Posts Tagged ‘white-tailed eagle

23
Sep
20

Proposed golden eagle reintroduction in Wales: interesting commentary from last night’s event

Further to yesterday’s blog (see here) about the proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales and the two very different approaches being taken by two ‘competing’ organisations (see here), one of our blog readers attended last night’s public consultation event being hosted by Dr Paul O’Donoghue of Wilder Britain.

Many thanks to that blog reader who has provided us with a set of questions he asked and the short but extraordinary answers he says were provided by Paul O’Donoghue, as follows:

Question: On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that this will take place next year?

Answer: Nine

Question: Why not follow IUCN guidelines and get birds from the nearest population?

Answer: Golden eagles in Scotland are not breeding enough to take any away, the numbers are in decline. IUCN guidelines say that you shouldn’t impede donor populations.

Question: Who are you working with in Norway? Have you entered in to dialogue with DEFRA for an import and export licence?

Answer: No dialogue with DEFRA yet. Vets lined up ready for disease risk assessment. We have a very good environmental lawyer working with us by the name of Susan Shaw.

Question: When did you last talk to Lorcan O’Toole? [Golden Eagle Trust, Ireland]

Answer: End of last year.

Question: Are you still confident in an 80% survival rate, when Ireland only works on around 30%?

Answer: Ireland’s success rate is a lot higher than 30%, I am confident at 80%, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all survived.

Question: Have you completed a Habitats Regulations Assessment?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What assessment are you conducting in respect of ecological damage to protected species?

Answer: That’s part of the Habitats Regulations Assessment.

Question: Golden eagles are not a Schedule 9 species. What licence do you need?

Answer: Will only need a licence to hold the birds in aviary before release.

Question: Why just release ten birds? Any plans to top up? Is it just a test population?

Answer: We might apply to top up if we feel the need. It’s not a trial though.

Question: Why is Snowdonia an ideal habitat? Even better than Scotland?

Answer: Scotland is less productive and barren. There is much more diverse habitat in Snowdonia, forests, mountains, moorlands, lowlands etc.

Question: You said feasibility studies were complete. Aren’t these consultation supposed to be part of those studies?

Answer: We have completed the ecological studies, these consultations are part of the social/economic study.

Question: Why do RSPB, BTO and North Wales Wildlife Trust appear to be distancing themselves from you?

Answer: That is up to them, we have asked them to be involved. We don’t need them anyway.

Question: Why favour golden eagle over white-tailed eagle?

Answer: White-tailed eagles are in conflict with farmers in Scotland and have much more impact on red listed species. If another organisation suggested white-tailed eagle we would strongly object.

Question: What is your estimated budget for this project?

Answer: That is something we are still working on.

Question: How much have you raised so far?

Answer: I can’t say but it is more than enough.

Question: Who are your main donors?

Answer: Not at liberty to say, they want to remain anonymous.

The answers Dr O’Donoghue is reported to have given about his fundraising activities are quite interesting. If he has already raised ‘more than enough’ funds for the project, presumably his ‘sponsor an eagle’ fundraiser on the Wild Britain website’s home page will be removed without further delay:

Although, if, as is reported, he’s ‘still working on’ what the project’s budget might be, how would he know whether he’d raised ‘more than enough’ funding already? It’s all very bizarre.

Our blog reader reported that ‘about twelve people’ attended last night’s public consultation, which doesn’t sound like very many. We’re told that one member of the audience pointed out the low attendance, possibly due to Covid, and suggested that O’Donoghue should consider putting on an online event so more people could attend. O’Donoghue is reported to have agreed with this suggestion and said he would look in to setting up a Zoom meeting.

We’re told that the audience included a few disgruntled farmers and some members of the public who were unhappy that the event wasn’t bi-lingual, with mutterings of ‘colonialism’. Somebody asked how many landowners had agreed to participate in the proposed reintroduction and the answer was ‘two on board at the moment’ but a conviction that more would soon join in and there’d be no shortage of potential release sites.

One member of the audience apparently called him a ‘crackpot’. O’Donoghue is said to have claimed there’d be no Great Bustards in the UK if it wasn’t for him.

A third public consultation event is due to take place in Caernarfon but the date has not yet been released. Hopefully the online event suggested by a participant at last night’s event will also take place.

Many thanks to the blog reader who provided the above information.

You have to feel for the other organisation that’s interested in restoring both eagle species to Wales. The Cardiff University-based Eagle Reintroduction Project Wales has, for the last three years, quietly undertaken scientifically-rigorous feasibility studies for the potential reintroduction of golden and white-tailed eagles to Wales. They’ve already published some of their findings in a peer-reviewed journal, with more to come, and they’ve been developing widespread partnerships, working towards putting forward a well-evidenced and widely endorsed case for a potential reintroduction if their scientific analyses support such a move.

If you’d like to help them please visit their crowdfunder (here), donate if you can or simply spread the word.

02
Sep
20

Update on parliamentary motion on ‘disappearances of birds of prey over driven grouse moors’

Three weeks ago we reported that Alex Rowley MSP (Scottish Labour) had lodged a parliamentary motion relating to the ‘disappearances of birds of prey over driven grouse moors’ (see here).

This motion was triggered not only by the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged golden eagle Tom, who vanished in to thin air during lockdown in May this year, along with his fully-functioning satellite tag, with his last known location being on a driven grouse moor in Strathbraan, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot (see here), but also the suspicious disappearance of seven other satellite-tagged golden eagles in the same area, the disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier on another Scottish driven grouse moor (here), the illegal poisoning of a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle found dead on another Scottish grouse moor (here), and the 43 hen harriers that have either gone missing or have been killed in the UK in the last two years, mostly on or close to driven grouse moors (here).

A quick check today on the progress of this parliamentary motion has revealed it has full cross-party support, with MSPs from all parties signing up:

There are 26 supporters to date, from Scottish Labour, SNP, the Greens, the Lib Dems, an independent, and, surprisingly, the Conservatives. Well done Peter Chapman MSP (Scottish Conservatives, NE Scotland) for being the sole supporter (so far) from this party.

The motion needs four more supporters before it reaches the threshold of 30 MSPs from at least two different political parties to qualify for a Parliamentary debate.

Parliamentary motions are ‘live’ for six weeks before they’re culled (if they haven’t attracted sufficient support) so this one still has about three weeks to run.

If your MSP is not listed, please consider dropping them an email and encourage them to support this motion. If they refuse, it’d be interesting to hear their explanations. NB: Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries are not eligible to support these motions.

If you’re unsure about who your elected representatives are, you can find them here.

Thank you

18
Aug
20

Seven more white-tailed eagles released on Isle of Wight

Following the recent news of a young white-tailed eagle being found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park, killed after ingesting a banned poison (see here), here is some some more positive news for the future of this iconic species.

Press release from Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation (18th August 2020)

Successful second release of White-tailed eagles takes place in landmark English reintroduction project

The return of white-tailed eagles to England has reached its next key milestone with the successful release of a further 7 birds on the Isle of Wight. The five-year reintroduction programme now in its second year is led by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, and aims to restore this lost species after an absence of 240 years.

Over five years, up to 60 white-tailed eagles will be released with the aim of establishing an initial population of 6- 8 breeding pairs on the Isle of Wight and along the mainland coast. The first six birds were released last year. It will take several years for the young birds to become established and breeding is not expected to start until at least 2024.

[Juvenile white-tailed eagle, photo by Robin Crossley]

Each bird is fitted with a satellite tracker to enable the team to monitor and track their progress. Evidence from similar reintroductions suggests that the rate of survival to breeding age is around 40%, and four of the six birds released last year have survived and are doing well.

As they mature the released white-tailed eagles have, as expected, begun to explore widely. Their journeys have taken them across much of England as they explore and learn about the landscape for the first time. Between these explorations, the birds have regularly been seen fishing for Grey Mullet in the estuaries of the Solent and observed in the skies over the Isle of Wight.

Bird enthusiasts and members of the public across the country have supported the project by reporting sightings of the eagles and sharing these via @seaeagleengland on social media and via our online sightings form.

Roy Dennis, Founder of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation said: “We are delighted that we have been able to release this next group of birds this year as planned. We have seen from other reintroduction programmes that returning lost species offers real benefits for the health of our environment, and to people and local economies. This is particularly important at these difficult times as people rediscover nature and its benefits.”

“It has been very exciting to follow the exploratory flights of the birds we released last year and to see how they are learning to live successfully in the English landscape. We have been particularly encouraged that the birds have been catching Grey Mullet in the estuaries of the Isle of Wight because we believe this will become an important food source as the population develops, and is one of the key reasons we considered the Isle of Wight and the South Coast suitable for a reintroduction.”

“A project like this relies upon the involvement and support of many, many people. I would like to thank everyone who has helped us again this year including the local organisations and individuals on our steering group. We look forward to the day when these amazing birds become a regular feature in the skies above us.”

[One of this year’s juvenile eagles at the release pen. Photo via Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation]

Steve Egerton-Read, White-Tailed Eagle Project Officer, Forestry England, said: “We are now a year on from the release of the first white-tailed eagles and it’s very encouraging to see them doing well. We have been following their movements closely using the satellite monitoring, field visits and reports from members of the public.”

“It will be fascinating to see how the young birds released this summer explore and how they interact with the slightly older birds released in 2019. Thank you to everyone who continues to support us by reporting observations and photos of the birds as they travel around the country, we are always keen to hear about your amazing sightings.”

The reintroduction of Britain’s largest bird of prey is being conducted under licence from Natural England, the Government’s wildlife licensing authority. All of the young birds involved in the project are collected under a Scottish Natural Heritage licence from the wild in Scotland and brought to the Isle of Wight.

Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper, said: “Today is an important landmark for the conservation of these spectacular birds, and I am delighted that we have played our part by licensing this trailblazing project. A key condition of our licence was the involvement of stakeholders and ongoing monitoring, and Roy Dennis and his team have worked hard to involve local groups which has been critical to the success of this project.”

“It’s been thrilling to see last year’s birds travel across England. I hope this project sets a blueprint for further successful species re-introductions in England, which are a vital part of achieving our overarching goal for nature conservation and recovery.”

The Isle of Wight was chosen as the location to reintroduce the white-tailed eagles, also known as sea eagles, as it offers an ideal habitat for these coastal loving birds with plentiful sources of food in the surrounding waters. It also offers a central position on the south coast allowing the birds to disperse and link with other populations in Scotland, Ireland and on the continent.

The project is also expected to make a significant contribution to the local economy. A similar scheme on The Isle of Mull was found to have boosted its local economy by up to £5 million a year, demonstrating the interest in this iconic bird.

A comprehensive feasibility study and public surveys were conducted prior to reintroduction and a steering group made up of local organisations and members of the community are helping to guide the project.

ENDS

14
Aug
20

Disappearance of golden eagle Tom prompts Parliamentary motion

Earlier this week we blogged about the suspicious disappearance of Tom, a golden eagle we’d been satellite-tracking since last year with Chris Packham and who vanished in to thin air, along with his fully-functioning satellite tag, with his last known location being on a driven grouse moor in Strathbraan, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot (see here).

[Golden eagle Tom at approx 8 weeks old having his satellite tag fitted in 2019 under expert licence. Photo Raptor Persecution UK]

We produced a video about Tom’s suspicious disappearance and this, along with the RPUK blog on his disappearance, received good media coverage both online and in the printed media throughout the week, even though a journalist at The Times simply cut and pasted the text from the RPUK blog, regurgitated it in an article and attributed this to ‘a spokesman from RPUK‘. Ha!

Here’s the video for those who may have missed it:

And now Tom’s disappearance has prompted a Parliamentary motion, lodged by Labour MSP Alex Rowley as follows:

It’s not just Tom’s disappearance that has led to this. As you can see, Alex also mentions the suspicious disappearance of seven other satellite-tagged golden eagles in the same area, the disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier on another Scottish driven grouse moor (here), the illegal poisoning of a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle found dead on another Scottish grouse moor (here), and the 43 hen harriers that have either gone missing or have been killed in the UK in the last two years (here).

He’s done his homework.

For a Parliamentary Motion to be considered for debate, at least 30 MSPs from at least two different political parties need to support it. So far, Alex’s motion has attracted the support of 17 MSPs, representing Labour, SNP, Greens, Liberal Democrats and one independent.

If your MSP’s name isn’t on the list as a supporter, please email them and prompt them to sign up. If they refuse, ask them why. Put them on the spot and most importantly of all, let them know that this issue matters to you.

If you don’t know who your MSP is you can find out here

If you want to do more, and if you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. Launched last Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 41,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 41,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the UK. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you

13
Aug
20

Statement from Environment Cabinet Secretary about ongoing illegal killing of raptors on grouse moors

Further to the First Minister’s statement in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (see here) in response to Alison Johnstone’s question about when will the Scottish Government finally take action against those who continue to kill birds of prey on grouse moors, the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has this afternoon issued a statement, as follows:

Let’s be blunt about this, because the time for niceties has long since passed.

This latest holding statement, because that’s what it is, is utter bollocks.

It offers absolutely nothing new and is no different to anything the Scottish Government has published on this very serious issue over the last 20 years. Here’s an example of a similar statement, by the same Minister, ten years ago. And here are many more examples of Scottish Ministers claiming that ‘raptor persecution won’t be tolerated’.

This is, pure and simple, persistent inaction in the face of persistent evidence.

That persistent evidence has been presented for over 20 years, stretching back to the early 1990s, well before the Government decided to commission yet another review in 2017. That latest review, the Werritty Review, was handed to the Scottish Government nine months ago (the 18th November 2019 to be precise). And yet STILL the Scottish Government has failed to publish its response.

The only thing that’s changed in the last 20 years is that the body count has increased. Here’s the latest, a white-tailed eagle that was found dead on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park, poisoned to death by a banned toxin (see here).

Actually, it’s not the only thing that’s changed. Public awareness of these crimes has grown, as has public anger, as can be seen by the volume of correspondence the Cabinet Secretary refers to at the beginning of her statement. So much correspondence in fact that the Government can’t cope in having to reply individually and has had to resort to a generic statement instead.

The title of the Cabinet Secretary’s latest missive is ‘ACTION ON RAPTOR PERSECUTION & WILDLIFE CRIME’. And action is indeed what we should continue to demand.

You can do this very easily. If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, and the Government’s persistent inaction, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) demanding change. Launched on Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 37,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 37,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the country. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you

13
Aug
20

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon put on spot about ongoing illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors

The Scottish Greens are doing a fantastic amount to hold the Scottish Government to account on wildlife conservation issues.

Yesterday, Alison Johnstone MSP put Nicola Sturgeon on the spot during First Minister’s Questions. Click on this link to hear Alison ask Nicola Sturgeon “When she will finally act to end raptor persecution in Scotland?

The First Minister’s response went as follows (as published in the Official Report of the Scottish Parliament, 12th August 2020):

Remember, this is the first response anyone has heard from the First Minister, despite an avalanche of angry emails following the recent discovery of the poisoned white-tailed eagle on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), and the news earlier this week about the suspicious disappearance of yet another golden eagle (Tom) on a grouse moor in Strathbraan, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot in Perthshire (see here).

The Scotsman has run a piece today about Alison’s question to the First Minister (see here) and includes commentary about the poisoned sea eagle and the missing golden eagle.

The Scotsman article includes further comment from Alison Johnstone:

The First Minister described wildlife crime as a priority for the police, but it’s clear that greater action is required by her government if we are to bring an end raptor persecution in Scotland once and for all“.

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment has just issued a statement about what the Scottish Government intends to do. More on that shortly….

TAKE ACTION

Meanwhile, if you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. Launched on Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 36,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 36,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the country. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you

12
Aug
20

Former Sea Eagle Project Officer explains devastating personal impact of ongoing illegal persecution on grouse moors

This is a powerful, must-watch video.

Claire Smith, currently a Senior Conservation Officer with RSPB Scotland, was previously employed by the East Scotland Sea Eagle Project between 2007-2011 when these birds were being reintroduced from Norway.

Here she explains the devastating personal impact of having to deal with the continued illegal killing of these eagles on some driven grouse moors.

You become a little bit numb to it………You’re almost just waiting for the next one”.

She also talks about the white-tailed eagle that was recently found poisoned on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park (see here for background).

Watch the full video here:

TAKE ACTION

If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a pre-written letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. All you need to do is stick in your postcode.

Launched last Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 30,000 people have signed up so far, meaning that 30,000 e-letters are winging their way to our parliamentary representatives. Please join in HERE

Thank you

05
Aug
20

Poisoned eagle found dead on Scottish grouse moor: Chris Packham urges First Minister to act

Further to last week’s news that a young white-tailed eagle has been found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park, having been poisoned with a banned toxin (see here and here), and the Scottish Government’s woefully inadequate response (see here), Chris Packham has sent a video message to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling for action.

He sent the video, via Twitter, this evening. Click below to watch.

Thank you to all of you who have written to the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) and Environment Cabinet Secretary (Roseanna Cunningham) about this repulsive crime, which is far from being a one-off. It is clear that their inboxes have been deluged. Good, they need to be.

If you haven’t written yet, please consider doing so.

Here are the email addresses of the relevant ministers:

To email Nicola Sturgeon, please use this address: firstminister@gov.scot

To email Roseanna Cunningham, please use this address: CabSecECCLR@gov.scot

Thank you.

[The poisoned sea eagle, found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo by Police Scotland]

 

02
Aug
20

Another huge penalty for raptor poisoning offence in Spain

There have been a number of raptor poisoning cases in the news recently, including the illegal killing of a white-tailed eagle found on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland (here), the mass poisoning of 23 buzzards in a field in Co Cork, Ireland (here), the poisoning of four peregrines on Guernsey in the Channel Islands (here), the poisoning of a family’s pet dog, believed to have consumed a poisoned bait intended for birds of prey in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire (here), the poisoning of a buzzard found dead on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here), the poisoning of a buzzard in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire (here) and the suspected poisoning of numerous raptors in Derbyshire including three peregrines, two buzzards and one kestrel, all pending toxicology results (here). More on some of those suspected cases shortly.

The connecting feature of all these incidents is that, in all probability, the poisoners will evade justice.

[Illegally poisoned sea eagle. Photo by Police Scotland]

It’s incredibly rare to secure a conviction for poisoning birds of prey in the UK, mainly due to the difficulty of securing sufficient evidence to link the crime to the actual individual who laid the bait. For example if the poisoned bait had been laid out on a large game shooting estate there could be numerous suspects (e.g. gamekeepers), who will all give ‘no comment’ interviews to the police, thus making it virtually impossible for the police to determine which one of them should be charged.

And even in a case where three golden eagles were found illegally poisoned on the same grouse moor, and an enormous stash of banned Carbofuran poison was found in the gamekeeper’s locked shed, reportedly to which only he had the key, he still wasn’t charged with killing those eagles, only for possession of the banned poison (see here).

There have been a few successful prosecutions for raptor poisoning over the years, but the subsequent penalties have been so utterly feeble they simply haven’t acted as a suitable deterrent for others (e.g. see here, here and here).

Meanwhile, over in Spain where tackling the illegal killing of birds of prey is taken seriously with, for example, the deployment of specialist poison detection dogs, resulting in massive fines, custodial sentences and extended hunting disqualifications for those convicted of laying poisoned baits (e.g. see here, here, here, here), another poisoner has just been sentenced this week.

According to these articles (here and here), an unnamed farmer has just been convicted of poisoning two red kites in Cabeza de Buey (Badajoz) in 2018 and has been ordered to pay a 20,000 EURO fine (the estimated value of the two red kites). He also received a two-year hunting disqualification.

Compare that response with what we’ve seen in Scotland this last week – an illegally poisoned white-tailed eagle, killed with a banned pesticide, found dead inside a National Park in an area where at least seven eagles have now been either illegally killed or have disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

There was a wholly inadequate response from a junior Environment Minister (here) followed by total silence from the Environment Cabinet Secretary and the First Minister, despite unprecedented public uproar urging action (see here and here).

Interesting, isn’t it?

31
Jul
20

Cairngorms National Park, Scotland: Where eagles are poisoned, trapped & shot

Here’s a new poster for the Cairngorms National Park, created by one of our blog readers (thank you) following the news (here) that yet another young eagle has been illegally killed, this time poisoned to death on a grouse moor in this so-called National Park.

You’ll be seeing a lot more of this image very shortly….watch this space.

Thank you to everyone who has written to the First Minister and Environment Cabinet Secretary expressing your disgust and urging immediate action following this latest poisoning incident. The public’s reaction has been phenomenal.

It’s not too late to add your voice. Here are the email addresses you’ll need:

To email Nicola Sturgeon, please use this address: firstminister@gov.scot

To email Roseanna Cunningham, please use this address: CabSecECCLR@gov.scot

Thank you.




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

Blog Stats

  • 6,561,429 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors