New legislation to protect golden eagle, hen harrier & red kite in Scotland

WCA variation schedules Scotland 2013New legislation designed to provide greater legal protection in Scotland to golden eagles, hen harriers and red kites comes into force next Saturday (16th March 2013).

The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedules A1 and 1A) (Scotland) Order 2013 was signed by Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse on 4th Feb and laid before the Scottish Parliament on 6th Feb.

These Schedules (A1 and 1A) were added to the Wildlife & Countryside Act via the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, which means that, unfortunately, this legislation only applies in Scotland.

Schedule A1 lists birds species whose nests [that are habitually used] are protected at all times from being taken, damaged, destroyed or otherwise interfered with, including outside of the breeding season. Anyone intentionally or recklessly doing any of the above has committed an offence. To date, only the white-tailed eagle has been listed on Schedule A1.

Schedule 1A lists bird species which are protected from harassment. Species listed on this Schedule are considered to be at risk of harassment that is intended to prevent them from breeding. Anyone  intentionally or recklessly harassing a species listed on this Schedule has committed an offence. To date, only the white-tailed eagle has been listed on Schedule 1A.

Following a government consultation in 2008-2009 (!), three more species will be included as of next Saturday:

Schedule A1 (protected nests and nest sites): white-tailed eagle; golden eagle

Schedule 1A (birds protected from harassment at any time, not just during breeding season): white-tailed sea eagle; golden eagle; hen harrier; red kite

It seems strange that the hen harrier hasn’t been listed on Schedule A1, given the known issues with deliberate nest destruction, as indeed with the goshawk. Nevertheless, it’s good to see greater protection for golden eagles, hen harriers and red kites, even though this is only ‘paper protection’ – the problem with enforcement of the legislation still remains.

A copy of the new legislation can be read here: Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedules A1 and 1A) (Scotland) Order 2013

18 thoughts on “New legislation to protect golden eagle, hen harrier & red kite in Scotland”

  1. This is good news in my view. A question of every little helps whatever the “status” of the initiative. The overall problem associated with of raptor persecution is being squeezed , however gradually. Sadly there’s no “one fell swoop” sort of solution, it would be nice if there was, and so things like this must be seen as necessary building blocks. It demands patience on our part, but we’d be worse off without anything !!!

  2. Good news yes, but will it make a difference to Raptor persecution in Scotland, no !!!

    While any tightening up of the Wildlife Protection Acts is to be welcomed, the truth is the present laws are already adequate for the job but the people nominated to uphold them are incapable of using them, so what difference will this extra legislation make in stopping the wholesale slaughter of Raptors. The only way any of this legislation will work is if the police and the courts are prepared to do what they are employed by the public to do and that is prosecute the criminals who are responsible for the wanton killing of protected wildlife species.

  3. Giving a nest this protection is positive because I know of one G.Eagle eyrie that was burnt out because of heather burning, – deliberate or accident ?

    1. I know of several eyries that have been deliberately burnt out over the years, I also know of many good Merlin, Hen Harrier and S.E Owl heather braes which had been used successfully for years until the arsonists got going with their matches; strange how several of these burnt out sites just happened to be on or near to sites where windfarms were later proposed, there I go being cynical again. The law was powerless or unwilling, (probably unwilling) to do anything then, even when there were already adequate laws available to prosecute the known perpetrators. Little chance of this extra legislation making a difference now unless the police etc, have had a change of heart are prepared to use it.

  4. Surely this is where maps should come into play. Once a species has nested in an area then that is written into history as a territory. No nest destruction, wind farm applicant or farmer can deny that the bird once nested there and given the right conditions will nest there again.

    1. For ever new wind farm application there is a bird survey done. I have some Birdwatching friends who are employed doing these surveys, every bird seen in the area including Raptors are noted and reported in the survey. So depending on the timing of the survey if a Raptor is nesting nearby it should be known about . Whether the local planning board or whoever allows Wind Farms to be built take any notice of the Survey is another matter entirely.

    2. All known Raptor sites are already well documented over many years of nest recording by Scottish Raptor Study Groups, RSPB, BTO and others. All these known sites are recorded by 6 figure grid references so no excuse for not knowing where a nesting territory is located. My colleagues and myself could if necessary pinpoint almost every Raptor nesting site in the area we cover. In the case of windfarms it’s not just the nest site itself that needs protecting but the complete hunting territory which may cover several square miles for some species.

      1. Agree with you entirely nirofo, had forgotten all about the hunting territory needed by Raptors especially Golden Eagles. Thanks for reminding me. Many thanks for all the hard work by Scottish Raptor Groups, RSPB, BTO and others. Do the powers that be take notice of these sites when planning new wind farms or does the money factor outweigh everything else.

  5. The problem with wildlife protection is not the law, it is, it’s enforcement. Until those protection agencies have some large prosecutions with the full level of fines applied, only lip service is been given. Also, the courts need to have some education and common sense applied to the way law is applied, as some of the sentences are given they are mild and a small irritation to the guilty that seem to treat it as a business overhead.

    1. I have to agree with you there Dave, we’ve had first hand experience of this happening to several of our once regular Merlin and Hen Harrier breeding sites, fine heather banks burnt off so many times that the heather no longer grows and bracken takes over.

  6. It is totally different protecting regularly used eyries and harrier nests. As harriers do not habitually nest in the same nest but sometimes in a location close by it would be totally impractacle to offer the same legislation. It is not appropriate from a moorland management point of view to leave every bank of rank heather in the off chance a harrier may have nested here in the past or may possibly do in the future which is what would end up happening.

    1. Grouseman, I have had Hen Harriers, Merlins and Short-eared Owls nest on the same heather banks for years until they were deliberately burnt out by arsonists. The arsonists have mainly fallen into 3 categories, estate workers/gamekeepers, shepherds and those intending to build windfarms at any cost to the environment.

      1. I was accepting that all these things nest regularly in the same location just not in the same actual nest. How can you say these banks were deliberately burned to remove nesting sites perhaps I was just the correct time and conditions to be burning that bit of ground.

        1. When heather burning goes out of control it can affect huge areas of moorland that might have traditional raptor nesting sites. A couple of ‘uncontrolled’ fires that I know of have swept over cliff-faces where Peregrines, G.Eagles and Ravens have nested. The onus is on the keeper to heather burn responsibly and avoid areas where known nest sites are located by creating a burning plan, identifying sensitive environments and creating a pre-cut fire break. Areas of established, old rank heather where Harriers and Merlins might nest are not recommended for burning anyway because they hold a rich bio-diversity, burn too hot and subsequent regeneration is slow.

          1. I agree with what you are saying, unfortunately it happens too regularly to be pure chance or bad management.

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