SGA suggests that trees are ‘biggest threat’ to golden eagles

GE in treeAh, bless. According to Alex Hogg, Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, the ‘biggest threat’ to golden eagles in Scotland is trees.

In a remarkably ignorant article in the Herald, our friend Hogg suggests that the government’s plans to create more woodlands will mean that within the next few decades, ‘golden eagles will have nowhere to expand its range’.

The journalist (and that’s being kind) refers to the SGA as a ‘conservation body’ and cites the 2008 Golden Eagle Conservation Framework to support the notion that tree-planting is a potential constraint on golden eagle breeding success.

Had the journalist, and Mr Hogg for that matter, bothered to read the Conservation Framework report in detail, he might have noticed the following statements:

Currently, commercial afforestation is not considered a marked constraint on golden eagles


A number of lines of evidence indicated that illegal persecution of eagles, principally associated with grouse moor management in the central and eastern Highlands, is the most severe constraint on Scottish golden eagles“.

Strangely, the phrase ‘illegal persecution of eagles’ doesn’t feature anywhere in the Herald piece.

The journalist and Mr Hogg also failed to acknowledge the recently-announced strategy published by Forestry Commission Scotland which provides guidance and advice on designing and managing new woodlands to benefit golden eagles (see here).

Another Hogg quote, about the government’s planned tree-planting scheme: “Scotland will not look like the country it is now. It will look more like Norway“. Funnily enough, golden eagles in Norway appear to be thriving – see here.

If we were cynics, we might think that this article was yet another attempt to deflect attention from the on-going illegal killing of golden eagles on Scottish grouse moors…

Herald article here

2008 Golden Eagle Conservation Framework here

18 thoughts on “SGA suggests that trees are ‘biggest threat’ to golden eagles”

  1. It could only have been the “Arts” correspondent … to call the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association a “conservation body”.

  2. I seem to remember that the majority of the highland area in Scotland was once covered by the Caledonian Forest. The remains of this forest can be found in many of the eagle territories that I walk and sketch in. The 5000 year old roots and stumps of Scots Pine, Birch and Larch are commonly found in peat bogs in the Angus glens where, nowadays, we have a decent population of Golden Eagles. The Scottish eagles have somehow managed to survive this vast Caledonian Forest.
    Naturalist Seton Gordon who studied eagles in various habitats declared his amazement in how large birds like eagles managed to hunt within confined areas made up of Scots Pine trunks and branches. The Forestry Commission has planted extensively in the Glen Clova to Glen Finlet arena and eagles do not seem to have been affected but, of course, the Caledonian Forest was not made up from dense Sitka Spruce plantations – bring back more Scots Pine that’s the answer.

    1. “…in the Angus glens where, nowadays, we have a decent population of Golden Eagles”.

      Dave, what do you class as a ‘decent population’?

      Have a look at the Conservation Framework, and particularly the data for the Cairngorms Massif and the North East Glens:

      46% of golden eagle territories in the Cairngorms Massif were vacant in 2003 (the last national survey); 60% were vacant in the North East Glens.

      Big hint: the majority of these vacancies have nothing to do with trees!

      1. ‘Decent population’ means that all territories within the Angus Glens are occupied, have bred successfully for the past 40 + years and there is a possibility of the establishment of new territories if some observations come to fruition next year.
        An unoccupied territory in the North-east glens has been reclaimed by a young female and older male.
        The Conservation Framework needs upgrading from 2008 stats.

  3. The Herald article seems to have been written by their Arts Correspondent which seems a little strange. He obviously didn’t do his homework on golden eagles properly.

  4. It’s sad to think that the Scottish Government want to expand trees while the Langholm project want to remove trees! 70% of the bracken has been removed on steep slopes making an ideal seed bed for Birch and Willow. But as our ‘Willow Grouse’ no longer feeds on buds of trees the trees have to be removed regardless of the needs of Black Grouse and other birds! As for the trees and Eagles can we trust this government when wind farms are forecast to increase as well which will definitely destroy the eagles. Once independance comes I think you can forget about nice designed forests. Short term gain will rule Scotland.

    1. As a big supporter of the YES campaign John I would challenge your supposition that “short term gain will rule Scotland”. If you are somehow extrapolating SNP policy, dont..with independence the SNP are very unlikely to be in power [although Im not anti SNP and they seem to be doing a better job than the anti-conservation UK government]…this is a real opportunity for conservation..with a brand new style of politics. Vote NO and we get the same old crap.

      1. Couldn’t agree more, Dave. People must realise that the Yes campaign is not solely down to the SNP – there is cross-party support for the campaign with MSPs from Scottish Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Green Party and Independents all in favour of a break-away. The current SNP administration is a stepping stone towards independence, and it is far from guaranteed that they will form the first post-independence government, if it comes to that.

        Vote No and we will have more Badger culls for the next few years (despite the utter shambles that we witnessed this year), more devious Buzzard-gate type applications (certainly an increase in this type of application, perhaps with permitted killings and the real possibility that other raptors will be included), and a repeal of the Hunting Act.

        Add to that the widening gap between rich and poor, the Tory commitment to killing socialism and democracy, the slow death of the NHS, a return to workhouse-type conditions for the unemployed (despite nothing being done to create employment), ever-increasing fuel costs, ever-increasing costs for almost everything (yet wages are stagnant or even falling in some cases) more taxation, the introduction of road tolls, etc, etc.

        I know what I’ll be voting for.

        As others have already successfully damaged or destroyed the Guru of Guff’s latest misleading work, I won’t bother commenting.

  5. Alex Hogg proves once again that he is just a buffoon! I have seen film of Golden Eagles flying into the Caledonian pine forest and carrying off a Pine Martin. They flourished for centuries before man cut down most of the original forest.

  6. I note that a certain raptor website in England agrees with Alex’s Hogwash, perhaps they haven’t read the framework document either. Realistically of course the reason that eagles in some parts of Scotland are not doing so well is that those areas appear to have an unnaturally high density of wildlife criminals. These areas seem to largely coincide with grouse shooting perhaps we should get Alex to look into it for us and get the Herald arts correspondent to interview him about his findings. Then again may be not.

  7. To put it mildly I’m a little confused with regards to what I read regarding commercial afforestation and its potential effect on or Golden Eagle population.

    If you look at the Raptor Politics website they state the opposite of your above comments and have recently stated on this issue ”on this occasion Alex could be right”.

    Looking at the Golden Eagle Conservation Framework – Table 6, page 45 – Summary of favourable conservation status (FCS) and likely constraints on FCS in Scotish golden eagles according to region (from Whitfield et al, 2006). 6 out of the 14 regions are highlighted that afforestation is a likely constraint.

    Please could you enlighten my confusion on this very important issue.

    1. Commercial afforestation is a potential constraint (emphasis on the word potential) – according to the Framework report, & other research, the effect can be highly variable and appears to be dependent on a number of other variables. The conservation authorities have recognised the potential effects, hence the new management guidelines recently published by the Forestry Commission.

      The point we were trying to make was that the SGA is blatantly ignoring the currently recognised ‘biggest threat’ to golden eagles – and that, as you know, and they know, is illegal persecution on land associated with driven grouse moors in the eastern and central Highlands and southern uplands.

      To pretend that tree-planting is ‘the biggest threat’ is total nonsense.

  8. In my experience the only reason I can see trees being a problem in relation to golden eagles and other raptors is that they are more difficult to find when they have been buried within a forest, after either being shot, poisoned or trapped and then bludgeoned to death!

  9. The Raptor Politics site mentioned above is clearly ignorant of ecology issues in Scotland & lacking in experience of golden eagles.

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