Earlier this year a peer-reviewed scientific paper was published in the journal British Birds, documenting the long-term decline of merlins on four driven grouse moors in the Lammermuirs, south east Scotland (see here).
In that paper the authors, all members of the Lothian & Borders Raptor Study Group, detailed the results of their 30-year study of merlins, brought to an abrupt halt at the end of the 2014 breeding season after several estate owners refused vehicular access for nest site monitoring.
The authors concluded that illegal persecution was NOT a contributory factor in the decline of the merlin population in this area, but suggested that the intensification of grouse moor management, particuarly an increase in heather burning, had probably had a detrimental impact.
This month the authors have another paper published, this time in the journal Scottish Birds:
This paper discusses many of the scientific results from their earlier paper, but is written in more of a commentary style and includes more information about the changes they observed during this long-term study.
This poignant paper is well worth a read: Where have all the Merlins gone