Posts Tagged ‘Leadhills Estate

08
Sep
17

GWCT twisting the truth about hen harrier persecution, again

A few days ago we blogged about a series of letters published in The Times (Scotland) relating to the disappearance of a young satellite-tagged hen harrier Calluna, who recently vanished after visiting a Deeside grouse moor.

Scottish Land & Estates used the incident as an opportunity to falsely accuse the RSPB of not following agreed protocols, presumably in a pathetic attempt to detract attention from the ongoing criminality associated with the driven grouse shooting industry. We’ve come to expect no better from this organisation.

As a follow on from those letters, another industry figure, Andrew Gilruth from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), decided to join in and spew out some more fakery, this time in The Times (London edition). Here’s what he wrote, published 7 Sept 2017:

HEN HARRIER HABITAT

Sir,

The RSPB are right to say an organisation must not “ignore facts to suit its narrow agenda” (letter, Sep 5). The most productive location for hen harrier nests, 47 fledged young from 12 nests, was achieved by gamekeepers on Langholm Moor just three years ago. However, their improvement of the moorland habitat and protection of these ground nesting birds from foxes has now ended, because conservationists could not agree on how to also recover grouse numbers. Should hen harrier numbers drop to the two pairs there were before these gamekeepers arrived in 2008, the birds might ask who has the narrowest agenda.

Andrew Gilruth
Director of Communications
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

You’ll notice how Andrew’s distraction technique has cleverly moved the story away from the news of Calluna’s suspicious disappearance from a grouse moor and has instead tried to re-focus the story on to how great grouse moors are for hen harriers. Unfortunately for Andrew, choosing the Langholm Moor study as an example to support this theory was not the brightest idea.

Here’s why, succinctly explained in a letter published in The Times (London) today:

ABSENCE OF HARRIERS

Sir,

Andrew Gilruth’s letter (September 7) brings to mind Kipling’s poem ‘If’ for the manner in which it twists the truth to make a trap for fools.

The single and only reason Langholm Moor supported 12 harrier nests that fledged 47 young was that the gamekeepers working on this collaborative demonstration project were under strict instructions not to kill them and operate within the law. It is very telling that no other driven grouse moors in Scotland (or the rest of the UK) can equal this hen harrier population or productivity. What this statistic actually suggests, therefore, is the rampant scale of illegal killing of this majestic bird, given its landscape-wide absence and the lack of breeding success on all other driven grouse moors and which our members, (who are licenced by Scottish Natural Heritage), monitor across Scotland every year.

Logan Steele

Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG)

Logan hits the nail on the head. If driven grouse moors are so great for breeding hen harriers, why are we seeing an almost total absence of breeding hen harriers on these moors, year after year after year? Of course, the disgusting truth is already well known.

Andrew Gilruth’s letter has been widely shared on social media by the criminal apologists and has been followed up with other examples of supposedly typical driven grouse moors that have good hen harrier breeding figures this year. Unfortunately, these people are as scientifically illiterate as Andrew Gilruth and have used wholly inappropriate examples to illustrate their (fake) claims, e.g. Leadhills Estate, which had nine hen harrier nests this year, but this estate hasn’t seen any driven grouse shooting for a number of years (see here). There are other claims of “an estate in Perthshire” with 12-15 hen harrier nests this year – the estate hasn’t been named (natch) but they might be referring to Atholl Estate, which these days is a pretty good estate with a sympathetic management approach to breeding raptors, but only offers walked-up grouse shooting, not driven grouse shooting, so any successfull hen harrier nests there this year cannot be attributed to driven grouse moor management. Sorry, trolls, you must try harder.

Anyway, getting back to the actual news, that hen harrier Calluna is the latest in a long, long, long, long line of satellite-tagged raptors that ‘disappear’ after visiting certain driven grouse moors, it’s been a week since the RSPB appealed for information.

We’ve been looking at the social media accounts of various shooting industry organisations to see how much effort these ‘leaders’ have put in to encouraging their members to pass on information to the police. You can probably guess what we found (or didn’t find). That tells its own story about the sincerity and commitment of the industry to rid itself of its dirty criminals. Mark Avery has a pretty good explanation about the industry’s refusal to reform (see here) and Andrew Gilruth’s chronic propaganda patter gives Mark’s theory much credence.

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31
Aug
17

Raven-killing licence, breeding hen harriers & return of a familiar name at Leadhills Estate

Regular readers of this blog will be very familiar with the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in South Lanarkshire. We’ve been blogging about it for years, not only as a well known hotspot for illegal raptor persecution but also because of the owners’ links to the establishment and to landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates.

Here’s a map showing the location of Leadhills Estate (dotted lines show the estate boundary of neighbouring Buccleuch Estate, which has in the past been partly ‘managed’ by Leadhills Estate gamekeepers. Estate boundaries from Andy Wightman’s excellent website Who Owns Scotland).

A few months ago we submitted an FoI to SNH on an unrelated issue, and after some prevarication, we’ve finally received a response. Part of that response was quite surprising, on two levels.

First, it turns out that SNH has been issuing licences to kill ravens on Leadhills Estate for the last three years. The evidence supplied to justify the licences seems pretty thin, at best. Have a look at the licence applications, which are remarkably similiar, submitted on behalf of Linlithgow Farms Ltd and the Leadhills Trust here: Leadhills Raven Licence

We don’t know much about the population status of ravens in this part of Scotland but if any blog readers have detailed knowledge, we’d be pleased to hear about it.

However, also of interest to us was the headed notepaper used in the licensing correspondence between the applicant and SNH. Well, well, well, look who’s back:

As many of you will know, this is one of Mark Osborne’s companies. Osborne has a long history with Leadhills Estate. Between 2003-2006 he was listed as a Director of Leadhills Sporting Ltd, a company who held the sporting rights at Leadhills. Osborne resigned in 2006, shortly after the police raided the estate for alleged wildlife crimes (no prosecutions followed).

The sporting rights were later put up for sale in 2008 and Osborne was cited as joint agent (with Savills Estate Agent) in the sale. The sporting rights were again offered for sale in 2013 on a ten-year lease although it’s not clear whether Osborne was involved and it’s not known whether anyone took on the lease. We suspect not, as according to our local sources there hasn’t been any grouse shooting at Leadhills for a number of years; a fact verified by the estate earlier this year in a press release issued by Media House following the reported shooting of a hen harrier on the estate.

The reported shooting of a hen harrier at Leadhills was a bit of a surprise to us. Since the driven grouse shooting stopped and the number of full-time gamekeepers was reduced from ten to two, hen harriers have been making a bit of a comeback here. In 2015 there were three successful nests and this year there are reports of nine nests, and certainly some of those (if not all) have been successful. This is very, very welcome news and we hope, if driven grouse shooting does begin again on these moors, that the hen harriers will continue to thrive.

So, in the absence of driven grouse shooting and the estate’s tolerance of breeding hen harriers, the reported shooting in May of a hen harrier, by an armed man on a quad bike, was very disappointing. This was then closely followed by the reported shooting of a short-eared owl on the estate, this time by an armed man driving a black 4×4 vehicle. Police investigations continue in both cases.

We’re keen to see whether SNH considers the reported shooting of a hen harrier and a short-eared owl sufficient grounds for restricting the use of the General Licence at Leadhills Estate. We’ll have to wait and see. It’s a process that JM Osborne & Co will be quite familiar with; this sporting agency is involved with the management of Raeshaw Estate which had it’s General Licence restricted in 2015 after police uncovered evidence of attempted raptor persecution, and the estate has recently had its subsequent ‘Individual Licence’ revoked and a police investigation is underway for more alleged wildlife crime offences.

Interesting times.

27
Jun
17

Short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate – police appeal for info

Police Scotland are appealing for information after the shooting of a short-eared owl was witnessed on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate, South Lanarkshire.

According to this article in the Carluke Gazette, the shooting was witnessed about 11.45am on 31 May 2017 (ironically, the day Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a package of new measures to clamp down on the illegal persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors).

Photo of a short-eared owl by Jamie MacArthur

The suspect/culprit is described by Police as “being small or medium build, driving a black 4×4 type vehicle with a dark canopy on it. The vehicle thereafter drove off to the B7040 Elvanfoot Road“.

Witnesses are sought, and those with information are urged to call Police Scotland 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Well done Police Scotland for getting this news out and not sitting on it for three years. More of this, please.

The location given is the same as described in an earlier Police appeal for information following the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier earlier in May 2017 (see earlier blogs here and here).

Here’s a map of the Leadhills Estate (Leadhills Estate in block red, dotted line denotes neighbouring Buccleuch Estate boundary, info from Who Owns Scotland).

And here is a map showing the B7040 Elvanfoot Road, which runs right across the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate:

We’ve blogged extensively about this estate (see here) and we’d particularly encourage new readers to have a look at the very long list of raptor persecution crimes recorded (49 incidents [now 50] recorded over the last 14 years see here). There have only ever been two convictions of estate gamekeepers.

We’ll be blogging more about this place shortly.

In the meantime, we need to see an immediate response from the Scottish Government. On 31 May 2017 the Cabinet Secretary told the world that the Government would “Immediately review all available legal measures which could be used to target geographical areas of concern“.

Has that been done? What are the legal measures available, and when will they be implemented?

16
May
17

More on the shot hen harrier near Leadhills

RSPB Scotland has issued a press statement following this morning’s news that a hen harrier was shot near Leadhills on 4 May 2017:

Following the issuing of a press statement by Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland has today added its voice to the appeal for information following the shooting of a protected hen harrier on a grouse moor near the village of Leadhills in South Lanarkshire. The incident happened at 5.15pm on 4th May, when the female bird was killed. An individual, armed with a shotgun and with his face covered, was observed at the scene, but left hurriedly, on a quad bike before the police were able to attend.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson said: “This latest incident shows very clearly how protected birds of prey continue to be treated in some areas of our uplands, particularly where there is intensive grouse moor management. The hen harrier is an increasingly rare bird in southern and eastern Scotland, with illegal killing the main driver of this long term decline. This incident occurred only a few miles from where a satellite-tagged harrier, known as “Annie”, was found shot a couple of years ago, and is close to where another tagged bird, “Chance” disappeared mysteriously last spring. We ask that, if anyone has information about this latest incident at Leadhills, they contact Police Scotland on 101.”

Ian Thomson continued “The recent decision by the Crown Office to discontinue a court case where there was clear video evidence of the alleged shooting of another hen harrier, has clearly sent out a message to those that wish to kill our protected birds of prey, that they can continue to do so with impunity, knowing that even if their alleged crimes are caught on film, they are unlikely to be called to account. We need this last matter to be addressed by the public authorities as a matter of urgency. ”

END

So, it has now been confirmed that the hen harrier was shot ‘on a grouse moor near the village of Leadhills’ by an armed, masked man who escaped on a quad bike. According to Police Scotland, the shooting took place ‘near to the B7040 Elvanfoot to Leadhills road’. We thought we’d take a closer look:

According to information from Andy Wightman’s brilliant Who Owns Scotland website, the B7040 runs from Elvanfoot right across the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate (estate shown in block red):

Was this hen harrier shot on the Leadhills Estate?

Regular blog readers will be very familiar with the Leadhills Estate and neighbouring Buccleuch Estate (Leadhills Estate gamekeepers have previously undertaken ‘pest’ control on parts of Buccleuch Estate) in south Scotland. For new readers, here’s a map showing the location (Leadhills Estate in block red, dotted line denotes Buccleuch Estate boundary, info from Who Owns Scotland). Look how close this is to the Moffat hills, where the Scottish Government plans to translocate golden eagles next year.

Here’s a list of 48 reported raptor persecution crimes from this area over the last 14 years. Only two resulted in successful convictions (2004 – Leadhills Estate gamekeeper convicted of shooting a short-eared owl; 2009 – Leadhills Estate gamekeeper convicted of placing out a poisoned rabbit bait).

Here’s the list, all from Leadhills unless otherwise stated:

2003 April: hen harrier shot [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2004 May: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2004 May: short-eared owl shot [gamekeeper convicted]

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [gamekeeper convicted]

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2010 October: short-eared owl shot [no prosecution]

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap [no prosecution]

2011 December: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2012 October: golden eagle shot (just over boundary with Buccleuch Estate) [no prosecution]

2013 May: shot otter found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 June: significant cache of pre-prepared poisoned baits found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 August: red kite found shot and critically-injured in Leadhills village [no prosecution]

2014 February: poisoned peregrine (Carbofuran) [‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2015 April: hen harrier ‘Annie’ found shot [Leadhills/Buccluech] [no prosecution]

2016 May: hen harrier ‘Chance’ ‘disappeared’ [Leadhills/Buccleuch] [no prosecution]

Here’s a photo of one of the many intensively-managed driven grouse moors on Leadhills Estate (photo by RPUK)

We’ve previously blogged about the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate at length and in detail. We know it is a member of landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (at least it was in 2015, see here) and Earl Hopetoun is still currently listed as the Chair of Scottish Land & Estate’s Moorland Group.

Earl Hopetoun has previously denied that Hopetoun Estate has any involvement with grouse moor management at the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate. In 2012 his spokesperson was quoted:

The Earl of Hopetoun’s position on wildlife crime is unequivocal. He has constantly condemned any such activity. More importantly, Hopetoun Estate has no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate. Leadhills Estate is run on a sporting lease completely separately and there is no connection between Hopetoun Estate and the sporting management of Leadhills”. 

We disputed this claim about Hopetoun Estates having ‘no role whatsoever in the management of Leadhills Estate’  – see here, here and especially here.

However, at this stage, we’ve gone past the arguments of who owns it, or who owns the sporting lease, or who is responsible for the day-to-day management. Despite Earl Hopetoun’s clear condemnation of raptor persecution, and despite the sporting lease stating clearly that wildlife protection legislation must be adhered to, raptor persecution has been persistent in this area, over a long period of years, and almost all of it has gone unpunished. It is clearly beyond the control of those responsible for managing this land which leaves no other option but for state-regulated control. It’s gone too far. It’s time for the Scottish Government to implement the action that has been promised for years.

Later today we’ll be publishing an open letter on this subject to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

UPDATE 6PM: Open letter to the Cabinet Secretary here

UPDATE: Statement from Leadhills Estate (via Media House PR) here

16
May
17

Hen harrier shot near Leadhills

Police Scotland are appealing for witnesses after a hen harrier was reported shot near Leadhills, South Lanarkshire.

According to this article in the Carluke Gazette, Police received a report at 5.15pm on 4 May 2017 that a man had shot and killed a hen harrier near to the B7040 Elvanfoot to Leadhills road.

A number of witnesses have come forward, and significant enquiry is underway,” said Inspector Martin Speirs.

I urge anyone who witnessed the incident, or saw a male near the area on a quad bike at the time to come forward.  I also ask that anyone who has CCTV in the area review their cameras. Wanton killing of wildlife in these circumstances is unacceptable“.

We’ve blogged about Leadhills and the surrounding grouse moors many, many, many times. Too many, in fact.

UPDATE 11am: More on the shot hen harrier near Leadhills (here).

UPDATE 6pm: Open letter to the Cabinet Secretary here

Photo by RPUK

09
May
16

Guidance for deployment of gas guns on grouse moors – still waiting

A year ago in May 2015, someone sent us some photographs of three propane gas gun bird scarers that had been deployed on the grouse moor at Leadhills Estate, South Lanarkshire (see here).

Bird scarer 1 - Copy

These gas guns are routinely used for bird scaring on agricultural fields – they are set up to produce a periodic booming noise to scare pigeons, geese etc away from crops. The audible bang can reach volumes in excess of 150 decibels. We wondered why they were being used on grouse moors in the height of the breeding season?

A month later in June 2015, Mark Avery published photographs of gas guns that had also been deployed in the Peak District National Park and on an unnamed grouse moor in the Scottish Borders (see here).

We were interested in the deployment of these bird scarers in relation to (a) their proximity to Schedule 1 (and in Scotland, Schedule 1A) bird species [and thus any potential disturbance to these specially protected species] and (b) their use in designated Special Protection Areas [and thus any potential disturbance caused].

We assumed that the deployment of these gas guns would be subject to guidance and rigorous licensing controls by SNH and Natural England (as they are the licensing authorities for the Wildlife & Countryside Act (as amended)), particularly in relation to the hen harrier, which, as a Schedule 1A species (in Scotland only), is “protected from harassment [including disturbance] at any time“, not just when it’s trying to breed (see here).

So an FoI was sent to SNH to find out if anyone had requested a licence to use a gas gun on a grouse moor in the previous two years. It turned out nobody had.

An FoI was also sent to Natural England – no licence applications there either. It also emerged that NE had received a report in June 2015 of a gas gun being deployed on a SSSI on an estate in the North Pennines, without formal consent. In July 2015 a warning letter was sent to the estate asking them to remove the gas gun. The estate apparently complied and no further action was taken.

In September 2015, we encouraged blog readers to contact SNH and Natural England to ask for urgent guidance to be issued on the use of gas guns in protected areas and in close proximity breeding birds, particularly raptors (see here).

SNH responded quickly and said they would investigate, and depending on their findings, they may provide guidance (see here).

Natural England responded a short time later and said they recognised the need for guidance and that they were in the middle of drafting such guidance, which would be made available prior to the start of the 2016 breeding season (see here). In fact, Alan Law, Chief Strategy & Reform Officer at Natural England said: “I will arrange for you to be sent this guidance as soon as it becomes available, which will be in advance of next year’s breeding season“.

Well, the 2016 breeding season is already underway but we haven’t seen any formal guidance. Have you?

Let’s remind SNH and Natural England of their stated commitments and ask them to produce the following:

Emails to:

Andrew Bachell, Director of Policy & Advice, SNH: Andrew.Bachell@snh.gov.uk

Dear Andrew, Last September you said SNH would investigate the deployment of propane gas gun scarers with regard to the law, and specifically with regard to the recent guidance you issued on Schedule A1 and 1A species under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. You also said, depending on your findings, SNH would issue guidance if it was felt appropriate to do so. Please can you provide the results of your investigation and advise whether you intend to issue any formal guidance or not? Thanks.

And

Emails to:

Alan Law, Chief Strategy & Reform Officer, Natural Engand: alan.law@naturalengland.org.uk

Dear Alan, Last September you said Natural England was drafting formal guidance on the deployment of gas gun bird scarers within Special Protection Areas and their potential impact upon Schedule 1 birds. You also said this guidance would be available in advance of the 2016 breeding season. Please can you direct me to the location of this guidance document, or better still, please send me a copy, as you said you would. Thanks.

29
Jan
16

More shameless spin-doctoring from the Gift of Grouse

Gift of GrouseTim (Kim) Baynes, Director of the grouse-shooting industry’s propaganda campaign, The Gift of Grouse, is shameless. He must be to have penned his latest bout of spin-doctoring, this time pointing the finger at raptor workers.

Before we begin, here’s a definition of a spin doctor:

A person whose job involves trying to control the way something is described to the public in order to influence what people think about it“.

Ladies and gentlemen, the spin doctor is IN.

The following article, authored by Tim (Kim) Baynes, appears in today’s Courier and is entitled: ‘Trust needs to develop quickly between raptor groups and land management‘.

Despite the grouse season ending more than a month ago, our moorland continues to fire passions on all sides.

Since Jim Crumley’s last column, The Courier letters’ pages have been alive with debate. Yet, much of the criticism levelled at estates does not reflect what I see on our moors.

The Gift of Grouse campaign demonstrates the benefits of moorland, including species conservation.

Since then, a number of reports have been publicised. One looked at species present on Invermark, the estate cited by Jim Crumley. It found that 81 different bird species were breeding or feeding there, including a range of ‘red-listed’ most at risk birds. Amongst those present were 10 species of raptor including peregrine, golden eagle and hen-harrier.

Similar is happening on many Scottish estates. Yet disappointingly, the politics of the past – pitting raptor enthusiast versus gamekeeper – are still being played. The RSPB’s report uses incidents from two decades ago to influence present-day policymaking.  But, official figures from the past five years demonstrate raptor incidents are now in the teens per annum, with only some linked to land management. There is always work to be done but the law is tough on anyone convicted of wildlife crime, and even higher sentences are likely soon.

At the heart of this is continuing mistrust between some raptor enthusiasts and land managers. There are also internal rivalries within the raptor groups on who monitors which area, and this leads to secrecy. This is a serious issue as land managers need to know which birds are on their land in order to better manage them, but the survey results are often not shared with them, even when funded by bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage.

To break down mistrust, we must develop ways of maximising both raptors and prey species alongside grouse.  It should not be an either/or scenario. The persecution of raptors is becoming a thing of the past, but there is also a duty on raptor lobby to engage and share information. Trust is developing in some places but it needs to spread – and rapidly.

ENDS

Oh god, where to begin?

For context, perhaps we should begin by pointing out to those who don’t already know, Tim (Kim) Baynes is employed by the lairds’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates as Director of the Scottish Moorland Group. The Scottish Moorland Group is chaired by the one and only Lord Hopetoun – he of the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate – an estate with one of the worst records of illegal raptor persecution in the country.

Tim (Kim) is right in his assertion that there is distrust between some raptor workers and some landowners. Of course there is, and with bloody good reason!

Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) portrays itself as a wildlife-crime-fighting organisation and frequently points to its membership of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW Scotland) as evidence of this. SLE has consistently stated that it is working hard to eradicate wildlife crime, and particularly illegal raptor persecution. The thing is, many raptor workers simply don’t believe them. Why not? Well probably because SLE has not sought to expel several member estates that have been implicated, over many years, in raptor persecution crimes. It would be an easy thing for them to do, but they haven’t done it. Until they do, raptor workers (and the general public) are justified to view SLE and their land-owning members with deep suspicion.

Another good reason for distrusting SLE is their continued denial of the extent of illegal raptor persecution, and their denial that the grouse-shooting industry (some of whom are members of SLE) is in any way implicated with these crimes (e.g. see here and here for just two recent examples). Where clear evidence has been provided, (e.g. 81% of all reported poisoning incidents in Scotland between 2005-2014 were on land used for game-shooting – see here), SLE has simply dismissed the figures and slagged off the RSPB for providing them (here).

RSPB persecution review 1994 2014 land use

In his article for the Courier, Tim (Kim) tries to claim that grouse moors are ‘good’ for species conservation and refers to a recent ‘study’ of breeding birds on Invermark Estate to back up this claim. The problem is, the full details of that ‘study’ (and a couple of others) have not been made available for public scrutiny, despite several requests to see it, and therefore has naff all credibility, especially when the ‘study’ of breeding birds was conducted, er, outside of the breeding season (see here).

But what interested us the most about Tim’s (Kim’s) article in the Courier was his (false) accusations (he’s good at those) about the raptor study groups. He said:

There are also internal rivalries within the raptor groups on who monitors which area, and this leads to secrecy. This is a serious issue as land managers need to know which birds are on their land in order to better manage them, but the survey results are often not shared with them, even when funded by bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage”.

This is absolute rubbish. The Scottish Raptor Study Group comprises 12 regional branches. These branches organise raptor monitoring within clearly-defined geographic regions, to avoid over-lapping and thus avoid ‘double-counting’ as well as ‘double disturbance’ of sensitive species. All the raptor workers who monitor Schedule 1 species are licensed (by SNH) to do so. These Schedule 1 disturbance licences are issued for specific areas; so if you have a licence to monitor, say, golden eagles in one area, you can’t use the same licence to monitor them in another area unless your licence specifically includes another area. Again, this is to regulate the amount of disturbance to sensitive species. There is no “internal rivalry” – raptor workers simply get on with monitoring in their own patch.

Raptor workers DO share their data – they provide their results to the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme (SRMS) and have been doing so since 2002! Tim (Kim) is obviously annoyed that landowners aren’t given access to those data “in order to better manage” those species. We all know what he means by “better manage” and that is precisely why raptor workers would be reluctant to share location data about highly persecuted species with dodgy landowners. Duh!

Tim (Kim) tries to imply that raptor workers are funded by SNH and as such, the data they collect should be made publicly available. Again, he either misunderstands the system or he’s trying to spin it so that raptor workers look like the bad guys. The truth is, raptor workers are not ‘funded’ by SNH, or by anyone else. SNH does provide SOME funding to the SRSG, but this amounts to a small contribution towards raptor workers’ fuel costs. It certainly doesn’t cover the full fuel costs (the funding is actually well below the commercial mileage rate claimed by consultants) and it does not cover the thousands and thousands of hours of time that raptor workers put in to their monitoring efforts. As such, the data collected by raptor workers belong to the individual raptor worker; not to SNH, not to the SRSG, and not to anybody else. These raptor workers are volunteers – nobody pays for their time, experience and expertise. They can do what they like with their data. That they contribute those data to the SRMS is to their credit, and they do so because they know their data will be useful to conservation and scientific organisations who want to keep tabs on species’ populations. Tim (Kim) Bayne’s inference that raptor workers are the problem is disgraceful.

Trust him and the grouse-shooting industry? Not a bloody chance. Not until we see SLE expelling the estates where persistent raptor persecution continues. Not until we see SLE supporting the work of RSPB Scotland’s investigations team. Not until we see SLE acknowledging the extent of illegal raptor persecution. Not until we see healthy, sustainable breeding populations of raptors such as golden eagles, hen harriers, peregrines, over  a period of years, on driven grouse moors in central, eastern and southern Scotland.

By the way, Kim, you still haven’t provided an explanation for why hen harriers have been absent as a breeding species in the Angus Glens since 2006 (here). Try and spin-doctor your way out of that.




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