A few sandwiches short of a picnic

As we mentioned yesterday, some individuals within the game shooting industry have recently been doing their level best to discredit the work of raptor fieldworkers, and particularly anything associated with tagging raptors, be it leg rings, wing tags or satellite tags. As usual, their level best falls way short of the mark.

Some of it amounts to libel (so we won’t be discussing that here as legal action is being considered), some of it is quite disturbing (distributing images of children without parental consent and without any attempts to pixelate faces) and some of it is either a complete fabrication or a gross distortion of the truth. All of it is being done as a crude and cynical attempt to undermine the findings of the forthcoming raptor satellite tag review, which we anticipate will provide damning evidence of the extent of satellite tagged raptors that ‘disappear’ on Scottish grouse moors.

Here’s a good example of some of the propaganda being peddled by the game shooting industry. This photograph has been repeatedly posted on Facebook and other social media platforms as an example of ‘bad practice’ at a raptor tagging event. It shows a group of people at an eagle nest site in Perthshire in 2014. According to Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, who has posted this image several times, these people, including Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland, are “having a picnic underneath an eagle nest” for several hours and thus by implication are causing unnecessary disturbance at the site and causing the adult birds to desert.

What’s actually happening here is a group of people, including four licensed experts and their invited guests, have climbed to an eagle nest site and while the climbers have gone to retrieve the eaglet from the nest so its satellite tag can be fitted in safety on the ground, Duncan is eating a sandwich. That’s it. It’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic, or is that just Bert?

Another photograph that Bert has circulated was also taken at this site on the same day. It shows Duncan quite rightly checking the fit of the young eagle’s sat tag harness before the bird is put back in its nest.

This photograph elicited all sorts of comments on social media, with suggestions that sat tagging golden eagles is harmful to the birds, that it’s detrimental to their survival and one person even claiming that “they [the raptor fieldworkers] are a far greater threat to birds than any shooting interests“.

He posted another photograph (which we won’t post here for legal reasons) that shows a woman and her son on the nest ledge after the eagle had been returned to its nest. Bert said this about it: “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable. Allowing your families and friends to climb up intae the nest just for photo shoots is totally out of order and shows no concern for the birds future welfare“. On a later post he also claimed the woman had been “hoisted in to the nest“. What the photo actually shows is a Schedule 1 licence holder and her son who have just climbed to the nest to return the eagle after tagging. It’s probably hard for Bert to comprehend that a woman might actually be a Schedule 1 licence holder and that she’d be capable of climbing to the nest without being “hoisted in” (surely her breasts would get in the way?) but when your mindset is firmly stuck in the 18th century then it’s probably no surprise at all.

As for Bert’s comment, “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable“, well, it’s not questionable in this case. This eagle was satellite tagged in Perthshire in 2014. The bird fledged successfully and its movements were tracked until 2016 when its tag signal suddenly stopped transmitting and the eagle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Perthshire. We’d respectfully suggest that this eagle’s disappearance (probable death) was not caused by Duncan eating a sandwich at its natal site two years earlier nor by it being put back in to the nest by a woman, but was more than likely caused by illegal poisoning, illegal trapping or illegal shooting on or near a grouse moor in the Highlands.

A week ago, Bert again posted the photograph of Duncan eating a sandwich and he wrote the following on his Facebook page:

Once again, Bert hasn’t checked his facts. This eagle territory has NOT been deserted since Duncan and his colleagues safely fitted the satellite tag to the young eagle in 2014. On the contrary, the breeding pair has remained on territory and produced chicks every year since. In fact last year’s chick, ‘Freya’, was seen by millions of viewers as she was filmed being satellite tagged for the BBC’s SpringWatch programme!

Now, we can take the mick out of Bert all day and as long as he continues to spout nonsense we’ll continue to call him out – it’s actually quite enjoyable and he’s helping our cause no end. But there’s a darker side to what’s going on, with the targeted harassment of certain named individuals, and we’ll be blogging about that shortly.

In the meantime, have a look at a blog written by Duncan today (see here) for a more serious view on raptor tagging procedures and also check out this statement from the BTO which details the stringent requirements that must be met before anyone gets a licence to ring and tag birds in the UK: Overview of BTO Ringing Scheme training and licensing procedure

UPDATE 30th September 2020: The eagle’s satellite tag found in the river: poetic injustice (here)

27 thoughts on “A few sandwiches short of a picnic”

  1. I guess it is heartening to see just how much they care about our raptors and how worried they are about their welfare, If only!!!

  2. You wouldn’t expect an official of an organization with a ‘Game Bird’ Award for women to even consider that a woman might be a raptor worker. Makes Muirfield look positively progressive!

  3. Hi, I was alerted two days ago to an andy richardson on Facebook who has stolen images of mine that I took last when ringing marsh harriers at Tay reed beds. I have reported this to Facebook several times citing copyright theft but they have done bugger all about and my photos and his diatribe, likening us to paedophiles no less!, are still on his page! What does one have to do to get your own images removed.
    P.s. His profile pic is him harassing a displaying male capercaillie! I am keeping an eye on him as he has stated soon be time for more capercaillie videos. I bet he doesn’t have a schedule1 license to allow this to happen!
    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers Mike

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. I had cause to follow Richardson’s FB page for several weeks until I could no longer bear to read the innane and scandalous posts from him and his mates. After a while, it does your head in. He had been trying to whip up support to infiltrate the set of “Unsprung” on TV, which may be why the format has been changed.

    2. He will block you if you dare to ask him to condemn the illegal persecution of birds of prey.

      There is frequent discussion on the Ringers FB group on the wisdom of putting photographs on social media. Once they are out there and stolen there is not a lot you can do about it. The photo of CP and Freya is a good case in point: it is innocuous but to the evil-doers out there it will be presented as the “reason” for doing the tagging / ringing rather than the science: as though that makes us less ethical than people who kill birds for fun.

    3. Fill out a form for the small claims court, send the image thief a letter with an unsigned copy of the form, billing him for use of your images. Set the fee to the max you can claim through the small claims court and give them seven working days to pay or the form gets submitted.

  4. This is a planned and targetted campaign – don’t forget that You Forgot Your Minds is funded by a PR company

  5. The darker side of social media allows unfettered peddling of disinformation of this type. Hopefully there is a wildlife crime unit in Police Scotland who’ll take an interest in such blogs.

  6. Only people with a lot to hide would go to these lengths to try and smear and discredit fieldworkers.

    Never forget, it was Richardson who deleted a Tweet to Pace Productions that said: ‘Raptors need sorting to save jobs’. They took a screenshot and posted it.

    He also said on Facebook, to whom, I don’t know (RPUK?): ‘Keep an eye on your precious kites, for every action there’s a reaction’

    So he’s clearly trying to take the heat off raptor persecution and divert attention to the very people who are trying to protect them. It’s a smokescreen of bullsh*t!

  7. I have just looked at Barmy Bert’s page and that of Richardson and the trouble is they could be very convincing to the unititiated! For peace of mind (mine anyway) please tell me there is an innocent explanation of the children holding the birds. I agree with Simon Tuckers comments about social media, safer not to post photos, sadly too many idiots spoiling it now.

  8. I wonder if they’d share the same reaction to the GWCT satellite tagging woodcock? Are they also ‘bird botherers?’ ‘gamebirdophiles’ perhaps?

  9. I really like this blog but it makes my blood boil every time I read what these fuckers are doing to our raptors and the bullshit they come out with and how very little is being done about it.

  10. Good old Bert !
    They’re getting increasingly rattled by the spotlight on game shoot criminality so this is all very predictable.
    Never forget that they will eventually be redundant so they do fight back.
    Sensible precautions should however be taken when posting personal images etc. as they can always be misused.

    The general public soon understand who the real criminals are though, so publicity to out the upland grouse shooting industry criminals must continue to be a priority…..

    If raptor protection was not having a significant impact on their totally unsustainable industry, the offenders & their slaves would not bother to attack us……….

    Keep up the pressure !

    ps given the recent significant increase in Golden eagle population breeding outside grouse moors on often less suitable sites, with the same [ or greater ] level of monitoring, the statistical tables are easily turned on the criminals !

    Now where did all those tagged eagles & harriers end up mysteriously dead?????? …. ah yes, the grouse moors !

    [ re – double the pressure !! ]

  11. I confronted Bert on his contradictions last week. On one hand he is urging harrassment of raptor workers and RSPB workers when they access the land while on the other he is damning them for not cooperating with gamekeepers. This is NOT the way to create cooperation as it appears designed simply to inflame his followers. I pointed out that the last time the RSPB had cooperated in this area in the late 1990’s by showing landowners and their staff whether the harrier nests were quite a few of them mysteriously failed and the next year only around half of the previous years birds returned to nest. I suggested that to create trust it might be better if they considered a licensing system or allowing camera’s on the nest 24/7. His response was to ban me and next day David Adams was on the page telling lies about me. By the way Andrew Richardson has a few FB accounts which he uses and not all in his name.

  12. Burnett and others are attempting to undermine the conservation efforts for eagles and other raptors.

    He and his associateshave no understanding of the science and ecology of these birds and are rooted in outdated folk lore and mindless prejudices .

    Perhaps RPUK would remind us of exactly how the gamebird sporting industry historically views eagles, harriers, goshawks and all other raptors by posting a gallery of some of the horrific photographs of shot, poisoned and trapped raptors.

    I would hope that Burnett’s and others little ruse is easily seen for what it is, a tactical attack on some of Scotland’s most influential raptor workers and their families.

  13. Scary. This one is straight from the Milo playbook of suppression of opposition, it was as disgusting then as it is here.

  14. I am tempted to feel sorry for Bert after his recent revelations about his childhood. “Never being one bothered much about self preservation, i’ve abused this auld body wi alcohol , fags and physical abuse,( if it wasna for the pernicious habit o’ fist fucking in my youth, i’d a’ been a veritable giant …lol) ”
    No wonder he is a bit distracted in the thinking department….. it sounds like he should be putting all his efforts into contributing towards the SCAI rather than making up stories about raptor workers….

  15. I wonder if the BBC’s Countryfile or Landward programmes will be taking up this story?

    I’m sure the general public would like to hear that the self-proclaimed guardians of the countryside are fuelling a hate campaign and inciting harassment against some individuals.

    I’ve always said that these people are dangerous sociopaths, and this only adds to the growing pile of evidence.

  16. As far as distributing pictures of children without consent is concerned – did anyone see [Ed: rest of comment deleted]

    1. [Ed: comment deleted. Giles, your reputation goes before you. Trolls are not tolerated here. Goodbye]

  17. The Andy Richardson blog is like some kind of fascinating, tragic theatre. The ramblings of a man slowly coming to terms with his own irrelevance, pinballing from consipiracy theory to long-busted myth, convinced of his own superhero status for hounding Chris Packham out of Mar Lodge despite the fact Winterwatch have a policy of changing location and were never even considering going back this year. Andy claims to hate scientists but has recently learned the term “mesopredator” and is now suddenly Captain Ecology. Classic madcap Andy-isms this week include pestering RSPB on Twitter about hen harrier tagging but choosing to make his point with a picture of…. Roy Dennis with a golden eagle chick. Brilliant.

    1. Not only has he libelled Roy Dennis (by using a photo to infer Roy was responsible for killing hen harriers – let’s hope Roy has instructed his lawyers) but the photo shows Roy with golden eagle Alma, who was later found poisoned on Millden estate in the Angus Glens!.

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