by fire-bombing business premises, vehicles and homes or digging up human remains, all in the name of ‘defending the rights of animals’, immediately springs to mind. Is that the image that Scottish Land & Estates are trying to attribute to us? If it is, it looks like they have scored another own goal. We would argue that that stereotype is no longer valid – look at the thousands of people who recently protested in London against the badger cull. They could legitimately be portrayed as being members of the animal rights movement and yet that crowd included serving Members of Parliament and even QCs. Law-breaking terrorists marauding through London causing damage & inciting fear, or concerned professionals legitimately and peacefully exercising their right to protest? We wholeheartedly support the lawful badger cull protesters and if that defines us as having ‘close links to the animal rights movement’ then so what? We are happy to have that association, although we’d argue that it doesn’t amount to anything like ‘close links’. But if SL&E are trying to suggest that we are ‘closely linked’ with criminal activities then that is a much more serious allegation that our lawyers would be most interested in examining.

true falseSticking with their first paragraph, let’s move on to their claim that we published “confidential information” (about the Carbofuran) “resulting in media coverage on 11th June”. This is utter bollocks. We deliberately did not name the type of poison that had been used to lace the poisoned baits in our original article. SL&E should try reading our article again and pay closer attention this time. Carbofuran was actually first mentioned in the BBC’s article, which was published several hours after ours on 10th June, and which we added as an update to our original article later that evening. We’ll be happy to accept an apology from Scottish Land & Estates in relation to their false allegation against us.

But so what if we had mentioned Carbofuran? This isn’t ‘confidential information’ – look at the quarterly poisoning stats published by SASA – they always name the poison(s) they’ve detected in the course of on-going police investigations, and quite rightly so; this is a matter of massive public interest. Look at any other area of crime involving banned substances – the police always publish the name of the banned substances that they’ve seized, e.g heroin, cocaine etc. As an example, here is a news item from just yesterday detailing the seizure of cannabis and the name of the premises where it was reportedly found. This type of reporting is very, very common – if you don’t believe us just take a look at Police Scotland’s website and look at the frequency with which these seizure stories appear. Funny isn’t it, that those investigations are publicised within a matter of days and yet those news reports don’t prejudice the outcome of any subsequent criminal case, do they? So why should the reporting of alleged raptor persecution investigations be treated any differently?

Moving on to their second paragraph and the following sentence: “However, little is known about the detail of this case and it is vital that nothing is done or said which might risk prejudicing the legal process or cause unjustifiable damage to the reputations of anyone connected to the estate. Little is known about the detail of this case precisely because of our restraint in the publication of details! Check out the first sentence of paragraph three in our article:

Because this is an on-going police investigation there is only limited detail that we’re prepared to publish at this stage”.

Are those the words of people intent on prejudicing the legal process? No, they’re not. They’re the words of responsible bloggers who could easily have published a mass of detail, such as the number of poisoned baits found, the specific site location, the way the baits were stored, the specifics of the meat used, and the name of the poison used to lace the baits. We could even have posted photographs from the scene. We deliberately didn’t include any of this material evidence in our article.

Their last sentence in paragraph two reads: “Questions certainly need to be asked about the leaking and publication of material information about the case while this is still under active police investigation”. Questions certainly do need to be asked, but not about the leaking and publication of material information, for all the reasons we’ve stated above. No, other more relevant questions need to be asked, such as:

  • Why didn’t Police Scotland publicise this inquiry when it first started three months ago?
  • What relationship does Scottish Land & Estates have with Leadhills Estate, i.e. is Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate a member of SL&E and if so, will SL&E be temporarily suspending that membership pending the outcome of the police investigation?
  • Should Scottish Land & Estates be allowed to continue to participate on the PAW Scotland Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group without this level of transparency?

SL&E also published a further article two days ago, relating to media coverage (here & here) of the alleged felling of the white-tailed eagle nest tree on Invermark Estate. Read their article here. In this article, SL&E state that the estate has been ‘fully cooperating’ with the police inquiry. You wouldn’t expect anything else from a law-abiding estate. Hopefully that ‘full cooperation’ includes full and complete witness statements from everyone involved with the Estate from the top down. Anything less, such as ‘no comment’ interviews would not, in our opinion, be in the spirit of what we’d call ‘full cooperation’, even though such responses are entirely legal.

Also in this article, SL&E argue that it was inappropriate for information about the case to be released before the outcome is known. This sounds like a philosophy whereby there should be a blanket media ban on publishing any information relating to alleged raptor persecution incidents until the outcome of the police case is known. That would probably suit the game-shooting industry down to the ground: if this ridiculous philosophy was in place, none of us would be any the wiser to the hundreds of illegally-killed raptors found on shooting estates over the last 25+ years because the majority of these cases have not resulted in charges being brought and are, therefore, still technically considered to be ‘on-going’ police investigations. To put it in a broader context, if the philosophy was given a wider application we wouldn’t know anything of, for example, Operation Yewtree or the recent Woolwich murder.

Scottish Land & Estates would do well to put their influence to better use and focus their efforts on ousting the criminal element from within the game-shooting industry instead of wasting time promoting censorship of responsible reports on matters of legitimate public interest.

13
Jun
13

Police investigate alleged destruction of sea eagle nest on Scottish grouse moor

_68160602_tree1bc

This is just jaw-droppingly shocking.

Police Scotland are investigating the alleged destruction of a white-tailed eagle nest on Invermark Estate in the Angus Glens, according to the BBC.

RSPB Scotland claim that the nest was the first sea eagle breeding attempt in East Scotland in over a century, following the reintroduction of the species to this region over the last six years. Apparently the nest had been built up since November 2012 and the nest cup was already lined and thus primed for use. The RSPB claim they warned Invermark Estate about the presence of the nest; the BBC reports the nest tree was felled in January this year.

Here is the RSPB’s statement:

Over several months our staff had been monitoring this pair of white-tailed eagles from the East of Scotland release scheme in collaboration with local landowners. We confirm that a nest had been built, but the tree was felled. When this incident came to light, we notified the police immediately and shared all our intelligence, since all nests of white-tailed eagles are fully protected. If anyone can provide further information on this deplorable incident, they should contact Police Scotland as soon as possible. This is a current police investigation.

This is the first nesting attempt by white-tailed eagles in the east of Scotland for over a century, and is the start of what we hope will become a thriving population of white-tailed eagles in this former part of their natural range. In East Scotland, there has been a 6 year reintroduction programme since 2007 between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, and the Norwegian authorities, who have helped with supply of donor birds. In east Scotland, this project has captured widespread public imagination and support, and is involving many local stakeholders. It is desperately disappointing and frustrating that what should have been a cause for celebration for all those interested in our wildlife appears instead to have become yet another statistic in the long list of crimes against Scotland’s birds of prey”.

Invermark Estate, situated at the top of Glen Esk, strongly refutes the allegations. Here is their official statement:

We take our wildlife management responsibilities very seriously and are proud of our record in this area. We have also had an excellent relationship with all relevant wildlife organisations, especially RSPB with whom we often work in partnership. The estate has also been an enthusiastic supporter of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime. We have many species on the estate including golden eagles, ospreys – as well as the sea eagles in question which are thriving on the estate. We have long been happy with the presence of all these species. Any suggestion that the estate or its employees – who are highly trained and implement extensive conservation programmes – would jeopardise or disrupt species that have made this estate their home, is disputed in the strongest possible terms”.

Invermark is part of the Dalhousie Estates. We think that Dalhousie Estates is a member of the landowners’ organisation, Scottish Land & Estates. At least it was in 2010 as the owner, Lord Dalhousie, signed the now infamous landowners’ letter to then Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, condemning illegal raptor persecution (see here).

Here is the official statement in response to the tree-felling allegations from Scottish Land & Estates:

Invermark Estate has an exemplary record in wildlife conservation and protection. At this stage the facts have yet to be established. There is a worrying trend in these matters that certain people take the irresponsible view that accusations can be made anonymously through the media, in the middle of police investigations, with the objective of hoping that mud sticks and an estate can be portrayed as being guilty until proven innocent. What we do know in this case is that the sea eagles are alive and well and remain on the estate where they are welcome along with many other great examples of Scottish wildlife”.

The allegations being made are astonishing. If proven, this would be the most extraordinarily brazen display of raptor persecution in Scotland in a long time. We’re used to hearing the now all-too familiar reports of the clandestine use of poison against birds of prey on some sporting estates in Scotland – a secretive & illegal practice that is easy to hide and easy to deny if challenged. But felling a tree that contains a massive nest structure, built by a large and highly conspicuous raptor that is afforded the highest possible level of legal protection in the land? That would be some display of arrogance, wouldn’t it? Unlike poisoning, you couldn’t really hide what you’d done, and the chance of there being before/after photographic evidence to prove the existence of such an historic nest would surely be quite high, especially if you knew the nest was being monitored. You’d probably only fell the tree if (a) you thought there was a very good chance you could get away with it, or (b) even if you were caught you couldn’t give a toss as you know you’d probably just get a fine of a few hundred quid, or maybe even a community service order.

Five months on and the police investigation ‘continues’, whatever that means. Draw your own conclusions. And why, yet again, have Police Scotland not mentioned this inquiry? Why are we having to rely on tip-offs given to the media to learn about these alleged crimes? (Well done BBC journalist David Miller, by the way). It’s not as though the public aren’t even interested in the East Scotland sea eagle reintroduction project for god’s sake – there has been huge public interest in the project, ever since it began in 2007, and the first nest is a long-awaited symbolic and historic event. Is it in the public interest to keep under wraps the allegation that the nest has been illegally destroyed? No, it isn’t, but it sure as hell is in the game shooting industry’s interest. Just how much influence do they have over police operations?

This alleged incident is, we think, a game-changer. In many ways, the first East Scotland sea eagle nest is a symbolic and historic event, just not in the way we had imagined it would be. According to the BBC article, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse has given his strongest indication yet that the introduction of new measures to tackle illegal raptor persecution is imminent. To be brutally frank, he’s going to find himself at the centre of a fucking shit-storm if he doesn’t. Sorry about the bad language but, seriously, if that’s what concerns you most about this blog entry then you really shouldn’t be here.

Please consider emailing the Environment Minister to let him know what you think about the latest allegations and to ask him when, exactly, might we see these new measures he keeps promising? Email to: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

BBC article here.

UPDATE 21.00hrs: An article in the Scotsman (here) provides a further statement from Paul Wheelhouse:

This incident is under police investigation and I am therefore unable to comment in detail, but if reports are correct this is a shocking and brutal way to end the nesting attempts of a pair of young sea eagles. I know the Scottish public will be similarly shocked by such reports particularly as this was the first attempt by the species to nest in the east of Scotland for 100 years.

I have been clear that if we are faced with continuing incidents involving raptor persecution, whether that is poisoning, or shooting, trapping or nest destruction I would take action.

I have been made aware of this incident and others, and so have been working with officials to develop further measures which will target those who continue to flout the law and I will announce further details shortly“.

UPDATE 23.30hrs: For a limited period, watch David Miller’s tv report on Reporting Scotland here (BBC iPlayer, 11.40 mins in).




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

Blog Stats

  • 6,812,534 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors