Posts Tagged ‘Moy Estate


Freedom of information documents highlight gamekeepers, fox hunting and raptor persecution in 3 public forests

The Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind has today revealed that Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) is still permitting the use of fox-hunting foot packs in several public forests, partly for the benefit of privately-owned grouse shooting estates. These public forests also happen to be in well-known raptor persecution hotspots.

In a freedom of information response, FLS admitted allowing the fox-hunt foot packs to operate in three public woodlands near Inverness: Loch Farr Wood, Farr Wood and Meall Mor near Moy.

[Moy has long been of interest to this blog, mostly for the frequency of illegal raptor persecution incidents recorded there for over a decade. And then there’s this: a photo to illustrate the stupidity of setting fire to the moor for grouse management, a few hundred yards from some publicly-subsidised wind turbines!]

The FoI documents also reveal that FLS staff suspected that gamekeepers were visiting the forests to look for fox dens to block up, which also happened to be beside Schedule 1 raptor nests, some of which have been repeatedly attacked in previous years.

For example, in 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information after one goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances in Moy Forest (see here).

In 2017, also in Moy Forest, masked gunmen were caught on camera underneath a goshawk nest. The nest, containing a clutch of eggs, was mysteriously abandoned shortly afterwards (see here and here).

In July this year, Police Scotland appealed for information after a dead goshawk was found in Loch Farr Wood – this bird had been shot (see here).

The issue of fox-hunting is beyond the remit of this blog although I’d question whether a Scottish Government agency should be complicit in supporting the eradication of native predators for the benefit of driven grouse shooting, which is what appears to be happening here.

If you’d like to read more about OneKind’s freedom of information request and FLS’s response about fox-hunting, gamekeepers and raptor persecution in these public forests, please see the OneKind blog (here) and an article in today’s National (here).

Meanwhile, as the authorities seem unable to tackle raptor persecution in public forests, we’re all still waiting to see whether NatureScot will impose a General Licence restriction on Moy Estate following the discovery of a poisoned satellite-tagged red kite found on the grouse moor almost a year ago, in October 2020 (see here).


“It’s essential that we carry on with muirburn”, says Scottish Government’s Rural Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing

Climate emergency? What climate emergency?

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, was speaking at the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s political hustings last Friday (and more on that soon!), and this is a direct quote from his two-minute position statement on what the SNP can do for gamekeepers:

It’s essential that we carry on with muirburn. We might come to that later. It’s absolutely essential to protect peatland. I’ve seen the Mars Bar film. I get it“.

Good grief. Let’s hope Fergus, if re-elected, isn’t part of the delegation attending the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1 – 12 November 2021; a summit to bring together parties to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, as we wait to find out what the proposed muirburn licensing scheme will look like, post-Werritty, the grouse moors are once again being set alight up and down the country.

Here are some photographs of the moors on Lochan Estate in Strathbraan this week, sent in by a blog reader:

And not for the first time (see here, here and here), here is the grouse moor on Moy Estate in the Monadhliaths, set alight last week, perversely next to the wind turbines installed to to create renewable energy and thus reduce the carbon emissions that would otherwise be created from burning fossil fuels:

The ParkswatchScotland blog has also reported on grouse moors being set alight inside the Cairngorms National Park this week (see here).

But not to worry – we’re only in a climate emergency and these fires are just like having your hair cut. And besides, the Cabinet Secretary has watched an amateur video made by some gamekeepers to convince himself that muirburning “is essential“. Who needs scientific research, eh?

If you’re in England, where DEFRA has announced a pathetic proposal to ban burning on moorland that isn’t anywhere near as strong as it should be (see here), the RSPB has launched a burning reporting system where members of the public can report any upland burning that they see. Please report your sightings here.


Poisoned red kite found dead on Scottish grouse moor – an interesting police investigation

Further to yesterday’s news from Police Scotland that a poisoned red kite had been found dead on a Scottish grouse moor at Moy (see here), news has emerged that this bird was also being satellite-tracked, which has implications for the police investigation and any potential sanction imposed on the estate as a result.

An article in today’s Strathspey and Badenoch Herald (here) published a photograph of the young kite with two of its siblings when they were fitted with satellite tags in 2019. The article also notes that this kite was from the first brood to fledge in the Cairngorms National Park, and the first successful brood in the Badenoch & Strathspey area since 1880 (thanks to blog reader Dave Pierce for posting this as a blog comment yesterday).

[The three red kite siblings, fitted with satellite tags, in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo Scottish Raptor Study Group]

It’s not often, these days, that a poisoned satellite-tagged raptor is found (although there are some notable exceptions, including this satellite-tagged white tailed eagle, found poisoned on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park earlier this year).

Since satellite-tagging became more routine, poisoning offences have dropped considerably, presumably because the presence of a satellite tag increases the probability of crime detection. Instead, the shooting and trapping of raptors have become much more prevalent killing methods because the perpetrator has more control over the crime scene (and can thus remove evidence quickly). What we usually get with satellite-tagged raptors these days is a sudden and inexplicable ‘stop’ in the tracking data, and both the tag and the bird ‘disappear’, never to be seen again (well, only if the criminal has hidden the evidence of the crime properly, unlike in this recent case where a golden eagle’s satellite tag was discovered cut off and wrapped in lead [to block the signal] and dumped in a river).

So the discovery of this poisoned satellite-tagged red kite at Moy is unusual, but also very helpful. Depending on the type of tag and it’s ‘duty cycle’ (i.e. the frequency with which the tag had been programmed to collect and transmit data), information should be available to Police Scotland to inform them of the kite’s recent movements. For example, had it been on this grouse moor for several days (in which case the likelihood of it being poisoned there would seem high) or had it travelled in from a distance elsewhere shortly before dying, which might indicate it was poisoned elsewhere?

Much will also depend on the type of poison used (which hasn’t been disclosed) and the dose and the toxicity. We know from the Police press release yesterday that it was a banned poison (one of eight listed on the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005, which are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide,  Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine) but some of these poisons are incredibly fast-acting and others are less so, which might also give clues to where the poison had been placed.

Information also hasn’t been released about whether a poisoned bait was found close to the poisoned red kite. Sometimes they are (especially if the poison used is fast-acting) but other times the bait is not present, which might suggest the bird was poisoned elsewhere and managed to fly some distance before succumbing to death.

In other cases bait has been found placed out on estate boundary fences – this has been a common ploy by some estates that aims to obfuscate a police investigation and point blame to an innocent, neighbouring estate where the poisoned bird may have been found dead.

For obvious reasons, the Police haven’t released much of the details because the criminal investigation is ongoing. However, it is these details that will inform the decision-making process at NatureScot (SNH rebranded) as to whether a General Licence restriction order should be imposed on Moy Estate after the discovery of this poisoned red kite.

As regular blog readers will know, General Licence restriction orders are pretty impotent because estates can simply circumnavigate them with applications for individual licences instead, but nevertheless, that’s not a reason for not imposing them where merited.

This’ll be an interesting case to follow.


Poisoned red kite found on Scottish grouse moor

Press release from Police Scotland (16th December 2020)

Appeal for information – poisoned bird of prey – Ruthven, Moy

Police Scotland has confirmed that a red kite found dead in the Ruthven area in October, had been poisoned with a banned pesticide.

[A poisoned red kite, photo by Marc Ruddock. NB: Not the poisoned red kite in this particular incident]

Further searches were carried out yesterday (15 December) with partner agency RSPB on hill ground near Meall a’ Bhreacraibh and Ruthven, Moy, in the northern Monadliath mountains.

No further poisoned raprtors or animals were identified.

Police Constable Daniel Sutherland, Highlands and Islands Wildlife crime Liaison officer, said:

Traces of a banned pesticide have been detected in a Red kite found in the area. This incident is sadly another example of where a bird of prey has been killed through ingestion of an illegally held poison.

I strongly urge anyone within the local and wider community to come forward with details on any information about this incident.”

Following consultation with the Scottish Government Rural Payments Directorate and the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), Police Scotland requests members of the public and any dog walkers to be cautious when walking in the surrounding area and the immediate vicinity. 

Anybody who has information about this incident, banned pesticide possession or misuse, or other information relating to raptor persecution please contact Police Scotland on 101 or pass on information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


This is a very good response from Police Scotland – a press release out the day after the police search and a clear warning to the public to be cautious in this area, especially if walking with dogs. The name of the banned poison isn’t given, probably for investigative purposes, but by telling the public it’s a banned poison we know it’s one of eight highly toxic pesticides (or perhaps a combination) listed on the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005, which are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide,  Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine.

Now, about the location. According to Andy Wightman’s excellent Who Owns Scotland website, the area of land mentioned in the police press release is part of the Moy Estate in the northern Monadhliaths. Or at least it was when Andy compiled his data – it’s possible, of course, that there have since been boundary changes.

Regular blog readers will be familiar with the Moy area. Moy Estate was raided by police ten years ago after the discovery of poisoned bait and dead raptors and illegally set traps. A gamekeeper was later convicted of possession of a red kite after its bloodied corpse was found in the back of his vehicle. It had two broken legs and a head injury. A bloodied shinty stick was also found in the back of the vehicle.

The remains of two further red kites were discovered on the moor, including a severed red kite leg and some wing tags that had previously been fitted to a kite, all found buried in holes under some moss. A jar in one of the gamekeeper’s houses contained the leg rings of four young golden eagles – nobody could account for how they had ended up inside that jar. A live hen harrier was found caught by its leg in an illegally-set spring trap. It survived after being rescued by raptor workers.

No further charges were brought against anyone for any of the offences uncovered at Moy.

In 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information following the discovery of disturbed and abandoned buzzard and goshawk nests in the Moy Forest. One goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances, with some evidence of illegal disturbance. These nests were being monitored by staff from Forestry Enterprise Scotland. No charges were brought.

For previous blogs on Moy see here.

I would imagine, after this latest discovery, that Ministers in the Scottish Government who recently decided to press on with the introduction of a licensing scheme for grouse shooting estates, despite cries of ‘It’s unnecessary regulation!‘ and ‘It’s all so unfair!‘ from the shooting industry, can today feel vindicated that their decision was the right one.

They now need to get on with it and get it implemented ASAP, because this latest victim is evidence that raptor persecution continues, despite all the denials routinely chuntered out by the so-called leaders in the game shooting industry.

UPDATE 17 December 2020: Poisoned red kite found dead on Scottish grouse moor – an interesting police investigation (here)


Buzzard caught in illegally-set trap near Moy

Once again, we’re having to report on the deliberate persecution of a protected bird of prey in the Moy area of Highland Scotland, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot.

RPUK map showing location of Moy:

Police Scotland has issued the following appeal for information this morning:

Appeal after buzzard reported trapped south of Inverness

Police Scotland can confirm that an investigation is ongoing following a report of a trapped buzzard near Moy south of Inverness.

The buzzard was discovered by a member of the public earlier in October. However, following a subsequent search of the area by police the bird has not been located.

The trap was close to a fence near to a rough, marshy grazing area close to the B9174 and the national cycle path between Moy and Craggie.

Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: “This unfortunately appears to be an example of deliberate unlawful use of a legal trap to cause suffering to a bird of prey.

A lot of good work has been done in the Highlands and this has been a good season for raptors locally, so any evidence of continued persecution is disappointing.

The location next to the national cycle network path will hopefully help us identify anyone seen acting in a suspicious manner in the area.

Anyone seen near the fence lines, walking up the fence lines, placing articles on the fence posts would be of great interest to us.

We are appealing for anybody who has information about this incident or any other wildlife persecution in the Highland area contact us on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”


The road number cited in the police press release appears to be inaccurate. The police say it is the B9174 but it looks like this should read the B9154 as this is the road that runs between Moy and Craggie.

Interestingly, Police Scotland has not published the pictures of the trapped buzzard, photographed by the member of the public who found the bird in distress. However, from the police press release, especially the penultimate sentence, it seems reasonable to conclude that this buzzard was caught in a pole trap. A pole trap is a spring trap that has been fixed to the top of a post. When a bird lands on it, the jaws of the trap smash the birds legs, often breaking them. As the trap is fixed to the post, the bird cannot fly away and it is left to dangle upside down, held by its legs, until it dies or until the trap operator comes along and kills it.

Here’s a photo from our archives of another buzzard that had been caught in a illegal pole trap. It didn’t survive its horrific injuries.

These are barbaric devices that cause immeasurable suffering and as such have been banned from use since 1904. However, pole traps are still routinely used as a weapon of choice on game-shooting estates as we see all too often (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here). Anyone caught using these traps deserves a lengthy custodial sentence. There is simply no excuse for such savagery in 21st Century Scotland.

We’ve blogged about raptor persecution in the Moy area many many times, including the illegal use of traps and reports of armed masked gunmen visiting the nest sites of protected species. Here are a few examples: here, here, here, here, here and just last year there was a report of another buzzard that had been caught in an illegally-set trap in this area (here).

[RPUK map showing the B9154 road between Moy and Craggie. The red dots are confirmed raptor persecution incidents in this area]

And of course, this grouse moor dominated area has also been identified as one of the hotspot areas where satellite-tagged golden eagles ‘disappear’:


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.

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