More raptor persecution uncovered in the Angus Glens

In the week before Christmas, RSPB Scotland published a 20-year review of crimes against birds of prey. We blogged about it (here) and mentioned that a few things within the report had caught our eye and that we’d come back to them. A few days ago we blogged about the first thing that had caught our attention (here). Here’s the second thing.

Take a look at Table 3: Confirmed incidents of persecution or attempted persecution (excluding poisoning) of birds of prey in Scotland, 2013.

Angus Glens persecution 2013

We already knew about the illegal felling of a white-tailed eagle’s nest tree on Invermark Estate in January 2013 – the first WTE breeding attempt in East Scotland in over a century – we’d blogged about it here. But we didn’t know about the shot buzzard at Glen Ogil (June 2013), the illegal hawk trap found in Glen Moy (July 2013) or the unset spring trap next to a bait near Edzell (September 2013).

Let’s add them to our list of things discovered in the Angus Glens since 2004:

2004 May, near Edzell: long-eared owl and two short-eared owls starved to death in crow cage trap.  No prosecution.

2004 May, Invermark Estate: peregrine nest destroyed. No prosecution.

2006 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2006 May, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2006 June, Glenogil Estate: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. No prosecution. Estate owner had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments. This was being appealed, but it is not known how this was resolved.

2006 July, Millden Estate; poisoned sheepdog (Lindane). No prosecution.

2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird allegedly been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 May, Glenogil Estate: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.

2008 October, ‘Glenogil Estate: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 April, Millden Estate: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.

2009 July, Millden Estate: poisoned golden eagle ‘Alma’ (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2009 August, Glenogil Estate: poisoned white-tailed eagle “89” (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 September, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Chloralose). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2010 October, Glenogil Estate: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.

2011 February, Airlie Estate: buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. (see below)

2011 March, Airlie Estate: 3 x buzzard caught in illegal crow trap. Prosecution (!) but dropped after statement from suspect given to SSPCA deemed inadmissible.

2011 April, Millden Estate: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 April, ‘Nr Noranside’: Remains of buzzard found beside pheasant pen. Suspicious death.

2011 June, Rottal & Tarabuckle Estate: dead kestrel inside crow cage trap. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Edzell’: spring-trapped buzzard. No prosecution.

2012 February, ‘Nr Bridgend’: remains of buzzard found under a rock. Suspicious death.

2012 May, Millden Estate: satellite-tagged golden eagle seemingly caught in spring trap, then apparently uplifted overnight and dumped on Deeside with two broken legs & left to die. No prosecution.

2012 May, Glen Esk: disappearance of sat-tagged red kite. No further transmissions or sightings of bird.

2013 January, Invermark Estate: white-tailed eagle nest tree felled. No prosecution.

2013 June, Glen Ogil: shot buzzard. No prosecution.

2013 July, Glen Moy: illegal hawk trap. No prosecution.

2013 September, nr Edzell: unset spring trap next to bait. No prosecution.

2013 November, Glen Lethnot: poisoned golden eagle ‘Fearnan’. No prosecution.

2014 August & September, Glenogil Estate: alleged snare offences. Prosecution of gamekeeper underway (currently ongoing).

2014 October, Nathro: shot buzzard. Prosecution? Unknown.

What a magical place, those Angus Glens, eh? Well that’s what the Scottish Moorland Group (SMG) would have us all believe.

Gift of GrouseBack in November the SMG continued their spectacularly comical Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign, heavily promoted (and may be even funded?) by Scottish Land and Estates (we’ve blogged about this previously – see here) with the ‘publication’ of a ‘report’ based on the findings of three ‘wildlife audits’ on three driven grouse shooting estates: Invermark and Glenogil (both in the Angus Glens) and Glenturret in Perthshire. We were fascinated by this ‘report’, which was launched at a parliamentary reception at Holyrood hosted by Graeme Dey MSP (see here), which claimed to show

“…a useful insight into the range of conservations [sic] benefits delivered by high quality moorland management practices and techniques” (SMG).

However, when the SMG was asked to provide a copy of the ‘report’, those asking to see it were simply pointed in the direction of SMG’s ‘summary’ on the Gift of Grouse website (here). Why so coy? And how can such claims of ‘conservation benefit’ be so readily accepted by MSPs (and the newspapers that promoted the story) without proper scrutiny of the ‘report’? Can you imagine the furore from the game shooting industry if the RSPB made claims about raptor persecution on grouse moors without providing access to the data to back up such claims?

So, without having access to the ‘report’ (and thus the data), we’re just left with the SMG’s summary interpretation. Not ideal, but nevertheless still quite revealing.

Let’s start with the wildlife audit undertaken on Invermark Estate. This was conducted over a three month period (June-August 2015) by consultants from Taylor Wildlife, a company run by a gamekeeper’s daughter based in the Angus Glens. The SMG’s summary says that these ecologists “used a variety of techniques to record birds, butterflies, mammals and other species across 80 sqKM of upland habitats which are specifically managed for grouse“. Unfortunately the ‘variety of techniques’ used were not described as these would have been of great interest: breeding bird surveys usually comprise three visits, starting in March (recon visit to map out transects, record habitat data etc), a follow-up survey in the early part of the breeding season (April to mid-May) and a third visit at least four weeks later at the end of the breeding season (mid-May to end of June). We’d liked to have seen which ornithological surveys were being used by Taylor Wildlife in July and August. A good time for surveying butterflies, of course, but breeding birds??

Also recorded, according to SMG’s summary, were ’10 species of raptor’, although the summary didn’t explain whether these were breeding on Invermark or simply passing overhead. Hen harrier was included on the list which leads us to believe that raptors weren’t included in a breeding bird survey, as hen harriers are not known to have bred anywhere in the Angus Glens since 2006. Can’t think why.

Having said all that, Invermark is known as one of the better, less-intensively managed grouse moors in the Angus Glens, so species diversity would be expected to be relatively good, and to their credit, they do host successfully breeding golden eagles.

Now let’s look at the ‘survey’ undertaken on Glenogil Estate. This won’t take long. Apparently it was conducted by two visiting professors and a group of their students from Germany over a four day period (26-30 April 2015) in what is described as “bad weather conditions (cold and precipitation frequency with snow and hailstorm)“. Astonishingly, these visitors were able to “assess the populations of deer, mountain hares, rabbits and grouse and looked in detail at other bird populations“. Really? In four days of snow, rain and hail? What a remarkably brilliant team they must be. Or, their ‘survey’ results aren’t worth the paper they were scribbled on.

And finally, there’s the ‘survey’ from Glenturret Estate in Perthshire. This one was particularly interesting as the ‘survey’ didn’t take place in 2015; rather it was a “re-appraisal by the estate” of a survey undertaken in 2012. Hmm. We suspect that this survey was undertaken as part of ‘Operation Countrywatch’, a collaboration between the RSPB and various sporting estates in Perthshire, of which Glenturret was a member until 2013. Glenturret left the partnership in 2013, which coincided with the time they were invited to accept cameras on their hen harrier nest sites due to concern about repeated failed breeding attempts. The cause of the failures was a mystery and nest cameras might have shed some light. Sadly, the estate chose to leave the partnership before the cameras could be installed.

Quite why the estate chose to ‘re-appraise’ the 2012 report is also a bit of a mystery. Why not the more recent 2013 report? Could it possibly be something to do with the four failed hen harrier breeding attempts in 2013?

HH Nest 1: Courtship & food pass between pair, no further activity.

HH Nest 2: Failed at early chick stage, cause unknown.

HH Nest 3: Male making frustration nests, later copulation and food passes, no further activity.

HH Nest 4: Failed at egg stage, cause unknown.

The SMG’s summary report states that eight species of raptor were present in 2012, “all breeding”. Sadly the same can’t be said for 2015 – the nest site of a pair of golden eagles was burnt out (spontaneously combusted, natch) and according to our sources, the one known hen harrier breeding attempt failed and the entire nest just vanished! According to a laughable press release published in August to coincide with Hen Harrier Day (see here – it’s really well worth a read!), and also a quote from the Glenturret Estate head keeper that appears on the Gift of Grouse website, there were two pairs of breeding HH on Glenturret this year, producing three fledglings. It seems that the estate is counting a second HH nest that was actually on the march with a neighbouring estate – and again, according to our sources, that second nest also failed.

Who to believe, eh? If we believe Glenturret Estate, we’ll look forward to them agreeing to have nest cameras installed at their hen harrier sites in the 2016 season as part of SNH’s ‘Heads up for Hen Harriers’ project. They wouldn’t refuse, would they?

So, all in all then, a pretty unconvincing story from the Scottish Moorland Group, which might be a bit more convincing if they allowed their ‘report’ to be properly scrutinised. Until they do (which they won’t), it’s not unreasonable to question and challenge their claims about the ‘conservation benefit’ of driven grouse shooting on these estates.

25 thoughts on “More raptor persecution uncovered in the Angus Glens”

  1. Well done, RPS, another good read from you. If anyone from the SNP reads this, it clearly has not sunk in that they are damaging their own reputation. “Gift of Grouse” – just appalling nonsense from the SMG PR office, swallowed whole by media and politicians.

  2. I wonder if these grousy people were ever taught anything at school about nature and the environment, and did their fathers ever tell them it’s very naughty to make up stories that can be taken apart so easily. Perhaps they obtained all their education on how to be stalwart guardians of the countryside and learned their story telling skills from their fathers and their fathers before them, it does seem to be a sort of tradition with the grousy people. The problem is they never seem to learn, they were doing the much same thing in the Victorian era !!!

  3. Interesting stuff indeed.
    I wonder if any independant research ( is that possible), has been done to determine the impact of imported and commercially bred game birds on local fauna and flora?
    I recently asked this question of the BNA British Naturalist Association of which I am a member.Sadly still waiting for a reply.

  4. Regarding this Gift of Grouse nonsense, you are spot on, RPS.

    Shooting organisations have recently stated that “81 different species of birds were thriving on shooting estates”, and I had my suspicions that this figure came from the report, so on 18 Dec (knowing that it is impossible to obtain a copy of the report) I asked if any of the pro-shooters that frequent this site (the apologists, the criminals and the liars) would be so kind as to provide a list of those species.

    Almost a full two weeks later, and I’m still waiting, so unless there is any evidence that can back up these claims, it will have to be catalogued as another shooting industry lie.

    In fact, the list of species persecuted on shooting estates could be closer to 81.

  5. An excellent analysis once again, RPS. Thank you for continuing to expose the ugly truth of the game shooting industry.

  6. There are moves afoot to form a counter group to Angus Glens Moorland Group.Considering the lack of nesting Hen Harriers from one end of Angus moorland to the others and with the track record for raptor crime on these keepered estates it’s about time that direct action, and covert action , be taken. This is going to happen.An initial meeting of interested parties is scheduled for January and we mean business and I love mean full on business. I will keep you all posted.

    1. I’m amazed no one has attempted such underdcover work before. A type of “Cook report” would expose the epidemic levels of serious wildlife crime on many of these estates. Maybe then the public/politicians would release the scale of the problem

    2. Best of luck Dave! Really needs people to openly contest the arrogant, deceitful and condescending propaganda we are being subjected to from the estates, it would be laughable if the issue wasn’t so serious or that some politicians and sections of the press actually took it seriously. Friends of the Earth Scotland should be doing more on this issue and it might be helpful if you contacted them.

    3. Well said, Dave, but be careful, I got involved some years ago and it cost me a lot of grief. I had no idea of what it involved at the time. I just find it so sad that those who are supposed to be an example are nothing of the sort. I doubt that I can be of any assistance nowadays, but don’t hesitate to get in touch if you believe that I could. Thanks again RPS for giving us the analysis that the grouse lobby would rather no one saw. Your a gem!!

  7. Forgive my ignorance but who owns Glenogil Estate? Is it a native Scot or foreign owned? Or a shell company based in a tax haven? I see the estate has holiday accommodation. Presumably for its shooting parties. Who is the head gamekeeper? As Glenogil is a serious xxxxxxx xxxxxxx I would be interested in more background information. It’s sort of a “know your enemy” thing.

      1. “one of the previous ones now works in Bowland…”
        Oh dear – can we send him back? They are like a contagious disease spreading bad habits. But I suppose Bowland was infected quite a while ago. Pity there isn’t a gamekeeper re-education facility we could send them to. Like some sort of Alcoholics anon organisation. But to be realistic, it’s the owner /managers who are responsible at the end of the day. Wish England had vicarious liability and that it was rigorously applied. Happy New Year to all who support this website.

    1. John Dodds, of Artemis Funds (a Hedge Fund) owned Glen Ogil estate until 2008. It runs in my mind that he was an Edinburgh lad and he also owned the Drovers Pub which was run by his Australian wife. He had £107,000 subsidy stopped because of suspicion that pesticides were used on his land against birds of prey. He was thus the owner of Glen Ogil when many of the offences took place.

  8. The new owner is Baron Ferdinand von Baumbach,an Autrian billionaire apparently.Makes his money from Boehringer Pharmaceuticals.When in town he stays at Achnacree,a big posh house on the edge of his estate. XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX

  9. Apologies for defamatory remark but hopefully Carole can be informed that the head gamekeeper on Glenogil estate is called Danny Lawson.I am sure he would love to discuss with you reason why prime Hen Harrier country on this estate is devoid of such.

  10. Im just In total shock reading all of this I had no idea of the extent to which these estates are willing to go to give the ide moronic rich a quick thrill !!!!
    how anyone could purposely commit these obscene crimes against any creature and get away with it is just unbelievable in this day and age. I really hope and pray that you succeed in putting an end once and for all to this needless killing

  11. I live in Angus surrounded by these estates , sickened by bird poisonings and trapping and shooting , to see these birds flying is a joy

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