Eight red kites found poisoned in Ireland since November

We have been asked by the Golden Eagle Trust (Ireland) to publish the following press release:

The Irish Red Kite Reintroduction Project is part of an all-Ireland effort to restore red kites. These attractive birds were extinct in Ireland for about 200 years. The Golden Eagle Trust, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Welsh Kite Trust have collected (from Wales) and released 120 red kites in Co. Wicklow between 2007 and 2011 and 39 red kites in Co. Dublin in 2011. The RSPB released 80 red kites in Co. Down between 2008 and 2010. There are now 10-15 pairs of red kites breeding in Co. Wicklow and 5-6 pairs breeding in Co. Down.

Following the successful release of red kites during the summer in Dublin and Wicklow, it is with disappointment that we report further recent kite deaths in Fingal. Since the release in July, this year, a total of eight (8) kites have now been recovered dead in Fingal since November.

The deaths include the satellite tagged kite known as ‘@’ which has flown as far as Co. Mayo on its travels and within a few weeks of returning to Fingal was found dead near Lusk.

Ms Phil Moore, from the Fingal LEADER Partnership expressed sadness saying ‘We just can’t believe ‘our baby’ is dead. We have all been following the satellite tagged kite since her release and have pictures all over the office of her journey; it is upsetting to know she is now dead’. 

There were 39 red kites, collected for Fingal under licence fromWales with project partners, the Welsh Kite Trust. The Fingal Red Kite release programme is part of the final and fifth year of an ambitious project to re-establish red kites in Ireland. The deaths represent just over 20% of the red kites released in the Fingal area.

The Golden Eagle Trust is managing the project, which is funded by Fingal LEADER Partnership through the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Fingal County Council, at Newbridge Demesne, and a private landowner hosted and facilitated the two separate release cages.

The project is widely supported throughout local communities, a suite of volunteers and landowners. There were over 100 people involved in cage building, collections, feeding and subsequent monitoring of the released kites.

Each kite is fitted with a radio tag which has allowed the project team to follow the kites’ movements since release. Whilst these tags allow us to track their daily movements they have also led us to find the dead birds.

Dr Marc Ruddock, Red Kite Project Manager, said ‘There is nothing more heart-breaking than having to pick up the carcass of bird and putting it in a bag for post-mortem after having followed its development from a small, downy chick collected in Wales and then watching it flying free in Fingal’.

Earlier this year, a post-mortem protocol was agreed between NPWS, Department of Agriculture and the State Laboratory. Each of the red kite carcasses has been sent for testing at Backweston Campus, to establish the cause of death. This process and the rigorous work undertaken is fundamental to the growing understanding of environmental issues and the threats posed to kites and other wildlife. 

It has now been confirmed that at least four of the kites contained the second-generation rodenticide, brodifacoum. This is an anti-coagulant rat poison usually recommended for indoor use only, which causes internal bleeding. It is widely recognised that rodenticides can kill non-target species.

Dietary analysis of the red kites, both in Wicklow and Dublin has shown that they are clearly hunting and scavenging rats, providing a natural control on rodent populations. The red kite is a specialist scavenger and is therefore likely to be at high risk of secondary poisoning if feeding on rats which are dead or dying from rodenticides.

We recognise the requirement for rat and mice control in terms of human health and food safety. But we urge amateur and professional users alike to ensure that rodent control programs are carefully planned and follow a defined treatment period to be effective.

The over-use of some chemicals could lead to resistance and accumulation in the environment. Those in the countryside should ensure best practice use of these chemicals to allow for more effective rodent control in the long-term and minimise the secondary poisoning risk to non-target wildlife. This includes other rodent-eating native raptors and owls such as kestrels, buzzards, barn owls, long-eared owls and red kites.

Best practice rodent eradication strategies record information such as the quantity and location of all baits and require baits to be regularly inspected and not left exposed to non-target animals and birds. Furthermore, dead rodents should be collected and disposed of safely and baits should be removed at the end of the treatment. Urban and rural rodenticide users are urged to be mindful of the potential environmental effects of the use of chemicals.

The farming and shooting communities in Fingal are very supportive of the project and are anxious to continue to control rats and mice effectively and minimise unintentional consequences for natural rat predators”. -END-

The substance used to kill the other four kites that have been discovered since November has yet to be confirmed – toxicology tests are on-going. It’s possible they were also unintentionally killed by secondary rat poison, but it’s equally possible that they have been deliberately (and illegally) killed by other poisons. For example, at the beginning of November 2011, it was reported that a red kite and a buzzard had been illegally poisoned in County Wicklow by alphachloralose (see here). In addition, a map produced by the Golden Eagle Trust in 2010 (see figure) shows the extent of illegal poisoning across Ireland (the map does not include instances of unintentional secondary rat poisoning). Species affected include red kites, golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, buzzards and peregrines, killed with alphachloralose or carbofuran.

Golden Eagle Trust website here

Repeat after me: there are too many raptors

I looked for Kim Jong-il’s name listed on the editorial board of Modern Gamekeeping and was surprised not to find it nestled between the names of Peter Carr and James Marchington. I thought he might have been a guest editor in the final weeks before his death. It seems a reasonable explanation for what looks to be obviously editorial-led comments from their four guest gamekeepers in the January issue.

Each month, Modern Gamekeeping invites guest keepers from across Britain to comment about what has kept them busy during the previous month. In the latest issue, keepers from Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire and North Yorkshire all discuss suspiciously similar topics – Is it a coincidence that three of the four keepers mention ‘fox-dumping’ in their articles (a subject prominently covered on the front page of this month’s Modern Gamekeeping), even though all of them admit it’s not a current problem for them? As it seems to have absolutely nothing to do with what has kept them busy during December, why would three of the four keepers mention it at all, unless they’d been ‘influenced’ by the editorial team?

Predictably, all four of the keepers also write about what they perceive to be ‘the raptor problem’. Is this also a coincidence, or have they taken direction from the editorial staff, given that the magazine’s January editorial is all about how raptors need to be [legally] culled (see here)?

Here’s what the keepers had to say about ‘the raptor problem’:

Keeper on Ashby St Ledgers shoot:The vermin haven’t really been a problem as we stay on top of them, but the buzzards and sparrowhawks are getting out of hand, they’re everywhere, and are a real worry“.

Keeper on Ozleworth Park:We have a lot of buzzards that give us some problems early on in the season when birds go to pen. They are also sometimes a bother when we want to move pheasants across the valley when they show themselves and the birds flush the wrong way. Thankfully we don’t get goshawks very often, and when we do they seem to move on quickly, which is good as they could be a real problem“.

Keeper on Shortwood Estate:Sparrowhawks and buzzards are out of control. Eight years ago you were lucky to see a pair of buzzards round here, now it’s a bad day if you don’t see five circling over your woods. There are far too many, and we also had a pair of goshawks this year that have caused me no end of trouble with the partridges“.

Keeper on Spaunton Moor:The biggest threat to game management has to be increasing numbers of birds of prey. The North York Moors in particular have massive blocks of forestry and unkeepered farmland, and every week we’re seeing more and more of every raptor species. What people forget is that 20 years ago, there wasn’t a buzzard, red kite or goshawk up here. Now there are plenty of all of them, and they’ve got to eat something. So the biggest threat, I think, is the increasing number of birds of prey and not being able to address that increase“.

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps these keepers have not been indoctrinated at all and they all genuinely believe that raptors in their areas are ‘out of control’. Although if that’s the case, their claims are difficult to understand given that they also all wrote about how well their seasons have gone this year!! So, either keepers have been illegally killing raptors to get the fantastic bags that have been reported this year, or, raptors don’t actually have such a high impact on bags as the shooting industry would have us believe. If we believe certain organisations, it’s ‘only a few rogues’ that illegally kill raptors, so logically then, the latter explanation must be accurate. Therefore, there’s no need for licences to be issued to legally cull raptors. Sorted.

Kim Jong-il is dead but the art of propaganda lives on

North Korean despot Kim Jong-il may be dead but the art of propaganda is alive and kicking here in the UK. A fine example of this is displayed in the latest [January 2012] edition of Modern Gamekeeping, the monthly rag for UK gamekeepers, where there are more calls for the introduction of licences to cull raptors.

It begins in the editorial at the front. Peter Carr dedicates a whole page to the issue of raptor persecution, starting off with condemnation of illegal raptor poisoning [good], but quickly moving on to ‘justify’ the need for legal raptor culling [not so good]. Part of this ‘justification’ includes the following statement:

Buzzards, sparrowhawks, goshawks, hen harriers, and tawny owls are the raptor species that cause us the most problems, though the little owl’s destructive power should not be discounted. All are doing well in most areas of the UK…

Oh dear. But when did facts ever get in the way of 100 year-old anti-raptor propaganda? And here is evidence, should any more be needed, that gamekeepers will not stop at licensed buzzard killing. Sparrowhawks, goshawks, tawny owls and little owls are all apparent targets, and hen harriers too, if they can find any left to kill.

Carr goes on to rally the troops, calling for more strenuous lobbying and “the need for a sensible balance in our countryside“. Presumably that ‘sensible balance’ includes the continued annual release of 40+ million non-native gamebirds into our countryside  and the (mis)management of our uplands to produce artificially-high densities of red grouse, all to the detriment of any native predators that share the habitat?

His editorial ends with this: “Raptor control licences will come, but we must hasten the process with valid argument and an impeccable record of keeping our own house in order“. If these two premises are the ones that will dictate whether raptor culling licences are issued, then conservationists need not fear that they’ll be issued any time soon.

The propaganda continues later in the rag….more on this in the next post…

Festive SGA chairman still pressing for buzzard licensing

In his festive review of the year, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association chairman Alex Hogg talks about rabbit killing, “positive messages” and tools in tool boxes (I’m sure no irony was intended). He ends his blog with this statement:

We are also urging government to look again at the buzzard licensing. I strongly believe that Scotland’s wildlife would benefit enormously if the powers that be could make a start in managing our biodiversity rather than protecting it all the time!”

Lest we forget, the SGA also believes that “professional gamekeepers don’t poison raptors” and wonders, “will these very large creatures [sea eagles] differentiate between a small child and more natural quarry?” Not the sharpest tools in the toolbox, perhaps.

We’ve previously covered the issue of licences to kill raptors, extensively, including earlier attempts by both the SGA and Scottish landowners’ organisations (e.g. see here and here and links within) to persuade the government (and the general public) that these licenses are neccessary. Fortunately, so far, these attempts have been thwarted, and not least because the criminal persecution of raptors continues with impunity within the game-shooting industry. No doubt we’ll be re-visiting this issue throughout 2012.

Alex Hogg’s festive SGA blog here

Confirmed – poisoned red kite was found in September

Further to the last blog entry (here), the RSPB has now issued a press release about the poisoned red kite:

Journey’s end as red kite is found poisoned

Police are appealing for information after one of North Scotland’s most adventurous red kites was found poisoned in Ayrshire.

Shortly after fledging on the Black Isle this summer, the young bird surprised RSPB Scotland staff by immediately flying two hundred miles in just a few days.

A satellite transmitter fitted to its back, made it possible to chart the young bird’s journey down the west coast of Scotland. However, staff became concerned in September when transmissions in the Muirkirk area showed the bird had remained in the same place for several days.

It was later discovered dead close to the Muirkirk and North Lowther Hills Special Protection Area (SPA), an area of moorland that receives special legal protection because of its breeding bird of prey population.

Subsequent tests by the SASA government laboratory showed it had been poisoned by a banned pesticide.

RSPB Scotland Investigations Officer Ian Thomson said “The poisoning of this red kite is just the latest incident of bird of prey persecution in and around the SPA. Every year, breeding hen harriers and peregrines ‘disappear’ with further evidence of human interference causing nest failures. The populations of both species are declining alarmingly in this area. Only a few years ago there were 21 pairs of hen harriers in the SPA; now we are down to a mere handful”.

Enquiries by the police are continuing. Anyone with further information regarding this incident is urged to contact Strathclyde Police on 0141 532 2000, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

We understand the poisoned red kite was this one (see here).

Interesting. I wonder if this is the same red kite reported in the incident in November (see here)? Although that publicity said a kite had been found in the Lowther Hills in Dumfries & Galloway, not Ayrshire. Maybe two kites have been poisoned in this area? It’s hard to tell with this level of undetailed information and delayed reporting.

The chances of catching anyone now? A big fat zero. Never mind, the way this industry continues to flout the law,  it won’t be long before mandatory estate licensing is forced upon them.

Red kite found poisoned in Ayrshire

News is coming in that a satellite-tagged red kite from Northern Scotland has been found dead in Ayrshire. Lab tests done by SASA have reportedly shown that this young bird was poisoned by an illegal pesticide. 

We are led to believe this kite was discovered in September. If this turns out to be an accurate report, questions need to be asked about the delayed reporting.

More on this when details have been confirmed…

UPDATE: this has now been confirmed (see here)

All I want for Christmas is…

Here’s a Christmas sing-a-long for all our readers (to the tune of Maria Carey’s xmas hit, ‘All I want for Christmas’) –

I don’t want a lot for Xmas

There is just one thing I need

Permission to kill native raptors

Give it to the men in tweed

We just want a licence to cull

Use a stick to crush their skulls

Oh make my wish come true

Baby all I want for Xmas is to kill a few

I won’t ask for much this Xmas

I don’t want a lot of presents

All I want is to kill the raptors

So we can shoot a lot more pheasants

Poison them with tainted bait

Won’t take long to seal their fate

Oh make my wish come true

Baby all I want for Xmas is to kill a few

I don’t want a lot for Xmas

This is all I’m asking for

And even if the answer is ‘no’

We’ll still kill them, that’s for sure

Bury them in rabbit holes

Nobody need ever know

Oh make my dreams come true

Baby all I want for Xmas is to kill a few

(repeat ad nauseum until all raptors are dead)

“Moorland Scotland – we can all take pride in it”, apparently

Moorland Scotland – we can all take pride in it“. This is the remarkable statement made by Lord Hopetoun in today’s Scotsman newspaper. 

You may remember we featured this laird’s letter-writing talents in September, after he had written to the Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson asking for ‘an expression of Government support’ for the grouse management industry (see here), but what looked to us like a back-door attempt to over-turn the new law on vicarious liability (see here). In today’s article, he stays on the same subject [the grouse shooting industry] but attempts to convince a wider audience – readers of The Scotsman – that the industry is “an outstanding Scottish success“.

He goes on: “The contribution grouse moors also make in terms of biodiversity should also not be underestimated“, and, “When it comes to talking about world-class Scotland, we hear plenty of our whisky, golf, fishing and natural produce. The moorland management industry – and what it delivers – means it too has earned the right to be labelled world class“.

This industry has certainly earned the right to be labelled, but the label we’d give it wouldn’t be ‘world class’, it would be ‘international disgrace’. Something ‘we can all take pride in’? How about something that most of us are deeply ashamed of?

Scotsman article here

New book published on carbofuran & wildlife poisoning

A definitive reference book was published last month that provides a comprehensive guide to the use of the pesticide Carbofuran and its role in wildlife poisoning.

Written by a series of international contributors, this book includes detailed studies of how Carbofuran is made and applied, its acute toxicity to wildlife, how much and how long it takes to poison an animal, analytical methods of detection and strategies being implemented to prevent its use. It also contains a series of global case studies from Africa, India, Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States. One chapter is devoted to the [illegal] use of Carbofuran to poison raptors in Scotland: ‘The effect of carbofuran poisoning and other illegal persecution methods on raptor populations in Scotland‘ (Ruth Tingay); ‘A landowner’s perspective on wildlife poisoning in Scotland’ (Douglas McAdam); ‘Monitoring carbofuran abuse in Scotland’ (Michael Taylor).


ISBN 978-0-470-74523-6 (hardback)

From the publisher:

This cutting-edge title is one of the first devoted entirely to the issue of carbofuran and wildlife mortality. It features a compilation of international contributions from policy-makers, researchers, conservationists and forensic practitioners and provides a summary of the history and mode of action of carbofuran, and its current global use. It covers wildlife mortality stemming from legal and illegal uses to this point, outlines wildlife rehabilitation, forensic and conservation approaches, and discuss global trends in responding to the wildlife mortality.

The subject of carbofuran is very timely because of recent parallel discussions to withdraw and reinstate the insecticide in different parts of the world. Incidences of intentional and unintentional wildlife poisonings using carbofuran are undeniably on the rise, especially in Africa and India and gatherings of stakeholders are being organized and convened on a global basis. There is still a need to consolidate information on the different experiences and approaches taken by stakeholders. Carbofuran and Wildlife Poisoning is a comprehensive overview of global wildlife mortality, forensic developments and monitoring techniques and is a definitive reference on the subject.

It comprises of historical and current perspectives, contributions from key stakeholders in the issue of global wildlife poisonings with carbofuran, people on the ground who deal with the immediate and long-term ramifications to wildlife, those who have proposed or are working towards mitigative measures and solutions, those in contact with intentional or unintentional ‘offenders’, those who have adapted and developed forensic methodology and are gathering evidence.

Introduction and Table of Contents available here

Prolific egg thief jailed for fourth time

One of the UK’s most prolific wild bird egg thieves has today been sent back to jail for what is reportedly his fourth jail term for similar offences.

This time, Matthew Gonshaw (49) from London, was caught with almost 700 wild bird eggs and egg-collecting paraphenalia at his house, including eggs from Scottish golden eagles and ospreys, as well as peregrines and red kites.

At Thames Magistrates Court, Gonshaw admitted ten offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act, including two counts of taking golden eagle eggs from sites on the Isle of Lewis in April 2010. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

Gonshaw will re-appear in court in February to find out if he will be subject to an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO), which would see him face a £20,000 fine and five years in jail if he commits more crimes.

Well done to the RSPB, Metropolitan Police and the CPS for a successful conviction.

BBC News article here

STV article here

Good photographs in Daily Mail article here