Posts Tagged ‘red kite

27
Oct
18

Red kite shot in Ashwell, Hertfordshire

Press statement from Hertfordshire Constabulary (25 Oct 2018):

Red kite shot in Ashwell

Officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Rural Support Team are currently investigating the shooting of a Red Kite.

The injured bird was spotted by a local gamekeeper on a bridleway called Green Lane, just off Northfields Road in Ashwell, on Saturday September 29. However he was unable to catch it until October 3. He then took the bird to a local vet where x-rays indicated that it had been shot and had also sustained broken wings. Sadly, it was therefore put to sleep.

Officers are appealing for anyone who has any information about the bird and its injuries to contact them as soon as possible.

Detective Constable Amanda Matthews said: “The reintroduction of Red Kites has been a fantastic success story and the expansion of the population into Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire has allowed more people to see these amazing birds.

The persecution of birds of prey is a National Wildlife Crime Priority and we treat all incidents of this nature very seriously. We are therefore urging people to come forward with any information that could assist us to progress this matter.

Anyone who has any information about the incident is asked to contact DC Amanda Matthews via the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 41/47461/18. You can also report information online.

Alternatively, you can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their anonymous online form. No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will never need to go to court.

ENDS

Full credit to the gamekeeper whose persistence enabled this critically-injured kite to be put out of its misery.

 

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28
Sep
18

Despite best efforts, shot red kite didn’t make it

In July an injured red kite was found by a member of the public in woodland near Corby, Northants – she’d been shot and had three shotgun pellets lodged in her body. We blogged about her here.

She was cared for by Simon Dudhill and team at The Raptor Foundation in Cambridgeshire. Simon said at the time:

I have taken charge of a red kite that has been shot, with three shotgun pellets, in the leg, shoulder and ear. The leg and shoulder pellets are not really an issue governing the birds potential release as they are below joints. The pellet in the ear is lodged in the bony part of the skull and is causing the bird problems with balance. The vet and I both agree the bird could not be released back with the pellet still inside. We have been treating for infection and pain relief and the bird is making steady improvements. It was unable to stand on admission, but is now mobile along the floor to some degree. The vet is looking to operate later this week“.

[Photo by The Raptor Foundation]

Unfortunately, she didn’t make it.

Simon said:

Sadly, despite two months of hard work by ourselves and our vets, we had to make the extremely disappointing decision to put her to sleep. None of her balance had returned, she was only able to get about 15 inches off the ground onto a log, and the rest of the time she was dragging her wings and body along the ground. We all felt it was not in the bird’s best interest to keep her in this poor condition, as any further improvement was not expected“.

21
Sep
18

Climber witnesses shooting of red kite in Peak District National Park

Press release from RSPB (20/9/18):

SHOT RED KITE ‘LIKE BALLOON BURSTING’

A red kite seen falling from the sky accompanied by the sound of gunshots is the latest in a series of concerning incidents involving birds of prey in the Peak District National Park.

Climber Adam Long heard gunshots and saw the bird fall from the sky on 7 June near Saddleworth Moor, within the Peak District National Park. The shooter, however, remained out of sight. The police were called and spoke to the landowner, on whose land the incident is alleged to have occurred, but no leads were forthcoming.

[Red kite photo by Gareth Scanlon]

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Though red kites have enjoyed a remarkable comeback in many parts of the country, they are not commonly seen in this area, on the outskirts of Greater Manchester and are struggling to expand into the Peak District National Park despite plenty of suitable breeding habitat. Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. If someone is found to have shot this bird they face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail.

The public play such an important role in reporting incidents like this. If you think you’ve witnessed a crime against a bird of prey while our walking, climbing, cycling or walking your dog, let the police know on 101 or contact the RSPB on 01767 680551.”

Adam, the climber who witnessed the event, said: “I saw the kite slowly soaring up the valley, then again when we’d started our climb. I heard two shots, and the kite fell out of the sky – it was like a balloon bursting, crumpling so suddenly then falling. I was completely shocked by the brazenness of it. You hear about this sort of thing happening, and that the chances of seeing or recording something are so slim, so to see this in broad daylight when anyone could have witnessed it was incredible. This is a popular valley for climbing and walking, plus there’s a busy A-road close by. I was literally tied to the crag when it happened so I couldn’t move to get a better view, but I rang the police as soon as I was able.”

The persecution of birds of prey in upland areas like the Peak District is a continuing issue with serious implications on raptor populations. Figures from the latest Birdcrime report showed that over 80 confirmed incidents of shooting, trapping, poisoning and destruction of birds of prey took place in 2016, but in the same year there were no convictions for crimes relating to raptor persecution.

In May this year a scientific paper in the journal British Birds identified significant associations between land managed for driven grouse shooting and the persecution of peregrines and goshawks in the northern Peak District. Populations of the birds were seen to have declined in the northern ‘Dark Peak’, but increased in the southern ‘White Peak’, which is virtually free from grouse shoots.

Chief Inspector Dave Henthorne of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), who is also the force’s lead for wildlife crime, said: “GMP officers spoke to a number of people regarding this incident. If there is evidence to link an individual with raptor persecution we will work with the RSPB to prosecute those responsible. In addition to prosecution, GMP would review any firearms license that the offenders possess.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Greater Manchester Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed or injured, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.

ENDS

This shooting took place three and a half months ago. Why didn’t Greater Manchester Police issue an appeal for information at the time it happened?

21
Aug
18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Golden eagle Fred, by Ruth Tingay]

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll be taking a close interest.

04
Aug
18

(Deliberate) misinformation about welfare of satellite-tagged raptors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peniche et al 2011 Vet Record red kite harness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03
Aug
18

Red kite shot near Corby, Northants

The following article appeared in the Northamptonshire Telegraph on Tuesday 31 July 2018:

POLICE ARE APPEALING FOR WITNESSES AFTER A RED KITE WAS SHOT AND INJURED

The bird of prey is being seen to by a local vet after being shot and injured yesterday (Monday).

The shooting took place in the area of Deene park and Fineshade.

A neighbourhood alert posted by Northants Police about the incident said: “Please be aware it is an offence to injure or kill these birds.”

Anyone who witnessed the shooting, saw anyone that looked suspicious or saw any suspicious vehicles in the area at the time is asked to call Northamptonshire Police on 101.

ENDS

We’ve been unable to find any further detail about this case – there’s no official appeal for information on the Northamptonshire Police website.

UPDATE 13.50hrs: We’ve now been informed this kite was handed in to the Forestry Commission office at Fineshade Wood on THURSDAY 19th JULY (not Mon 30th July as previously thought). It was rescued by a member of the public.

Quote from the Raptor Foundation: “I have taken charge of a red kite that has been shot, with three shotgun pellets, in the leg, shoulder and ear. The leg and shoulder pellets are not really an issue governing the birds potential release as they are below joints. The pellet in the ear is lodged in the bony part of the skull and is causing the bird problems with balance. The vet and I both agree the bird could not be released back with the pellet still inside. We have been treating for infection and pain relief and the bird is making steady improvements. It was unable to stand on admission, but is now mobile along the floor to some degree. The vet is looking to operate later this week“.

[Photo of the shot red kite, by Raptor Foundation]

27
Jul
18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lianne’s second extraordinary statement was this:

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

What a fascinating claim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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