Yesterday we learned that yet another young golden eagle had met an untimely death at the hands of an industry incapable or unwilling to move into the 21st century (here). The shocking result of a series of secretive, evil acts pervading the remote glens and mountainsides of Scotland. Secretive yet relentless. A lonely agonising death as the eagle spasms and fits and gasps its last breath, its feet clenched in chemical paralysis.
To most of us, Fearnan is just another statistic; one of a growing list of eagles lost in the most barbaric way. But here is his story, in the words and pictures of Keith Brockie, a man who knew Fearnan well. Thanks, Keith, for sharing with us.
Male golden eagle chick in his eyrie in Glen Lyon, Perthshire with oven-ready red grouse and red-legged partridge as prey. 25th June 2011:
Portrait of the eaglet prior to being satellite-tagged:
Holding the young male golden eagle chick prior to tagging the chick. Ringed by my wife, Hazel, her first eagle chick ringed:
Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB, fitting the satellite tag harness onto the eaglet prior to stitching and glueing the harness bands to establish a good fit:
Fearnan flying alongside a hillside in Glen Lyon on 18th December 2011. You can clearly see the satellite tag and aerial mounted on his back. Unusually he stayed with his parents hardly venturing more than a few kms out of his natal territory from 23rd July when he fledged ’till 4th March 2012. His parents no doubt forced him out of their territory as they were about to lay eggs:
His movements were monitored by Roy Dennis (see here where you can see his movements throughout Scotland). This map shows his last movements ’till his untimely death on 22nd November 2013. Prior to this he had travelled from Loch Awe, Ben Dearg, spent much of his time in North Perthshire and the Monaliaths ’till he made the fatal mistake of visiting the grouse moors of Angus. Indeed whilst I was doing golden plover monitoring on Dunmaglass estate near Inverness in June this year, Fearnan flew past only 50 metres away:
Fearnan lying dead on a hillside overlooking Glen Lethnot on 3rd December 2013, when he was picked up by RSPB Investigations personnel (photo courtesy of them) and police. Later veterinary investigations revealed that he had been poisoned by carbofuran, a highly poisonous systemic insecticide (now banned) which is particularly toxic to birds. The golden eagle was recently voted most popular of the ‘Big Five’ wildlife species in a poll by Scottish Natural Heritage. This is the way they are treated in the ‘Year of Natural Scotland 2013’:
The area where Fearnan was found dead is really bad for the persecution of raptors. Here are some of the known examples, merely the ‘tip of a very large iceberg’. 2008: a white-tailed eagle and a buzzard found poisoned, with 32 meat baits and a baited mountain hare also found. 2009: a white-tailed eagle and 2 buzzards found poisoned on one estate and a poisoned golden eagle and buzzard found on another estate. 2010: a poisoned red kite and nearby 2 poisoned buzzards with pigeon baits laced with poison. 2011: a buzzard seen shot. 2012: a tagged golden eagle trapped and transported overnight into a Deeside wood with a feather trail from a lay-by where it later died. 2013: the first white-tailed eagle eyrie in Eastern Scotland for 200 years chopped down by a chainsaw! These are just the known raptor deaths. Considering four satellite-tagged eagles have been killed in this area recently and fewer than 10% of young golden eagles are tagged each year in Scotland, how many moor are lying rotting amongst the heather on these grouse moors – another 36? These grouse moors where the persecution is taking place are acting as a sump, constantly killing immature eagles trying to find vacant territories. THE TIME IS LONG OVERDUE FOR SHOOTING ESTATES TO BE LICENSED to add further pressure on estates to curb the illegal persecution of raptors. The SGA and SLE would have you believe that persecution is declining but those of us who monitor raptors know differently! Please write to the Environment Minister to express your disgust: firstname.lastname@example.org