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.
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:
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!
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.