Scottish Raptor Study Group

Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey

News - February 2016

Tougher wildlife crime penalties to be introduced
24th February 2016
The Scottish Raptor Study Group is delighted to learn that Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod has accepted the recommendations made in the recent Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Report. It means that courts could impose sentences of up to 12 months in prison and fines of up to £40,000 for those convicted of committing wildlife crimes in Scotland, including the illegal persecution of raptors. Further information available here.

SRSG Annual Conference 2016
20th February 2016
Our 2016 annual conference takes place next week with a cracking line-up of speakers! This is a closed event for SRSG members only, with a few limited invitations to representatives of some partner organisations. This year there will be several presentations on hen harriers, reflecting our increasing concern about this species' poor conservation status, as well as talks on golden eagles, grouse moors, driven grouse shooting, and raptor persecution.

Job Vacancy: Sea Eagle Project Officer
11th February 2016
RSPB Scotland is recruiting for an enthusiastic field ornithologist to deliver the East Scotland Sea Eagles Project, focusing on the field-based components of the work. The successful candidate will have responsibility for monitoring the newly-established population of white-tailed eagles in eastern and central Scotland, largely stemming from a reintroduction which began in 2007. The role includes actively searching for and monitoring nests, checking nest outcomes, making detailed observations and ensuring that any necessary ringing and telemetry takes place and tracking the movements of birds, often linking with volunteers or using remote cameras. The successful candidate will liaise with raptor study groups, birdwatchers, the public and land managers, addressing any management concerns or issues and building links with statutory agencies and other organisations. Communication and public engagement (including the media and social media) also form part of the work, along with project management, detailed record keeping and reporting. Closing date 23 February 2016. For further details and for info about to apply see here.

White-tailed eagle '14WhiteA' from East Scotland population has died
10th February 2016
A young white-tailed eagle which had fledged from the Fife nest in 2014 has been found dead. The cause of death cannot be confirmed but the circumstances suggest he had perched on an electricity pylon and was electrocuted. Post-mortem tests for poison and lead shot proved negative. Full details available here.

Raeshaw and Burnfoot Estates intend to apply for a Judicial Review over General Licence restrictions.
7th February 2016
Two sporting estates that have received three-year restrictions on their use of the General Licence in response to raptor persecution crimes have stated that they intend to apply for a Judicial Review over SNH's decision. Both estates claim that SNH has acted unfairly in penalising them because they deny any involvement with the crimes uncovered on their land. Further details available here.

New paper by SRSG members documents shocking decline of breeding hen harriers in North-east Scotland
6th February 2016
A new scientific paper has been published in the journal British Birds, documenting the shocking decline of breeding hen harriers in North-east Scotland. Authored by several members of the North East Scotland Raptor Study Group and RSPB Scotland, this paper follows hot on the heels of another paper from this group which documented the decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the same region. Their latest paper is entitled: The past, current and potential status of breeding hen harriers in North-east Scotland. Here is the abstract:

The Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus recolonised North-east Scotland in the 1940s and expanded its population and range into the 1990s. Coordinated survey and monitoring during 1980–2014, together with supplementary records, identified 118 discrete breeding areas. The vast majority were on moorland managed for Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus sport shooting. Peak numbers of at least 28 breeding pairs in the 1990s declined steadily to just three pairs in 2010–12, five in 2013 and one in 2014. Illegal persecution and grouse-management practices are believed to be the main causes of that decline, which occurred despite ample suitable habitat and prey. Two raptor recovery projects were not successful in reversing the decline, and proposed designation of the best site as a Special Protection Area for Hen Harriers stalled. If current habitat management continues, and prey availability is maintained, the area has the potential to hold around 100 breeding pairs in the absence of persecution. Aspects of Hen Harrier ecology led to conflicts with grouse-shooting interests and a greatly constrained harrier population. This is one of the most controversial conservation issues in the UK, and we suggest that Scottish Natural Heritage and Police Scotland are best placed to lead on overseeing a recovery plan for North-east Scotland. A number of options to aid any potential recovery are also suggested.

Further discussion on the paper can be found here, here and here.

An update on 'Holly' the hen harrier
6th February 2016
Holly was one of several young hen harriers being satellite-tracked by the RSPB's Hen Harrier Life Project. She fledged from a protected site on Ministry of Defence land in Argyll in the summer of 2015, after being carefully monitored by members of the Central Raptor Study Group. She dispersed from Argyll and moved to the uplands of central Scotland but in November, her satellite tag data suggested she had died in an area of upland farmland and forestry to the north east of Glasgow. Unfortunately researchers have been unable to find her body so it is not known how she died. Further info here.

Two sporting estates 'penalised' after discovery of poisoned raptors and illegal traps
5th February 2016
SNH has issued 'General Licence restriction orders' on two Scottish estates after Police Scotland provided evidence of raptor persecution crimes taking place. The two estates are Raeshaw Estate, near Peebles, and Burnfoot Estate in Stirlingshire. The restriction orders are in place for three years and prevent the use of crow traps, Larsen traps, and other methods of 'pest control' on this land. This is welcome news although there is concern about how the restriction orders will be enforced. See here for further detailed discussion and maps showing the areas under restriction.

'Missing' Scottish osprey found on beach in Senegal
4th February 2016
A Scottish osprey 'missing' for 18 months after its satellite tag stopped working has been sighted in Senegal. The three year old bird, identified by his leg ring as Blue YD, was tagged as a chick in July 2012 at the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes reserve. More details 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.