Scottish Raptor Study Group

Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey


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).

Satellite-tagged hen harrier goes missing in Cairngorms National Park
27 September 2016
One of this year's young satellite-tagged hen harriers has gone missing in the Cairngorms National Park. Named 'Brian' after legendary SRSG fieldworker Brian Etheridge, his satellite tag signal stopped suddenly and without warning on 22 August, a few miles from Kingussie on the western side of the National Park. He is the fourth satellite-tagged hen harrier to 'disappear' this year. Further details on the RSPB's Skydancer blog here.

Public consultation on South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project
26 September 2016
A public consultation has been launched to find out the public's views on the proposed translocation of golden eagles to southern Scotland. You can take part here.

Scottish Government includes tackling raptor persecution in 2016/2017 work plan
8 September 2016
Tackling wildlife crime, including the illegal persecution of birds of prey, is a feature of the Scottish Government's two-year work plan, published today. The SRSG welcomes the Government's intentions to increase the penalties for wildlife crime, the creation of a new Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit, and a review of prevention measures including the operation of the PAW Scotland consortium. We look forward to seeing progress on these issues. Further details here.

Obituary: Richard Evans, naturalist and eagle expert
20 August 2016
The Scottish Raptor Study Group is saddened to learn of the death of Richard Evans, a long-term friend and colleague from RSPB Scotland whose work on white-tailed and golden eagles has done much to further our understanding of these species. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends. Richard's obituary can be read here.

Satellite-tagged hen harrier goes missing on a grouse moor in the Monadhliath Mountains
18 August 2016
One of this year's young satellite-tagged hen harriers has 'disappeared' on a grouse moor in the Monadhliath Mountains, just a few weeks after fledging. Named Elwood, he fledged from a nest in Banffshire in the first week of July but his satellite tag transmissions ceased abruptly on 3rd August 2016. Further details on the RSPB's Skydancer blog here.

Appeal for information as poisoned buzzard found in Ayrshire
12 August 2016
The SSPCA is appealing for information after the discovery of a poisoned buzzard on farmland between Maybole and Patna in April. Further details here.

Satellite-tagged golden eagles disappearing in the Monadhliath mountains
11 August 2016
Since November 2011, eight golden eagles, all less than three years old, fitted with satellite transmitters have disappeared in the grouse moor dominated Monadhliath mountains, south east of Inverness. The birds were being monitored by RSPB Scotland, the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Natural Research Ltd and Forestry Commission Scotland. Satellite transmitters are increasingly being used to study the movements of wild birds to gain an understanding of their behaviour and travels following fledging. They are fitted under special licence by a small number of highly accredited individuals and golden eagle experts, most from within the SRSG. Satellites continue to transmit if a transmitter becomes detached from a bird, or if a tagged bird dies naturally allowing recovery of the body. Despite comprehensive searches, after consultation with the Police, of the areas around the last recorded positions of all eight eagles none of the birds or transmitters have been recovered, and no further data has been received from the transmitters. Further details here.

Illegal bird traps found set on Invercauld Estate grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park
22 July 2016
RSPB Scotland has appealed for information following the discovery of illegally-set spring traps in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. The conservation organisation has commended the actions of two members of the public who alerted it to a distressed bird caught in a trap they came across while out walking but is disappointed that, as with many wildlife crimes, the perpetrators are yet to be identified. The names of the Estate where the traps were discovered has been revealed as Invercauld Estate.

Rare success for hen harriers at Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park
18 July 2016
Rare hen harriers have bred successfully at a National Trust for Scotland (NTS) estate in the Cairngorms for the first time in living memory.
NTS said four chicks had hatched from one nest at the Mar Lodge Estate. Further details here.

Conviction upheld for buzzard-killing gamekeeper on Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire
16 July 2016
The High Court has upheld the conviction of gamekeeper William Dick, who last year was found guilty of killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate in Dumfriesshire. Mr Dick had appealed his conviction. Further details here.

Petition to introduce state regulated licensing for gamebird hunting in Scotland
13 July 2016
The Scottish Raptor Study Group has launched a petition calling on the Scottish government to introduce a state regulated licensing scheme for all gamebird hunting in Scotland. We would like the scheme to address long-term concerns about the damaging environmental impact of intensive gamebird shooting, particularly its strong association with the illegal persecution of birds of prey. We believe such a licensing scheme will be fair to those involved with sustainable gamebird shooting but will effectively target those who continue to cause problems. You can find background information about our petition here, here and here, and the petition can be signed here. It is open until 22 August 2016. Thank you for your support.

Police Scotland investigating as two peregrine nests 'suspiciously abandoned' in Dumfries & Galloway
30 May 2016
Two peregrine nests near Dalveen in Dumfries & Galloway have been 'suspiciously abandoned'. Police Scotland is carrying out investigations after the nests were abandoned sometime between April 21st and May 20th. Members of Dumfries & Galloway Raptor Study Group had been monitoring the nests. The abandoned nests both contained eggs. Further details here

Scottish gamekeeper appeals conviction for killing buzzard
20 April 2016
Scottish gamekeeper William Dick is appealing his conviction for the illegal killing of a buzzard on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire, in April 2014. Further details here

Non-native stoats to be removed from Orkney to protect birds including Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls
7th April 2016
SNH is undertaking a project to remove a population of stoats from Orkney, using methods that have proved successful in removing non-native mink from the Western Isles. Stoats are not native to Orkney but are believed to have been introduced there in 2010, either by accident in a hay bale or deliberately released to control rabbits. The stoat population has since rapidly increased and needs to be removed ASAP to protect ground-nesting birds and also Hen Harriers and Short-eared owls, which rely heavily on voles, a favoured prey item of the stoat. News story here.

Hen Harrier Day 2016
6th April 2016
Hen Harrier Day will take place for the third year, and is scheduled for Sunday 7th August 2016. This is a volunteer-led event designed to raise awareness about the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors in Northern England and Scotland. Planning is well underway and there are expected to be rallies organised throughout the UK. To find out if there'll be one near you, or if you wish to organise your own event, please visit the Hen Harrier Day website and get involved!

Blue tits steal microphone cover at famous Osprey nest
29th March 2016
A microphone at one of Scotland's famous Osprey nests has had to be replaced after Blue tits pecked at the cover to use it as nest-lining material. The microphone, along with a nest camera, is part of a public education programme at the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes Osprey site, allowing people to follow the breeding season activities of Ospreys Laddie and Lassie. A new microphone has now been installed. Full story here.

Mull Eagle Watch underway for 2016 breeding season
28th March 2016
'Mull Eagle Watch' is a partnership on the Isle of Mull designed to protect nesting golden and white-tailed eagles from potential egg-theives and disturbance from over-zealous photographers. The partnership includes members of the local community, RSPB, Police Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage and has been running successfully for many years. White-tailed eagles can be safely viewed on Mull from one of the special public viewing hides. More info about Mull Eagle Watch here.

Renewed hope for breeding White-tailed eagles on Orkney this year
23rd March 2016
Conservationists are hoping that a pair of White-tailed eagles on Orkney will produce the island's first chicks in nearly 150 years. The young, inexperienced pair had their first breeding attempt last year but their eggs were infertile. The pair is back again this year on the Hoy Nature Reserve and hopes are high that this year they'll succeed. Further info here.

Hen Harrier 'Lad' found dead on grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park - suspected shot
22nd March 2016
A young satellite-tagged hen harrier named 'Lad' has been found dead in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor within the Cairngorms National Park. The post-mortem results suggest he had been shot. 'Lad' was part of the RSPB's Hen Harrier Life+ Project and was only a few months old when his corpse was discovered near Newtonmore. His death has prompted further calls for action against those who illegally target birds of prey. The Cairngorms National Park Authority has issued a statement condemning raptor persecution within the National Park and says it will work with partners to try and eradicate persecution and help raptor populations to recover in the area.

New paper: Environmental impacts of high-output driven shooting of red grouse.
21st March 2016
A new scientific paper, authored by RSPB scientists, has today been published in the peer-reviewed journal Ibis. It is a damning review of the environmental damage caused by the intensive management of driven grouse moors. The authors call for a 'fundamental shift in behaviours and practices' if grouse shooting is to contribute to upland conservation. The paper can be read in full here.

Lush stores raise £100k for Hen Harriers
15th March 2016
Over £100,000 has been raised for hen harrier conservation through sales of Lush’s hen harrier shaped bath bomb.The high street cosmetics store has donated all profits to the RSPB to help satellite tag as many hen harrier chicks as possible over the coming years. This is part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier project they are running with support from the EU’s LIFE+ funding scheme. Futher details about this fantastic fundraising achievement here.

Mountain hares massacred in Cairngorms National Park
14th March 2016
Disturbing photographs have emerged of a severe mountain hare cull inside the Cairngorms National Park, despite SNH's call for voluntary restraint on this activity. Several articles have been written about this: here and here. The Cairngorms National Park Authority has issued a statement but this has been met with fierce criticism. The Scottish Raptor Study Group has grave concerns about the apparent unsustainabilty of mountain hare culling and last year was one of ten conservation organisations urging SNH to call for a three-year ban until hare populations can be suitably assessed. SNH refused to implement the ban.

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.

SRSG member helps capture incredible footage of a battle between a fox and a golden eagle for BBC's Winterwatch programme
29th January 2016
Millions of viewers of the BBC's Winterwatch programme have been enthralled this week by incredible video footage of a fox and a golden eagle fighting over a deer carcass. Scottish Raptor Study Group member David Anderson facilitated this by installing a camera at one of his regular field sites in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. More here.

Police Scotland under fire for poor response to suspected raptor persecution crimes
20th January 2016
Police Scotland has once again come under fire for its responses to two reports of suspected raptor persecution incidents. The first incident involved the discovery of a dead buzzard in an area with a long history of illegal raptor persecution. The discovery was reported to the local police but the buzzard's carcass lay on site for a week before eventually disappearing. The second incident involved another dead buzzard which was found in suspcious circumstances by a member of the public. When it was reported to Police Scotland, the person was told that the police were unable to help. Fortunately, a member of the local Raptor Study Group was alerted and was able to coordinate a pick up with RSPB Scotland. Details of both incidents here.

No breeding hen harriers on grouse moors in the Angus Glens since 2006
7th January 2016
Survey data from the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme (of which we are a participating member) has revealed an absence of breeding hen harriers on the grouse moors of the Angus Glens since 2006. This is shocking, although sadly will not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the long history of raptor persecution in this area. Details of the nine year survey data can be read here.

New RSPB report reveals hundreds of raptors have been illegally killed on game-shooting estates in Scotland over last 20 years
17th December 2015
RSPB Scotland has published a detailed 20 year review of the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland, which confirms that 779 protected raptors were illegally killed between 1994 and 2014. In total, 468 birds of prey were poisoned, 173 were shot and 76 were caught in illegal traps. There were also seven attempted shootings. The figures include 458 buzzards, 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and 10 white-tailed eagles. 81% of confirmed poisoning incidents were on land used for game-shooting: 57% on grouse moors and 24% on lowland pheasant shoots. RSPB press release here. Read the report here.

Sporting agent Graham Christie convicted of raptor persecution crimes on Cardross Estate under vicarious liability legislation
1st December 2015
A sporting agent from Dunmhor Sporting has become the second person convicted of raptor persecution crime under vicarious liability legislation. Graham Christie leased land on the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire and employed gamekeeper James O'Reilly, who was convicted of using an illegal gin trap to catch and injure a buzzard. Under the WANE Act 2011, Christie is liable for the actions of his gamekeeper. The Crown Office has issued the following press statement:

A self-employed game farmer has pled guilty to wildlife offences, leading to the second conviction in Scotland by vicarious liability for wildlife crime against wild birds.

At Stirling Sheriff Court, Graham Christie was fined a total of £3,200 after admitting his liability for the crimes committed by James O’Reilly, a gamekeeper employed by him.

O’Reilly was previously sentenced to a community payback order after pleading guilty to intentionally trapping and injuring a buzzard, using an illegal gin trap, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Despite veterinary treatment for the severe injury caused to its leg, the buzzard required to be euthanised as it would never be suitable for release back to the wild. The buzzard had been in good condition otherwise.

Graham Christie leased part of the Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire to use for his business, Dunmhor Shooting. He had employed O’Reilly as head game-keeper with responsibility for pest control on this part of the estate.

The offences were committed more than a year after the introduction of the vicarious liability legislation.

The law placed responsibility on Christie unless he could show that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to prevent O’Reilly from committing the offences.

When asked by police how he was able to see what was going on ensure everything was done properly and professionally, Christie stated;
Well I can only tell that by the amount of pheasants that were shown on a shoot day and that he was very good to be fair”.

Helen Nisbet, Head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit said:
These offences were committed well after the vicarious liability offence was introduced and the accused had ample time in which to take advice and put appropriate measures in place. He failed in his responsibilities and as a result stands convicted of the killing of a wild bird using an illegal gin trap. Anyone who seeks to injure or kill wild birds and anyone who employs or engages the services of such persons without taking appropriate precautions to prevent these offences being committed can fully expect to be brought to account before the courts.”

Scottish Highlands ranks second on list of raptor persecution hotspots in UK in 2014
26th November 2015
The RSPB has published its latest report on crimes that took place against birds in the UK in 2014. They received 179 reports of the shooting and destruction of raptors, including the shooting of 23 buzzards, nine peregrines, three red kites and a hen harrier. Confirmed victims of illegal poisoning included 23 red kites, nine buzzards and four peregrines. The highest number of reported incidents was North Yorkshire (36 incidents) and the Scottish Highlands ranked second (25 incidents). The report includes a quote from the National Wildlife Crime Unit: "Intelligence continues to indicate a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management". RSPB press statement here. The 2014 Birdcrime report can be read here.

General Licence restrictions suspended as estates make legal challenge
21st November 2015
The three-year General Licence restrictions that SNH placed on four sporting estates earlier this month have been suspended as the estates involved have mounted a legal appeal. SNH is expected to respond early in the New Year. In the meantime, as the appeals are under consideration these estates may continue activities (bird trapping and killing) as permitted under the General Licences. See here for further details.

Red kite found poisoned near Nairn
20th November 2015
Police Scotland have issued an appeal for information following the discovery of an illegally-poisoned red kite in the Highlands. The kite was discovered by a member of the public on farmland in the Glenferness area at the end of October. Police were contacted with immediate action being taken to establish the cause of death. Subsequently, test results returned this week have confirmed the bird had ingested an illegal pesticide.

Commenting on the investigation, Area Commander Chief Inspector Colin Gough said:

Sadly it has been confirmed the red kite had died as a result of consuming a poisonous substance and an investigation is now taking place into the circumstances. It appears to be an isolated incident involving a single bird of prey. Police Scotland and partners are committed to tackling wildlife crime and will utilise all available resources to bring those responsible to justice. Investigations into wildlife crime can be very complex and challenging, with a major part of our enquiries involving liaising with members of the local community who may hold essential information. We would appeal to anyone who has any information to make contact as a matter of urgency via 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations for RSPB Scotland said:

It is very disappointing to hear of yet another incident of raptor persecution in this area. It is thoroughly depressing that in 21st century Scotland, there are still those who have a Victorian attitude towards birds of prey, as well as a criminal disregard of the law. The continued targeting of our raptors is a stain on our country’s reputation and has no place in modern Scotland. I urge anyone who has information about this incident to contact the police as soon as possible.

Wildlife Crime Penalties Review report calls for tougher sentences
19th November 2015
The Scottish Government has published a report it commissioned to review the penalties available for those convicted of wildlife crime. The report has made ten short term and medium term recommendations, including raising the maximum penalty for summary convictions to £40,000 and 12 months imprisonment. The current maximum penalty is £5,000 and six months imprisonment. The Scottish Raptor Study Group welcomes the report's recommendations and urges the Scottish Government to implement them as soon as possible. The report can be read here.

No vicarious liability prosecution for raptor persecution crimes on Kildrummy Estate, Aberdeenshire
18th November 2015
Following the successful prosecution and conviction of gamekeeper George Mutch in 2014 for raptor persecution crimes on the Kildrummy Estate in Aberdeenshire, it has emerged that a subsequent vicarious liability prosecution against his manager will not be forthcoming. The reasons for this failure in the criminal justice system appear to be related to the inability of Police Scotland and the Crown Office to identify Mutch's superiors - see here.

London High Court rules decision to refuse buzzard-killing licences was unlawful
13th November 2015
A judicial review in London's High Court has ruled that Natural England (the statutory body responsible for wildlife licensing in England) acted unlawfully when it refused to issue licences to a Northumberland gamekeeper to kill buzzards that he claimed were attacking his pheasants. The full ruling can be read here. It is thought this verdict will encourage an increase in applications from gamekeepers to kill buzzards. Although this judgement related to wildlife licensing practices in England, it will also have significance in Scotland because even though the licensing body is different (SNH is the licensing authority in Scotland), the EU and domestic laws which provide the frameworks under which killing-licences may be issued, are the same laws as in England.

SNH restricts use of General Licences on four grouse moors in response to raptor persecution crimes
5th November 2015
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued four notices of intent to restrict the use of General Licences on four properties after evidence of raptor persecution crimes was provided by Police Scotland. The SNH press release can be read here. The properties have been identified as Burnfoot Estate and neighbouring Wester Cringate Estate in Stirlingshire, and Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Estate in the Borders (see here). The restrictions will be in place for three years (from 13th November 2015 until 12th November 2018) and prevent the killing or taking of certain species which are usually permitted under General Licences 1, 2 and 3. 

New paper: Northern Goshawk may improve Black Grouse breeding success.
1st November 2015.
A new scientific paper has demonstrated that the close proximity of an active Goshawk nest may be beneficial to the breeding success of one of its prey species, the Black Grouse.

The paper is entitled: Tornberg, R., Rytkonen, S., Valimaki, P., Valkama, J. and Helle, P. (2015). Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) may improve Black Grouse breeding success. Journal of Ornithology 156(4): 1-8.

Abstract: Around the nests of many birds of prey the pressure of nest predators is decreased. This attracts other bird species to breed near nests of those birds of prey in order to benefit from protection conferred. This study examines the possible protective effect of the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) on two of its main prey species, the Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) and the Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). If the Goshawk reduces the number of corvids robbing grouse nests, there should be a larger proportion of grouse females with broods near Goshawk nests during late summer. We compared the proportion of grouse females with the broods observed in wildlife-triangle counts, which were performed along a 12-km-long equilateral triangle in relation to distance from a successful Goshawk nest. Where Goshawks had nested inside a triangle, the proportion of Black Grouse females with a brood was 20 % higher than in situations where a Goshawk had nested 2–3 km away from the center of the triangle. On the other hand, the number of adult Black Grouse rose as the distance from the Goshawk nest increased, but this pattern did not hold with chick abundance. No distance effect was found for Capercaillie. This study thus provided indirect evidence based on quantitative data that Goshawks may create a protective effect for one of its main prey.


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.