Posts Tagged ‘white-tailed eagle


Online protest tomorrow about ongoing raptor persecution on Scottish grouse moors

Tomorrow (Friday 19 March 2021) is the online protest organised by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) and seven regional moorland groups, who represent grouse shooting estates and their gamekeepers across Scotland.

This is the protest that the SGA has been threatening since November when the Scottish Government had finally had enough with the decades of criminality in the grouse-shooting industry and promised to bring in a grouse moor licensing scheme as soon as possible (see here).

The protest has been named the Rural Workers Protest in an attempt to garner more support from other industries and will be using the hashtag #RWP21 on social media.

Here’s SGA Chairman Alex Hogg promoting the protest at the SGA’s online AGM earlier this month:

It’s still not clear what the SGA et al are protesting about, other than progress and modernisation, although I keep reading that they’re not being listened to, which is an interesting concept given the tv coverage and media column inches they’ve had this last week, as well as the vocal support of a number of MSPs and their ‘friend in Parliament‘, Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing.

We do know that Alex isn’t happy about the drink driving laws being applied in rural areas because it ‘affected social cohesion in the countryside’, according to the speech he read out at the SGA AGM a couple of weeks ago. That’s an interesting position given the display of empties lining the walls in the bothy from which Alex was speaking.

What, you don’t remember seeing them? Well that’s maybe because someone might have angled the camera to make sure they were carefully obscured. Compare and contrast these two photos….. the first one was a screengrab from the actual AGM. The second photo, from the SGA’s facebook page, shows a slightly different camera angle from the day before when Alex and his team were preparing the scene.

It’s also interesting that Scotland’s seven regional moorland groups are co-hosting the event, especially when grouse moors in five of those seven regions have been in the last three years, or currently are, under police investigation for alleged raptor persecution crimes (grouse moors in the regions covered by the Angus Glens Moorland Group, Grampian Moorland Group, Tomatin Moorland Group, Tayside & Central Moorland Group and the Southern Uplands Moorland Group). Do you think tomorrow’s protesters will be shouting about the illegal killing of birds of prey, on their grouse moors, right under their noses but apparently without any of them seeing anything suspicious? Or will they be arguing for getting licences to kill birds of prey, as we know that’s what the SGA has been campaigning for for years.

Not to worry. A number of us will be joining the online protest tomorrow, not to complain about modernisation or progress, nor to call for licences to be issued to kill raptors so more gamebirds can be produced for the guns. No, we’ll be there to protest about the ongoing illegal killing of birds of prey, on grouse moors, in Scotland. We’ll also be using the #RWP21 hashtag and we’ll be sharing information and photos with the general public who may not previously have been aware of what is going on. Join us if you can.

[This young white-tailed eagle was found dead on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park in April last year. It had been poisoned to death with a banned substance. Nobody has been prosecuted for this crime. Photo by Police Scotland]


Raptor intolerance, writ large!

I don’t really know what to say about this.

The letter was published in The Telegraph today (thanks to the blog reader who sent it to me).

If ever you’ve wondered why birds of prey are killed so frequently in the UK, here’s your answer.

Bill Makins is 89 years old. I wouldn’t be surprised to find he was a fully signed-up member of Songbird Survival.

For those who want a more up-to-date perspective on the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to England, based on scientific evidence and hard-earned experience instead of wild hysteria and 200-year-old rural myths, you might be interested in this presentation by Dr Tim Mackrill, who is one of the conservationists behind the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to the Isle of Wight (here) and is advising on the proposed reintroduction to Norfolk (see here), where fortunately there are a fair few more enlightened landowners these days.

Tim delivered this presentation three days ago to the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and they’ve made it available for everyone. Let’s hope someone shows it to Bill Makins.


Sandringham Estate ‘supportive’ of proposed white-tailed eagle reintroduction

A proposal to consider the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Norfolk has been making the news for a couple of weeks now, ever since the Wild Ken Estate launched a public consultation, backed by a number of local landowners, to gauge opinion and support (see here).

Not wanting to miss an opportunity for a bit of a Royal love-in, The Telegraph published this puff piece on Friday:

As so often with the Telegraph, there’s very little substance to support its claims, in this case that Sandringham and/or Prince Charles actually does ‘support’ a proposed reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Norfolk. All it says is ‘The Daily Telegraph understands the royal residence run by the Prince of Wales is supportive of a scheme to return the white-tailed eagle to England‘.

Even the quote from the Sandringham Estate fails actually to mention sea eagles!

But perhaps things ARE changing at Sandringham. Perhaps the Sandringham Estate has moved on since being at the centre of numerous police investigations relating to birds of prey (e.g. see here, here, here, here). And perhaps if Charles really is in to conservation we’ll start to see some improvement in the management of his grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (e.g. see here and here) as well as at Sandringham.

We can but hope.

Meanwhile, folk would do well to continue to view the Telegraph’s level of understanding with healthy scepticism. Have a look at this ridiculous map, published alongside the Sandringham piece:

I don’t know where the Telegraph is getting its ‘facts’ from but it doesn’t appear to be from someone with any insight.

Why on earth would juvenile eagles be ranging 100km offshore in the North Sea??

And if they think that 200km is the ranging distance of a dispersing white-tailed eagle they need to take a look at the behaviour of some of the eagles reintroduced to the Isle of Wight – one travelled over 400 miles to hang out in southern Scotland for a while!


Sea eagles: talk of reintroduction to Norfolk & of cull in Scotland

White-tailed eagles were in the news yesterday after it emerged that the progressive Ken Hill Estate has launched a public consultation to consider the reintroduction of sea eagles to Norfolk (there’s a good article in the Guardian about it, here).

This is quite a story, as journalist Patrick Barkham points out, given that ten years ago some Norfolk pig farmers vehemently opposed a reintroduction proposal but this time a number of them are on board, no doubt reassured by their recent experiences with visiting eagles from the Isle of Wight reintroduction project.

There’s a long way to go before a decision is made, of course, and Norfolk’s appalling reputation for the continued illegal killing of birds of prey will need to be carefully considered, but have a look at the Ken Hill Estate website (here) where they’ve published useful background information and provided links to the public consultation and opportunities for people to sign up to forthcoming webinars. It’s impressive stuff.

Meanwhile in Scotland, there is still talk of culling white-tailed eagles. This isn’t anything new – there have been persistent calls for a cull from certain quarters for years, fuelled by sensationalist nonsense from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association who even wrote to the Government calling for a public enquiry about the ‘threat’ that sea eagles posed to babies and small children (I kid you not – see here).

The latest call stems from the recent news in the Scottish Farmer that Nature Scot’s sea eagle action plan review ‘may also include further licensed activities’ (see here).

Although those potential ‘licensed activities’ are not defined, and may not involve lethal control at all, the Scottish Farmer’s editor, Ken Fletcher, has written an editorial suggesting that ‘there is a growing feeling that management will, indeed, mean that in some areas a cull will have to take place‘.

Here’s the relevant part of his editorial from 14 January 2021:

Natural Balance

RE-WILDING has become a noisy topic both on-line and in the national press, but there is a temptation to argue that it’s very much a minority that is seeking to drive change.

For want of a better expression, it would appear that the Great British (Scottish) public don’t give a monkeys about beavers, sea eagles and lynx. Yes, they would probably like to see them on their way to littering our countryside, but it cannot be argued that their life would be immeasurably worse off without them.

So, it’s nice to see that there is more of a balance in the stakeholder input into curbing so-called rogue individual birds by the sea eagle management scheme. It’s now readily accepted that some birds do severe damage to livestock in certain areas and equally that farmers accept their managed right to be in their locale. The key is in the word ‘managed’.

It’s a thorny and potentially politicised subject that will probably not raise its head above the parapet until after the Scottish elections later this year, but there is a growing feeling that management will, indeed, mean that in some areas a cull will have to take place.

Some argue that this should involve relocation as being an option, instead of a lethal solution. But, in the same way the ludicrous notion that not producing beef in Scotland will save the planet thus seeing production ‘exported’, then sending difficult birds to new locations will only transpose the problem.

It’s also been hinted that beavers should not be shot – as they are allowed to be under licence at the moment – but re-located instead.

We have a ready-made solution. Send them to Knapdale, in Argyll, where the original and sanctioned re-wilding project seems to need ‘topping up’ on a regular basis as they keep disappearing. It seems that they don’t like the wild west!



Grouse moors – ‘a birdwatchers’ paradise’ according to Chair of Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Don’t laugh.

Actually, do laugh.

Alex Hogg, Chair of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, was interviewed last week and he said some pretty baffling things about gamekeeping and grouse moor management, including the fantastic statement, “This is a birdwatchers’ paradise“.

Yep, he really did.

[An illegally poisoned white-tailed eagle, found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park earlier this year – see here and here. What a birdwatchers’ paradise!]

Alex was talking to a presenter on ITV’s regional news programme Representing Border on 2nd December 2020. The programme featured a piece on the Scottish Government’s recent decision to introduce a licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting (here) and it’s well worth five minutes of your time.

The programme is available here (starts at 15.49 mins, ends 22.01).

There was more baffling commentary from Alex, including this unfathomable statement on the effect a licensing scheme would have on gamekeeping:

We’ve done it for 200 years, we’ve kept a balance in the wildlife, and if we, it’s like a three-legged stool, if they take the leg away, we’re gone“.

Eh? I’ve no idea what ‘the leg’ is that he thinks is being ‘taken away’ and why he thinks a licensing scheme means gamekeepers will be ‘gone’. They’ll be gone if they breach the conditions of the licence (assuming it’s effectively enforced) but if they’re not doing anything illegal why would a licence cause them difficulties?

Unfortunately the presenter didn’t follow up on this, or if he did it was edited out. It’s also a shame he didn’t pick up on Alex’s statement about 200 years worth of ‘balancing the wildlife’ and ask him questions about why several species of raptors became extirpated from the UK about 100 years ago? And although some have made a brilliant comeback (with some help), why some populations are still struggling, notably in areas managed for driven grouse shooting? He could also have asked this question of Liz Smith MSP (Scottish Conservatives) who said she didn’t think that “fairly draconian” licensing was needed now!

Other interviewees were much more lucid, including Ian Thomson (RSPB Investigations, Scotland), Claudia Beamish MSP (Scottish Labour) and Mairi Gougeon (Environment Minister), who gave a robust argument for bringing in a licensing scheme now instead of sitting around for another five years doing nothing, including this statement:

There are still persistent problems out there with the illegal persecution of our birds of prey“.

It’s good to see this statement from a Scottish Minister. Can you imagine a similar comment from a Minister at Westminster?


Werritty review – one year on & still waiting for Scottish Government response

Today marks one year since the Werritty Review on grouse moor management was submitted to the Scottish Government. And still no formal response.

The review itself took two and a half years to complete after Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced its commission in 2017, on the back of the publication of another Government-commissioned review which showed clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution on many driven grouse moors. We’ve since seen more evidence pointing towards the inevitable fate of those birds.

And that 2017 review had been commissioned on the back of an RSPB report in 2016 that over a period of five years since 2011, eight satellite-tagged golden eagles had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths in Highland Scotland.

The longer the Scottish Government delays taking evidence-based action against those criminals in the grouse shooting industry, the more eagles (and other raptors) are going to be illegally killed. There is absolutely no question that these crimes are continuing, despite enormous scrutiny and public condemnation, as demonstrated during lockdown when the poisoned corpse of a white-tailed sea eagle was found, face down, on a grouse moor in the middle of the Cairngorms National Park. Nobody has been charged for this horrendous crime. In fact there has never been a successful prosecution for killing an eagle in Scotland.

[A police officer examines the corpse of the poisoned white-tailed eagle, found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park]

For years the Scottish Government has promised further action if current measures proved to be ineffective. Time and time again, after each crime has been publicised, a succession of Environment Ministers has proclaimed, ‘We will not tolerate illegal raptor persecution’ and ‘We will not hesitate to act‘ (see here for a long list of examples).

And guess what? They’re still tolerating it and they’re still hesitating to act. Why is that?


Environment Minister acknowledges potential economic impact of wildlife crime linked to grouse shooting

It’s been another year of shocking wildlife crimes being uncovered on grouse moors in the UK, including the illegal poisoning of this iconic white-tailed eagle, found dead on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park in the spring (see here).

[The poisoned white-tailed eagle, photo by Police Scotland]

Last week, Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone lodged a Parliamentary question asking what assessment the Scottish Government has made of the impact on the rural economy of wildlife crime linked to grouse moor management (see here).

Her question, and a supplementary one, were ‘answered’ by Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon during Portfolio Question Time yesterday in the Scottish Parliament.

When I say ‘answered’, I use the term loosely. A more fitting word might be ‘sidestepped’.

Here’s how it went:

It’s good that Mairi Gougeon acknowledges the potential economic damage of wildlife crime linked to grouse moor management – it’d be insane to claim that the photograph of that poisoned eagle, laying dead on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park of all bloody places, would not have an economic impact and, as the Minister pointed out, on Scotland’s international reputation.

But the question Alison asked was ‘What assessment of that economic damage has the Scottish Government undertaken?’

None, it seems.

Still, as the Government’s response to the Werritty Review is imminent, we can all look forward to “decisive action” on wildlife crime linked to grouse moor management, as Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham assured us all in August after a huge outpouring of public anger about this poisoned sea eagle (see here).


Proposal to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales: information withheld

Way back in February 2019, in a publicity fanfare, a claim was made that a licence application to reintroduce golden eagles to Snowdonia would be submitted to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) ‘by summer’ by an organisation called Wilder Britain (see here and here).

In November 2019 an FoI request to NRW revealed that no such application had been received (see here).

[A young golden eagle, photo Getty Images]

Dr Paul O’Donoghue of Wilder Britain was back in the press again in August this year, fundraising for his proposed reintroduction project, which raised questions about whether there was genuine intent to try and reintroduce golden eagles or whether it was just an ongoing publicity/fundraising stunt from the previous year (see here).

O’Donoghue hosted several poorly-attended public meetings this summer, some of them announced at very short notice, and these elicited some interesting commentary from those who managed to attend and also from members of the Welsh Parliament (see here and here).

In August a Freedom of Information request was submitted to NRW to find out more details about O’Donoghue’s proposals. NRW has finally responded and has refused to release any information because it needed O’Donoghue’s consent and he has refused permission:

Interesting. An appeal has been lodged with NRW because I believe it’s in the public interest to see what advice NRW has been giving to O’Donoghue about a proposed reintroduction scheme.

Meanwhile, a more open and transparent organisation interested in a Welsh reintroduction of both golden and white-tailed eagles, under the project Eagle Reintroduction Wales, is continuing its involvement in online interviews and question & answer sessions which allow any interested member of the public an opportunity to find out more details, ask questions and listen to the responses.

The next one is this evening at 17.30hrs with ERW project manager Dr Sophie-lee Williams and can be watched here.


Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project – 2 x live interviews coming up

As regular blog readers will know, there are currently proposals to reintroduce eagles to Wales by two organisations with very different approaches: Wilder Britain and the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project.

[Young golden eagle. Photo by Steve Liptrot]

The Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project, led by Dr Sophie-lee Williams, is currently assessing the feasibility of reintroducing golden and white-tailed eagles across Wales and has conducted extensive research to inform its proposals. Some of this research has already been published in peer-reviewed journals (e.g. here) and more output is expected shortly. The ERW Project is working with Cardiff University (where Sophie-Lee has just completed her PhD on this topic) and is liaising closely with a network of national and international eagle experts.

There are two forthcoming opportunities to ask Sophie-lee about any aspect of the project:

Facebook live interview/Q&A session on Sunday 8th November at 17.30hrs. Interview hosted by Mike Raine here

Facebook live interview/Q&A session on Tuesday 10th November at 19.00hrs. Interview hosted by Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife here

Hopefully these live interviews will be recorded so if you can’t make the live session you can catch up with the videos later.

For previous blogs about the proposals to reintroduce eagles to Wales please see hereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here for background.


Parliamentary question – economic impact of wildlife crime linked to grouse moor management

There’s been a fair bit in the press in recent days on the alleged positive impact of grouse moor management on the Scottish rural economy, following the publication of a series of new reports.

Representatives and supporters of the grouse shooting industry will, of course, tend to focus on the assumed economic benefits and rarely, if ever, will they mention the economic costs of this damaging industry.

So this is a really important parliamentary question that’s been lodged by Scottish Green’s MSP Alison Johnson:

Question S50-04745. Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party. Lodged 4/11/2020.

To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact on the rural economy of wildlife crime linked to grouse moor management.

Current status: Due in Chamber on 12/11/2020.

I’m not sure which Minister will be answering this question next Thursday but I look forward to the response.

Here’s a photo of a police officer examining the corpse of a white-tailed eagle, found illegally poisoned with a banned pesticide on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park earlier this year (see here). [Photo by Police Scotland]

He wasn’t the first victim and he certainly won’t be the last. Raptor persecution, whether that be poisoning, shooting or trapping, is still rampant on many Scottish (and English) grouse moors, despite it having been illegal since 1954.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Scottish Government intends to assess the economic cost of this ongoing criminality.

UPDATE 13 November 2020: Environment Minister acknowledges potential economic impact of wildlife crime linked to grouse shooting (here)

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