3 peregrines shot: 2 dead, 1 severely injured

Three peregrines have been found shot in South Tipperary, Ireland over the last few weeks.

The first, a breeding female, was found shot dead under her church ruin nest site in mid-June.

The second, an adult male, was found injured a few days later near to another nest site close by. This bird is being treated at a rehabilitation centre but it is feared it will not recover well enough to be released.

The third, a breeding male, was found shot dead in July at the nest site where the adult female had been shot dead.

Full details on the BirdWatch Ireland website here.

The photograph shows the adult female found shot dead in June. Photo by Kevin Collins.


A Saga of Sea Eagles: new book published today

sea_eagle_cover_smallIn January we blogged about a forthcoming new book that tells the inside story of the reintroduction of sea eagles to Scotland. That book, A Saga of Sea Eagles written by John Love has been published today.

John Love’s name will always be synonymous with the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Scotland. He was the original Sea Eagle Reintroduction Project Officer back in 1975, living on the Isle of Rum in Western Scotland and releasing a total of 82 Norwegian sea eagles in what was at the time an ambitious and pioneering effort.

He wrote a highly acclaimed book about the project in 1983 (The Return of the Sea Eagle) and he has now updated the story with his latest book, A Saga of Sea Eagles.

So much has happened in the intervening 38 years. A second re-introduction phase took place between 1993-1998 with a further 56 sea eagles reintroduced in Wester Ross, and then more recently a third reintroduction phase began in 2007 with the East Scotland Reintroduction Project, the same year as the Irish Reintroduction Project began. Sea eagles are now firmly back where they belong, although unbelievably the persecution that originally wiped them out from these isles about 100 years ago is still a threat (cf the alleged felling of a sea eagle nest tree in Angus this year – see here) and still limits their potential spread to other parts of their former range.

A Saga of Sea Eagles  is published today as a 224-page softback, priced at £19.99. Full details available on the publisher’s website here.

This is the same publisher (Whittles Publishing) that produced A Life of Ospreys  by Roy Dennis in 2008, Kestrels for Company  by Gordon Riddle in 2011 and Wildlife Crime: The Making of an Investigations Officer  by Dave Dick in 2012.

Buzzard shot in the throat in North Ayrshire

shot buzzard hessilheadAnd so it continues….

An injured buzzard was delivered to a wildlife resecue centre near Beith, North Ayrshire on Sunday. It had been shot in the throat.

Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre had this to say:

Today a buzzard was delivered to us, and we were disappointed to see it had been shot. A pellet had punctured the buzzard’s crop, and some of its last meal was oozing out. We cleaned it up, stitched up the wound, and hope that the pellet hasn’t gone right through the crop. The bird will need antibiotics, and we are hopeful of a full recovery“.

Another raptor persecution incident, another victim, another wildlife crime for which no-one will be brought to justice. This case is just the latest in a string of incidents in Scotland this year: there has been at least one (recorded) raptor persecution incident every single month so far this year.

Langholm harriers 2013: sat-tag movement maps now online

Hen-Harrier-1 avico ltdFour of the ten hen harriers that hatched at Langholm this year have been sat-tagged and their movement maps are now available online.

The four tagged birds are three females (Grainne, Miranda and Hattie) and one male (Blue).

It’s hard to be optimistic about their chances of survival as they disperse away from the Langholm moor and head towards the badlands, north and south, especially as the start of the grouse-shooting season approaches on the InGlorious 12th August.

Thanks to Dr Cat Barlow of the ‘Making the Most of Moorlands Project’ in Langholm, we’ll be able to follow their progress. Let’s hope they make it past October this year.

Follow the birds here

Ireland publishes its first persecution report, with interesting results

94f6f996ec3a866ce6d587d28bd5b809_LThe Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has published its first national raptor persecution report, relating to reported incidents in 2011.

The NPWS issued the following press release:

“33 poisoning or persecution incidents affecting birds of prey were recorded in Ireland in 2011, according to a report published today by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 

15 birds of prey were confirmed poisoned, and four more suspected cases were recorded. 8 birds of prey were shot.

Some of the deaths were accidental, but many were deliberate. The most frequent casualty was the red kite, a native species that was recently re-introduced to Ireland. It is believed that seven of the ten kites found dead were poisoned by eating rats that had themselves been poisoned. As well as red kite, other raptor species that were deliberately targeted included peregrine falcon, buzzard, sparrowhawk, and kestrel.

The report is the result of cooperation between the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine’s Regional Veterinary Laboratories and the State Laboratory, and also involves An Garda Síochána, the Golden Eagle Trust and BirdWatch Ireland. 

The report notes that the use of tracking devices on birds has enabled dead birds to be found, but this also means that the true levels of mortality are likely to be significantly higher.

The use of poison has been greatly restricted under EU law in recent years. It is illegal to poison any animal or birds other than rats, mice or rabbits in Ireland and only then using certain registered products. The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use has recently been set up with funding from industry. This campaign aims to promote best practice so that rat poison in particular should not get into the wildlife food chain where it harms owls, kites and other birds of prey.

The poisoning of golden and white-tailed sea eagles has been a particular problem in recent years, but fortunately in 2011, no poisonings were recorded. Records of poisoning and persecution in 2012 are currently being analysed and the second annual report is due for release shortly.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., welcomed the report. ”This gives us at least a partial view of the scale of the problem in Ireland”, he said. ”It is simply not acceptable for majestic birds of prey and other wildlife to be persecuted or poisoned. First it is illegal, but just as important it harms our reputation as a clean, green country. I would urge anyone to report such incidents to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in my Department. There are alternatives to poison which can be successfully used when control is essential ” he said.”

Here is a copy of the report: Persecution Report Ireland 2011

The publication of this report, and the anticipated future annual reports, demonstrates a basic but very important step forward, allowing the authorities and NGOs to monitor and record raptor persecution incidents in a coordinated effort, to help tackle the issue as well as to improve public awareness and education.

The report includes the usual list of victims and the substances that were used to kill them (Alphachloralose, Carbofuran etc) although we did notice one particular substance that was less familiar – Nitroxynil (also called Nitroxinil). As far as we understand, Nitroxynil is an active ingredient in the veterinary treatment of cattle and sheep, for example in sheep dips. According to this report, Nitroxynil  was detected in the carcases of three poisoned white-tailed eagles and one golden eagle, as well as in several recovered baits, including an egg and two lagomorphs (rabbit or hare).

It would appear, given that it was detected in different baits, that Nitroxynil has been used deliberately in Ireland to target any animal that might scavenge from a bait. It’s also possible that some of the deaths were from accidental poisoning, although fallen stock should not be left out on the hill.

We’re not certain, but we don’t recall seeing Nitroxynil listed in any recent toxicology reports published in Scotland by SASA. We don’t know if SASA tests for this substance when they’re presented with a potentially poisoned animal – it would be fair to say that SASA can’t test for every known poison due to resource constraints, and it’s reasonable for them just to test for the more commonly-used poisons. However, we have noticed in recent SASA reports that there are quite a number of birds for which SASA have been unable to establish the cause of death (i.e. the poisons they regularly screen for have not been detected) even though the circumstances of the bird’s death may have been suspicious. If SASA are not already testing for Nitroxynil, we hope that they pay attention to the frequency of detection in Irish cases and consider including it in the list of poisons for which they routinely screen.

Well done to the Irish NPWS and their project partners for getting this report published.

In Scotland we’re still waiting for the promised 2012 wildlife crime report from the Scottish Government. Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse told the Police Wildlife Crime Conference in March 2013 that his staff were working on the report. Earlier this month, we asked him if he could tell us when we might expect to see it published (see here). According to our calendar (he has to respond within 20 working days), Mr Wheelhouse is due to provide a response to that question, and the other questions we posed, by this coming Wednesday…..

UPDATE 29th July: SASA are on the ball – they’ve recently started to test for Nitroxynil – see here.

Cllr Sheahan unrepentant according to Sunday Times article

Continuing the story about Limerick Council leader John Sheahan’s call for an ‘open season’ on hen harriers (see here, here and here), the following article has appeared in today’s Sunday Times (thank you to the contributor who sent us the copy). 

Open Season Sunday Times 28072013[1]a

Here is a transcript:

Conservation groups in Ireland and Britain have called for a councillor’s resignation after he asked for open season to be declared on hen harriers, a rare bird of prey.

John Sheahan, the newly elected cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, made the remark in an interview with the Limerick Leader newspaper where he was commenting on the restrictions placed on landowners in Special Protection Areas (SPA).

He said the October budget should be the deadline for the government to address this issue “and if nothing happens by then ‘open season’ should be declared on the hen harrier”.

Following the remarks, Jimmy Deenihan, the minister for arts and heritage, wrote a letter to the councillor, which he received on Friday. Deenihan said Sheahan’s “comments in the media recently were extremely unfortunate as they may be construed as an incitement for people to break the law and harm these birds”.

The hen harrier is one of Europe’s rarest birds of prey. The letter declares that anyone who harms these birds or deliberately destroys their breeding or nesting habitats will be liable to prosecution. The minister continued that it would be “useful” if Sheahan could publicly clarify that he did not condone any such activity.

The councillor told The Sunday Times that he owns SPA land near Glin in Co Limerick. He said that this issue was a personal concern to him but that he was speaking as a public representative.

Sheahan said that the bulk of responses he had received following his remarks came from overseas. He said he understands the reaction of conservation groups but “they need to understand that it’s a two-way street and that we all have to live together”.

The Raptor Persecution Scotland blog published the article with Sheahan’s comments on its website and called for his resignation. The bloggers said they were astonished by the councillor’s remarks.

Sheahan sent a statement to everyone who contacted him saying he did not intend to imply that the bird of prey be hunted down. He said his comment was meant to be seen in the context of his political battle with the Irish government about landowners living in protected areas.

His response did not impress the Scottish group. “Somebody with such a disgraceful attitude to wildlife and to the law that protects that wildlife should not be in a position of power and influence”, it responded.

An online petition calling for the councillor’s resignation has received more than 1,100 signatures to date. People from countries as far away as Brazil and South Africa have added their names to the appeal.

Sheahan, however, does not regard the issue as a resigning matter. “I possibly upset a lot of people in relation to the hen harrier. It was a remark made in frustration rather than anything else”.

He said people in west Limerick were “at their wits’ end” dealing with marginal land that is difficult to farm at the best of times. “What they are looking for is a certain plan to be put in place to shore up the losses they are incurring from being designated as a particular area for the hen harrier”.

Sheahan is also a member of the Irish delegation on an environmental commission in the EU which represents local and regional government in the EU’s policy formation and decision-making processes. He denied his remarks were inappropriate given this role. He said: “I represent Ireland on the committee of regions and I think I do a good job there”.

Conn Flynn, development officer at the Irish Wildlife Trust, said that he was appalled at the comments. “It is disturbing that individuals with that mind-set are representing Ireland on a European level”.

The Trust which has also called for Sheahan’s resignation, is concerned about the impact of his statement. “When you say ‘open season’ when representing the public, it is completely and utterly irresponsible”, added Flynn.

John Lusby, raptor conservation officer at BirdWatch Ireland, said that predators such as the hen harriers were vital for a well-functioning ecosystem. “Without them, the ecosystem wouldn’t be in balance. They play an essential role in our countryside”, he said.

The government designated six upland areas as special protection areas following a 2007 finding by the EU Court of Justice. It said that Ireland failed to protect certain birds of prey, including the hen harrier, in line with obligations under the Birds Directive.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing the petition calling for Sheahan’s resignation: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/358/804/673/

First Irish-born sea eagle chicks to fledge in 110 years

sea_eagle1History has been made in Ireland this week with the successful fledging of two white-tailed eagle chicks from a nest in Mountshannon, County Clare. These chicks are the first Irish-born sea eagles to fledge in over 100 years.

Three pairs of white-tailed sea eagles attempted to breed in Ireland this year. Unfortunately, one pair failed during the incubation period and one pair failed when their nest collapsed, killing the well-developed chick ‘Paudie’ (the media star – see here).

The successful fledging of the Mountshannon chicks is a significant milestone in the six-year reintroduction project. As no further birds are being imported from Norway, it is now vital that the small Irish population begins to produce chicks, and that a good proportion of those chicks survive to go on and breed and help the population grow.

Massive congratulations to those visionaries at the Golden Eagle Trust who have steered the sea eagle reintroduction project (along with the reintroduction of golden eagles and red kites), and their project partners, The National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Golden Eagle Trust press release here.

The photograph shows Project Manager Allan Mee with one of the first reintroduced sea eagle chicks, donated by Norway in 2007.

Cllr Sheahan’s response

Sheahan photo Limerick LeaderFurther to our earlier posts about Limerick Council leader John Sheahan calling for an ‘open season’ on hen harriers (see here, here and here), this is his response:

Reply to “OPEN SEASON “remark

Dear Sirs,

I wish to thank you for writing to me to express your views in relation to an article that appeared recently in the Limerick Leader newspaper.

In the article in question I made reference to “OPEN SEASON” on the hen harrier if certain changes were not made.  This remark infers that I advocate that this bird of prey be hunted similar to wild game that is hunted at certain times of the year. This inference was entirely unintended and I apologise for any upset my comment may have caused. I wish to clarify that my comment was meant in the context of my political battle with the Irish Government to seek a proper plan whereby the landowners and particularly, the farmers are not out of pocket by a designation that hamstrings them from earning their livelihood. This, unfortunately, is the case at present.  

I refer in my article to a situation whereby I believe all can co-exist. I ask would you seek to be compensated if your Government or local council made changes that devalued your property or adversely affected your ability to make a livelihood.  The records show that the overwhelming majority of landowners do not receive any compensation. When the SPA designation was introduced it was done in tandem with a compensation package to accommodate landowners. However, the scheme was axed in the very early stages leaving farmers out of pocket and their livelihoods threatened.

I hope I have provided you with some idea of the level of frustration experienced by landowners in the affected areas. I would ask you, in the best interests of the Hen Harrier, to support me and lobby the Government and the powers that be in Europe for a properly managed and adequately funded plan of conservation so we, all as creatures of this world, can live in harmony.

Yours faithfully,

John  Sheahan


Police appeal after 2 buzzards found poisoned in April

buzzardpoisonedchittlehamptonThe police are appealing for information after the discovery of two poisoned buzzards in Chittlehampton, North Devon. The birds were found in April.

More information here, but very little detail given.