More on ‘missing’ golden eagle #338, North Glenbuchat Estate

On Saturday 1 April 2017, we blogged about a satellite-tagged golden eagle (#338) that the RSPB reported had ‘disappeared’ after its last sat tag signal pinged in from the North Glenbuchat Estate in the Cairngorms National Park in early March (see here).

The estate, via PR company Media House, issued a robust statement in response and posted a video clip of a young eagle, purportedly filmed on the estate on 30 March, that the estate’s head gamekeeper “firmly believed” to be golden eagle #338.

We commented at the time that the video footage was very poor quality and it was difficult to see whether the eagle in the video was even carrying a satellite tag. We also pointed out that other sat-tagged golden eagles are currently flying around Scotland so even if this eagle in the video was carrying a tag, it would have been virtually impossible for the head gamekeeper to know whether it was eagle #338 or one of the others.

Since then, various expert field ornithologists both in the UK and the USA, all of whom specialise in golden eagles, have contacted us about the video. All of them said that although the video quality was poor, the plumage characteristics of the eagle in the video were not consistent with that of a nine-month old male golden eagle, but appeared to be consistent with what they’d expect of a second year female golden eagle.

On Sunday 2 April 2017, Media House issued another press statement on behalf of North Glenbuchat Estate and published a second video, purportedly of eagle #338, filmed on the estate on Saturday 1 April 2017. The quality of this second video is even worse than the first video (you could be looking at a flying cabbage) so it’s not much use as the supplementary evidence it was clearly intended to be.

The text of this second press release via Media House is well worth a read: North Glenbuchat Estate press release_2

In it, Media House states that the RSPB staff who were involved in the police search of the estate last week (at the invitation of Police Scotland – good, partnership working) “were hooded and kept their faces covered“.

This sentence has been widely abused by the nasty brigade on social media and has been turned into phrases such as ‘Masked intruders‘, ‘Masked RSPB thugs‘ and ‘RSPB representatives conducting themselves like hunt saboteurs wearing intimidating hoods and masks‘. Doubtless spurred on by the following inflammatory commentary from Bert Burnett (Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association) on his facebook page:

So yet again, the focus of attention is dragged away from the issue at hand (the disappearance of yet another satellite-tagged raptor on a grouse moor) and moved on to the usual anti-RSPB rhetoric in an attempt to discredit anybody or anything that might point to on-going concerns about the frequency with which satellite-tagged raptors seem to ‘disappear’ in areas where intensive grouse moor management takes place.

This abuse of the RSPB is nothing new, of course, but it’s interesting that the false claims about the efficiency of satellite tags, the false claims that the RSPB does not follow PAW raptor protocols, and the attempted denigration of raptor workers and those who fit these satellite tags, has been extremely prevalent since August last year when the Cabinet Secretary announced her decision to undertake an independent review of raptor satellite tag data. The abuse will no doubt have not gone unnoticed by the Scottish Government.

But back to the missing golden eagle #338. As we’ve been writing this blog, a very interesting map has appeared on Twitter (see @Ian_M_Thomson). It’s a map showing the recent movements of three other satellite-tagged golden eagles around Glenbuchat in March – April 2017:

Clear evidence that the eagle filmed by the head gamekeeper could have been any one of these other eagles so his “firm belief” that he was filming eagle #338 may have been his genuine belief but in fact is nothing more than hopeful optimism.

Nice try, but no cigar.

Meanwhile, the satellite tag signal from golden eagle #338 remains silent.

UPDATE 5 April 2017 14.38hrs: Ian Thomson (Head of RSPB Investigations Scotland) has just tweeted the following:

@Ian_M_Thomson: ‘Regarding missing eagle #338, Police Scotland has provided clarification to @PAWScotland partners that have contacted them that @RSPBScotland staff assisting them on a search in Glenbuchat last week did NOT have covered faces. We look forward to @PAWScotland partners disseminating this information to their memberships’

UPDATE 31 May 2017: North Glenbuchat Estate identified in Government-commissioned report as one of several hotspots where satellite-tagged golden eagles have regularly ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances (here).

91 thoughts on “More on ‘missing’ golden eagle #338, North Glenbuchat Estate”

  1. Once the ‘gamekeeping’ fraternity begin to bluster you know the battle is turning in your favour. Keep up the good work. Employing a PR company indeed……risable..The gamekeepers employers are also on the run…. long way to go and sadly raptors will keep dying [Ed: last bit deleted as defamatory]

    1. The gamekeeping brigade are too thick skinned to bluster.Agree entirely with your last sad sentiment.

  2. The RSPB investigative staff need to keep their identities confidential in order to remain effective and to minimise any possibility of harassment, intimidation or reprisals.

    That’s why the police would have allowed them to keep their faces hidden during the estate visit.

    Perhaps the police representative could make that point clear to all members at the next PAW meeting.

  3. They really are a devious bunch , they keep throwing up these smokescreens.

    This could have been a footage from anywhere any time , the flunkies are too thick to dream this up I wonder who the puppet master is?

  4. Hoods and face scarves, sounds sensible clothing for that part of the wold at this time of year.

    Masks and balaclavas are more typical of… Well, you know where I stand on a certain fraternity. I wouldn’t blame the RSPB people for wanting to be wrapped up to avoid revenge attacks as well as the weather.

    1. totally agree with your opening statement cryptic,

      “Hoods and face scarves, sounds sensible clothing for that part of the wold at this time of year.”

      A ridiculous smokescreen argument, take a look at the picture in the recent blog of the gamekeeper with a tethered Eagle Owl, take a look at the pictures of gamekeepers mass culling Mountain Hares, all wearing hoods and face scarves, then imagine a member of the public coming up against these masked environmental hooligans “ARMED” and carrying out their illegal activities with NO police present.

      then think about their employers, a 10,000 acre grouse moor receives around £56 per acre in subsidies, (that is benefits to the working man) to purchase such an estate you would have to stump up between 10 and 20 million pounds (price courtesy of Savilles). Our sick and disabled members of the public are means tested to get benefits just enough to live on, for a 10,000 acre grouse moor a millionaire owner receives over half a million pounds in benefits,
      whilst top football players, comedians and pop stars have all recently been hauled over the coals for using tax evasion schemes, major companies who contribute much, much more to the economy have also been shamed into reviewing their tax payments, why is it then these vip members of benefits street still continue to get away with using tax havens were incomes can not be checked and still continue reporting losses despite it seemingly being impossible task, the last lot of untouchables got brought down by evading tax, lets hope the tax man gets his finger out and catches up with some of these scroungers

      #338 another victim of the gift of Grouse, a gift that keeps on giving to Organised crime, a curse to the majority of our wildlife and to the tax paying hard working majority

      1. Couldn’t agree more Merlin. Why should we subsidise the rich to descrate vast areas of upland moor simply to shoot grouse, persecute our raptors, and make them virtually uninhabitable for anything else, including the lovely mountain hare, speciality of goldies? This insane system for the rich and powerful is a throwback to feudal days, and the harder we push, the more it will be exposed, the higher in public consciousness it will rise, until our outrage and our signatures become too much for he SNP and Parliament to ignore. Imagine if our barren uplands were taken out of grouse shooting, unsheeped (a separate and as important an issue) and rewilded with areas of natural open forest, open moorland habitats for waders especially curlew, in sad decline now for many reasons, ring ouzel, need I go on? We just have to persist, keep pushing until all the truth, including hard evidence, is on the table, so that they are shamed into changing laws that protect our raptors far, far better. The latest spate of shootings and disappearances leaves me sickened.

  5. Of course, one way that the gamekeeper could positively identify the eagle in the video as “338”, is if shortly after filming it, he killed it and read the tag number.

    I’ve just visited Bert Burnett’s Facebook page, and the sheer stupidity of these people is astonishing. Firstly, they claim that the bird has been filmed, alive and well, and that there was no justification for the search, followed very shortly by another post about a nearby windfarm that may have been responsible for the death of the eagle. It’s one, or the other, you dim-witted clowns.

    And then, once again, there are some that are trying to condone any illegal persecution because “birds die in collisions”, completely failing to understand that collisions are unfortunate accidents.

  6. I must say it’s very kind of Media house to keep the matter in the public attention. Perhaps it will be picked up again by some responsible mainstream media. That could do no harm at all and might even elicit a stirring in government circles, who have been very tardy in moving items from the in tray to the out tray for some time now.

  7. In relation to the facebook comment: persons accompanying police officers do not need to be named on the search warrant. In fact, no one will be named as warrants are, in most cases, granted to ‘any constable of Police Service of Scotland’. Often references will be made to include Scottish Police Authority staff, but this is not a requirement, because persons not described in the warrant may also assist (if their assistance is considered to be invaluable).

  8. Good for the police and long may it continue, if the keeper’s have nothing to hide there will not be a problem.

  9. Who cares how the searchers working with Police Scotland were dressed. We care about the eagles which suddenly & regularly disappear in Glen Buchat Estate. We know what’s going on there, we know crimes have been committed there, but we don’t know how many other, untagged eagles have met their end there or other protected species for that matter. It’s shocking that this is being allowed to continue.

  10. Just a passing observation but the hiding of a person’s identity by mask or balaclava does not foster good working relationships, quite the opposite. The police should be developing positive working relationships and if RSPB or Raptor Group representatives are not prepared to be there without disguise then they shouldn’t be there. I’m quite sure everyone knows everyone anyway. What I would object to is masked people turning up and scaring my family, is there really any need for that?

      1. My apologies, but comments from both sides refer to those accompanying the police as having masks and balaclavas. One could similarly argue that the disappearance of #338 being a wildlife crime is a grossly distorted statement as, I’m sure you will correct me if I am wrong, there is no evidence of the bird having been killed. These tit for tat arguments and slanging matches do little for your professional credibility as conservationists. Have said this before, you will never make progress in conservation like this. Maybe you don’t want to?

        1. “My apologies, but comments from both sides refer to those accompanying the police as having masks and balaclavas.”

          Where was this reported? I don’t recall reading anything from the RSPB, or any of its allies, stating that the RSPB staff had their faces covered. Any chance you could point us to such a statement?

          “One could similarly argue that the disappearance of #338 being a wildlife crime is a grossly distorted statement as, I’m sure you will correct me if I am wrong, there is no evidence of the bird having been killed.”

          Where, and when, did anyone produce a statement claiming that a wildlife crime had been committed? A mysterious disappearance led to a co-ordinated search of the area where the last known signal from a reliable sat-tag was transmitted, but I don’t believe the RSPB, RPUK, or Police Scotland has categorically stated that a crime has been committed. It is certainly within the realms of possibility that a crime has been committed, given your industry’s long, long history of raptor persecution, and indeed the past criminal history uncovered on this estate, so it is perhaps fair that an element of suspicion has been cast in this instance.

          “These tit for tat arguments and slanging matches do little for your professional credibility as conservationists.”

          And the incessant lying, hyperbole, bullying, criminal behaviour, and the repeated failures to provide evidence when asked, proves beyond doubt that your industry has no credibility whatsoever.

          “Have said this before, you will never make progress in conservation like this. Maybe you don’t want to?”

          No, Jenny, the only sector that doesn’t want to make any form of progressive change, is the shooting industry. Your industry has had decades to adapt, to change, and to start acting within the law, but the prejudices are inbuilt, and the determination to eradicate all predators, legally and illegally, grips far too many gamekeepers, like an addict with drink or drugs.

          1. It was the reading of this blog and the comments re press stories that gave me that impression. I am in fact an agriculturalist, so not really my industry to be fair and was taking a third party opinion. I also think you are incorrect and that times have changed. Certainly in this area predator control has helped valuable wader breeding grounds and numerous black grouse leks. I don’t think there is any point in managing habitats without it.

            1. The only press release came from the estate. The other two parties involved in the search were the RSPB and Police Scotland. Both of those organisations have stated that RSPB staff were not masked or hooded.

              Perhaps you are an agriculturist, but you clearly side with the shooting industry, so it’s not exactly a third-party opinion when you are clearly favour one side over the other. Added to that, your tone showed a clear displeasure with this site and its commenters. There’s no point in trying to disguise your stance, by attempting to hold the middle ground. Have the decency to be honest, not only with others, but with yourself.

              Please explain why you believe I am incorrect? In what manner have things changed for the positive? Raptors wearing normally reliable transmitters (a 6% failure rate), regularly go missing, with the vast majority of those, if not all, disappearing on land managed for driven grouse shooting. Considering the variety of habitats that these birds frequent, don’t you find it odd, that of these many disappearances, final transmissions never come from woodlands, farmland, or coastal areas? Then there is the additional problems of poisonings, illegal trapping, bludgeoning, shooting, nest prevention, nest disturbance and nest destruction. Do you have any reasonable explanations for all of this illegal activity?

              And then, for someone who claims to be a third-party observer, you seem au fait with the shooting industry’s propaganda regarding predator control and land management. So, on those points, yes, the eradication of predators from any given area, will lead to unnaturally inflated populations of some species, at the expense of those predators, and only leads to an imbalance in those areas. As for your assertion that it is pointless managing habitats without predator control, well that is just extreme nonsense.

              I sincerely hope that you don’t try and claim that grouse moors hold more wildlife than all other areas, and that grouse moor management benefits all wildlife, but just in case you do, please give some evidence to support your claims. If you do so, you will probably be the first person to ever have provided evidence on that particular subject.

              1. I do like the warm inviting conversation to be had on this site! Please note that is said with tongue in cheek and no tone of displeasure. If you read back through the chat, you will see a few comments from, I guess, your regular contributors, who suggested that arriving masked up (which is now stated to be untrue, I get that) was perfectly acceptable. I was airing my disappointment as I don’t think that would be acceptable behaviour. I wouldn’t like masked people to rock up at my door in a rural location, scaring the life out of wee kids etc.

                I think it is also fair to say that nest disturbance can occur through tagging, ringing and observation. Death can occur through natural circumstances and birds have re-appeared when presumed off radar.

                I am an agriculturalist so am not a direct descendant of the shooting industry. I do co-ordinate Loch Ness Rural Communities, I do shoot, I do eat what I shoot, I do work dogs. I hope that brings you up to date, although I am prepared for a suitably nasty retort on all of the above. Just to be clear that was typed with wry smile and no hint of displeasure although I do await your kneecapping…..

                In my role as an agriculturalist I work quite closely with RSPB on agri environmental plans primarily for managing wader and black grouse habitat. In that vein I think I perhaps am qualified to say that predation of wader chicks has been a particular issue. There is even a Scottish Government option for predator control where there is a designated site that includes ground nesting birds as a qualifying interest or is within 1.5 km of black grouse leks, this includes provision of additional crow cages and control of foxes. In the LNRC area we have excellent wader populations but breeding success is under pressure from corvids and in some parts from large numbers of Red Kites.

                1. ‘If you read back through the chat, you will see a few comments from, I guess, your regular contributors, who suggested that arriving masked up (which is now stated to be untrue, I get that) was perfectly acceptable. I was airing my disappointment as I don’t think that would be acceptable behaviour.’
                  No you weren’t you originally wrote
                  ‘the hiding of a person’s identity by mask or balaclava does not foster good working relationships, quite the opposite. … What I would object to is masked people turning up and scaring my family, is there really any need for that?”
                  You have been shown to be making straw man arguments and then changing the goal posts when you have been caught out.
                  Why are you not critical of the gamekeepers who wear balaclavas is another mystery, as in Merlin’s post above
                  ‘take a look at the picture in the recent blog of the gamekeeper with a tethered Eagle Owl, take a look at the pictures of gamekeepers mass culling Mountain Hares, all wearing hoods and face scarves’.
                  But no you would rather have a go at someone who commented on this blog who was willing to defend the balaclavas which never were, of a raptor worker.
                  You do see this don’t you. Clear evidence of gamekeepers hiding their identity versus an imaginary person(s) hiding their identity and you attack the imaginary one.
                  The gamekeeper posting images of KKK receives no criticism from you?
                  Your lack of logic is plain to see.

                  1. I quite agree reference to the KKK is not helpful either. I also find it quite difficult to get a sensible balanced conversation on here about the need for predator control because it descends into bitching. The management of hares is a whole other conversation where population management is carried out in areas where the population is in fact thriving. What would happen if the hares were not managed? It’s no different to deer management. I would be grateful if you would give me a sensible answer on how you would improve wader numbers without predator control.

                    1. Aye, the old KKK gag. Armed and masked thugs with an unhealthy obsession with fire, who will try and bully and intimidate in order to get their way, and resort to crime whenever it suits, with a zero tolerance approach to blacks, and a stubborn refusal to accept social change. Replace the word “blacks” with the word “predator”, and the description is far closer to some gamekeepers.

                      On the subject on the requirement for Mountain Hare “management”, has it ever crossed your mind that there are lots of hares as a direct result of the zero tolerance approach to predators? You see, when predators are eradicated on a landscape scale, prey species are prone to boom years, because apart from natural causes, there is nothing to keep their populations in check. When predators keep the prey species in check (and that is what they do – they don’t go around killing things for the sake of it), that is what people often refer to as a natural balance. By removing predators, the landowners/managers and gamekeepers are creating the problem for themselves. But hey, it gives them more things to kill to satisfy the bloodlust.

                      As previously mentioned, the problems facing many species are many, and despite what you and many others believe, predators are not the problem. Habitat loss and degradation, weather, and climate change are far greater threats, and perhaps as a result of intensive land management, or as a result of a changing climate, there may have been changes to the invertebrate populations, the vital food source for many waders species. So, until we can halt the habitat losses and degradation, until we create more habitat, and manage that habitat sympathetically with these species in mind, then nothing will change.

                      I’ll give you an example from my own personal experience on my local patch. Part of it was a brownfield site, and on this section up to 12-13 pairs of Lapwings used to nest, along with similar numbers of Oystercatchers. Part of the area was reclaimed by industry, and the remainder soon became overgrown with Sea-buckthorn, and as a result, the waders stopped nesting here. When the waders started to decline here, the mentality of the shooting industry would have been to carry out predator control, but it would have been futile. You could have eradicated every raptor, corvid, gull and mammalian predator in a 100 mile radius, but you still wouldn’t have any nesting Lapwings or Oystercatchers on this section, simply because the habitat is no longer what it once was.

                      However, I’ll give you an answer to your wader question, and it could also apply to Black Grouse and Capercaille – captive breeding. If it can help halt the decline of a globally-endangered species such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, then a concerted effort with willing organisations, could help out some species here in the meantime, until we manage to sort out the habitats issues. And look, more employment opportunities for rural areas!

                      So, on that note, would you care to offer a sensible answer explaining how all of these species managed to co-exist for millennia, yet now you believe that they can’t do so?

                    2. You are changing the subject again.
                      You wrote ‘the hiding of a person’s identity by mask or balaclava does not foster good working relationships, quite the opposite’ Does this apply to gamekeepers?
                      Why are you attacking imaginary people wearing hidden faces and not real ones which we have photos of? Perhaps you are going to tell me that gamekeepers are only doing it to keep their faces warm and therefore aren’t ‘turning up and scaring [your] family’. if so why wouldn’t this apply to the imaginary ones and how would you tell the difference, the guns?. Would you call that double-standards?
                      I am still curious where these ‘masked people turning up and scaring my family’ and ‘masked people rock[ing] up at my door in a rural location, scaring the life out of wee kids etc.’ are exactly. More imaginary friends?

                      You throw these accusation around and also accuse the commenters on this blog and this blog itself of ‘bitching’ and ‘slanging matches’ of not being ‘ warm inviting’ ‘suitably nasty retort, ‘ you will never make progress in conservation like this. Maybe you don’t want to?’. And yet you claim to want a sensible discussion.

                2. Yes, there were a few comments suggesting that masks or hoods would be appropriate attire for that time of the year in the uplands (I’m sure many gamekeepers wear such things, as will a host of other upland workers), but they were just people’s individual opinions, and not intended as an official statement. But anyway, the whole hood and mask thing has been cleared up, so I honestly don’t see why you would choose to bring it up, when you have already been informed that the truth has already been disseminated to the PAWS organisations.

                  Oh dear, are we getting the whole ringing and tagging nest disturbance propaganda again? The ringing and tagging of birds takes a small amount of time, but once again we appear to have someone trying to conflate this minimal disturbance, with the deliberate nest prevention, disturbance and destruction that has been carried out by members of the shooting industry. Why would you deliberately choose to do that? And furthermore, if this ringing and tagging causes so much disturbance, why are some gamekeepers desperate to get the licences to ring and tag raptors?

                  Yes, death can occur through natural causes (who knew?), and one or two birds have been observed after an obvious transmitter failure. These occurrences have been documented, and no-one has tried to hide that fact, but many more reliable transmitters have simply stopped working, with the last known signals coming from land managed for driven grouse shooting. However, it was notable that you didn’t respond to any of the points I made in relation to the various, on-going forms of persecution.

                  Anyway, from your comments, I couldn’t help but note that you appear to have prejudged me. Well, prepare to be surprised! I won’t disguise the fact that I abhor the very idea of killing in the name of “sport”, it’s something that I will never be able to understand, but for quite a few years now, I have suggested that as a means of compromise, the shooting industry could switch to a walked-up only system, eliminating the need for large bags, and allowing predators to co-exist with prey species. This need not be a loss in revenue for the estates, and the estates could diversify, and offer wildlife tourism packages to view raptors and other wildlife. They could provide hides for photographic purposes, they could have coffee shops or tearooms, all of which would increase their annual intake, as well as generating employment opportunities in rural areas. But there doesn’t appear to be any will to take this route which would see an end to much of the conflict. Ask yourself why?

                  And if you choose to look back at my comments history on this site, you will discover that I have no objection to those that “shoot for the pot”. In fact, I will do the very thing that the criminal apologists find impossible to do – I’ll provide the evidence myself!

                  As for the predator control side of things, I’m afraid we’ll never agree on that issue. Nature creates its own balance, and before modern man decided to manipulate the landscape on a grand scale, nature managed just fine, with predators and prey co-existing for millennia. Far too many species are automatically made to be the scapegoats, and relentlessly blamed and targeted, despite there being no real science behind the beliefs. As with many species, habitat loss and degradation are the main problems, coupled with climate change and weather issues, but sadly the unchallenged and prejudiced opinions from the Victorian era, has spanned the centuries, and there are too many in government that know little or nothing of nature, simply accept these prejudiced beliefs as fact.

                  1. To keep it short and sweet and relative to the area I am in. We have the habitat, excellent habitat, managed with a grazing regime to protect breeding waders. Yes, weather is something you cannot do anything about but a field full of corvids hoovering up the eggs and chicks, I make no apology, the corvids are not on the red list. I have had discussions with RSPB officers where they have stated that the only thing holding back a population increase would be lack of predator control. Is it right to let the red listers become extinct because the corvids are in adundance? The reason we no longer have a natural balance is through the intervention of humans over years. Now I know that throws me open to the whole re-wilding debate but, same as you have your opinions, I don’t believe that the Highlands are a wildlife park, it’s too small an area. Reintroduction of species is a very delicate matter. Take the Red Kite on the Black Isle, why does it need fed? That’s surely not a sustainable population. There are scores of them in this area living off game, and I’m afraid wader chicks.

                    In your example of the brown field site. I think the game keeper would see habitat degradation in that picture. You are wont to tar an entire profession from the foolish acts of a few. On the wildlife tourism front I have noted a few commercial tours in the area, they must be here to see the wildlife, the waders, the black grouse, the eagles, the red kite….

                    1. ‘Take the Red Kite on the Black Isle, why does it need fed? That’s surely not a sustainable population. There are scores of them in this area living off game, and I’m afraid wader chicks.
                      You really need to do some reading. Macro, i am sure will point out you fallacies but really i don’t see that you are willing to take off the blinkers.
                      If is not sustainable because it is getting extremely heavily persecuted by the villains you appear to be defending, however subtly.

                    2. anandprasad, I don’t think you will find many gamekeepers on the Black Isle, villainous or otherwise. It is predominantly agricultural and a large chunk of that arable. There’s just not enough of a feed source I would suggest.

                    3. Ouch! Sometimes you’re as well to go outside and look as to read the comments and views of others. I live in an area surrounded by shooting estates and have a roost of almost 90 red kites a short distance from here. Have also see 30 flying overhead on a walked up shoot day. You should come and see for yourself.

                    4. Try downloading it and actually reading it.
                      Those experts can be so irritating, expecting us to read and understand science when we can just make it all up for ourselves.
                      Happy imaginations.

                    5. anandprasad, the Corrybrough story is almost 10 years old, different people there now, and the other doesn’t say what happened so we can’t conclude there was crime there.

                    6. Well, I read it again (the recent one) just in case my normal pace of reading was too quick and I missed the scientific expert bit. Even at half speed I couldn’t see it. You will, I’m sure, enlighten me by quoting the relevant section. It is as far as I can see just a story about there not being any scientific evidence released.

                    7. ‘You should come and see for yourself’
                      I have already but i won’t be returning to an area where Red Kites are being so severely persecuted? It is depressing.
                      It is maths, 1000+ pairs from Chilterns’ release versus c60 pairs on Black isle in same time and from the same introduction numbers. The Black Isle has high productivity when they are not shot so there is nothing wrong with the habitat just a certain fraction of the human inhabitants whom you appear to condone or at the very least deny.
                      READ THE PAPER

                    8. I am not sure what you mean by ‘recent one’
                      This was in my personal blog as a link but since you obviously didn’t read it i gave it again.

                      From the abstract.
                      ‘In north Scotland, 40% of 103 red kites found dead were killed illegally,
                      mainly by direct poisoning. In the absence of illegal killing, we estimate that annual survival rates in wild
                      red kites might increase from 0.37 to 0.54, 0.72 to 0.78 and 0.87 to 0.92 for first, second-year and adult
                      birds respectively…
                      Models in which the additive illegal killing mortality is excluded, predict a population trajectory and size (c300 pairs by 2006) very similar to that found in the Chilterns, a rapidly growing population (320 pairs in
                      2006) in south-east England re-introduced at the same time, but where rates of illegal killing are much
                      lower. We conclude that illegal killing of red kites is the cause of poor population growth in north Scot-
                      land and the key challenge facing government is to find a way to eliminate this killing.’

                      From main text
                      ‘Based on our estimates of survival and the levels of killing, we calculated that on average 12 first-year
                      red kites, 4 second-year and 5 adults were killed illegally each year in north Scotland. Between 1999 and 2006, the period when the population increase halted, we estimate that 166 red kites have been killed illegally (first-year = 95, second-year = 33, adults = 39).’

                      ‘Our population models predict that without illegal killing the NS population would have increased at a similar rate to the Chilterns and, by 2006, would have held over 300 breeding pairs. Should illegal killing continue, then based on the current population growth rate we would not expect the population to exceed
                      300 pairs until after 2035; however, if illegal killing ceased we predict that the population might reach 300 pairs by 2017.’

                      So we are missing about 240 pairs from the Black Isle.

                      ‘llegal killing was responsible for 55% of the north Scotland red kites that were recovered dead where the cause of death could be established, and of the birds illegally killed, the vast majority were killed through direct poisoning, usually using carrion baits laced with poison.’

                      ‘Furthermore, a recent study (Whitfield et al., 2003), showed that records of illegal poison use in Scotland
                      between 1981–2000 were closely associated with grouse moor management, that this association had increased in recent years, and found no evidence to suggest a decline in poisoning incidents
                      on grouse moors over their study period.’

                    9. In my opinion, I don’t believe that Red Kites have to be fed at feeding stations. However, what you will find, is that an enlightened farmer or landowner has chosen to diversify his/her business, and chose to go down this route. Of course, this type of diversification also contributes to rural employment, albeit in a small way, but it would appear that you don’t like these types of employment opportunities in rural areas.

                      But on that note, you claim that the Black Isle kites is not a sustainable population because it needs fed at feeding stations, then you go on to claim that the species is living off game birds and wader checks. It simply cannot be both. Choose one, and stick with it, and stop relying on propaganda.

                    10. Aye, very good. Keep it short and relative to your own area, and by dojng so enables you to conveniently ignore every single question that has been put to you.

                      “A field full of corvids hoovering up the eggs and chicks” Deary me, that is exaggerated hyperbole in the extreme! Now, if it was indeed “a field full of corvids”, and they were all involved in “hoovering up eggs and chicks”, then there must have hundreds, if not thousands of nests. Was that really the situation, or is it just another fanciful piece of fiction?

                      Furthermore, why don’t you name the RSPB officers? I’m sure they, and the wider organisation would like to comment on the issue, or was that another made up piece?

                      Anyway, which red-listed species are you concerned about? I think that before I give an answer, it would be fair to establish which species we are dealing with.

                      Yes, the human race is largely responsible for large areas of land not having a natural balance, and much of that is down to the mismanagement of driven grouse or pheasant shooting. For your Black Isle kites issue, see my other response, which highlights the major flaw in your argument.

                      You have your opinion on the brownfield issue, and I have mine, but you have to realise that predator control is invariably the first thing that the shooting industry mentions whenever a species declines, and that is all down to inbuilt prejudiced behaviour. Black Grouse are in trouble leads to calls for certain species to be culled, and it’s the same automatic response with Capercaillie, waders, songbirds, Red Squirrels, farming interests, etc. In fact, the only UK predators that are relatively safe from the shooting industry appear to be marine mammals.

                      And as for the tourism point, yes, of course there are some wildlife tourism businesses, no-one said there were no such businesses, but it is particularly noteworthy that you would again choose to deviate from the topic of switching from driven shooting to a walked-up systemin. Why not stick to the point, and comment on that?

                    11. Marco, I don’t think it is my place to name the RSPB officers I deal with on this page as they would no doubt get shot down in flames. The red kite populations I spoke off are two different ones. The Black Isle ones have a feeding station managed by RSPB at Tollie. The ones here do not. The comment re corvids relates to a site managed for waders which has a crow roost on the adjacent piece of land, with probably in excess of 60 crows. The habitat for waders is ideal but there is low chick survival. The red list species I speak of are Curlew and Lapwing there are also Snipe, Redshank and Oystercatcher which are amber rather than red. A lot of the local farmland here is on the fringe of moorland and perfect for Curlew and Snipe. More open better grazing has good numbers of lapwing. I have photographs of returning Oystercatcher, Golden Plover and Lapwing together on the low ground which was quite a sight two weeks ago.

                    12. OK then, so we’ll just have to leave it as a comment that cannot be proven one way or another. I was hoping for clarification from the RSPB officers, as perhaps the comment may have been misinterpreted. It can happen.

                      So where do think the Red Kites in your area derived from? I’m quite sure that the majority of them will have come as a result of the Black Isle population, which disproves your theory that they are reliant on the feeding station, and they are capable of spreading out when they are left to their own devices. Sadly, the on-going, systematic persecution of the species, along with many other raptor species, prevents the natural re-colonisation that was hoped for.

                      Right, so you have a population “probably in excess of 60 crows”. I’ll take that as given, but even if you double that number, it’s going to be a very small field if they were to fill it, so the very idea that this rampaging flock is “hovering up eggs and chicks”, is just utter nonsense, because a field that 120 crows would fill, never mind 60, will not have that many wader nests in it to start with.

                      Anyway, onto your point about red-listed waders. The first species you mention is Curlew, so I will alert you to the following excerpt from the pages of the BTO website;

                      “There is good evidence that loss of habitat is the main cause of decline of Curlew. Decline of the species on grassland is likely to be correlated to draining of fields, whilst predation is likely to be important at a site level. The decline of Curlew recorded by WBS/WBBS may be related to other causes, such as land reclamation but data are not available. The conservation of Curlew is likely to benefit from wader-friendly management of land, including restoration of ditches, wet features within fields and heterogeneous vegetation. Further studies should concentrate on investigating the direct link between Curlew abundance and management of coastal areas, including the outcome of displacement of individuals from feeding sites on mudflats.”

                      Although predation is mentioned for individual sites, it is clear that by far the major contribution to the decline is down to the habitat.

                      Now for Lapwing (again from the pages of the BTO website.

                      “There is good evidence that declines have resulted from habitat loss and degradation due to changes in agricultural practice, in particular change from spring to autumn sowing, drainage of grasslands and loss of mixed farmland, which have led to breeding productivity dropping below a sustainable level. Chick mortality is thought to be the main determinant of poor Lapwing productivity, and therefore of population decline.”

                      What’s that you say? There’s nothing there to suggest that predation is having any effect on the Lapwing population, but the declines are considered to habitat-related? Well, who would have thought that?

                      As you have mentioned, Snipe are not on the red list, but I’ll humour you anyway.

                      “Snipe were monitored by the CBC mainly in lowland England, where numbers have fallen rapidly since the 1970s as farmland has been drained. The CBC index fell from the early 1970s until 1984, when the number of occupied plots became too small for further monitoring. Surveys in England and Wales revealed a decrease of 62% in breeding birds in wet meadows between 1982 and 2002, with the remaining birds becoming highly aggregated into a tiny number of suitable sites. Birds were more likely to persist where soils remained soft and wet; the fact that Snipe have continued to decline, despite soil conditions being improved for them at many lowland wetland reserves, suggests that other key aspects of habitat quality, such as prey abundance, are more likely to be driving the decline. The trend in the upland and moorland strongholds of the species is not fully known, but the 1988-91 atlas documented range loss widely in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as lowland England, and atlas work during 2008-11 confirmed that range loss or population decrease has been evident almost everywhere. In Northern Ireland, the breeding population had shrunk to just 1,123 (527-1,782) pairs by 2013, representing a decrease of around 78% since 1987, with the distribution becoming increasingly fragmented. The BBS showed initial increases from 1994, especially in Scotland, but a sharp downturn over the recent decade, until around 2012. Daily nest failure rates at the egg stage appear to have halved. There has been widespread moderate decline across Europe since 1980. In Scotland at least, agri-environment schemes can benefit this species.”

                      Wait, what? There’s no evidence that predation is a cause for Snipe declines? Who knew?

                      Similarly, Redshank is not a red-listed species, but I’ll go on.

                      “There is good evidence to suggest that Redshank decline is related to changes in habitat management, in particular drainage and agricultural intensification. Where birds still nest in wet meadows, a suggested solution includes manipulating water levels, reducing grazing and suspending agricultural operations during the nesting period.”

                      Range contraction had occurred from considerable areas of the UK by 1988-91, probably as a result of the drainage of farmland. WBS/WBBS results show a decline along waterways that apparently accelerated during the 1990s. BBS shows continuing overall decrease. Surveys in England and Wales revealed a decrease of 29% in breeding birds in wet meadows between 1982 and 2002, with the most pronounced declines recorded in the Midlands (over 80%) the southwest (over 50%) and the north of England (over 45%). Another survey revealed that Redshank had disappeared from half of plots in grassland marginal upland areas of Britain between the 1970s and 1999-2000 (Henderson et al. 2004). The substantial section of the British population that nests on saltmarshes decreased by 23% between 1985 and 1996, apparently as a result of increased grazing pressure. By 2011, fewer than 12,000 breeding pairs remained on saltmarshes, a decrease of 53% from the 1985 survey: a better understanding of saltmarsh grazing practices and longer-term management of this habitat is urgently needed. The indications are that even light grazing of saltmarshes can reduce breeding success to near zero. Minor increase in breeding numbers in the Uists between 1983 and 2014 runs against the UK trend and heightens the relative importance of this population. Wintering populations (augmented by many Icelandic and some other northern European breeders) have shown some increase since the 1970s but have been in decline since about 2001, although the most recent counts suggest this decline may now have slowed or started to reverse. The success of nests at the egg stage has risen steeply since the 1960s.”

                      My word! There’s not a shred of evidence that gives predation as any cause for declines in the Redshank population.

                      Finally, we have Oystercatcher, so for the sake of completeness, I’ll proceed.

                      “Oystercatchers increased along linear waterways between 1974 and about 1986, as the species colonised inland sites across England and Wales. Thereafter, the WBS/WBBS index stabilised and now appears to be in decline, so showing a pattern similar to that in winter abundance. Surveys in England and Wales revealed an increase of 47% in breeding birds in wet meadows between 1982 and 2002. BBS data since 1994, which include birds in a broader range of locations and habitats, show strong increase in England but a significant decline in Scotland. The increase in nest failure rates during the 27-day egg stage (25 days for incubation and 2 days for laying) probably results from the spread of the species into less favourable habitats, where nest losses through predation or trampling may be more likely. The trend towards earlier laying may be linked to recent climate change. There has been widespread moderate decline across Europe since 1980.”

                      And there you go, Predation as a potential cause for decline, is lumped in with accidental trampling of nests, and only if individual nests are in less than favourable habitats.

                      Now, of course, I will be accused of looking at all of this with blinkers on, or through a closed mind, as that is definitely an accusation that is regularly aimed at anyone who disagrees with the whole “cull first mentality”, but there definitely does appear to be a trend going on here, and that trend is most definitely centred on the issue of habitat, or lack of it.

                      As I have also mentioned, this, with the added problems of climate change, could well be having a detrimental effect on the invertebrate populations that these species need in the early stages of nesting and hatching periods.

                      I still note that you keep avoiding my questions. Is there any particular reason why?

                    13. Marco, I must thank you for your efforts compiling all the data for me to read. Contrary to your cull first opinion there has been significant effort to manage habitat and reduce grazing pressure, varying dependent on species present/habitat type. Predation control on top of that can benefit breeding success. Your response to my comments regarding the crow roost, post rolling of eyes, wonder if you would like to know if it was a Dyson or a Henry they were using. If the roost split and there are smaller groups working over several nearby wader nesting areas, they can do a lot of damage, that’s only logical and I apologise for being flippant with my hoovering scenario, you obviously didn’t get it. Doesn’t need to be every crow on a single field obviously, I will endeavor to be more precise with my descriptions.

                    14. Obviously, killing predators will benefit breeding success of some species, but all you are doing is creating an imbalance. And where does the culling stop? Most birds are predatory to some extent, so on the issue of protecting red-listed species, do you agree that we should be going down the route of culling passerines to protect and preserve rare invertebrate populations? If not, why not?

                      No, there’s no need to clarify the point, because you clearly stated “hoover”. Even though it was in lower case, the word does refer to a brand name, whereas Dyson or Henry (like Hoover) are vacuum cleaners!

                      But in all seriousness, you should stop exaggerating the scale of any perceived problem. Your actual comment was “A field full of corvids hoovering up the eggs and chicks”, which gives the impression that rampaging flocks of crows are going around wiping out entire colonies of breeding birds. Perhaps that was your sole intention, to try and mislead the public, but it is simply not the case, and I do note that you are now trying to backtrack on that issue. Yes, they will take eggs and nestlings, which they have done for millennia, and it’s all a perfectly natural occurrence. As mentioned, the habitat issue, as well as some other environmental factors, are by far the major contribution to wader declines, so until that is sorted, the millions of “unwanted” birds that have been killed, and will continue to be killed, is a tragic waste of life.

                3. anandprasad, are you familiar with the Black Isle? There’s barely a rabbit to be seen. If they need fed at a feeding station it strikes me that there is not enough there to feed them or there would be no need to feed them. It is widely perceived that the incident on the Black Isle was a feeding error as there was absolutely no reason for the farmer accused to take such action. In contrast the population around the sporting estates here is thriving to a point where they are like a roost of crows. They are picking off game birds, rabbits, wee hares and unfortunately wader chicks on one site particularly. Have there been shooting incidents on the Black Isle, I must have missed that?

                  1. JM.
                    Just read the paper.
                    if it is wrong i am sure any respectable journal will be willing to publish your scientific rebuttal.
                    I quoted the paper but i might be being moderated for copyright reasons.
                    It is the grouse moors around the Black Isle not the Black Isle itself which are the sink for Red Kites.
                    Check out the wildlife crime maps for Scotland. Your area is doing quite well in the premier killing league table, wouldn’t you say?

                    You still haven’t answered my question about gamekeepers wearing masks and how do you tell the difference between them and imaginary ones when the bogey man comes to scare the ‘wee kiddies’,

                    Just out of curiosity, do you accept the fact that man made global warming is a problem?

                  2. ‘If they need fed at a feeding station it strikes me that there is not enough there to feed them or there would be no need to feed them’
                    This is a straw man argument. Did anyone ever say they need to be fed? If so please give the citation.

                    They need to be fed initially when they are first released as they don’t have adults to learn off of but that was years ago. They were fed after that not because of a need but to maximise the survival rate since a hell of a lot of energy into these re-introductions and it makes sense to give them additional help until the numbers build up. Unfortunately the kite killers are making sure that doesn’t happen.

                    The only need is in the first winter. Someone might pull me up on that but i think i must be right. All UK raptors are independent after the first few weeks, even eagles.
                    I doubt very much if anyone is feeding the ‘Chiltern’ kites except as a tourist attraction.
                    As far as i know the kites at Harewood are not being officially fed but by a local, it is a great chance to see them very close up and hopefully gives a boost to the coffee shop there.

                    1. That’s great. A beautiful experience for wildlife lovers.

                      I was wondering what is your view of how Red Kites should be ‘managed’? It appears that you believe that wildlife must be managed.
                      You wrote that there were ‘scores of them in this area living off game, and I’m afraid wader chicks’.
                      You imagine there is a problem and that something should be done about it but maybe i just heard you wrong.
                      But if that is correct what would be your solution if you could imagine that you had the politicians of your choice in power.

                      Would you have a level above which Red Kites should be killed?
                      If so how many would that be?
                      Would you have them killed whenever a gamekeeper imagined they were a problem.
                      Would you have them killed whenever a gamekeeper could prove they were a problem.
                      Would you move them somewhere where people didn’t think they were a problem.
                      Would you send them back to Sweden
                      Would you allow the law to change back to pre 1854 so anybody could kill them whenever they liked.
                      Or what?

                    2. Good morning! Your presumption that the red kite management would infer killing them did give me a laugh, When a population reaches a size where it impacts on other species around them perhaps there would be cause to move some of them on to reintroduce them to another location?

                    3. I wish you made me laugh.
                      So what happens when you move them, they increase in numbers because they aren’t being shot and poisoned and then come back to scare your kiddies, sorry eat your waders.

                    4. ‘I have no objection to the feeding station, just don’t think a sustainable population would need it.’

                      Again who said they did? A straw man fallacy is arguing against a position which no one is holding. Who is holding this position, another imaginary straw bogeyman scaring the wee kiddies?

                      If ‘need’ means that the North Scotland population is being so heavily persecuted and their population so severely restricted by poisoning and shooting that they could use any help they can get to increase ever so slowly in numbers then yes maybe you are right they ‘need’ feeding. But without the science to back this up it is conjecture. There may be other factors in play. For example does artificial feeding lessen the kites from wandering more onto the grouse moor killing fields? I await your thesis.

                      If need means something you don’t like then that is another definition entirely.

                      If by unsustainable you mean the inability to thrive and increase naturally without being shot and poisoned then yes maybe you are right.

                    5. ‘So what happens when you move them, they increase in numbers because they aren’t being shot and poisoned and then come back to scare your kiddies, sorry eat your waders.’
                      You appear to have lost the ability to have reasoned conversation.

                      OK, i would argue that it is just that you can’t answer any of my questions but just for you i will spilt it into two and try to make it as simple as possible.
                      1. if you move Red Kites as you suggest because you imagine they are doing some harm to your waders what happens when they increase at the sites where you have moved them to.
                      Obviously you would prefer if they were moved to a site where there is no threat of persecution, presuming you can find one, so there they would increase rapidly as in the Chilterns.
                      So the birds everywhere but where you live are exploding as in the Chilterns. I don’t think they can ever be called Chiltern birds now that must be far beyond that area now. So in say 20 years time the bird from the Chiltern population and the Lake District and East and Southwest Scotland, Eastern England etc. populations are all booming. You do realise this is inevitable right? They will be inevitably become as common as Buzzards, that was the whole point of the re-introduction. How soon is the only question.
                      My question which you think is so unreasonable, is ‘how is your moving them going to help.’

                      2. You still haven’t answered why you are willing to attack imaginary people in masks who you imagine are associated with the RSPB but not gamekeepers in masks and how you can tell the difference. How would the wee kiddies you are so worried about tell the difference.

                      But one final point because every comment you make is worthy of questioning. How do you know what the kites around you aren’t flying to the feeding station at Tollie to be fed? At Harewood i was told that in the winter kites comes from miles around to feed. I am not saying they do but do you have proof?
                      I love Marco’s point that the kites around you prove that the Black Isle population is sustainable.

                      No more. I love this, it is (metaphorically speaking only) like shooting fish in barrel but i must be driving everyone else and RPUK crazy. So happy imaginations.

                    6. Perhaps I am thick but would that be the essence of re population? There has to be a balance and when one of the species is red listed, might they not justify a bit of help?

                    7. “There has to be a balance and when one of the species is red listed, might they not justify a bit of help?”

                      What, you mean like the Hen Harrier? Here we have a red-listed species that is routinely killed to protect a far more numerous species. What say you to that, Jenny?

                    8. Sorry can’t let this logic stand:
                      JM wrote
                      ‘Perhaps I am thick but would that be the essence of re population? There has to be a balance and when one of the species is red listed, might they not justify a bit of help?’

                      Please define ‘help’. Do you mean kill kites?

                      See my comment above
                      ‘Would you have a level above which Red Kites should be killed?
                      If so how many would that be?’
                      about which you wrote
                      ‘Your presumption that the red kite management would infer killing them did give me a laugh’

                    9. I do not claim to be a professional ecologist. Could you please advise me as to how you would maintain a balanced population? My thought, as a lay person is that if a population is doing really well then perhaps a proportion of them could be relocated to an area where there are none currently, assuming said location has habitat and feed source to carry them. I am not suggesting that they need killed. That would take the pressure of some of the prey species should they include red listed ones. I would welcome your thoughts on how you think the wader population could be better supported.

                    10. JM. You all ready ruled out re-wilding so i can’t help thinking that whatever i say you will not agree with.

                      The way to protect waders is to protect whole ecosystems. Marco has already written about it at great length.
                      An ecologist looks at the whole ecosystem not just one species. Sometimes we have to micro-manage species that on the verge of extinction but even then it is hopeless if the ecosystem isn’t being protected.
                      Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a good example. We are going to great lengths to boost a population on the verge of extinction but at the same time we (in this case the Chinese and Koreans) are developing the mud flats which they need to feed on and they are being hunted on their wintering grounds. The hunting can perhaps be addressed but there is very little chance of stopping the damage to the estuaries and mud flats.
                      No one is, as far as i know, blaming predators but i agree, in such an extreme case predator control might be needed until the population recovers. It wouldn’t be the other way around: controlling predators when they get to common.
                      Balance is achieved when an ecosystem is healthy.
                      I am not an expert either although i have a degree in Botany and this really is the ABC. On more specialist subjects i try to listen to the experts.
                      If you are really sincere i would recommend listening to a different source than you have done so far.
                      A good source should give references to the background science. RPUK never writes anything that can’t be backed up by science.
                      I don’t mean to be rude but it sounds like a lot of your info is coming from Countryside /Daily Mail type sources. The Telegraph and Times can be equally bad.

                    11. Thanks for your response. I certainly don’t read the Telegraph, Mail or indeed any other papers. I do live in the midst of what we have been discussing and see population balance, and imbalance sometimes, at first hand. I also work with farmers and land managers to work up plans within the parameters of the schemes we have to manage habitat (in themselves not always perfect).

                  3. From my personal observations, the rabbit decline appears to be widespread, probably as a result of rabbit VHD, or is this decline going to be blamed on raptor populations?

                    You keep mentioning the Red Kite feeding station, and you keep trying to insinuate that the reason for the failure of the Black Isle kites to spread out from the area, is that there isn’t enough food for them, hence the need for the feeding station. Of course, if you were to stick to that one point, some people might consider you have a valid point, but then you always seem to go and destroy your own argument, by stating the kites are eating game birds, rabbits, hares and waders in your area, which doesn’t appear to be the Black Isle. I’ve already mentioned it, but I think I must reiterate the point, that it simply cannot be both. Either they are devouring everything in their paths, and therefore there is enough food to sustain a population, or they are wholly reliant on the feeding station. It’s a bit like the argument that people want to remain in the UK, as well as the EU. It’s just not possible to have both.

                    And then we have another of those well-used shooting industry myths that it was a “feeding error” that caused the deaths of the Red Kites at Conon Bridge. Aye, right! Keep on spouting lies and misinformation like a good wee criminal apologist.

                    So a “feeding error” was responsible for a number of birds to have died from quick acting poisons, only after they had flown some distance from the feeding station, to all die in the one relatively small area, was it? How did this one “feeding error” account for the various stages of decomposition? How did this one “feeding error” account for the poisoned baits that were found on the same site that the dead birds turned up? Did the kites carry these poisoned baits with them from Tollie? Any chance you would provide some sensible explanations for all of that? I realise that those are questions, and you don’t like answering questions, so I won’t hold my breath waiting for a reply.

                    However, it would appear that you really don’t like the Tollie Red Kite feeding station, and the rural employment that this attraction brings, and for someone that has preached about the benefits of rural employment, that is a hypocritical stance to take.

                    1. Crikey Marco, I fear for your blood pressure! I did say in my last message that yes we are talking about two different areas. I do not live on the Black Isle. I have no objection to the feeding station, just don’t think a sustainable population would need it. Finally do agree that rabbit population is pretty low in that area. I am on the south side of Loch Ness where the population of red kite is size able and not fed from a feeding station. they will have access to game birds, rabbits, leverets, but unfortunately have been trawling over the wader nesting areas too. I doubt we will ever agree on the Conon Bridge debacle but there was no reason for that land owner to poison raptors, corvids or anything else. There is no sporting interest and lambing parks don’t look too troubled by corvids. Even if they were, legal methods of control would be used rather than risk a breach of cross compliance. Nothing about that case adds up.

                    2. Yes, and if you have kites in this other area, then that in itself must prove that they are not reliant on the feeding station, they must have moved there of their own volition, which means that if they are not being held back by persecution, then it is a sustainable population. On that note, and again, as already mentioned, the feeding station is as a result of a landowner diversifying his/her business. That’s all it is, so you really should stop with this belief that it is not a sustainable population.

                      Anyway, onto the Conon Bridge massacre again. It is particularly noteworthy that you have evaded all of my questions regarding your belief that the massacre was the result of a “feeding error”, presumably in your mind, by those at Tollie. You still maintain that deliberate poisoning was not the issue here, so if it was as a result of a “feeding error” at Tollie, would you care to explain why dead birds were only found in the one relatively small area at Conon Bridge? Are you seriously suggesting that every single bird that uses the Tollie feeding station, flies in the same direction, to the one locality, in a post-feeding ritual? Why didn’t any bird fly north, or south, or west? Can you give a reasonable explanation why no carcases were picked up at the feeding station, or at any other location, after ingesting a fast-acting poison? Where did the poisoned baits come from?

                      Most criminals tend to keep shtum about their criminal dealings, so what makes you certain that the person you allude to, had no reason to poison raptors? Furthermore, there is a lot of pheasant and partridge shooting on the Black Isle. Is it beyond your ken, to consider that a gamekeeper from a nearby shoot, one that holds a particular grudge against the RSPB, or like many of his kind, with an inbuilt hatred of all raptors, may have been responsible for the crimes?

                      Not one criminal apologist has been able to provide any satisfactory answers in relation to these queries, so let’s see if you can manage any better.

                    3. Same small area of Conon Bridge does not have a shoot. I do not believe the birds flew to their final resting places. Are you sure about the baits? Where were the dead crows, gulls or foxes?

                    4. “Same small area of Conon Bridge does not have a shoot.”

                      Which is why I deliberately mentioned nearby shoot. Why ignore that vital element of the question? There is plenty of pheasant and partridge shooting in the surrounding area.

                      “I do not believe the birds flew to their final resting places.”

                      If you don’t believe that they flew to this area, then that effectively rules out the Tollie feeding station, and you have debunked your own “feeding error” argument.

                      “Are you sure about the baits?”

                      Yes, poisoned baits were found as well.

                      “Where were the dead crows, gulls or foxes?”

                      Exactly! If the deaths were as a result of a “feeding error”, then there would be dead corvids, and perhaps some gulls, and if it was as a result of a “feeding error”, at the Tollie feeding station, then these carcases would not only be centred at Tollie, but in the surrounding environment in all directions.

                      However, if raptors were the only target, I would imagine that it would be quite easy to preclude other avian species from ingesting the baits, and indeed, there are many, many cases when raptors have been found poisoned, and no other bird species were affected.

                    5. Curious as to how a red kite eats the poison bait but not the crow or gull? I would suggest no other species because they were put there. It’s probably further to the nearest shoot than it is to Tollie although I do not think flight distance is of any relevance given that it looks very much like they maybe didn’t get their under their own steam. Also quite a number of birds to be poisoned unless they had perhaps all gathered for their expected snack. The evidence does not add up in this case.

                    6. Because only raptors are being targeted. As previously mentioned, but it does appear that you don’t want to accept much in the way of evidence, that there have been many cases when only poisoned raptors have been found. Perhaps the poisoned baits were put on fence posts above the ground, next to woodland, or even in woodland, so that could be the reason why no gulls were found. That reason could also explain the lack of foxes. And just perhaps, as it was a farmland area, with the lambing season approaching, has it never crossed your mind that the predator control regime had been ramped up, accounting for the lack of crows and foxes, which could have legally killed in the weeks before?

                      So, you think they were put there? Jesus wept! So who put them there?

                      What does the distance to Tollie or any nearby shoots have to do with anything? As far as I am concerned, this has zero relevance, but I’m sure you have a reason for including this “vital” piece of information.

                      Yes, it is a large number of birds to be killed, but it’s certainly not unprecedented, and that’s what can happen when someone is determined enough to kill something that he/she hates. A few years ago, Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right Christian extremist, killed a large number of people in Norway, all in a single day. No other mammals were killed, so are you suggesting that he is an innocent man who was wrongly convicted?

                      Despite what you claim, there is overwhelming evidence that a crime took place in the Conon Bridge area, but it does appear that not only do you have blinkers on, I think for the full effect, you’ve got a hood and a mask on as well.

                      What about the poisoned baits? You’ve so far managed to evade that one, but no doubt even though you have effectively denied they were present, you’ll somehow now try and suggest they were planted as well.

                      We’ve met a few criminal apologists on here throughout the years, but you might just be the worst we’ve had.

                    7. Heavens, have never thought to liken the Conon Bridge raptor debacle to the Norwegian tragedy. I think we might leave that there.

                    8. Is that because you don’t want to, or can’t answer the questions? Not surprised by your decision, because the “sport” shooters generally tend to act in the same manner – spread lie after lie, and never answer the questions.

                      As you well know, the intention was not to compare Conon Bridge with the Norwegian massacre, as it was clearly intended to show what mankind is capable of when hatred and determination set in, but you just keep on apologising for criminal behaviour, and spreading your proven lies and misinformation, and we’ll keep on destroying your propagandist nonsense.

                    9. Marco you have taken everything I say literally eg hoover incident. I find your tone of conversation quite offensive and in no way constructive, how you think that you will help move things forward in a progressive manner I have no idea. You view my opinion as blinkered and seem to have a belief that all I want to do is kill everything which is entirely incorrect. My belief is that, due to human intervention for so many years, if we do not have some level of intervention in certain situations then we WILL lose iconic species. Believing that the prey and predator balance will sort itself out is your opinion, to which you are entitled. I just happen to think from viewing life at first hand and not just reading about it (and I am not inferring that you are) that if we just leave it to sort itself out there will be a boom and bust, which may be entirely natural but will result in catastrophic failures for certain species. Land management I think is inevitable and rewilding impractical for Scotland. All my own humble opinions, but there we are. I shall agree to differ. Have a good day.

                    10. “Marco you have taken everything I say literally eg hoover incident.”

                      No, you’re wrong. Your comment was “a field full of corvids hovering up the eggs and chicks”. This was a gross exaggeration (some would refer to it as a blatant lie) on your part, and all I did was highlight that very fact. If you are referring to the brand name/vacuum cleaner comment of mine, that was tongue in cheek. You appear to have taken it all literally.

                      “I find your tone of conversation quite offensive and in no way constructive, how you think that you will help move things forward in a progressive manner I have no idea.”

                      Ah, I was wondering when that one would be given an airing. This particular response, tends to come once the commenter has realised that they cannot provide sensible answers to a host of questions that have been put to them. Good try! But I do note that very cheap shot, hinting that the reasons there has not been any progress, is down to people like me, the very sector of society that takes a stance against the widespread, illegal persecution that is being carried out by the shooting industry and its representatives. No, Jenny, the true reason why there hasn’t been any progressive change, is that the shooting industry refuses to make any changes to the way they “manage” the land, their refusal to act within the law, and the ongoing denials that persecution is a problem. When people like you (and there are many like you), that repeatedly deny that persecution has occurred, or make up some fanciful reasons for mass slaughters, then it is patently clear that there is no chance that your industry will ever change. The entire blame lies with your side, not ours.

                      Furthermore, if you had bothered to read my comments, and respond in a sensible manner, you would have realised that, despite hating the very idea of “sport” shooting, I was able to offer a form of compromise that could see both sides getting what they want, and the estates actually increasing their annual revenue. Can you honestly say that you have offered anything progressive? I can’t. All you seem to have done in your capacity as a persecution denier, is offer lie after lie, with a side helping of misinformation thrown in for free.

                      “You view my opinion as blinkered”

                      Yes, certainly in relation to the Conon Bridge massacre. You still didn’t answer my question regarding your belief that the birds were planted. I’ll ask again. Who do you think put the birds there?

                      “and seem to have a belief that all I want to do is kill everything which is entirely incorrect.”

                      Oh dear, another deliberate lie, Please point me to the paragraph, sentence, or phrase, were I suggested such a thing. However, you did make the following statement, and have endlessly repeated other such comments, so you do have a desire to have many things killed;
                      “Certainly in this area predator control has helped valuable wader breeding grounds and numerous black grouse leks. I don’t think there is any point in managing habitats without it.”

                      “My belief is that, due to human intervention for so many years, if we do not have some level of intervention in certain situations then we WILL lose iconic species.”

                      Aye, but in your mind, there are only a few species that you are interested in. I did put it to you a few nights ago, that the Hen Harrier, a red-listed species, suffers terribly because of land management techniques used for a far more abundant species, namely the Red Grouse. You have managed to evade that point for 48 hours now, so would you care to offer your views on that. Surely, if you believe that everything possible should be done to aid our iconic red-listed species, then you should be campaigning against driven grouse shooting? Are you actively doing so, or are you just a hypocrite?

            2. ‘I don’t think there is any point in managing habitats without it.’
              Shotguns have been around for what, three hundred years?
              Before that there was quite a bit of time, millions of years in fact, when habitats did quite well.
              Species seem to have managed quite well without the shotgun too.
              Can’t imagine how.
              How on earth do species manage without being shot. It is one of the world’s great mysteries.

              1. Not quite sure what you are getting at with the shotgun reference. It is quite obvious from daily observation that eggs and chicks are predated. I am sure that in an ideal world everything would live in sweet harmony but given the number of waders on the red list I’m guessing that it doesn’t work in practice. My comment regarding habitat management refers to a frustration from those who follow a grazing regime to protect waders that are attracted to ideal nesting and feeding areas only to watch the chicks and eggs get picked off. Would go so far as to say that’s a waste of public money without associated predator management.

            3. Sounds like you live in a fairly unique part of the country, Jenny, with valuable wader breeding grounds and “numerous” black grouse leks – an ornithological paradise! Can you give us a hint as to where this is? If as you say this has been a product of predator control, this begs an interesting scientific question. Why does the same rarely apply in other parts of the country, where grouse moors are losing their breeding waders and blackcock leks despite ruthless persecution of predators, not just foxes but anything with sharp teeth or a hooked beak? Some research to establish the factors involved could provide very interesting results.

              1. I am lucky to live in an area of superb bird life on south side of Loch Ness. There is a mix of marginal farmland on the edge of moorland and really good Curlew habitat around Loch Mhor. Much of it now managed with grazing regimes to benefit waders for a number of years now, in fact 18,800 ha of moorland management, 362 ha of grassland managed for waders, 22 ha of mown grassland managed for wildlife, 196 ha of habitat mosaic managed some for waders and some as black grouse habitat on fringe woodland areas. There are 16 black grouse leks in this same area. Predator control has certainly played an important part in their success.

                  1. Under AECS, there is only one raptor orientated management option and that is grassland management for hen harriers, this is targeted at Orkney only. To score points for benefiting hen harrier the scheme has to have one of the following:
                    Hen Harrier Grassland Management (Orkney only)
                    Moorland Management (Common option)
                    Wetland Management
                    Predator Control
                    Tall-herb Vegetation Management
                    Heath Management
                    Species-rich Grassland Management (Common option)
                    Wader and Wildlife Mown Grassland (not usually an option chosen here as improved grassland parks required at lambing time)

                    So national priority points are scored in this area for management to benefit hen harrier and there are hen harrier breeding in this area. The plans tend to be orientated towards wader and black grouse habitat as that is where collaborative management between different applicants has had greatest impact. That is the nature of the Scottish Government application process, it doesn’t mean there is no management also benefiting the hen harrier. I have done plans in Sutherland where the focus has been on hen harrier as it involved land within a site designated for said species.

                    1. It’s high time we did away with resorting to “predator control” as any sort of priority management method, not only because it hides a multitude of sins, but also because it is ethically questionable, and confuses the general public, among others. I’m sure most of us associate it with gamekeepers’ philosophy (sic), and do we really want to emulate their restricted way of thinking? Unfortunately, in my opinion, it is also associated with the “difficult decision” brigade within conservation, some of whom give the impression that being willing to participate in or promote culls (far too many these days) is somehow good for their image (and subsequent careers), particularly in terms of machismo or avoiding sentimentality. Peer pressure is largely responsible. Even when I was at university in the 1970s, it was considered ‘uncool’ to show anything resembling sentimentality, from the first day in biology when we ‘pithed’ our live frogs, one for each of us. I fear that this posturing position is still with us in this so-called modern world, whereas men in particular showing open sensitivity are regarded as the norm nowadays throughout most of society. To be quite frank, raptor enthusiasts have a bit of a reputation for this attitude among more generalist ornithologists and birdwatchers, as well as being secretive and exclusive. Personally, I’m quite unashamed to be a champion of ‘animal rights,’ and believe in the principle of equal rights for predators. It seems hypocritical to criticise gamekeepers for killing Hen Harriers and other raptors, if we’re quite happy to ignore the persecution of foxes, crows and other flesh-eating species. I suggest we need to think more carefully about placing value judgements on species other than our own.

                    2. I assume you would like a natural predator prey balance to return, but how would that happen without the risk of losing currently fragile populations? I can’t quite see how that happens in practice. Thanks.

        2. Jenny in my opinion you are speaking utter garbage. The eagle is missing and missing over a grouse moor. Along with untold others that have gone that way. Ian Thomson from the RSPB has just confirmed that none of his staff had balaclavas on. Please make sure you are informed before writing such nonsense.

  11. I find it quite depressing that in both Scotland and England, the organised criminals are able to be so brazen in their attitude and have so many well connected supporters. I just want the criminality to stop, and realise that I, and others of like mind, are totally unable as yet to make a difference.
    Aware of the reputation of this estate over the years, but knowing that they are able to claim with justification that they are innocent of any crime, I have visited it with my long lens and a gopro for recording anything I see and any interaction, but realise that I am more likely to win the lottery than be able to make a difference, and cannot do this often as I have many other interests.
    The high frequency of satellite tagged raptors ceasing signals at estates from Sandringham to North Glanbuchat and beyond is suspicious to anyone with an open mind and unwilling to assist organised criminals.
    A group of people who are unwilling to change from using lead ammunition, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence over a period from as long as grouse shooting has taken place, knowing that they and their families are subject to an insidious poison, are unlikely to change their attitude to raptors or mammals such as pine martens any time soon.
    I realise that I cannot make a difference by my actions until recently, but really believe that satellite tagging will eventually prove to be the solution, as more publicity is gained. Supporting BAWC and the RSPB financially is the ordinary persons way forward. Please ignore the strange combination of NE and HOT whose first interest is clearly not in protecting birds despite good people working there. While it does concern me that the scientific knowledge gained is not the only aim, less birds will be killed if every raptor possible is tagged as the criminals will be more likely to look for a tag on a raptor before shooting, leading more without tags to escape the gun.
    As an excellent example of the success tags can have please note the publicity in this case where we do not even know that a raptor has been killed but North Glenbuchat is as happy to splash cash on Media House to show their outrage as an estate would be to lay out funds to QCs to support a keeper on trial, to the extent of multiples of his annual salary no doubt.
    The excellent work by RPUK and the contributions by angered people such as myself to BAWC and RSPB will eventually pay dividends. More fundraising campaigns will be needed with the objectives clearly stated, and reminders need to be given to politicians who are not yet as ready to act as we are, despite compelling evidence.

  12. Ian Thomson (Head of RSPB Investigations Scotland) has just tweeted the following:

    @Ian_M_Thomson: Regarding missing eagle #338, Police Scotland has provided clarification to @PAWScotland partners that have contacted them that @RSPBScotland staff assisting them on a search in Glenbuchat last week did NOT have covered faces. We look forward to @PAWScotland partners disseminating this information to their memberships.

  13. As a result of Ian Thomson’s update, which has, once again, proven beyond doubt that the shooting industry and it’s criminal apologist spokespeople are incapable of telling the truth, I wonder if there will be public apologies issued from Bert Burnett, or any of his sycophantic followers?

    1. Not a chance of that happening, Paul. Instead of apologising for lying, they are now accusing Police Scotland of making it all up!

      1. Now that’s cheered me up Marco!…love to see the raptor killers falling out with the polis, a really, really stupid thing to do….

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