Langholm hen harrier ‘Annie’ found shot dead on Scottish grouse moor


A young hen harrier called ‘Annie’ from the 2014 Langholm cohort has been found shot dead on a Scottish grouse moor.

You may recall we blogged about her satellite tag going off the radar in March this year in an area of South Lanarkshire (see here).

Her corpse was retrieved at the end of April after an intensive search by RSPB Scotland Investigations staff and her remains were sent to the SAC Veterinary Lab for post mortem.

The post mortem results have now confirmed that she had been shot.

Stuart Housden, RSPB Scotland Director said: “This case shows very clearly what happens to some of our hen harriers when they leave protected nesting areas and move around the UK’s uplands. This is just the latest incident of criminal persecution of this species, following the confirmed shooting of birds in Aberdeenshire, Moray and Ayrshire in the last two years. It is little wonder these magnificent raptors continue to be absent from large areas of our uplands“.

This news won’t be a surprise to anybody. The chances of bringing anyone to justice for shooting her are nil. She’s yet another victim of the disgusting, vile driven grouse shooting industry. And they will get away with it. Again.

If you share our anger, then turn that anger in to action. Here are two positive things you can do in response:

  1. Send an email to Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod, demanding immediate Government action to address the on-going raptor persecution crisis. Don’t be fobbed off by inane platitudes. This Government has repeatedly said that if raptor persecution continues, they would take further action. We want to know what that action will be and when we can expect to see it implemented. Email:
  2. Sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and ask others to do the same – HERE

Annie Langholm harrier shot April 2015

UPDATE 13.30hrs: Police Scotland has issued a press statement that identifies the location as ‘remote moorland near to Daer Reservior’ (see here). Where’s Daer Reservoir? Why, it’s right here

81 thoughts on “Langholm hen harrier ‘Annie’ found shot dead on Scottish grouse moor”

      1. The usual claptrap.

        If crime reports went along the lines of:-

        A hit and run accident has occurred on a road somewhere, or
        A person was found shot in a house in a city four months ago, or
        An armed man attempted to hold up a bank whose name and location are a secret. All that can be
        revealed is that it happened a long time ago………… etc

        There would be an outcry.

        It will not be very long before reports read “A crime has allegedly/maybe occurred at a place or places at a time in the past”. The public (but not anyone else) are being asked to report anything unusual even if they think it is of no significance.

        It is a damned farce.

      2. So… I’m guessing something with a metallic connection? I’m not saying it is, but Lanarkshire, a grouse moor, dead raptors; one candidate does stand out above all else, it has a certain weight to its name.

    1. Had a house at Daerhead, near Daer reservoir (Junction 14 of M74). Area owned by Duke of Buccleuch, who was supposed to have taken part in a moorland harrier experiment a few years ago. Was the biggest landowner in Scotland , but don’t know if still that. Disgrace. Come on you SNP Government, show Cameron and his buddies how it is done.

      1. Thanks RPS, must just be my email programme.

        I’m doubtful of any real change because of the way congenital twits and blood-soaked lairds (George Monbiot’s apt phrase) own land. Can force of public opinion, should we even get hundreds of thousands more on board, really change that ?

  1. I am still waiting for her to reply re the Scottish Larder e mail, although I have been told it is on its way!

  2. My email to Aileen reads as follows:

    Dear Aileen McLeod

    With today’s news that yet another hen harrier has been found shot on a Scottish grouse moor – and, what’s more, one from Langholm, I am writing to demand that you take action by banning driven grouse shooting.

    Driven grouse shooting (as distinct from lower-intensity walked-up shooting), is only viable if it can achieve extremely high yields of red grouse – far higher than can be sustained without intensive, damaging moorland management. Put simply, this form of very high-yield grouse management is incompatible with sustainable land management.

    It should be banned – you must take action now.

    This is not simply about hen harriers: it is about drainage of peatlands and release of carbon, which is acidifying our oceans and changing our climate; it is about excessive heather burning – and more carbon; it is about the wholesale slaughter of mountain hares and numerous other protected species – our natural heritage.

    Given that, with a continuation of driven grouse shooting, your government cannot hope to deliver its obligations under the EU-wide Habitats and Birds Directives to bring designated moorlands into good health, please assure me that you intend to act.

    With best wishes,

    1. Why stop at driven grouse shooting? Even if it were banned, walk-up grouse shooters would still demand the killing of predators, alleged competitors and disease carriers. Red Grouse are also declining significantly on many moors, so should be treated as a species of conservation concern and ALL shooting of the species made illegal. Also, it’s important when advancing arguments to be sure of one’s facts. Sadly the Mountain Hare is not a protected species. It is also important to get across the message that harriers do not prey primarily on Red Grouse anyway. Langholm is not typical; on many moors the prey of Hen Harrier is almost exclusively made up of Meadow Pipits and Field Voles. The RSPB used to advise grouse moor owners and managers to reduce the percentage of grass on the moor to minimise pipit populations and thus deter harriers. Ironically this had the effect of increasing predation upon Red Grouse!

      1. Sorry if this is getting off topic but i don’t think it is. Why is Langholm not typical? Mark Avery, in Inglorious, thinks it is. If it is typical then the the capacity for Hen Harriers on grouse moors is enormous. He hypothetically extrapolated Langholm across all grouse moors and comes to 4,000 pairs for the whole of the UK (on grouse moors alone). Using his calculations I come to 4,250 pairs. I don’t have the figures for the number of HH’s breeding on grouse moors but it must be extremely low but using this method we may be missing 4,000 Hen Harriers from grouse-moors alone (not the accepted estimate of 1,800 across the whole of the UK).
        This was hypothetical but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the potential is way over the accepted 2,600 pairs for the whole of the UK.
        Mark came up with that 4,000 figure, by using 20 pairs maximum at Langholm in 1997. Langholm has 0.5% of grouse-moorland of the UK (8,000 hectares out of 1,700,000) so 20 pairs extrapolated comes to 4250 pairs.
        If this Guardian article is correct then the HH capacity on grouse moors is certainly more than the study in that article because only 25 Langholm-like estates would take it to 499.
        ‘It estimated that between 2003-07 there should have been 499 breeding pairs on the 3, of grouse moors across Britain which were being “driven”, or actively used for shooting, in those years.’

        1. Anand, it appears I may not have made my point clearly. The sense in which I was speculating that Langholm is not typical is that the percentage of Red Grouse in prey items appears to be much higher on the Langholm site than on other study areas. So the “ammunition” being used by the grouse shooting industry in this debate, based largely on the Langholm data, exaggerates the amount of grouse being taken by harriers. In a CCTV analysis of prey items delivered to harrier chicks on the Renfrewshire Heights SPA (harrier population 10-14 pairs), 1,285 prey items were identified at five nests over a 6-year period (2003-2008). The number of items unidentifiable were very few (34) but were small passerines, not Red Grouse. By number, the remaining prey species consisted of 93% Meadow Pipits and 7% Field Voles. Not a single Red Grouse, despite the grouse moor being actively managed during that period. In a 17-year study of the Hen Harriers, only one Red Grouse was ever recorded being taken, and that was an adult. I wouldn’t insist that this alternative study site is necessarily typical, but it brings into question whether that statement could be made about Langholm. It would appear that where pipits are abundant (an estimated 7,378-13,026 breeding pairs on the Renfrewshire SPA), harriers will take them in preference to grouse, although initial uptake of harrier territories is more closely correlated with field vole abundance. Most harrier workers I’ve spoken to seem to agree that the Renfrewshire SPA is more typical, and my own observations on other moors suggest this too. Unfortunately ongoing research at Renfrewshire was abruptly halted midway by the withdrawal of funding by the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park Authority, who are considering entering into a partnership with shooting interests to restore grouse shooting within this public amenity.

          1. Thanks Snipe, i see what you mean. I had heard that other grouse moors in the experiment were very different from Langholm. Mark Avery’s book only touched on this issue so thanks for the detail.
            My only problem with Inglorious and Dave Dick’s book, both too short!

      2. No, don’t stop at driven grouse shooting! Include snipe as well. I visited a shooting lodge out here in the Hebrides and found two wheelie-bins full of dead birds. It all has to stop – it’s disgusting!

  3. Has anyone ever, even anonymously, got any justification from the gamekeepers or land ‘managers’ about incidents like this? Not just the usual SGA ‘maybe it wasn’t shot’, ‘must be a rogue or criminal’ clatrap, but actually spoken to a gamekeeper who admits to this and tells why?

    1. Many a gamekeeper will admit to killing raptors to your face when no one else is around, but try getting them to admit to it publicly. Usual reply would be something like, “Who, me sir, you know I would never do a thing like that, our estate would never condone me killing birds of prey, more than my jobs worth”

      They know they’re at it, and they know we know they’re at it, they also know that even if we catch them at it they are most unlikely to end up in court. Even if by some miracle the police get off their arse and they do end up in court, they know full well that some tame judge or sheriff (nod nod, wink wink) will let them off with a derisory sentence at worst, or completely admonish them because they’re pillars of society and guardians of the countryside.

  4. And Phil Merricks at the Hawk and Owl Trust still wants us to believe that tagging ‘brood meddled’ hen harriers will strike fear into the hearts of these game keeping killers and ensure hen harriers aren’t shot? What a joke.

  5. Oh yes Dave..I have plenty of experience of that…always “off the record” of course. It varied from the “I do what my boss tells me” to “theyre all vermin, Ive seen the results of the Langholm Study, Ive seen a harrier nest with 50 [sic] dead grouse in it..Ive been told that they eat their own weight of grouse in ten minutes…blah, blah, blah..Ive got my own theory..blah , blah , townies know nothing..”..Followed by that old chestnut, wheeled out by the SGA [who will be seen by history as the final nail in driven grouse shooting’s coffin, things were improving until they were invented in the mid 90s]…”its thae birdwatchers disturbing the poor birds nests that cause all the damage”….Criminals will always have some attempted justification for when they get caught…the real reinforcing factor for their persecuting ways however is a bonding/competition between keepers where they need to be seen to be “keeping the side up” by continually killing raptors..oh yes..and they enjoy it.

    1. Wow Dave, you really have the trust of so many gamekeepers who are prepared to speak to you “off the record”. Or maybe you are just making it up.

      1. I’m sure Dave Dick isn’t making it up; it strikes a chord with me, who used to know and had the confidence of a number of gamekeepers for some years before they realised I supported ‘the enemy.’ I got to know one of the country’s most respected experts on game management who was also called upon as an adviser at international level. He once got a bit carried away in a mildly heated discussion and admitted to me that he might accept brood reduction for Peregrines, but would “never tolerate” a harrier on any of his moors. He admitted that he would sack a ‘keeper who refused to get rid of what he described, rather unscientifically, as “a seagull with a hooked bill” or “a flying rat.” Another gamekeeper admitted to me that he had conned the RSPB into believing he was a good guy by taking them to the only harrier nest he left alone, whilst wiping out half a dozen other pairs. I’ve been in the company of grouse shooting parties when they are discussing harriers, and they hate them with an almost unimaginable vengeance. Once the shooters have had a few tots of Scotch whisky they can become remarkably open when they think they’re in safe company. I’m no longer privy to such conversations as I’m now well known as the enemy. It is not realistic to expect compromise or compliance with the law where harriers are concerned. In my opinion the only option is to ban all grouse shooting and use current international legislation to protect the Hen Harrier’s prime habitats.

      2. You should check out Dave’s history before making claims like that. Here is a hint: ‘Wildlife Crime. the making of an Investigations Officer’.

        1. I’ve checked out the link, thanks, but it hasn’t changed my opinion. The problem I think is that there is no compromise between the antis and the pro shooting lobbies. If the antis stopped trying to tar the whole shooting community with the same brush, the shooting community could become less defensive and then hopefully the two could work together. It would be wrong of me to claim that these crimes don’t happen, but it is equally wrong of the antis to deny the benefits that a managed landscape and we’ll run shoot can bring to wildlife. As you may have guessed, I shoot, but I only joined my syndicate after sounding them out about controlling buzzards on the shoot. “Live and let live” was the answer I was looking for, and the one that was given.

          If the law was ever changed, then maybe I would think about controlling buzzards if necessary, but for now, I will (and always will) abide by the law, as do all our syndicate members.

          Most shoots do take the law seriously, as do most gamekeepers. If you are going to focus on the bad ones (which you should, as everybody wants them gone) then you will find them, but that doesn’t mean that they are all like that.

          1. Brent, you give yourself away when you admit you would think about controlling Buzzards “if necessary,” if the law permitted. Assuming you’re not on a wind-up, that indicates the heart of the problem, i.e. that hunters, even those who consider themselves responsible, usually (in my experience) have little basic understanding of ecology. They tend to be particularly confused about raptor ecology, which is not all that surprising when they get their information from their peers in the game business.

            I can think of no situation that could possibly justify controlling Buzzards. Do you know why Buzzards have declined by about 50% in the past eight years, at least throughout most of Central and Southern Scotland? If you could answer that question I’d be impressed, but I note that the shooting community is still harping on about how Buzzards have increased “enormously” in recent years, occasionally making ridiculous claims that their numbers are “out of control.” They did increase something like three or four-fold during the last two decades of the 20th Century, but I’d bet you don’t know the reason for that either. A healthy raptor population is a sign of two things: a healthy food supply and lack of persecution. Nature balances itself by fairly simple processes we understand perfectly well.

            Sometimes there is no room for compromise. I openly admit that I find the killing of wild animals (or indeed any animals) for pleasure absolutely repulsive, so personally I can’t compromise with shooting people. I find their recreational practices morally and ethically irresponsible, cruel and heartless, and would be in favour of extending legal protection to all birds, including game birds. However I believe you need to get a sense of perspective. Sadly for me, not all bird lovers are opposed to hunting, and the compromise being sought is very simple to achieve, simply by the hunting side NOT BREAKING THE LAW. You say you wouldn’t, so what is there to argue about? Surely it’s your hunting colleagues and gamekeepers you should be converting? The main thrust of Raptor Persecution Scotland is not primarily to change the law; as far as I can gather it exists for public educational purposes and to fight to get the existing law enforced. When you think about it, it is ridiculous to think that in a civilised society we have to ASK people or campaign for them to obey the law of the land. Please get real.

            1. I don’t give myself away, as there is nothing to hide. I state that I would think about shooting buzzards if the law allowed. What that means is that I would consider it if it was legal and they became such a problem. If they were not, then I wouldn’t shoot them, even if the law allowed. It’s the same as hares- the law allows us to shoot them, but they are few and far between in our neck of the woods so we leave them.

              As for killing for sport- I shoot either pests or for food. I eat everything that I can that I’ve shot. There is an element of skill involved in shooting, and it is satisfying to use those skills to their best effect. The killing side is no different to those people who “pay” a slaughterman to kill their chickens/lambs/pigs/cows for them.

              1. Brent, could you clarify what you mean about Buzzards being a problem. How could they be a problem?
                I think Snipe was trying to point out that even wanting to kill a Buzzard under any circumstances is not understanding basic ecology. You wrote ‘but it is equally wrong of the antis to deny the benefits that a managed landscape and we’ll (sic) run shoot can bring to wildlife’. It seems that your idea of management is only interested in the end product, the game. I think most people who read this blog are interested in the whole ecosystem. Landscapes managed for game are closer to zoos than natural habitats. Of course I would like to see good numbers of waders but not at the expense of all the natural predators. Many nature reserves are also managed but with the aim of creating as natural a habitat as possible. If grouse shooting stopped tomorrow there is no reason to think we couldn’t look after and even improve those habitats.
                Incidentally I am not sure your claim ‘the two could work together’ is genuine. The word ‘anti’ and accusing Dave Dick of being a liar are why.

                Could you also clarify what kind of game you shoot. Most of the problems are on grouse moors where persecution is institutionalized. You say that we shouldn’t tar all game-keepers with the same brush. I agree with gamekeepers as a whole. There are probably many gamekeepers who are not persecuting because of the increase in Sparrowhawks and Buzzard in many areas. But on driven grouse moors it is very hard not to see the whole industry as involved in an active or passive conspiracy. The institutions which support grouse shooting pay only lip service to doing anything to stop the persecution so it is very hard not to lump them all as a barrel of bad apples. If there was really only a small minority of game-keepers and landlords involved in the crimes why don’t they ever support stricter methods to catch and punish the criminals? Please i would love to know. Why do they hinder and obstruct any ways to stop the persecution. This blog is full of examples. This even goes as far as the SGA not expelling members who have a criminal poisoning offence. How can this be interpreted in any way other than supporting the criminal element.

                Personally I don’t want a compromise. Compromise implies that the criminals don’t think they should obey the law, that they are above the law and that they are right and the law is wrong, all the signs of sociopathy. I want the criminals to obey the law, full stop. The ‘compromise’ of brood management shows that there is no change in the status quo of the shooting lobby. It shows that they simply won’t tolerate Hen Harriers on their land. Absence of Hen Harriers on prime habitat is just about as good a proof as there can be, that persecution has happened recently in the area and is probably still happening.
                Diversionary feeding is a clear way a landowner can show a real willingness to obey the law and live with Hen Harriers but it is not being supported by the shooting lobby. This shows an entrenched position. I want them to obey the law and they don’t. How can there be a compromise. If the shooting lobby supported diversionary feeding they would be helped. That isn’t compromise it’s helping someone obey the law.

                I don’t know what links you refer to. If you were answering me i was giving the name of Dave Dick’s book.
                If you want to know more about persecution of raptors on grouse moors, you could try reading these government reports.

                Click to access jncc441.pdf

                Click to access fielding-haworth-2014_golden-eagles-in-south-scotland-an-overview.pdf

                1. How can buzzards be a problem? How can mice be problem? How can flies be a problem. How can rabbits be problem? How can rats be a problem? How can speeding motorists be a problem? How can teenagers gathering in the street be a problem? Who decides when it is a problem? I may not like it, but I rely on the government, even though I know it relies on expert advice from people who think they know what they are talking about.

                  Apparently there were over 2000 road fatalities in the UK last year. these are just human. There are many more birds (including raptors), mamals( (including badgers) than this, but why does nobody suggest banning driving? Of course, those that sit there defending the birds, your homes destroyed some of the birds habitatat. Every time you drive a car to the supermarket, you kill several (hundred) insects. You despise one act of humanity that has lived for hundreds of thousands of years, yet choose to ignore the damage that you do with your house, your cars, your food, your clothes. Even the energy you produce damages the environment you live in, but hey ho, that’s ok because you don’t actually pull the trigger- you pay someone else to do it for you….

                  Tell me how you respect the environment, and I may start to respect you.

                  1. Brent, I can admire your fearlessness in the lions’ den, but that is really just a wild rant which in no way answers Anand’s question. Its relevance to the issue being debated is superficial at best, and presumably all the sins and alleged hypocrisy you throw at us are not visited upon yourself? I hesitate to get involved in any of your questions, because who knows where your mind will go next, but the reason most of us don’t suggest banning driving is partly because it’s an integral part of how society operates and contributes to the quality of life, and also because only the psychopaths amongst us would use our vehicles to deliberately kill animals. You go out with your gun and deliberately inflict injury, pain and death on the living creatures you choose to eliminate, because you enjoy it, yet you expect others to believe you care about the welfare of wildlife which is accidentally killed by road traffic? That’s either hypocrisy or a guilty conscience, I would hope the latter. Are we to assume that your reference to our clothes, our food, our houses, etc., means that you are somehow surviving naked in a cave somewhere, with only YOUR GUN for company, to shoot the odd pheasant for sustenance?

                    1. Hello Jack

                      I don’t pretend that I’m whiter than white. I accept that society has moved to such a stage that regretfully, it would be impossible to go back to the status quo with nature. I am pointing out though that despite the obvious appreciation of one form of creature on this website, the actions that you and the other members take on a daily basis results in death and injury to many more, but that’s acceptable because they are not raptors? Yes I hunt, and I kill birds that mostly I eat. I enjoy the challenge and the skill involved in hunting, and I also enjoy the opportunities it gives me to get closer to nature than most people ever get, for example when a large buzzard decided to attack my crow decoy not 10 yards away from where I was sitting. I sat there for 5 minutes watching it walk around before it decided enough was enough and flew off.

                      The animals I kill have a much better death than the farm animals that are sent for slaughter, so my conscience is clear.

                  2. You lost me when you mentioned speeding motorists.

                    Speeding motorists, through recklessness and their own selfish actions, have been responsible for the deaths of many thousands of innocent people. That one is patently clear, and you shouldn’t have to rely on the government to tell you that the actions of speeding motorists can have serious consequences for other people. Indeed, I wouldn’t rely on the government to provide a truthful, factual account on any topic. Some people put their faith in Tony Blair’s government, and he led the UK into an illegal war, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of individuals, which only propagated fanaticism in the Middle East, and was partly responsible for the rise of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Since then, our governments have maintained a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve had interventions in Libya, and arguably Syria and the Ukraine as well. Governments will lie to their people, and do so regularly.

                    Anyway, onto your concerns about roadkill, accommodation and invertebrates. I think there is a major difference between the accidental deaths on the roads, compared to the deliberate and illegal killings carried out by shooting estates. And many of us will live in houses that were built long before we were born. The fact is, whether you choose to accept it or not, that people need shelter, and it doesn’t matter if this is a three storey mansion, a single man tent, or a bushman’s construction made in the woods, there will be an inevitable, albeit accidental, loss of life in the construction or placement of these shelters.

                    However, on reading your outburst on the above topics, I also have an inkling that you may have misinterpreted some of the previous comments. There was a comment by Jack Snipe, in which he asserted that he abhors the very idea of “sport” shooting, and I would have to agree with him on that subject, however you have claimed that what you shoot, you eat. Now, this is just a personal opinion, but it’s one that others will probably share, perhaps Jack Snipe included, that being that I do not consider shooting for the pot as a form of “sport” shooting. I would consider shooting for the pot as hunting in its truest form, where anything but a clean kill would be frowned upon, all of which is far removed from driven grouse or pheasant shooting, or fox hunting.

                    Then again, perhaps I am wrong, and you do indeed gain some form of pleasure from inflicting pain on your quarry. Only you know the truth

                    As for compromise, perhaps as the conservation industry has invariably kept on the right side of the law during these past few decades, and any law-breaking activity has generally been from the shooting industry side of the divide, dare I suggest (again!) that some form of compromise could be reached if the shooting industry were to switch from the driven shooting regime, to a walked-up only system, reducing the need for large bags, and thereby allowing predators and prey to co-exist?

                    A simple switch such as that proposed would eliminate much of the conflict, so you would have to question why such a move, bar a few exceptions, is never touted as a viable alternative within the shooting industry?

                    1. Hello Marco

                      The argument is that the vast majority of shooters act in a lawful and responsible way, as do the vast majority of motorists. Just because a handful of individuals act unlawfully, the anti lobby use this as a reason to have a lawful activity banned. If anyone was to suggest that driving should be banned because of the small minority who abuse it, I am sure that you and everyone else on this website would be deeply alarmed.

                      Just because you don’t agree with something, doesn’t mean it should stop. The sporting element of shooting is that the quarry should be given a chance to escape. If not, then pheasants, grouse, partridge and pigeon would all be shot on the ground with no chance of escape. This type of shooting does go on, although it is mainly poachers who want as many birds as possible to sell on. I also mentioned in my post to Jack that walked up shooting can result in birds being shot in the rear, not always fatal but I imagine very painful. This is why I prefer driven shooting where possible.

                      The conservation industry doesn’t always keep on the right side of the law, which is shown by the number of unsuccessful prosecutions recently due to the use of covert cameras. This actually frustrates me because I want the bad shooters and gamekeepers out of the industry, and I get annoyed when they get away with it because of technicality. But lets say that the vast majority of conservationists stay on the right side of the law, as do the vast majority of shooters and gamekeepers.

                      My argument is and always has been focus on the bad ones, not the good ones. Work with the good ones to clean up the industry. By targeting all shooters, all that happens is that we close ranks to protect the industry as a whole, and the bad ones will get away with it.

                      I’m not going to reply any more. I appreciate the passion you all have and share your love of raptors- maybe I like them more than you all do as it’s clear from the posts that the raptor persecution isn’t the real issue, but they are being used as the tool to attack a lawful activity. Pity really.

                    2. “Just because a handful of individuals act unlawfully, the anti lobby use this as a reason to have a lawful activity banned.”

                      And exactly which lawful activity are we campaigning to have banned?

                      The problem lies with certain elements of shooting, such as driven grouse shooting, which relies on criminal activity to keep the moors heavily populated with Red Grouse, at the expense of all predators. As noted recently, this zero tolerance approach stretches from dogged attempts to prevent raptors from nesting in the first place, to the slaughter of adult and immature birds at all times of the year. It is a never-ending onslaught, hence why so few raptors are ever recorded nesting in these areas. So, could you please provide a valid reason as to why these areas so regularly fail to produce breeding raptors, and why various species of protected raptors regularly end up trapped, shot, poisoned or bludgeoned to death in these same areas?

                      And again, you have tried to make this dubious link between driving a vehicle and driven grouse shooting. As I’ve pointed out above, driven grouse shooting is wholly reliant on criminal activity, whereas the simple act of driving a vehicle, does not require any need for criminality.

                      As for your take on sport shooting, I’m afraid we’ll just have to disagree on the subject. I honestly cannot see anything sporting, or fair, by using hordes of humans to chase birds to a waiting line of humans armed with firearms and other weaponry. That’s not sport. A sport should be comprised of two or more teams or individuals, which are considered to be general equals.

                      I liked your nice wee touch of deliberate manipulation. I don’t believe that the conservation industry has broken any laws by installing covert cameras. If so, I’m sure the shooting industry or land owners would have brought about prosecutions against those organisations attempting to use such evidence. In the corrupt world of the judiciary, it may be deemed as inadmissible, especially as it so often involves the wealthy colleagues and friends of the establishment, but I do not believe it to be illegal.

                      You claim that any focus should be aimed firmly at “the bad ones, not the good ones”. Isn’t that what we are doing? I don’t recall any innocent gamekeeper being targeted on this site and labelled as a criminal. However, if you have any evidence to the contrary, then please alert us to where and when this happened.

                      You also mention that we should “work with the good ones to clean up the industry”. Shouldn’t that be down to the shooting industry to weed out the criminal element within their organisations? I think that the conservation organisations have allowed the shooting industry ample opportunity to clean up its act, yet we have various organisations protecting known criminals. How does that fit in with your idea of cleaning up the industry?

                      Then you state “By targeting all shooters, all that happens is that we close ranks to protect the industry as a whole, and the bad ones will get away with it”. Again, where and when did any one person or group target all shooters? I have a feeling that is a figment of your imagination, but if not, then please provide some evidence proving otherwise. And as for the shooting industry closing ranks and letting the bad ones get away with their criminal activity, many would argue that that has been the case for decades. There’s not been many cases of gamekeepers informing on other gamekeepers, or landowners informing on other landowners, has there?

                      You end your post just as you started, with your wildly falsified statement that we are seeking to have a lawful activity banned, coupled with your ludicrous assertion that none of this blog is about raptor persecution. So I will end my post by again asking you for any evidence you have of this? Please explain to us how you arrived at the conclusion that this blog, and its comments, do not relate to raptor persecution, and which persons or organisations are demanding an end to which lawful activity?

                  3. You have avoided my question and all the points i made. I don’t think you really want to try to understand these issues. I don’t really think you’re interested in anything but slagging me off. I don’t actually care for your respect, why would i want that.
                    How do i respect the environment? Did i say i did? What has that got to do with the subject at hand. But i certainly try. I try to burn as little carbon as possible (drive very little and use very little heating etc.), buy organic as far as possible and basically try to have as little negative impact on my environment as possible. I have one child don’t have any pets. I don’t own land so there is little i can do directly but i work on an ecological farm and try to help them audit their wildlife as much as possible and have helped them get grants for wildlife management. I push the government as much as possible to ban harmful substances and try to stop them allowing them anyway. I hassle the hell out of MPs on raptor crime issues and numerous other ecological issues and sign every petition i come across that pushed for better care for the environment. I have a blog on the wildlife where i live, which i think demonstrates my respect i have for wildlife and the environment but i try that to keep that as apolitical as possible out of respect for my landlord/ladies.
                    Now how about you addressing the issues i mentioned and tell me how a Buzzard can be a problem?

                    1. Hi Anand and everyone else who replied.- I haven’t slagged you or any other members of this site off. I’ve merely posed other questions to show that every one of as effects the environment, and was hopeful of having some constructive dialogue. This approach has worked in the past where I’ve had a meaningful discussion with a hunt saboteur, however it appears that this is too much here.

                      It’s interesting that in one post, a member makes a big deal about not trusting the government- I don’t either, because I know many of the experts the government uses for various reports (not shooting related, I’m sure you will be glad to hear) and know how easily they are influenced. I also know that very few reports are commissioned by government before the outcome has already been determined. For that reason I don’t trust the various reports written by the RSPB, RSPCA, BASC or the CA- they are all tainted in someway or another.

                    2. Anand, I can understand why, but you don’t need to justify yourself as nothing you have said is either hypocritical or illogical. I shouldn’t be directing this at Brent, as he said he wasn’t going to reply any more, but he has, so here goes again…

                      Brent, quite probably like yourself, I engage in debates and discussions on a wide range of topics, so I’m not obsessed only with defending raptors. I’m not going to list it all to justify myself to you, partly because I don’t have to, but mainly because you have a way of twisting people’s logic in an extraordinary way. I’ll hope this is my final contribution concerning some specifics of your latest musings.

                      To go full circle, your efforts have proved that there is no room for compromise when it comes to the subject of shooting wildlife for pleasure. I find it morally unacceptable, callous and cruel, and wouldn’t be satisfied if you said you would continue to do it, but would try harder not to enjoy it so much. Call it an interspecific injustice if you wish (although you won’t, because you presume that Man is master of all and has the (god-given?) right to decide the fate of innocent creatures). The truth is your “enjoyment” of nature involves causing pain, death and destruction which a very large sector of the human community finds unnecessary and disgusting, whereas I get my enjoyment by appreciating nature and observing it with the minimum of disturbance. We don’t see rallies along the lines of Hen Harrier Day demanding that birdwatchers give up their offensive pastime! Or that birdwatching becomes a criminal offence. Perhaps if you had ever experienced the sickness that someone like me feels in their stomach to be watching a beautiful bird (for example a harrier OR a grouse), struggling to survive and minding its own business one minute, then a few moments later tumbling lifeless from the sky in a cloud of feathers, peppered with lead shot, you might empathise.

                      It’s blandness personified to say “Just because you don’t agree with something, doesn’t mean it should stop.” It’s also clearly not so black and white as that. On the other hand, just because you enjoy “exercising your shooting skills” doesn’t mean it’s right and proper to kill wildlife which some of us regard as precious. Each one of us has an intellectual capacity that is capable of a range of levels of disagreement, so I might mildly disagree with the speed limit on the motorway, but that wouldn’t merit either wasting my time campaigning against it, or justify deliberately breaking the law. However I’d disagree strongly with wilful murder, so if that were legal I’d campaign against it. However in the case of Raptor Persecution Scotland, supporters on the site are actually campaigning against an activity which society has already decided is unlawful. Perhaps you’re a right-wing anarchist (who tend to call themselves “libertarian”), and you have every right to hold such extreme views, but you shouldn’t throw your toys out of the pram if someone quite justifiably criticises the activity or the industry you support.

                      Just to prove we’re all different to some degree, I don’t agree with either Marco or yourself regarding walked-up shooting. (I was almost laughing to read that you prefer not to shoot a grouse up the bum – how very considerate of you.) Having encountered harrier persecution on a walked-up grouse moor close to home, I doubt very much that it would make much difference as far as harrier conservation goes. Whatever method is used the gamekeeper mentality is to eradicate predators (foxes and harriers being top of the list), not to be more lenient and tolerate a further reduced income. Most of the people who earn a living or have capital invested in a grouse moor JUST DON’T CARE about harriers. Okay, there is an odd exception to that rule. However I believe some of my peers who are against the persecution of raptors are being a bit naive in this respect. Just ending driven grouse shooting is not sufficient to resolve the problem, and would be a relatively meaningless and pious compromise. I can’t disagree, however, that it would be a desirable first step.

                      The use of covert cameras was not “operating on the wrong side of the law”. It was ruled by one particular judge to be “inadmissible evidence” on a ludicrous technicality that the perpetrators of the (alleged) real crime were photographed without the landowner’s permission! Apply that same technicality to CCTV technology and we’d have to empty half our jails. If the operators of the RSPB cameras had been acting illegally they would have been prosecuted, which they weren’t.

                      Maybe I operate in different social circles to yourself, but I strongly disagree with your statement that the majority of shooters and gamekeepers stay on the right side of the law. Some shooters do, but not the majority. Even those that do obey the law whilst participating in grouse shooting are complicit because they all know what happens to harriers and other predators in the name of “wildlife management.” When Dennis Skinner MP was instructed by the Speaker to retract his statement that “half the Tories in this house are crooks,” he replied “okay, half the Tories aren’t crooks” – I’d parody this line in the case of shooters and gamekeepers.

                      I don’t think anyone would argue with your case that we should focus on “the bad ones,” but the problem with the grouse shooting industry in particular is that the anti-harrier and general anti-predator feeling is institutional. As many others have pointed out on this site, why else are gamekeepers kept on, often their fines paid by their employers, when they have been convicted of an occupational criminal offence? If the allegations that Prince Harry (don’t we all love him?) shot a harrier are true, then the institutional prejudice against legally protected birds of prey goes right to the top of the Establishment. We have a hard fight ahead of us, and the so-called “good” grouse shooters certainly aren’t particularly helping, partly because they fear rejection from the social class to which they aspire (or already belong).

                  4. I couldn’t reply to your latest post, there wasn’t a ‘reply’ button.
                    Jack Snipe, i wasn’t defending myself just hoping that if i answered a question Brent might reciprocate.
                    He hasn’t.
                    Brent i asked what game you shot because it seems that not only do you have a lot of trust in the government (the links for further reading were all government reports but i guess you only trust when it suits you) but you also have a a lot of trust in gamekeepers. You just have to ask them if they shoot buzzards and they will tell you the truth, wow. Just curious but what would they tell you if they did. Must be great to have a conscience like that. Trust aside the science is behind you in that most gamekeepers where the Buzzard is spreading don’t kill them but if you shoot grouse that would be a different matter. The science shows that Hen Harrier killing is institutionalized and if someone goes shooting on a grouse moor which doesn’t have a good population of Hen Harriers then your gamekeeper or his neighbouring gamekeeper is killing Hen harriers and the shooter is benefiting from these crimes. It is a criminal conspiracy pure and simple. But then again you just have to ask, right?
                    You avoid all these issues. It is impossible to discuss anything with you because your mind is completely untrained in logic. You never actually address any of the points we make. You raised one good point about benefits for wildlife of shooting and i tried to answer it.
                    I have another question you can avoid. You say that shooting and gamekeepers are good for wildlife. I agreed, they are. Prey species will obviously benefit when all predators are removed. No one on this blog has as far as i can recall denied it. I mentioned that to a conservationist the whole ecosystem is more important than the parts but you ignored this point. I now claim it is all accidental and the shooting lobby in general doesn’t really give a damn about wildlife. My reasoning is based on the Mountain Hare which you mentioned. That does well with no predators but it is massacred on grouse moors to the point of extermination because it is believed to threaten grouse numbers. Now my question is this, what will gamekeepers do if they find that waders carry a tick with a disease that infects grouse. Do you think the ‘wildlife’ will be protected then? The ‘wildlife’ card is just the wailing of a concerned troll.
                    I didn’t mention it last time but since it is the only decent point you have raised and since you accuse us ‘antis’ of ignoring the benefits i will go into it more. It occurred to me that there is another problem with the wildlife benefit argument and that is that it is dependent on shooting and therefore artificial. There is a very real possibility that shooting could stop. There could be economic problems, disease who knows but it is not sustainable in that sense. To protect wildlife we need to know what populations there are without the artificial habitat of grouse moors. It is comparable with wild populations and captive breeding populations.
                    You DID abuse Dave Dick by calling him a liar and ‘tarred us all with the same brush’ by calling everyone who sympathises with this blog a ‘anti’. Anti is a derogatory comment and I am not at all sure what we are supposed to be anti. Anti persecution yes, if so than i am proud to be an anti. Many readers and commentators of this blog are NOT anti shooting if that is what you mean. Why did you ask about my personal details if it was not to try to attack me. I don’t care, it just shows another weakness in logic, attacking the messengers.
                    You still haven’t answered my question of what harm Buzzard do. I can guess but then i fall into the Straw Man fallacy. I fail to see the common denominator between flies, teenagers and drivers, so i can’t respond to that nonsense. However there was a lot of publicity in the last year or so about killing of Buzzards for shooting reasons.
                    This comment you make is truly laughable ‘maybe I like them more than you all do as it’s clear from the posts that the raptor persecution isn’t the real issue, but they are being used as the tool to attack a lawful activity. Pity really.’ Right a blog solely devoted to stopping raptor persecution is not interested in raptors only to stop your lawful activity. Sounds a little paranoid.
                    If you really new about this issue that every possible method has been put forward to try to catch the criminals and stop persecution. Cameras, increased policing, diversionary feeding, licensing, years of meetings with the gamekeeper, landowner and shooting lobbies and not one inch has been given to stop the criminals from the shooting lobby. The RSPB is even offering to consider brood meddling but the people you align yourself with will not give one inch. That is why Mark Avery is pushing for the ban of driven grouse shooting because everything else has been tried and it isn’t working.
                    If the shooting lobby wanted to stop raptor crime it could be stopped tomorrow. But then there would be no shootable ‘surplus’ grouse and the ‘real issue’ is that the grouse lobby will never obey the law because it means the end of the ‘sport.’ It always come back to the law.
                    You yourself have made large claim to be on the side of the law but it seems to me that the grouse shooting lobby want the law to change to suit them and break it when it doesn’t. We have adequate laws to protect raptors. Not enough to stop the crimes because the difficulty of detection and and apathetically lenient judiciary but the laws themselves are good. But the shooting lobby don’t obey the law and then try to bend it. They kill Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles and Peregrines illegally and then lobby to be able to kill them legally and when that doesn’t work want to move nests off their land. You accuse readers of this blog of not liking raptors as much as you. So if a Buzzard is threatening your shoot, which has the highest priority, the buzzard or your game? I am sure most sympathisers of this blog think that the Buzzard has the highest value not artificially reared game, which you intend to shoot anyway. The SGA has lobbied to kill Buzzards so both the predator and the game are shot. It is a very strange way to show how much you ‘like them’. You appear happy to shoot Buzzards if the law allowed. It doesn’t but the lobby which you defend is challenging the law at this very moment. If the government allows this will you then be happy to kill Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Peregrines which prey on ‘game”? If so i think you know what you can do with your ‘like’.
                    Sorry RPS for having to read all that.

      3. I never “make it up”, this is a serious subject and Ive nothing but contempt for those who exaggerate on either side of the “raptor divide”…that doesnt help anyone. …to clarify, there were far far too few gamekeepers “confiding/aka telling the truth..but some did, for a variety of reasons from bravado to attempting to justify their crimes.

  6. I’ve written yet again to the Environment Minister, with no hope that they actually want to do anything about it – the “action” mentioned in Aileen’s response is clearly not working so we need something new, not further discussion.

    I also object to the statement on the BBC site that breaking this news today is in any way controversial or deliberately timed to annoy the shooting community, it “will be questioned”. How utterly ridiculous. So the news should be contained in order not to cast a shadow on the enjoyment they will get out of their shoots commencing tomorrow, i.e. without having to be aware that systematic persecution continues just so they can do that? It is systematic no doubt, the numbers that should be being talked about are the extrapolated totals of birds being killed based on the ratio of non-satellite tagged juveniles, the vast majority of which will never be found.

    But this brings me to an important query, relating to simple “disappearance” (recent Bowland cases) versus birds found dead confirming human intervention – what is the consensus on why some of these birds are left on the moor to be found with their sat tags on:

    1. they can’t find them/can’t be bothered to search for them?
    2. they are naive and not aware of satellite tagging and that the corpse is likely to be found
    3. they leave it there in the hope that the corpse will be found to demonstrate again that they can do what they like and have no fear of being caught

    Given how often it happens I’m assuming it must be a bit off 1, but mainly 3, this is being done deliberately to send a message? This is an important point because when it is being done deliberately it changes the nature of the debate, whatever the gamekeepers organisations say, actions speak louder than words and by the ongoing killing they are saying, despite public statements, which are clearly all just “for show”, actually we are determined to carry on doing this, and we will do so with impunity. Am I wrong to assume that this is actually all very deliberate and being done for maximum impact?

    Incidentally, as I mentioned to Aileen, here in Lothian our harriers are gone, a sad catalogue of losses from all the moors south of Edinburgh, something that will be documented in our local atlas “Birds in South East Scotland 2007—2013”, which we are currently writing**.


    1. I suspect it is 4. Only those tagged birds that get ‘winged’ and manage to fly off to die elsewhere, so they cannot be picked up / found at dusk near a roost site, are the ones located. Like Bowland Betty that had lead fragments in its leg. The majority of shot harriers would be killed instantly and disposed of. Hence the missing tagged birds.

    2. It is a risk to be carrying around a transmitter let alone searching for it and carrying a dead Hen Harrier around. I would imagine that would be part of the reason. But as comments have shown, these are sociopaths for whom i’m not sure normal reason applies.

  7. Why has it taken from April until August to identify that a bird has been shot. My vet did it in a few hours. There is no likelihood of finding out who did it. How about producing a poster that says “Annie. Murdered on the langholme estate 2014- 2015” that we could then share on media feed and display . I am afraid that I am not technical enough to do it, but we could do it for each individual bird that had been lost

    1. No idea about post mortem delay. Perhaps the corpse was badly decomposed having been exposed to the elements for several weeks which may have complicated the process? Who knows. At least the news of this crime has been published – there are many others that Police Scotland are still sitting on, some from as far back as last year.

      Just for reference – this bird wasn’t found on Langholm moor. She had dispersed away from Langholm and her last known location (from her sat tag) was in the South Lanarkshire region. Her corpse was found on a grouse moor near Daer Reservoir in S. Lanarkshire.

  8. The BBC website has been updated with:
    he Queensberry Estate later issued a statement saying the bird had been found on its land but said it had no prior knowledge of the shooting.
    The BBC says:
    “The timing of the appeal is likely to be questioned by the supporters of grouse shooting. The shooting season officially begins on Wednesday.”
    Perhaps if the BBC had read what the RSPB said they would like to retract that slur. I’m not holding my breath:
    “After extensive searching RSPB Scotland Investigations staff, liaising with Natural England and Police Scotland, recovered the body of the bird at the end of April and submitted it to the SAC Veterinary Centre laboratory near Edinburgh. Results received in the last few days now confirm that the bird was shot.”
    The SGA seems to think it should have been involved. Perhaps one of it’s members was….

  9. Let’s not be too hasty in blaming anyone associated with the grouse shooting industry for the death of this bird. Just because they had the means, motive and opportunity does not mean they are responsible.

    I mean it could have been shot by a birder, couldn’t it?

    That’s probably what happened. It was shot by a birder and planted on a grouse moor as part of a propaganda war.

    If I was the police I’d be asking Mark Avery to account for his movements.

    1. Yes, after all the RSPB has been identified as the major cause of the Hen Harrier’s demise by that great ornithological sage, Sir Beefy Botham and his pals at YFTB.

    2. There was a local blog in the Leadhills area that postulated on just such a senario after the discovery of the poisoned game bags a few years back. (After new raptor friendly, gamekeepers were brought in on that estate)

  10. Reblogged this on Palimpsest and commented:
    This it too important not to share by any means possible. Driven grouse shooting is another element of the absurd struggle for power that also gives us: racism; sexism; the persecution of refugees and asylum seekers; the wars we can’t seem to stop ourselves starting; the non-wages of the working poor; the monarchy; the first past the post electoral system; the persecution of the unemployed, alternatively employed, disabled… The list goes on, all of it needs to be addressed as a whole entity, as well as individual parts. Please sign the petition (link below) to ban driven grouse shooting, and preserve our natural heritage.

  11. As I suspected the BBC comment may have been influenced by YFTB. Note this very similar but more revealing quotation from the Independent:
    “however the timing of the appeal, the day before the so-called Glorious Twelfth, the start of the grouse shooting season, is likely to be questioned by members of the shooting lobby.
    Former cricketer Sir Ian Botham, who fronts You Forgot The Birds, a grouse-industry funded group which has been waging a war of words against the RSPB, condemned the illegal shooting of birds of prey but questioned the RSPB’s “news management tactics.”

    He said: “What happened in April needs to be investigated carefully. However this bird died, some will wonder why the RSPB is announcing [its death] in time for the papers on 12 August.”

  12. What can be done to help combat these crimes……………..GIVE SSPCA INCREASED POWERS.

    I note SSPCA recently convicted a farmer for shooting a buzzard. I appreciate this may have been different circumstances but same offence.

    I am depressed continued lack of positive ideas and progress in this area.

    The media is quick enough to jump on the shooting of a lion but will not grasp the nettle and address the systematic destruction of our own precious wildlife.

  13. It was on the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry’s land that the shot golden eagle was found in 2012. Eerie coincidence?

      1. OK, fair point. But that must mean that there should be transparency about exactly who controls grouse moors.

  14. Couldn’t find a contact for you but thought you may be interested to know that Simon Lester has resigned from from the Langholm project.

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