Posts Tagged ‘Moy Estate


Cabinet Secretary at Moy Game Fair: what message for the raptor killers?

The Moy (Highland) Game Fair kicks off today, where the great & good of the game shooting world gather to celebrate their activities.

Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, will be there again this year, especially as this is bang slap in the middle of his constituency and he’s a big supporter of the game shooting industry.

We’ve often puzzled over the choice of venue for this event. The area has quite a history. In fact this region of the Monadhliaths, to the north west of the Cairngorms National Park, is one of the well known raptor persecution hotspots in Scotland.

Last year, Fergus Ewing rocked up to the Fair as usual, but his first time as a Cabinet Secretary. Have a watch of this video and listen to the strong message he gave to any raptor killing criminals that might have been listening. Not quite the message we might have hoped for from a senior representative of a Government that’s supposed to be big on stamping out raptor persecution, and in sharp contrast to the message given by another Cabinet Secretary earlier this year:


More moor burning at Moy – it’s simply perverse

The gamekeepers at Moy Estate are continuing to set the moor alight as part of their grouse moor management strategy. Here’s a photo taken from a train yesterday showing a fire on the Moy grouse moors.


This fire isn’t as extensive as the one at Moy we blogged about last week but it’s just as interesting.

Take a look at the right hand side of the photo and you’ll see some wind turbines. These are part of the 20-turbine Moy wind farm, built on the moors of Moy Estate, that became operational earlier this year.

The whole purpose of installing (publicly-subsidised) wind turbines is to create renewable energy and thus reduce the carbon emissions that would otherwise be created from burning fossil fuels.

Isn’t it a bit perverse, then, that the estate has also leased the moors to a shooting tenant whose (probably publicly subsidised) management techniques include the regular burning of heather? By burning the heather, the carbon-rich peaty soil is disturbed and exposed. As the soil dries out, the stored carbon decomposes and releases carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Oh the irony.


Extensive fire damage from Moy grouse moor ‘hair cut’

The muirburn season has re-opened (1 Oct – 15 Apr) and it hasn’t taken long for the grouse moor hairdressers to splash around the fire accelerant and bring out the blow torches.

This is a photo of a fire on the Moy Estate grouse moor at 21.43hr on Wednesday night (5th October 2016). For perspective, the photo was taken from 5km away in Daviot. A pretty big fire then.


And here’s a photo taken the following day showing the extent of this fire. The area burned was huge and this image only shows part of it as the damage extends over the hill. Doesn’t look much like small ‘patch’ or ‘strip’ burning, does it? Perhaps it wasn’t muirburn after all?


The fire wasn’t properly extinguished and was left unattended. Isn’t that against the muirburn code?  This photo was taken on the afternoon of Thursday 6th Oct at 17.10hr. Here the fire has engulfed one of the estate’s middens (stink pits) where the rotting carcasses of dead wildlife are dumped and the area ring-fenced with snares to catch any animal that comes along to investigate the putrid remains.


This photo was taken at 17.35hr on Thursday 6 Oct. The fire was still unattended and creeping towards the FCS forestry block, 200m away.


It’s ok though, nothing to worry about because “burning heather is the same as getting your hair cut“.


More raptor persecution at Moy

Moy chicksPolice Scotland has issued an appeal for information following the discovery of disturbed and abandoned buzzard and goshawk nests in the Moy Forest near Tomatin in the Scottish Highlands.

During May this year, one goshawk and four buzzard nests have been abandoned in suspicious circumstances, with some evidence of illegal disturbance. These nests were being monitored by staff from Forestry Enterprise Scotland.

Further details and an appeal for information here

This area is no stranger to illegal raptor persecution. In 2010, a 20-year old gamekeeper employed by Moy Estate was convicted for possession of a dead red kite that was found in the back of his vehicle. It had two broken legs and it’s head had been smashed in.

During the police raid on the grouse moors of Moy Estate, the following was also found:

  • The remains of a further two dead red kites.
  • A red kite’s severed leg, along with wing tags that had been fitted to a sateliite-tracked red kite, hidden in holes covered with moss.
  • Six baited spring traps illegally set in the open.
  • A trapped hen harrier (still alive) caught in an illegally set spring trap.
  • A poisoned bait.
  • Four leg rings previously fitted to golden eagle chicks found in the possession of a gamekeeper.

No charges were brought against anybody for these additional crimes.

Our previous blogs on Moy can be read here.

Moy is also home of the annual Highland Game Fair, regularly attended by certain MSPs, Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association to ‘celebrate’ the activities of the game-shooting industry.

The petition to ban driven grouse shooting can be found here


Henry’s tour day 39: Moy Estate

Mon 8 June 2015 - Copy

Henry paid a visit to Moy Estate in the Monadliaths.

Regular blog readers will probably remember what was found on Moy Estate in 2010:

  • A dead red kite in the back of a gamekeeper’s vehicle. It had two broken legs and had died as a result of a blow to the head.
  • The remains of a further two dead red kites.
  • A red kite’s severed leg, along with wing tags that had been fitted to a sateliite-tracked red kite, hidden in holes covered with moss.
  • Six illegal baited spring traps set in the open.
  • A trapped hen harrier (still alive) caught in an illegally set spring trap.
  • A poisoned bait.
  • Four leg rings previously fitted to golden eagle chicks found in the possession of a gamekeeper.

A 20-year-old gamekeeper (James Rolfe – straight out of game-keeping college) was charged with possession of the dead red kite and was fined £1,500. No charges were ever brought against anyone for any of the other offences.

Previous blogs on Moy: see here, herehere and here. It’s particularly worth having a look at this, especially in light of recent hen harrier ‘disappearances’ in England. They weren’t necessarily shot (as the grouse-shooting industry keeps telling us) – they could just as easily have been trapped like this (as the grouse-shooting industry keeps forgetting to mention).

The gamekeeper on Moy was convicted four years ago in 2011. Since then, several more satellite-tracked red kites have ‘disappeared’ since their last signals emitted from Moy, and several buzzard and goshawk nests seem to fail each year. It’s quite windy at Moy. It was probably the wind that blew off those rings from the young golden eagles’ legs and blew them straight in to a jar inside the gamekeeper’s house. It was probably the wind that severed the leg of the red kite and then blew it in to a hole on the moor and then blew moss over the hole to cover it. It was probably the wind that blew away the more recent ‘missing’ red kites. It was probably the same wind that blew holes in those buzzard and goshawk nests, too. Still no breeding hen harriers on this estate – yep, must have been blown away.

Word has it that the game management on Moy Estate is being taken over by a sporting agent with whom we’re very familiar. Cue hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of night vision equipment to carry out his particular style of grouse moor management.

Henry left the estate before darkness fell. He lives another day, although he’s still single.


Moy game fair: carry on regardless

The Moy Game Fair starts today. On the Moy Estate.

Moy is quite the venue. In 2010, the following was found there:

  • A dead red kite in the back of a gamekeeper’s vehicle. It had two broken legs and had died as a result of a blow to the head (see photo).
  • The remains of a further two dead red kites.
  • A red kite’s severed leg, along with wing tags that had been fitted to a sateliite-tracked red kite, hidden in holes covered with moss.
  • Six illegal baited spring traps set in the open.
  • A trapped hen harrier caught in an illegally set spring trap.
  • A poisoned bait.
  • Four leg rings previously fitted to golden eagle chicks found in the possession of a gamekeeper.

In May 2011, gamekeeper James Rolfe was convicted for possession of the dead red kite found in the back of his vehicle. He was fined £1,500. No charges were brought against anyone for any of the other offences.

If you’re heading to the Moy Game Fair, keep an eye out for ‘missing’ red kites. In May 2011, a satellite-tracked red kite ‘disappeared’ there. In August 2011, another red kite ‘disappeared’ there.

Ironically, representatives from the game-shooting industry will all be there, telling visitors how great their industry is for nature conservation. So much for strong leadership and zero tolerance (see here).

Talking of venue choice……..take a look at this! A government-approved GWCT training course being held at the one and only Glenogil Estate!

The photograph below shows the dead red kite with two broken legs and severe head injuries, lying in the back of a gamekeeper’s vehicle.

Moy kite 2a


Here comes 2013….the year of natural scotland

imagesHappy Hogmanay!

Tomorrow marks the start of another Scottish government themed year: The Year of Natural Scotland, in which we’re encouraged to celebrate Scotland’s stunning natural beauty and biodiversity. Good job it wasn’t this year’s theme as there might have been some red faces in the government:

  • SGA gamekeeper Whitefield sentenced for poisoning four buzzards (he already had an earlier wildlife crime conviction). His sentence this time? 100 hours community service.
  • Scottish gamekeeper McLachlan, convicted for possession of the banned poison Carbofuran. Fined £635.
  • Scottish gamekeeper Barrie lost an appeal for his sentence of £520 for illegal possession and control of a wild bird.
  • COPFS choosing not to prosecute a Scottish gamekeeper who had been filmed beating birds to death with a stick inside a crow cage trap.
  • Scottish gamekeeper Christie convicted for wildlife crimes relating to the illegal use of a crow cage trap. His sentence? An admonishment (a telling off).
  • Scottish gamekeeper Graham convicted for allowing a buzzard to starve to death inside a crow cage trap. Fined £450.
  • Scottish gamekeeper McKellar convicted for possession of banned poison. Fined £1,200.
  • Scottish gamekeeper Scobie convicted for using banned poison. Fined £270.
  • A satellite-tagged golden eagle mysteriously ‘disappeared’ in the Angus glens.
  • A satellite-tagged golden eagle mysteriously ‘disappeared’ to the North East of the Cairngorms National Park.
  • Peregrine chicks mysteriously ‘disappeared’ from a nest site in Dumfries & Galloway.
  • A golden eagle was found dead, poisoned in Lochaber.
  • A golden eagle was found dead in suspicious circumstances on the Isle of Harris. Still awaiting results.
  • A satellite-tagged golden eagle mysteriously ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths.
  • A poisoned raven, crow, and three poisoned baits were found in the Borders.
  • A satellite-tagged golden eagle was found dead near a lay-by in Aberdeenshire. Its injuries and its sat tag data suggested it had been illegally trapped on an Angus grouse moor and then dumped during the night and left to die.
  • A golden eagle was found shot and critically injured on a grouse moor in Dumfries & Galloway.
  • Barry, the sat-tagged hen harrier from Langholm mysteriously ‘disappeared’.
  • Buzz, the sat-tagged buzzard mysteriously ‘disappeared’ in the Angus glens. (More on this case in the New Year).
  • Willow, a sat-tagged marsh harrier mysteriously ‘disappeared’ in Galloway.
  • A hen harrier was found shot dead on an Aberdeenshire grouse moor.

These are just a few of the ‘highlights’ from Scotland this year – there are a few more that we can’t yet report but we will in the New Year. And of course this list doesn’t include other confirmed incidents from other parts of these fair isles such as England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic; a list that includes shot and poisoned sea eagles, buzzards, kites, harriers, peregrines and sparrowhawks. Nor does it include the incidents that went undiscovered.

We’ll be blogging quite a lot about the Year of Natural Scotland, which hopefully won’t be just a banner-waving exercise by the government but an opportunity for them to put their money where their mouths are. You don’t think so? No, neither do we. Why should 2013 be any different from the previous three decades of ineffective action?

A hint of what’s to come is the revelation that the theme will be highlighted during several events throughout the year. Two particular locations caught our attention: the Scone Game Fair and the Moy Game Fair.

The Scone Game Fair is of course organised by the GWCT. That’s the same GWCT that has recently asked for the addition of buzzards and sparrowhawks to the General Licences (that means they want permission to kill them…we’ll be blogging about that shortly). It’s also the same Game Fair that has previously attracted sponsorship from some very, how shall we put it, ‘surprising’ sources.

The Moy Game Fair is held on the Moy Estate near Inverness. If you’re unaware of this place, try googling it.

Thanks for all your interest and support in 2012…we’ll see you soon. Sláinte!

This golden eagle was found shot, critically injured &left to die on a Scottish grouse moor. Photo SSPCA

This golden eagle was found shot, critically injured and left to die on a Scottish grouse moor. Photo SSPCA


Is this what happened to the Langholm harriers?

Is this what happened to this year’s Langholm harrier chicks, Barry and Blae? (Blae confirmed dead, Barry now ‘missing’ – see this morning’s blog entry below).

These photos were taken on Moy Estate in 2010. Naturally, nobody was charged with these offences. Probably not enough “hard evidence”, eh? One gamekeeper (James Rolfe) was charged with possession of a dead red kite that was found in the back of his vehicle. The kite had two broken legs and its head had been caved in with a blunt instrument (see here and here for background info).

This first photograph shows a skinned rabbit that had been placed out on the moor. Can you see the hidden spring traps on either side of this bait? No? Any passing raptor would probably struggle to see them, too:

This next photo shows another bait found set on Moy with two spring traps. This time the moss has been removed so the traps could be photographed. These traps are illegal when used in this way:

This next photo shows a hen harrier caught in one of the illegal traps that had been laid out on Moy Estate. The picture is slightly blurred but we can forgive the photographer, given the circumstances:

Here’s the same harrier being carefully removed from the trap. This one was lucky – he survived:


Glen Orchy: a hollow victory

Last Friday, Tom McKellar, an employee of Auch Estate, an Argyll sporting estate in Bridge of Orchy, was convicted of possessing the illegal poison Carbofuran and was fined £1,200 (see here). This conviction should be a cause for celebration, and in some respects it is, but there is also an overwhelming sense of disappointment and frustration. We had all thought this was a pretty clear-cut case, with lots of investigative resources thrown at it, a strong evidential trail and a known suspect. We were further encouraged by a statement given by the then Scottish Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, who said:

I am truly appalled that yet another golden eagle has been illegally killed in Scotland – the second this summer. Illegal poisoning is simply inexcusable and while the perpetrators are certainly beneath contempt they are in no way above the law“.

Given the nature of the alleged offences (wildlife & firearms), we were certain that a custodial sentence was inevitable. How stupid were we?

It all started to unravel in December 2010, 18 months after the poisoned eagle was found dead in Glen Orchy. We learned that Tom McKellar had been convicted of possessing two illegal handguns, but instead of receiving the mandatory five-year prison sentence, he was given just 300 hours community service and a commendation from the judge who reportedly told him: “There is no doubt you are an outstanding individual” (see here). There was little mention in the media about the poisoned golden eagle or the stash of illegal poison that had been found at McKellar’s house during the original police search. We were suspicious that the wildlife crimes were being ignored and that COPFS had decided to just take on the firearms offences because, in the eyes of the law, these are greater crimes than the poisoning offences and would normally result in a custodial sentence.

Based on these suspicions, we blogged about the case in January 2011, and suggested that no charges were being brought against anyone for poisoning that eagle. We also encouraged readers to contact the Scottish Government to complain. Many did, and all hell let loose. The Scottish Government responded by saying that the firearms offences were being dealt with separately, at a court with a higher authority than a Sheriff Court, and that the wildlife offences were still ‘being dealt with’. A well-known prosecutor threatened us, indirectly, with legal action. For what? Expressing an opinion? As it turns out, we were right all along, nobody has been prosecuted for poisoning that golden eagle, although we’ve had to wait for over three years to have this confirmed.

It then all went quiet for a while, at least publicly. It’s not known whether COPFS bowed to pressure to take forward the wildlife crime prosecution or whether they had actually been pursuing the charge all along, but that it took over three years for the case to conclude is probably quite telling.  Not that it really matters now anyway; what matters is the outcome.

So, a conviction was eventually secured, although this was just for ‘possession’ of a banned substance; in our opinion this is the least significant charge of any that could have been brought. McKellar admitted during interviews that he had laid out poisoned baits ‘in the past’, and yet he wasn’t charged for that. Were the words ‘in the past’ significant in the decision not to press charges for that offence? What does ‘in the past’ mean, anyway? Two years ago? Two weeks ago? Two days ago? Two hours ago? In addition to the poisoned golden eagle, a Carbofuran-poisoned fox was found and also a dead sheep laced with Carbofuran. Someone was clearly still putting out poisoned baits, but COPFS accepted McKellar’s claim that he wasn’t responsible. It’s unfortunate that these types of offences are only dealt with as summary cases in a Sheriff Court. It would have been interesting to hear what a jury might have thought had the charges been heard in a higher court. Again, we’ll never know and we have to accept that McKellar is guilty of nothing more than possessing the banned poison Carbofuran (oh, and possessing two illegal handguns).

It’s hard not to think that McKellar has come out of all this relatively lightly. It’s also hard to believe that his punishments will act as any sort of deterrent to other would-be criminals. He avoided a mandatory five-year prison term for the firearms offences, and he was fined just a fraction of the amount that he could have been fined for possessing the illegal poison Carbofuran. It appears that he has also kept his job. Auch Estate is currently up for sale (for a mere £8.4 million) and a look at the sales particulars (Auch Estate sales brochure 2012), dated August 2012, indicates that the new owner has to take on the current Estate employees under the TUPE regulations, including Farm Manager Tom McKellar. These sales particulars also show that almost £700,000 was paid in grants and subsidies during 2011; it would be interesting to know whether there will be any forfeiture of these payments following McKellar’s conviction, although based on previous experience, this information is exceptionally difficult to access, even though it’s public money! It would also be interesting to hear whether McKellar’s employer is being investigated, after McKellar reportedly claimed it was his employer who had provided him with the Carbofuran (see here). Wouldn’t it also be interesting to find out whether Auch Estate is a member of Scottish Land & Estates? And whether McKellar, as an employee of a sporting estate, is a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association? Needless to say, neither of these organisations has made any public statements about McKellar’s conviction last Friday.

Other question marks include a strange bit of (non)-reporting by SASA. The poisoned golden eagle found at Glen Orchy was listed in SASA’s 2009 annual report. However, the dead fox found nearby that was reported to have been poisoned by Carbofuran did not appear in the SASA report. Neither did the dead sheep also found nearby that was reportedly laced with Carbofuran and used as poisoned bait. Why weren’t these two animals included in SASA’s list of confirmed poison cases for 2009? Perhaps SASA didn’t do the toxicology tests. If they didn’t, then who did? If SASA did do the tests, but failed to include the animals in their report, what confidence does this give us when SASA release their annual poisoning statistics? Are other cases missing? We only knew about the fox and the sheep because the RSPB had listed them in their annual report.

A further question mark hangs over a related issue. The media has reported that the poisoned golden eagle found dead in Glen Orchy had been killed with the banned pesticide Carbofuran. However, if you look at the 2009 SASA report, the following chemicals are listed as being detected in this bird’s body: Carbofuran, Methiocarb, Sodium Cyanide and Strychnine. Now, we have it on good authority, although this has not been formally verified, that a second individual was searched during the police raid back in June 2009. This individual, XXXXX XXXXX is believed to be a gamekeeper in Perthshire but is not an employee of Auch Estate; he was just there on the day the police arrived to conduct their search. We understand that the police found Mr XXXXX to be in possession of a bottle of Strychnine and a container of decanted Cyanide. Now look again at the chemicals detected in the body of the dead golden eagle. As far as we are aware, no charges have been brought against Mr XXXXX, not even for possession. If this turns out to be an accurate report, then something has gone seriously wrong with this investigation. A lack of resources can’t be blamed on this one, given the array of organisations involved with the investigation, including multiple police forces with specialist wildlife crime officers as well as the National Wildlife Crime Unit. So what happened? Did Mr XXXXX slip through the net and if so, how? Do you think we’ll hear anything about this or do you think it’ll be quietly pushed under the carpet?

In summary then, yes, a conviction was secured (McKellar) and we should be pleased about that. McKellar’s illegal stash of Carbofuran and his illegal cache of handguns have been taken out of circulation and so we should also be pleased about that, too. But this is not what could be called a successful outcome; far from it. It’s deeply unsatisfactory and shares striking similarities with other recent, high-profile cases which also concluded unsatisfactorily, such as Moy Estate and Skibo Estate. In all three cases, and in countless other lower-profile cases, sporting estate employees have only been charged with the lesser offence of possession. Charges have not been brought against anyone for the illegally-killed raptors found in each location, nor for laying the illegal poisoned baits or for putting out the illegal traps. On a superficial level then, the convictions for possession look good and the authorities can claim they are successfully addressing the issue of wildlife crime. Scratch below the publicity gloss though and you find that very little progress has been made; charges, if they’re brought at all, are not reflecting the full extent of the crimes uncovered, and on conviction the sentences are not reflecting the seriousness of these crimes.


Lochindorb hare snare trial: latest

Quelle surprise! The Lochindorb Estate hare snare trial was adjourned yesterday for deliberations. It will continue in mid-August (coincidentally, after the opening of the grouse shooting season).

Conveniently, the timing of the latest adjournment also coincides with the opening of the game fair at Moy Estate today. Anybody remember the Moy Estate? See here for a reminder. How surprising to see prominent members of the game-shooting lobby attending an event at this venue, along with SNH Chairman Andrew Thin (see here and here). Actually, it’s not a surprise at all. Carry on regardless.

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

Blog Stats

  • 6,566,733 hits


Our recent blog visitors