Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey
New scientific paper on sparrowhawks
12 September 2017
A new peer-reviewed paper, authored by three SRSG members, has been published today in the scientific journal Ecoscience:
Michael Thornton, Ian Todd & Staffan Roos (2017). Breeding success and productivity of urban and rural sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus in Scotland.
Please follow this link to read the abstract.
SRSG publishes Moorland Myth Busters
11 August 2017
Ahead of the Glorious Twelfth the Scottish Raptor Study Group has produced a ‘Moorland Myths Busters Guide’ for six of the most popular myths held within the driven grouse shooting sector:
1. ‘Game bird licensing is unnecessary
The failure of the intensive end of the game shooting industry to operate within the law over 60 years has led the Scottish Government to propose that game bird shooting licensing should be considered, along with other measures in an effort to eradicate the illegal, endemic and widespread killing of raptors. Licensing would set out clear standards required for this land use in the public interest, as applies also in other areas of natural resource management such as for water, wild fisheries and deer management in Scotland. No industry should rely on law-breaking to exist. Self-regulation has been given more than a chance to succeed and has not delivered and in the circumstances it is right that the Scottish Government should act in the public interest. . The concept is simple, if shooting estates abide by the law then no one has anything to fear, break the law and you stand to lose your licence to shoot. The only threat to livelihoods is from those individuals who are willing to take a chance and break the law. Any suggestion that a dead raptor or illegal trap could be ‘planted’ by a third party to make an estate lose a licence is simply scaremongering - there would have to be a clear evidential link to estate employees being responsible for any offences before a licence withdrawal could be considered.
2. ‘Incidents of illegal killing are declining’
The number of confirmed cases of persecution fluctuates markedly from year to year so comparing results between years is statistically invalid, particularly when the number of cases found will represent only a small but variable proportion of the actual number of crimes being carried out – the ‘tip of the iceberg’. A more robust means of identifying trends in persecution is to look at regional or national population studies of birds of prey, where a significant weight of peer-reviewed science reveals a more accurate picture. For example, recently published scientific reports on red kite, peregrine, hen harrier and golden eagle all provide clear evidence of populations constrained well below natural levels in areas where red grouse shooting is the predominant land use. The recently-published study on satellite-tagged golden eagles, commissioned by the Scottish Government, showed a similar pattern to recent raptor persecution cases, with a third of young tagged golden eagles disappearing on, or close to, land managed for intensive grouse shooting. Few of these birds were found, so they will not appear in any published statistics.
3. ‘Grouse moor management is good for a wide range of bird species’
In much of eastern and southern Scotland, heather moorland is intensively managed to maintain a patchwork of a variety of ages of heather to help create the ideal habitat for red grouse. However, most driven grouse moors are managed with the sole purpose of producing an unnaturally high abundance of grouse to be shot, and on many of them any species which is perceived to pose a threat to this is removed. Potential predators are killed, either legally (e.g. stoats, weasels, foxes, crows and magpies), or illegally, protected birds of prey. While legal predator control can
undoubtedly protect a variety of ground-nesting bird species, such as curlew and golden plover, the overall bird and mammal fauna present is often impoverished. However, with some estates now employing methods, such as the use of gas guns, to deter ground nesting birds of prey, it is likely that wader species will equally be deterred from nesting.
4. ‘Raptor populations are increasing’
In the last 30 years or so, several raptor species have enjoyed a recovery in their fortunes following decades of persecution. These include buzzards, now common in the lowlands, and ospreys that have seen significant investments in nest protection schemes. Other species have been aided by reintroduction programmes, such as red kite and white-tailed eagle. On driven grouse moor areas, however, hen harrier, peregrine and golden eagle remain well below optimum numbers, and in some areas are now regionally extinct, with persecution being the main cause. The Scottish hen harrier population declined by 22% between 2004 & 2010, and by a further 9% between 2010 & 2016.
5. ‘Conservationists want to bring an end to bird shooting’
So long as game bird shooting remains a legitimate activity i.e. it is conducted within the law and sustainable environmental management practices are employed, there is no conservation reason to stop it. What clearly needs to end is the illegal activity and environmental destruction apparently deemed necessary to maintain the intensive driven grouse shooting industry, and this is at the heart of the so-called ‘grouse/raptor’ controversy. Environmental damage includes the bulldozing of hill tracks; the burning of heather on active blanket bog and deep peat deposits which releases carbon into the atmosphere; the drainage of blanket bog habitats to promote heather growth which dries out peat and increases run-off after periods of heavy rain, risking flooding elsewhere in the river catchment area; and the unregulated slaughter of the mountain hare. An aspect rarely mentioned is the ‘accidental’ by-catch in traps of song birds and mammals such as wildcat and pine marten. Similarly, the widespread use of lead, long since banned in petrol, and paint, but still widely utilised in shotgun ammunition, creates environmental pollution and detrimental sub-lethal effects in scavenging birds and mammals.
6. ‘Jobs are at threat’
There is no reason why legally undertaken jobs should be threatened by licensing grouse moors and if shooting estates really believe that livelihoods are at risk because of adherence to the law then the question arises: 'is the business sustainable' either legally, financially or morally? In a speech to the Scottish Raptor Study Group’s conference in February 2017 the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform made the point that predation of grouse is a business risk that must be accepted and managed within the law. The strongest foundation for a secure and thriving rural economy in the future is a broad-based approach to land use, which optimises all of its natural assets, including birds of prey. The illegal killing of birds of prey and other unsustainable management practices prevents other rural development opportunities from being explored and realised, including wildlife based tourism, and selfishly denies local communities and visitors alike the right to enjoy seeing birds of prey in the Scottish countryside. Licensing grouse moors is an important step towards eradicating illegal persecution of birds of prey and creating a more balanced and healthy natural environment, with all the recreational and economic opportunities for Scotland that could arise from this.
Cabinet Secretary announces new package of measures to tackle ongoing raptor persecution
31 May 2017
Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced a new package of measures to tackle the ongoing problem of illegal raptor persecution, following the publication of a Government-commissioned review in to the disappearance of satellite-tagged golden eagles. The review, which showed that almost a third of all tagged golden eagles had vanished in suspicious circumstances, has produced compelling evidence of deliberate and sustained raptor persecution in various grouse moor hotspots over a number of years.
In response Ms Cunningham outlined a package of new measures designed to protect birds of prey, the wider Scottish environment and the reputation of those who abide by the law. The Scottish Government will:
• Set up an independently-led group to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls, and to recommend options for regulation including licensing and other measures which could be put in place without new primary legislation;
• Immediately review all available legal measures which could be used to target geographical areas of concern;
• Increase resources for the detection and investigation of wildlife crime and work with Police Scotland to pilot the use of special constables in the Cairngorms National Park;
• Rule out giving the Scottish SPCA more investigative powers, in light of legal advice;
• Examine how best to protect the valuable role of gamekeepers in rural Scotland;
• Commission research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity.
Full statement from the Scottish Government here
SNH revokes licence on Raeshaw Estate after suspected wildlife crime offences
26 May 2017
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has revoked a licence to control wild birds at Raeshaw Estates as a result of on-going concerns about wildlife crime. Police Scotland is now investigating the potential offences on the Scottish Borders estate.
SNH imposed a general licence restriction on Raeshaw Estates in 2015 on the basis of clear evidence provided by Police Scotland that wildlife crimes had been committed on the estate.The estate challenged the restriction through a judicial review, but the restriction was upheld in March this year.
During a compliance check this month, SNH staff found multiple instances of breaches of conditions of an individual licence that had been granted to cover essential management activities on the estate.These breaches may also constitute offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, so SNH has reported the details to Police Scotland.
SNH press statement in full here
Environment Committee votes to progress SRSG's petition for introduction of licensing for game bird shooting
24 May 2017
Holyrood's Environment Committee has voted to recommend a Government-led inquiry to explore the implementation of a licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting in Scotland. Conservationists have welcomed the move whereas the game-shooting industry has expressed disappointment. The SRSG is delighted and thanks the Environment Committee for its recognition of the on-going problems.
Alleged poisoning of 3 buzzards at Edradynate Estate, Perthshire: Crown Office rejects Police Scotland plea to prosecute
22 May 2017
The Crown Office has refused a plea from Police Scotland to bring charges against a gamekeeper from Edradynate Estate who is suspected of involvement in the poisoning of three buzzards in 2015. The reason for the Crown Office's decision has not been given. More details here.
Holyrood's Environment Committee writes to Crown Office seeking clarification on inadmissibility of video evidence
21 May 2017
Following a number of recent decisions by the Crown Office to drop proceedings in several cases of alleged willdife crime, the Scottish Parliament's Environment Committee has written to the COPFS to express concern and seek clarification on the inadmissibility of video evidence (see here).
Police appeal for witnesses after hen harrier shot at Leadhills, South Lanarkshire
16 May 2017
Police Scotland are appealing for witnesses after a hen harrier was reported shot near Leadhills. Police received a report at 5.15pm on 4 May 2017 that a man had shot and killed a hen harrier near to the B7040 Elvanfoot to Leadhills road. More details here and here.
RSPB Scotland releases video of alleged setting and re-setting of an illegal pole trap on Brewlands Estate
12 May 2017
Following the COPFS's recent decision to drop all proceedings against a gamekeeper who was alleged to have set and re-set an iielgal pole trap on the Brewlands Estate in 2015, RSPB Scotland has published the video evidence. The Crown Office has now stated that the video evidence is inadmissible. RSPB Scotland video and statement here.
RSPB Scotland releases video of alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate
5 May 2017
Following the COPFS's recent decision to drop all proceedings against gamekeeper Stanley Gordon who was alleged to have shot a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate in 2013, RSPB Scotland has published the video evidence. The Crown Office has now stated that the video evidence is inadmissible. RSPB Scotland video and statement here. The Crown Office's decision has provoked widespread public anger and political concern.
Prosecution dropped against gamekeeper accused of setting illegal pole trap
25 April 2017
The Crown Office has dropped all proceedings against a gamekeeper who was alleged to have set and then re-set an illegal pole trap on the Brewlands Estate, Angus Glens in 2015. This is the third prosecution for alleged wildlife crime to have been dropped in two weeks. Again, no explanation has been given for the decision to drop this case. Details here
Environment Committee takes evidence on SRSG's petition calling for introduction of licensing for game bird shoots
24 April 2017
Holyrood's cross-party Environment Committee has heard evidence from a range of stakeholders as they consider a petition lodged by SRSG member Logan Steele calling for the introduction of a state-regulated licensing scheme for game bird shooting in Scotland. The transcript of proceedings can be read here.
Prosecution dropped against gamekeeper accused of alleged shooting of a hen harrier
21 April 2017
The Crown Office has dropped all proceedings against a gamekeeper who was alleged to have shot a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate, Moray in 2013. Proceedings began in 2016 but nine court hearings later, the COPFS has inexplicably abandoned the prosecution. Details here
Illegally-killed buzzard on Newlands Estate: Crown Office drops prosecution for alleged vicarious liability
12 April 2017
In 2015, a gamekeeper on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire was convicted of killing a buzzard. Proceedings began against the landowner, Andrew Duncan, who was alleged to be vicariously liable for the killing. After 13 court hearings, the Crown Office has inexplicably dropped the prosecution, saying it is not in the public interest to continue.
RSPB Scotland appeals for information as another satellite-tagged golden eagle 'disappears' in Cairngorms National Park
1 April 2017
RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal for information following the disappearance of a satellite tagged golden eagle near Strathdon in Aberdeenshire. The young male eagle was fitted with a transmitter by a licensed raptor study group member, before it fledged from a nest in Deeside in the summer of 2016. Data received from the tag allowed conservationists to study the movements of the bird, known as “338”, as it explored north-east Scotland’s countryside.
Overnight on Sunday 5th/Monday 6th March, the tag fitted to 338 inexplicably stopped working, having being functioning perfectly up to that point. The bird’s last recorded position was in Glenbuchat just before nightfall on 5th March. No further data has been received. Follow up enquiries on the North Glenbuchat Estate by police officers, assisted by RSPB staff, yielded no sign of the bird.
In 2011, a satellite-tagged golden eagle was found illegally poisoned on the same estate, with a shot short-eared owl and poisoned buzzard also discovered. Another satellite-tagged golden eagle disappeared here in September 2011, with further such tagged birds also vanishing in the same area, in February 2012 and May 2013. In April 2014, the first young white-tailed eagle to fledge from a nest in the east of Scotland in one hundred years also disappeared here.
Judicial Review upholds SNH's use of General Licence restrictions for raptor persecution
29 March 2017
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has welcomed a senior judge’s decision to uphold a decision by SNH to restrict the use of General Licences on land in the Scottish Borders where evidence of wildlife crimes had been found. SNH press statement here and background details to this case here.
South Scotland Golden Eagle Project secures £1.3 million lottery funding
27 March 2017
A project to boost golden eagle numbers in southern Scotland has had funding of more than £1.3m confirmed. The funds will be used to help translocate young golden eagles from the Highlands to south Scotland, beginning in summer 2018. Futher details on the project website.
Scottish Government publishes 2016 raptor persecution maps
27 March 2017
The Scottish Government, via the PAW Scotland group, has published the latest maps showing recorded incidents of raptor persecution in 2016. The data have been criticised as several confirmed incidents have not been included as they are part of on-going police investigations. The maps have also excluded a number of incidents where satellite-tagged raptors have 'disappeared' in suspicious circumstances.
Cabinet Secretary thanks SRSG members for raptor monitoring and conservation work
1 March 2017
Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, has thanked SRSG members for their "dedicated, high quality fieldwork that is genuinely appreciated by the Scottish Government".
Speaking at the SRSG's annual conference, Roseanna also shared her thoughts on illegal raptor persecution: "The illegal killing of our raptors does remain a national disgrace. I run out of words to describe my contempt for the archaic attitudes still at play in some parts of Scotland. We all have to abide by the law, and we do so, most of us, all throughout our lives. All I’m asking is that everybody does the same. Sporting businesses are NO different, and the people who breach the law deserve all the opprobrium and punishment we can mete out. I have no truck with the argument that raptors damage driven grouse shooting interests. Such damage, frankly, is a business risk you have to live with and manage, but within the law. And that is what must be reiterated again, and again, and again".
Wendy Mattingley wins SRSG's 2017 Donald & Jeff Watson Raptor Award
1 March 2017
SRSG member Wendy Mattingley (Tayside RSG) has been announced as this year's winner of the SRSG's Donald & Jeff Watson Raptor Award. This annual award is given in recognition of a significant long-term amateur contribution to the study of raptors in Scotland. The citation for Wendy's well-deserved win can be read here.
Review of European game bird hunting regulations now published
28 February 2017
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has published a report comparing the game bird hunting regulations in 14 European countries. It focuses specifically on the legal controls on game bird hunting, including licensing and permitting arrangements, as well as on the requirements for monitoring, protecting and managing game birds.
The report found that all 14 countries regulate game bird hunting through legislation, including licensing individual hunters, with the strictest requiring harvest quotas and bag reporting. All 14 countries are able to revoke hunting licences if the legislation is contravened and most also penalise serious breaches of hunting law. In many of the countries examined, hunters must pass a two-part practical and theoretical examination in order to qualify for a hunting licence.
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said:
“I welcome the publication of this report. It shows that there is more regulation of gamebird hunting in many other countries than we have in Scotland. We will be looking very carefully at these different management approaches to see whether they offer the means to address issues such as raptor persecution.
Already we have committed to a number of new measures to tackle wildlife crime within Scotland including; increases in criminal penalties, a prevention review and the creation of a dedicated investigative support unit within Police Scotland. These measures clearly demonstrate our resolve to tackle raptor persecution. This new report and the forthcoming review of satellite tagging data will help determine our next steps.”
This report will also be used to inform the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee's consideration of the Scottish Raptor Study Group's petition calling for the introduction of licensing for all game bird hunting in Scotland.
Eric Meek: 1947-2017
20 February 2017
The SRSG is saddened to hear of the passing last week of long-term and popular SRSG member Eric Meek after a short illness. Eric was best known for his work on merlins and hen harriers on Orkney, where he worked as the RSPB's Area Officer from 1981 until his retirement in 2012. A potted history of his work can be read here and tributes to Eric can be read here and here. Our sincere condolences to his wife Aileen and his family, friends & colleagues.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to address SRSG annual conference
10 February 2017
Our annual conference takes place later this month and we're delighted to welcome Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningahm, who will be making a presentation. Our conference is a private event for members only, with just a handful of invited non-member guests. An overview of the programme can be found here.
Alleged shooting of hen harrier on Moray grouse moor - new trial date set for gamekeeper
10 February 2017
A new trial date has now been set in this long-running case. Stanley Gordon is accused of the alleged shooting of a hen harrier in June 2013 when he worked as a gamekeeper on Cabrach Estate, Moray. He has denied the charge. The new trial date has been set for 21 March 2017. We look forward to this case reaching a conclusion.
RSPB 2015 Birdcrime Report published
5 February 2017
The RSPB has published its 2015 annual report on UK Birdcrime. The report documents 196 reports of the shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey across the UK. 64 of these reports were confirmed as crimes, including the illegal shooting of 46 raptors and 16 cases of illegal trapping. There were also 50 reports of illegal poisoning, 32 of which were confirmed, including 15 buzzards, 4 red kites and 3 peregrines. Some of the Scottish data were withheld from the report, at the request of Police Scotland. Nevertheless, the report clearly shows that raptor persecution continues apace in Scotland.
Environment Committee to take further evidence on SRSG's petition calling for introduction of state-regulated licensing for gamebird hunting
31 January 2017
Last summer the SRSG, with support from RSPB Scotland, lodged a petition calling for the introduction of state-regulated licensing for all gamebird hunting in Scotland. Over the autumn period, the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee took evidence from various stakeholder groups and then passed the petition to another committee for further scrutiny. That committee is the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee and today it decided to seek further evidence from stakeholders. The committee has also written to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment asking for the urgent publication of the Government-commissioned Review on Gamebird Licensing in other countries, which was due to be published last autumn. This review will help the committee to understand licensing systems in other countries and compare their success/failure with the current light touch regulation in Scotland.
Galloway Red Kite Trail worth millions to local economy
10 January 2017
A red kite trail in Dumfries and Galloway is worth millions of pounds to the local economy, a report has found. The Galloway Kite Trail was launched in 2003 in an area north of Castle Douglas. The latest study of its economic value concluded it had contributed more than £8.2m since it opened to the public. It has attracted more than 100,000 visitors and supported the equivalent of about 20 full-time jobs in the region. Further details here
Petitions Committee takes further evidence on gamebird licensing
8 December 2016
The Public Petitions Committee today heard further evidence on the SRSG's petition for state regulated licensing of all gamebird hunting in Scotland. Evidence was taken from BASC and the Scottish Moorland Group, both of whom suggested licensing is unneccessary. Full transcript here. Following this evidence session, the Petitions Committee agreed to pass on this petition to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee for further scrutiny and consideration.
Alleged pole trapping offences in Angus Glens: gamekeeper's trial delayed
7 December 2016
A trial that was due to take place on 5th December 2016 has been delayed. Gamekeeper Craig Graham is accused of setting and re-setting an illegal pole trap on the Brewlands Estate in July 2015. He has denied the charges. The trial date was dropped and another court hearing has now been scheduled for 15 March 2017. Further details here
Grouse shooting industry makes ludicrous claim that 'raptors are thriving on grouse moors' - RSPB Scotland responds
5 December 2016
RSPB Scotland has dismissed a press release issued today by the Gift of Grouse campaign that attempts to draw a veil over the continued persecution of birds of prey on areas of land managed intensively for driven grouse shooting. The reports on which these assertions are based are not in the public domain, and therefore have not been subject to the usual levels of public scrutiny.
However, recent peer-reviewed scientific reports published in the last 12 months link sharp declines in nesting peregrines and hen harriers in NE Scotland to illegal killing; a recently-published SNH report shows that there has been no decline in the levels of persecution of red kites in north Scotland over 25 years; and, results of the 2015 golden eagle survey show that levels of home range occupancy by golden eagles is significantly below the national average in the eastern highlands, where grouse moor management is a dominant land use. In this part of eastern Scotland, prey availability is high, and golden eagles should be more numerous and more productive than almost anywhere else in the country.
There are also ongoing concerns about the regular “disappearance” of satellite-tagged birds of prey in grouse moor areas, to the extent that a review of these incidents has been commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “The content of today’s statement from the Gift of Grouse campaign is pure, unadulterated propaganda from an industry that, quite rightly, is under increasing public scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament. Their claims have no supporting evidence, their methodology is not explained, and to suggest that incidental observations of raptors which may merely have been flying over an estate indicate a population that is “thriving” is clearly ludicrous.
“It is astonishing that the Angus Glens area is being held up as an example of good practice, given the long absence of successfully-breeding raptors over much of this region, as well as its appalling recent history of illegal killing of protected species. Walkers in the area this spring were greeted by a plethora of gas guns, inflatable decoys and strings of fireworks scattered across the hills, all designed to scare off, rather than welcome, birds of prey!”
Alleged shooting of hen harrier on Moray grouse moor: gamekeeper's trial delayed
2 December 2016
A trial that was due to take place on 19th December 2016 has been delayed. Stanley Gordon is accused of the alleged shooting of a hen harrier in June 2013 when he worked as a gamekeeper on Cabrach Estate, Moray. He has denied the charge. The trial date was dropped today and a further hearing has now been scheduled for 10th February 2017. Further details here
Mull Eagle Watch scoops multiple nature tourism awards
26 November 2016
Mull Eagle Watch is a community-based partnership offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy guided trips to see white-tailed eagles without disturbing them. The project has been running since 2000 and the partners include RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, Mull & Iona Community Trust, Police Scotland and SNH. The project has become a national wildlife attraction and draws in £5 million to the local economy every year. This year the project has deservedly won two awards: the Innovation in Tourism Award at the Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards and the Nature Tourism Award at the RSPB's Nature of Scotland Awards. Many congratulations to all at Mull Eagle Watch!
Scottish Government publishes 2015 Annual Wildlife Crime Report
25 November 2016
The Scottish Government has published its fourth annual report on wildlife crime, which provides data on each of the National Wildlife Crime Priority Areas (badger persecution, bat persecution, CITES issues, fresh water pearl mussels, poaching, and raptor persecution). Unfortunately, a number of confirmed raptor persecution crimes have not been included in the report. The reason for these omissions is not clear but the failure to present a full set of data prevents any meaningful year to year analysis and undermines confidence in the robustness of this report. Further commentary here and here.
National survey reveals mixed fortunes for Scotland's golden eagle population
10 November 2016
The results of the 2015 national golden eagle survey have been released, revealing mixed fortunes in different regions. The survey, undertaken by licensed SRSG members and RSPB fieldworkers, was a follow up to the previous national survey that was completed in 2003. Overall, there has been a 15% increase in the golden eagle population, rising from 442 pairs in 2003 to 508 pairs in 2015. This is excellent news, as the golden eagle can now be considered to be in 'favourable' conservation status. However, this overall increase masks some shocking regional figures which are of great concern. Golden eagles continue to flourish in the west, and there has been a welcome marked increase in parts of central Scotland, but golden eagles continue to be absent from large parts of the Eastern Highlands where less than one third of home ranges were occupied. Many of the vacant territories are on land managed for driven grouse shooting, where illegal persecution is prominent. Further information about the 2015 survey results can be found here and here.
Petitions Committee hears evidence from SRSG on gamebird shoot licensing
27 October 2016
Earlier this year the SRSG submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for the introduction of state licensing for all gamebird hunting. Today, three members of the SRSG (Logan Steele, Andrea Hudspeth and Duncan Orr-Ewing) gave evidence to the Petitions Committee and explained why regulation is needed. The official transcript can be read here. The Petitions Committee deferred a decision on whether to pass the petition to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. It is expected the Petitions Committee will take evidence from those opposed to licensing before any further decision is made.
Illegal killing slows red kite population growth in north Scotland
27 October 2016
Slow growth of one of Scotland’s four populations of reintroduced red kites is down to illegal killing, according to a new report.The study, carried out by RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science for Scottish Natural Heritage, shows the number of birds colonising the north of Scotland is much lower than at comparable release sites elsewhere. Further info here. Read the report here.
Sanction to stop killing of birds of prey 'undermined' say conservationists
23 October 2016
Government moves to penalise grouse-shooting estates suspected of persecuting birds of prey have been “completely undermined” by a gaping loophole, say conservationists. In a bid to combat the illegal poisoning and killing of birds of prey, the Scottish Government in 2013 asked its wildlife agency, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to consider how it could restrict the general licences it issued to estates. These allow gamekeepers to control crows and other birds that take grouse eggs and chicks. In November 2015 SNH withdrew general licences from four properties where it said there was evidence that birds of prey had been persecuted. But this triggered a legal challenge by estates, which denied any wrongdoing. Now however, gamekeepers have been allowed to carry on the killing of crows, rooks and gulls, making the removal of the general licence a pointless exercise and "farcical", according to the RSPB. The move has been defended as “robust regulation” by SNH. Full story here.
Stop killing mountain hares: protest rally at Holyrood
15 October 2016
Scottish charity OneKind is organising a peaceful demonstration against the mass killing of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors. The rally will take place at Holyrood on Thursday 17 November 2016 between 12 - 2pm. There will be a number of speakers and MSPs have been invited. To find out more please see here.
Satellite-tagged hen harrier 'Hermione' dies of natural causes
14 October 2016
One of this year's young hen harriers has died. Hermione was one of four young to fledge from a nest on an estate owned and managed by the charity, Highland Renewal, on the Hebridean Isle of Mull in 2016. She was satellite-tagged by the Hen Harrier LIFE Project on 29th July 2016, and her name was chosen as the winner of an online poll run by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), who sponsored the tag. After fledging a few days later, Hermione spent all her time close to her nest area on Mull, with her tag sending out clear and consistent signals. On 28th September, however, it became clear from the data received that she had stopped moving. RSPB Scotland Investigations staff attended within a few days and quickly located her body and the transmitter, only a few kilometres from her nest – it was clear that she had died naturally, and her remains had been partially eaten. Sad though this is, many young harriers do not survive their first winter, with starvation or predation a regular cause of death. Further details on the RSPB's Skydancer blog here.
Scottish White-tailed eagle population set to soar
13 October 2016
Numbers of white-tailed eagles could rise from 106 pairs of birds to 221 pairs in less than 10 years, a new study claims. Research commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) predicted the growth to the year 2025 and beyond. By 2040, the researchers suggested there could potentially be between 889 and 1,005 pairs. Full story here
White-tailed eagles flourishing on the National Forest Estate
2 October 2016
An interesting article about the excellent conservation work done by Forestry Commission Scotland, along with partners and volunteers, which is helping the re-establishment of white-tailed eagles in east Scotland (see here).
2016: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September,
2015: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September,October, Nov, December,
2014: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September,October, Nov, December,
2013: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, Nov, December,
2012: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September,October, Nov, December.