Scottish Raptor Study Group

Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey

News - October 2015

Local MSP asks Police Chief Constable for interim report on investigation into Cononbridge raptor poisonings
26th October 2015.
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has written to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, to urge him to issue an interim report on the first stages of investigations into raptor deaths around Cononbridge. The communication has been copied to Highlands and Islands, Chief Superintendent, Julian Innes, and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson.

This follows 22 birds of prey, including 16 red kites, being found dead in one small area around Cononbridge in 2014. As yet, the culprit for these killings has not been brought to justice and the investigation remains on-going.

Mr Thompson said, "I appreciate the need to await the full review into the investigation, especially as the case is live, and as such, we must be sensitive to the investigative process. However, I feel enough time has elapsed that the general public are owed an explanation of where the case is at, which is why I have requested an interim review to be issued by Police Scotland, so we can see how the process has been handled in the early stages. I have written to the Chief Constable and copied in the Chief Superintendent, Julian Innes, and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, on the matter. I look forward to hearing back from the Chief Constable as soon as is practicably possible on what is an issue that still remains a concern to many of my constituents and beyond".

New paper documents further decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in North East Scotland
23rd October 2015
A new paper authored by experts from the North East Raptor Study Group has revealed a catastrophic decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in north east Scotland. Of 28 known peregrine nesting ranges on grouse moors, only 2 were occupied by breeding pairs in 2014.

The paper is entitled: North East Scotland Raptor Study Group (2015). Peregrines in North-East Scotland in 2014 – further decline in the uplands. Scottish Birds 35(3): 202-206.

Abstract: Peregrines in North-east Scotland were surveyed in 2014. Compared with previous studies there was an increase in coastal breeding Peregrines, but a decline in the uplands, trends persistent since 1991. Overall fewer Peregrines were recorded in 2014, but their breeding performance was relatively high. Low occupancy of nesting ranges, with more singletons than pairs, was associated with intensive management for driven grouse shooting. The results document a further decline in the Peregrine breeding population in the eastern Cairngorms National Park.

Further discussion about the paper's findings can be found here.

'Red Sky on the Black Isle' - new documentary about the 2014 poisoning of 16 red kites & 6 buzzards in Ross-shire
22nd October 2015
In March 2014, 22 dead raptors were found in a small area around Conon Bridge, Ross-shire. Tests revealed they had been illegally killed with a banned poison. The police investigation continues but to date, nobody has been charged. Now a young film maker, Li Marley, has produced a short documentary about the crime and its impact on the local community. It includes a moving interview with SRSG member Brian Etheridge, who was formerly the RSPB's Red Kite Officer in the area and who has spent decades working on the kite reintroduction project. The video can be watched here.

Obituary: Mick Carroll, raptor fieldworker, Northern England Raptor Forum
21st October 2015
The Scottish Raptor Study Group was saddened to hear of the passing of Mick Carroll, a long-time raptor fieldworker and member of the Northern England Raptor Forum. Our sincere condolences to his friends and colleagues at NERF. Mick's obituary can be read here.

The Intensification of Grouse Moor Management in Scotland: new report published
17th October 2015
A new report has been published by the League Against Cruel Sports highlighting the negative environmental consequences of intensive grouse moor management, including the illegal persecution of birds of prey. Co-author Andy Wightman said: "The evidence we have uncovered is a shocking indictment of a land use that is out of control. I hope this comes as a wake-up call to Scotland’s politicians. The methods being deployed to maximise grouse numbers are damaging the environment and are subject to no effective regulation or oversight by the Scottish Government and other public authorities.” The report and an accompanying video can be viewed here.

Hen Harriers satellite-tagged as part of RSPB's Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project
16th October 2015
Members of the public are now able to follow the progress of two young Scottish Hen Harriers that have been satellite-tagged as part of a wider Hen Harrier conservation project (RSPB press release here). The two birds, named 'Holly' and 'Chance', were tagged by experts from the Scottish Raptor Study Group and the birds' movement maps can be viewed on the RSPB's Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project website here.

Satellite-tagged Kestrels from Ayrshire - an update
16th October 2015
This year, six young kestrels in Ayrshire were fitted with satellite tags as part of a wider research monitoring project by SRSG member Gordon Riddle, to better understand this species' decline in Scotland. An overview of this work can be found here. Gordon has been posting regular updates on his Kestrel website and these progress reports show some fascinating results - see here.

National Peregrine Survey 2014 - preliminary results show 11% population decline in Scotland
8th October 2015
The sixth UK breeding survey of Peregrine was carried out in 2014, providing a provisional estimate of 1480 pairs in the UK and Isle of Man. This initial figure indicates that the Peregrine population in the UK has remained largely stable since the last national survey in 2002. However, this overall stability belies marked variation in the trends of Peregrine populations in different parts of these survey areas over the past 12 years. Provisional estimates indicate an 11% decline in the Scottish Peregrine population.

Peregrines are now distributed more widely and evenly than ever through the UK, due to decreases in Scotland, Wales and Isle of Man, and increases in England and Northern Ireland. For the first time, the estimated number of breeding Peregrines in England is greater than that in Scotland, though these two countries still hold the majority of the UK’s Peregrines. 

The country-level changes described above, together with regional trends in peregrine breeding numbers and territory occupancy, suggest that, broadly speaking, Peregrine numbers have decreased in upland areas, remaining stable or increasing in many lowland and coastal areas. The association of Peregrines with wild and remote places in the UK grows increasingly tenuous, as numbers nesting on traditional inland crags decline, and the numbers occupying lowland quarries and man-made structures continue to grow.

This ongoing redistribution of Peregrine numbers across Britain is probably being driven by multiple factors. Food supply is likely to be important; changes in numbers and availability of prey are likely to be having an effect in many areas. Illegal persecution continues to restrict numbers and productivity of breeding Peregrines in some regions, particularly where pigeon racing is practiced and where there is intensive management for red grouse shooting (e.g. as the paper by North-east Scotland Raptor Study Group in the latest edition of Scottish Birds highlights). In contrast, decreases in lowland persecution during the 20th century and the ban on organochlorines have had positive influences on numbers, and allowed Peregrines to expand into many areas where they were previously absent. But more work is needed, particularly on food supply and its role in limiting Peregrine numbers, in order to diagnose the cause of regional declines, and identify measures to halt or reverse them. (Dr Mark Wilson, BTO National Peregrine Survey Coordinator).

National Golden Eagle Survey 2015 - an update
8th October 2015
January to July this year saw tireless work across Scotland by members of Scottish Raptor Study Group and 6 full time RSPB fieldworkers scouring the ground for the RSPB/SNH National Golden Eagle Survey. Fieldwork came to an end on 31st July and surveyors have covered all 693 territories across Scotland, those known to have been occupied in recent years as well as also those which haven’t been visited since the last national survey in 2003. Surveyors also carried out additional watches in areas with suitable habitat where there was no previous history of eagles breeding. As data are still being collated there are no results to report as yet, but the initial reports on the number of occupied territories in the Highlands (where most of the full time fieldworkers were surveying) is generally looking positive this year in comparison to 2003. However, initial reports coming in suggest that the breeding season in the West Highlands, especially up the West coast, has been particularly poor.

Huge credit is due to all the fieldworkers carrying out this work during one of the coldest wettest springs of recent years - with rainfall being well above and temperatures well below average. So, a huge thank you to all involved for a fantastic job! We are looking forward to receiving all of the data from the survey, once collated analysis can begin to determine the state of the nation’s Golden Eagle population. (Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB National Golden Eagle Survey Coordinator).

Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme 2014 Report published
7th October 2015
The Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme (of which the Scottish Raptor Study Group is a member) has published its latest annual report covering the 2014 breeding season. The report provides details of the abundance, distribution and breeding success of raptor species in Scotland and is based largely on the monitoring efforts of members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group. You can read the 2014 report here.

Red grouse and medicated grit: FoI reveals Government failure to test for veterinary medicine residues
6th October 2015
A shocking report, based on a series of Freedom of Information requests, has revealed that red grouse destined for human consumption have not been tested for harmful residues of veterinary medicines. The report reveals that pharmaceutical worming chemicals (at 10-20 times the recommended dose) have been given to red grouse on driven grouse moors in the form of medicated grit and direct dosing but have not been subject to regulatory monitoring because the Government claims ignorance about the locations where the shot grouse are prepared for entry to the human food chain. These findings directly contradict SNH's claim that shot red grouse are 'natural and healthy' to eat. There are further concerns about the potential harmful effects of these chemicals on the wider suite of species that inhabit driven grouse moors. Further details here.


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