Non existent windfarms blamed for ‘disappearing’ eagles in Monadhliaths

Soon after the recent news broke about the ‘disappearance’ of eight young satellite-tagged golden eagles in the Monadhliath mountains (see here), the following map started doing the rounds on social media. Raptor persecution deniers purported the map showed a landscape littered with eagle-slicing windfarms and suggested that it was turbine strikes, not criminal activity on grouse moors, that was responsible for the demise of these eagles.

windfarms not - Copy

At first glance, it looks quite plausible, doesn’t it? The last known locations of those ‘missing’ golden eagles (shown as red dots on this map) seem to be surrounded by windfarms. And some windfarms are notorious for slicing eagles in two (e.g. the Altamont Pass windfarm in California and the Smola windfarm in Norway are two extreme examples of the damage that can be caused by poorly-sited constructions). If you’re somebody with only a superficial knowledge of this subject, you could be forgiven for thinking, ‘Yeah, those eagles in the Monadhliaths have been killed by wind turbine blades & the windfarm companies have covered this up (by burying the corpses and the sat tags) because they don’t want the bad publicity’.

But when you start scratching at the surface of the above map, you find that not all is as it seems.

The original source map (showing just the windfarms, not the last known locations of those ‘missing’ eagles) comes from this site, dated 2011. Here it is in its original form:

windfarms wideangle - Copy

It looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? Well, it does if you assume that all these depicted windfarms have been built and are operational. And there’s the problem. You see, this map DOESN’T show operational windfarms at all, and nor did the original author intend that. Rather, this map depicts a number of windfarms that were, in 2011, at various stages of either proposal, scoping, application, construction, or operation.

The persecution denier who overlaid the last known locations of those eight golden eagles on to this map was hoping that nobody would look further than the image of some red dots surrounded by what they would think were a whole load of eagle-killing wind turbines. The hope was that this image would be enough to deflect the blame from the grouse moor estates and cause the unassuming general public to think the windfarms were to blame for the ‘disappearance’ of these eagles.

Well, sorry, persecution apologists, it just doesn’t wash. If you look at our map based on SNH data (below), this shows just how many of those windfarms are actually operational in 2016. Er, we make it one (on Farr Estate). The others have either been rejected or are at the early scoping or application stage, or have been approved but have yet to be installed. Oops!

Windfarm Monadhliath copy

Nice try, but given the long history of illegal eagle killing in the Monadhliaths (see here), as well as the long history of illegal eagle killing on driven grouse moors across Scotland (see here), you’d have to be pretty thick, or complicit, (not mutually exclusive, natch) to deny the bleedin’ obvious.

For those who are neither thick or complicit, please consider signing this petition, raised by the Scottish Raptor Study Group, calling for the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing scheme for all gamebird hunting, including grouse-shooting estates in the Monadhliaths. Petition closes 22 August 2016.

62 thoughts on “Non existent windfarms blamed for ‘disappearing’ eagles in Monadhliaths”

      1. And guess what – I’ve been blocked by him.

        It’s always the way with people who don’t actually have any facts on their side, they shut out everybody who actually challenges their lies.

  1. Let me take a guess here: the same people who control the shooting on those estates also benefit from the wind farms. So if we all campaigned to get the wind machines taken down…

  2. If one wasn’t au fait with the tactics they employ you”d be very angry! But, well done for working through the facade and equally as important for revealing it.

    What needs to happen now is that all this erroneous and selective or perhaps we might now start to describe it as creative and imaginative writing, needs collating for the Westminster debate by way of evidence of ‘reliability’ of those who seek to eradicate raptors and other creatures which spoil their ‘sport’?

  3. i had a few comments suggesting the same on my facebook page. They blamed the government, wind farms and the fact the birds were tagged leading to predation by other eagles! anything but agree there is illegal activity going on!

  4. If it was wind turbines to blame the sat tags and eagles remains would be easily found. We even found a sat tagged osprey which had died in the middle of the Sahara desert. It is blatantly obvious that these eagles have been killed by gamekeepers and their remains hidden in a despicable attempt to cover up the crimes.

  5. Lets watch with interest as to what individuals,organisations,newspapers and media outlets use this dodgy map and claim to try and promote their agenda………

  6. The GEs in the Monadhliaths have been disappearing for well over ten years, as soon as estate owners discovered that they were an obstacle in the planning process for windfarm developments. Take the Findhorn Valley ones at the northern end for instance. At one time, say fifteen years ago, you could walk up there and see on average, three in the air at once at the end of the valley. Now there are none. This was when windfarms were first mooted. Graham

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  7. Thank you RPS for researching and providing the bigger picture on this, as I had recently had that argument put forward, and although I didn’t believe it, I was thinking it sounded plausible enough that many people would.

  8. Having discovered that arrogantly talking down to us, because they know better ? They are now just lying.

    There is an incredible PR fluff piece in the Guardian today,

    That would normally have several hundred comments, laughing at the writer, but the ‘moderators’ have abandoned that practice ( and any pretence of journalism ) and are simply censoring any dissenting comments ?

    After 2 comments ‘disappeared’, the third was ‘moderated’, I posted,

    ” Please sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting ” and supplied the link…… guess what….. disappeared !

    Never mind, 106,286 signatures, and a month to go. So a huge congratulations to ALL involved.

    Time to end these despicable, criminal practices.

    1. Yes SteB1 was moderated too.
      So i tried but they didn’t like me asking the question of whether the author was ‘distorting the truth’.
      Si remove that phrase and that seemed to work or maybe the Moderator went to the pub with their shooting buddies.

      1. Nope got moderated with this too. What is going on?
        ‘Those one or 2 must really get around and have clones.
        Real evidence rather that spin is in the crime statistics on Scottish Government PAWS website
        and same on page 37 of this report

        Click to access illegal-killing_tcm9-411686.pdf

        On page 39 of the same report the numbers of gamekeepers convicted between 1994 and 2010 was 86% of 49 total raptor criminals.
        So is the one or two an error?
        Why is the Guardian publishing this tosh?”

  9. Hi,

    Very, very good as ever. Can we start to think about the Parliamentary debate however ? For those of us not quite as up to speed with the issues as you guys plainly are; we need a briefing for MP’s . Can this be organised ? We also need to start in a concerted way trying to press MP’s to support a debate. Maybe League Against Cruel Sports will be prepared to do so ?

    I have tried to remind Kerry McCarthy MP who was Shadow at Environment that she promised to raise for me the fact that CAP receipts (or whatever we call them now) are not on the Register of Interests of the Commons; there is clearly a potential clash of interests here (if only we could know) and this should be a side focus as many of these moors are publicly funded by your taxes. It rather describes the utter impotence of the wildlife charities RSPB Nat and Wildlife Trusts that this has not been a matter of concern this past 30 years as it is a preliminary requirement of reform of an interest to define the scope of its influence.

    Given the current scale of austerity the fact that IDS will still get his 150,000 likewise Cameron’s Dad gets 70g etc etc the 80 plus % of 3.3 billion that goes to a few thousand landowners; a scandal ; so I would hope for some focus on “the money”; it is key. The BBC at Bristol has never covered this either; never a peep from Sir David Attenborough on the key budget that drives “all activity in the countryside”; not County File.



    Peter Hack

    1. Hi Peter,

      Briefings for MPs ahead of the parliamentary debate will be prepared in due course. There will be a coalition of organisations involved in this work and information about how the public can help will be publicised widely. Thanks.

        1. I have been waiting for a simple synopsis (ha, I appreciate it ain’t simple) and have just started to compile my own twelve point version based on the excellent Inglorious, updated info from the various blogs (RPUK, Avery, Packham because people need more than an iconic bird of prey to interest them – I’m not being disparaging of HHs but the public need to see how this farce impacts on them and significantly what it actually costs them.

          Someone said follow the money, absolutely so ….

          1. Upland moor owners receive public subsidies correct?
          2. These payments are for what?
          3. One assumes the answer to (3) above is public benefit?
          4. Each of these moorlands could be assessed for HH holding capacity?
          5. Simple – abolish the blank cheque and pay on performance?

          Sorry, but there really does have to be accountability for these handouts and they will now be directly paid from an accountable westminster parliament?

          See Mark Avery’s latest blog, he lists the MPs who comprise the HoCC Petitions Committee and who will discuss the issue in parliament (that assumes ‘they’ will allow them to). Ever an agnostic and if it fails then I’m confident that there’s other options we can legitimately follow ….

      1. Please make sure that you tweet a link to the pre-parliament dossier. Be good if as many people as possible send a concise overview to their MP’s. The more coordinated all of this becomes and the more MPs become aware it is not being swept under the carpet, the far better chance of getting something done.

  10. Let’s not be coy about it. Windfarms are very destructive places as far as wildlife is concerned – especially for bats and raptors. But even though scavengers clean up many corpses before these are seen and recorded, they don’t eat electronic satellite tags as far as I know. Of course, windfarm operators might pick up corpses and tags and disappear them, but apart from a cluster of 3 disappearances close to and likely upwind of the only operating windfarm, the majority of last contacts are quite some distance away. So could those young eagles have covered the distance to the windfarm in the interval between one logging-on and the next? And would collision with a turbine blade inevitably disable a satellite tag? Maximum parsimony still suggests a human-inspired disappearance for these birds.

    1. I have a 69m turbine on my patch, beside a well-used public car-park. I’ve never found a dead or injured bird or bat round it.

      “Bird slicers” is a false tag for turbines as far as I am concerned – I’ve been up close and personal with turbine blades, and they do not have a sharp leading edge.

      1. Impressed kiteman, you flew through the ‘bird slicers’ then to assess their potential impact? Slice or a thud, probably all the same to victims?

        1. I can only call it as I see it. No bodies around the turbines I check, no sharp edges on the “blades”, yet anti-turbine campaigners seem able to find dead birds sliced neatly in two at the drop of a hat.

          Wind turbines *were* a significant danger to birds when the significance of their location was poorly understood, back in the 1980s in the US. Now, thanks to more sensible planning, for every bird killed by a turbine, over 5,800 are killed by flying into ordinary buildings, typically glass windows.

          Or how about domestic cats? High tension lines? Cell phone masts? Cars?

          This chart is about ten years out of date, and American (it was published by Sibley) but you get the idea:

          I wonder how this osprey feels about turbines…?

  11. If these real countrymen ever got out of the bar and went for a walk… they would have known that the turbines were not there! This false accusation was even promoted by Burnett the SGA stalwart without checking with his members on the ground (the ones that work on the disappearing grounds in question). Just another one of their concrete facts blowing away in the wind…..

    1. All such erroneous evidence presented adds wonderfully to the case against ‘them’. RPUK et. al. do an astonishing job locating this twaddle, excellent future ammunition for us in due course.

      Countryfile, shame Charlotte Smith didn’t hold AG to the question and permitted him to drift but even so Avery 1, Gilruth 0 IMHO. As for Duncan Thomas, my comment would need to be edited out I’m afraid;)

      1. On the contrary, I think Thomas’ crazed gun lust was a fantastic piece which we should copy and play again and again. The spectator radio podcast is worth a listen Gilruth’s arguments just vapourise.

        1. Agree circusmaxim he has indeed helped our cause considerably. I just find him so ****** but as you say, it helps us that he behaves thus:)

  12. I am not a lover of windfarms that, IMO, are blighting the rugged beauty of the Highlands. If all those shown in your bottom map are ever operational, then it will indeed be very bad for our wildlife. But as usual RPUK you have shown us who the real culprits are for the disappearance of the eagles – the ‘killing’ estates and their servants the gamekeepers. Graham Todd in his comment above, also makes a very good point.

  13. It amazes me to have such demonstrations of how they believe that our intelligence is so low while they are super intelligent and clearly not criminals. They really believe that what they say should be taken as true and correct because of their status in society.

    To me they are incredibly thick, low life and criminal. I put it down to inbreeding, arrogance and lead ingestion. All of which are so frequently demonstrated.

  14. Just a thought but does the satellite tagging data show that these eagles passed through the windfarm prior to the eagle’s disappearance? Could the tags stop working due to an anomaly in that particular area? Could there be an elusive predator in the mountains? Hopefully, the government’s investigation will be thorough and cover all possibilities.

  15. Lea MacNally wrote the book “The ways of an Eagle” it was a study of 4 pairs of Golden Eagles in the Monadliaths from 1957 to 1976, In that period out of a possible 80 breeding attempts only 33 young were reared, 6 females were reported shot, 2 actually on the nest, young and eggs disappeared from other nests and a large number of eggs were addled, which could be due to several reasons disturbance being one. The book is a good read and an important recent historical account of the amount of persecution going on in this area

  16. Thank you for the heads up on this. Those cheeky blighters have used one of my very old maps when I was raising awareness of the impending destruction of the Monadh Liath by the proliferation of wind farms being constructed, scoping or in planning. There is *no way* I would have let them use it as I am also strongly anti shooting. You can find my thoughts on the killing fields here: A Murdering Monoculture

    1. Apologies for a naive question Alan, but if it’s your map then it is copyright or did you make available gratis for the better public good and they’ve plageurised / altered it? There must be someone up north could advise you on the legality of their actions?

      Perhaps they’ve been contacted and asked to print an apology along with an explanation for their creative licence? Yes, I suspect I am being a tad naive ….

  17. These eagles were shot and trapped and their tag’s deliberately destroyed and their high court judge employees went scot free, such is the English legal system.

  18. Can I just say that ‘Rural Voice’ is tweeting that the petition signatures are being signed by people outside the UK & insinuating that real people haven’t signed the petition. Which just goes to show the underhand tactics they are prepared to go to. Im a real person & shall be tweeting him that I’m a real person who signed to Ban DSG’ because we are real people who care about the wildlife in our Country. @voice_rural. Just shows the mentally when he tweets “Best keep an eye on your precious Kites. For every action there is a reaction!”

    1. It’s inevitable that there will be some abuse of the system, either through people being over enthusiastic or trying to sabotage the petition.

      That’s why it’s important to keep urging as many people as possible to sign.

      The fact that the shooting lobby are questioning the credibility of the petition shows that they are worried.

      1. See Mark Avery’s explanation and account of how the Parliamentary website addresses problem signatures, I think it was posted last night. We should all applaud the software that can recognise dodgy signatures. Just a shame that BBC interviewers can’t recognise dodgy reports (Bootham and his made up BTO Report, see their press release).

        For sure, ‘they’ will require a triple check on the validity of signatures – bring on an investigation, more publicity for the cause. Yes, we need the 100k and another 50% at least but that won’t stop ’em grousing now will it?

        Remain true to robust science, retain honesty and integrity and the day will be ours in the end. Leave the lies, the deceit, the spin, the criminality to others?

    2. So it appears Rural Voice has made threats of illegal acts? If anything happens then is it tantamount to an admission of guilt?

      Has he been reported (again)?

      Will his shooting colleagues who profess not to wish to be associated with him, have a quiet word? Or do we assume this is usual behaviour for the shooting fraternity (someone on this blog appealed to us not top judge all on RV / AR conduct)?

    3. Now that we are nearly 10k over and there are weeks to go, I think we should ask the Daily Mail to investigate all of these fake signatures! We gave to be sure that we are sound, and if we are not then we still have time to make up any shortfall.

      Of course every time they talk about it the signing rate goes through the roof….

  19. Good morning to you all. I was wondering what you thought of the Countryfile report on driven grouse shooting. I thought it was a bit lame on both sides but you would need to see what was left on the cutting room floor to see how it went in reality. The most interesting bit for me was neither side seemed to be a big fan of licensing which begs the question why the Raptor Study Group has this petition out at this time. I was glad to see Merlin quote work done by Lea MacNally who in todays atmosphere would be branded a murdering bastard by a lot on sites such as this. If you read his books there is no doubt of his love for highland wildlife but he was a practical man and knew you had to control some species to benefit others. While not in the same league I would put him up there with those other wildlife ” killers ” Sir Peter Scott and Jim Corbett both of whom came to conservation depite having acounted for thousands of wild animals to their own guns and rifles. The continual bashing of keepers and farmers on sites such as this does your cause no good and as for the calls to shoot or hang keepers that is just disturbing. As a conservationist , crofter and deer stalker the constant carping gets a bit of a bore.

    1. You habitually miss the point Hector, which is the systemic criminality which underpins driven grouse industry. Messrs MacNally and Scott are not relevant. If you want to avoid the ‘carping’, then just read the science (handily summarised by SNH in their Framework documents on Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier) and make an informed (for once) judgement for yourself on the issue. Either way, please spare us more couthy moralising from the croft.

    2. Come on, it was BBC Countryfile, so in reality what would one expect? I am minded they only covered the issue because if they didn’t then those who have caused the BBC Trust to investigate Chris Packham for “abusing his position as a BBC employee” (another error but they’re ten a penny at the moment from the shooting camp) and promoting extremist views could try to redeem their position by being given an easy ride by Charlotte Smith who did not ensure that points raised by the other party were address but instead AG particularly and DT were allowed to wax lyrical.

      I don’t entirely blame the gamekeepers (they only pull the triggers or set the pole traps or lay the poison) but the land owners and this is why Vicarious Liability is needed across the UK.

      How about we stop paying public grants to upland moor owners unless they can demonstrate public benefit? If their moor has a carrying capacity for x y & z raptors then they get paid on ‘performance’? If they have open access then again some kind of recognition payment for usage.

      ooops, they like their land owner / agri-industry welfare payments without conditions?

      1. I can only comment on agricultural payments and trust me they come with a long list of what are often daft requirements and conditions. Be careful what you wish for as they may start to demand wildlife trusts and the like have to demonstrate a performance target to get public and lottery funds. By targets I mean demonstrate the production of the species they are claiming the funds for not a wooly target like public access.

        1. Look what happened at Walshaw perhaps, just look at the savings that could have been had to the public purse? Look at managed realignment and public benefit through flood alleviation?

          Tax payers should stop subsidising private businesses that fail the public benefit test, that create inbalance in nature to the detriment of other species perceived by some as pests / threats and where illegal acts occur and carrying capacity is not met.

          I’d welcome a full review and independent investigation into payments made across the board. As you quite rightly say, careful what you wish for – Botham et. al. are doing us proud ….

    3. You’re lying, Hector.

      There is no such thing as “the continual bashing of farmers”, so where you dreamt that one up from, I have no idea. The farming community might occasionally come in for a hard time when they follow the unscientific/mythological route, such as the recent Raven issue, or their other debunked myth about White-tailed Eagles wiping out entire flocks of lambs, or of marauding Red Kites “killing everything in their paths”, but in general, there isn’t a great deal of “farmer bashing on this site. You’ve simply made that one up.

      Yes, the keepers get it simply because it tends to be keepers operating in an illegal manner, the problems appear to be widespread, and there is no sign of the shooting industry changing its ways. There really is no one else to blame.

      But then again, perhaps you’ve been associating with liars for too long, and you truly believe that keepers don’t kill raptors and other protected species, and they all operate within the law.

  20. I dare say we would all like to give up ‘the constant carping’ – we have other lives to live.

    However, since the vast majority of people accused or prosecuted for illegal activities on the moors have something to do with the keeping of birds to shoot, that is why we seem to concentrate on them.

    As quoted by Anandprasad:

    Click to access illegal-killing_tcm9-411686.pdf

    On page 39 … the numbers of gamekeepers convicted between 1994 and 2010 was 86% of 49 total raptor criminals.

    If they stopped doing this, we could go back to our Hen Harrier beer in peace.

  21. Interestingly 3 of the 8 eagles were in fact in the vicinity of an active wind farm.
    It does seem strange to me that its only young eagles that are going missing here.
    Does anyone know if there are resident eagles in this areas?
    I find it strange that there appears to be absolutely no statistics on raptors killed in the UK by wind farms.
    Whether or not any of these eagles were killed by wind turbines, im sure many are, but no one seems too bothered about them.
    I would like to see it that all turbines in sensitive areas are required to provide 360 live cctv and be held accountable to the number of birds they predict they are going to kill and forced to switch off if they kill more than their stated estimates. It would be interesting to see how far the estimates were revised upwards then.

    1. “It does seem strange to me that its only young eagles that are going missing here.”


      “Whether or not any of these eagles were killed by wind turbines, im sure many are, but no one seems too bothered about them.”

      Who said no-one was bothered about turbine kills?

    2. Young birds do tend to die in larger numbers than adult birds but if adult birds in the area were not tagged who would know what was happening to them. The three birds that vanished in the same grid square causes alarm bells to ring and I take it they have gone and had a good look at that location. I suspect wind energy companies are not too keen to publish bird strike rates especially when applying for more sites so we will probably never know what damage if any wind turbines are doing to bird populations. There is a cottage industry at the moment producing reports on the likely impact of planning applications for wind farms but it is not an exact science.

  22. Good comment Alan. I have been asking myself the same question many times over. I know when the Braes of Doune wind array opened they employed someone to monitor the deaths of raptors especially when the area was next to the Argaty Red Kite project.
    There was information on the web as to the results over the early part of the working turbines and the results of what corpses were found and comment on them.
    To my knowledge this work was never continued and probably many other wind arrays do not have any monitoring to see how many large raptors are killed. I would like to see SNH being interested in such results and publishing them for all to see.
    They have some commissioned reports published on their website but I am not convinced they accurately describe what is actually happening on the ground year after year.
    Perhaps we should be asking them!

  23. Some of the wind farms proposed are concerning in this area. Particularly the development just to the north of the Findhorn valley road, just west of Tomatin. We should definitely be opposing this development as well as pointing out the weaknesses of the arguments posted by raptor persecuting moors.

  24. Quite interesting about turbines being one cause of these birds demise.
    I used to work as a storeperson for a group of wind farms in the Moray area.
    On one occasion I seen a report where one of the Turbine technicans found a dead grouse near the base of a turbine. It said that its death was unexplained.

    On the main site I worked at, I never saw any dead birds at the turbines, but I could be wrong on this one, but my theory is this. On three occasions when I decided to start work very early in the mornings- when no one else was around, I’d meet the estate gamekeeper driving off the wind farm site.
    Perhaps the gamekeeper had instructions and a routine driving around the site checking and clearing up any dead carcasses?

    1. How high do grouse ever fly? I don’t think it’s at blade-height, unless maybe they have dogs and shotguns to provide an incentive. Maybe it flew into the tower, like any other bird flies into any other building?

      I think the gamekeeper would only be clearing corpses away if the wind turbines generated more cash than the shooting.

      Unless you’re saying they only cleared away raptor corpses?

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