Satellite-tagged sea eagle ‘disappears’ on Invercauld Estate in Cairngorms National Park

A satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle has ‘disappeared’ on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park.

Apparently its last tag signal came from a roost wood close to the River Dee, near to Braemar, on Saturday.

[Map showing Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park. Estate boundary sourced from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website]

There are scant details at the moment, other than an article published on the BBC news website (here) where the reader is told that Invercauld Estate (intensively-managed for driven grouse shooting) is ‘committed to conservation’, and that its gamekeepers were ‘working hard’ to find the missing eagle ‘in case there has been a technical malfunction of the tag and the eagle returns to roost again’.

Interestingly, there hasn’t been any press statement from the RSPB or Police Scotland, so we don’t know whether a police-led search has already taken place or whether any other investigative leads are/were being followed. It looks very much like Invercauld Estate has jumped the gun on this news, issuing its own press release in what appears to be a damage-limitation exercise. If that’s the case, it would be a clear breach of the Partnership for Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland media protocol.

Funnily enough, a similar thing happened a couple of weeks ago following the suspicious disappearance of another sat-tagged sea eagle (Blue X) in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire, when the Scottish Gamekeepers Association published a press statement while the police search was still underway – again, a clear breach of the PAW Scotland protocol.

What the estate / BBC article didn’t mention was how the disappearance of this latest satellite-tagged eagle fits the pattern of 45+ other cases where satellite-tagged eagles have disappeared in suspicious circumstances on or close to a driven grouse moor, and in areas where other raptor persecution incidents have been recorded, as reported in the Scottish Goverment’s Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review published last year:

We’ve blogged about Invercauld Estate and the wider area of Deeside many times before –

There was the discovery of an illegally shot peregrine at the Pass of Ballater in 2011, the reported coordinated hunt and subsequent shooting of an adult hen harrier at Glen Gairn on the border of Invercauld and Dinnet Estates in 2013, and then there were the illegally-set traps that were found nr Geallaig Hill on Invercauld Estate in 2016, which resulted in ‘secret action‘ being taken against a gamekeeper but no prosecution followed, and nor has SNH imposed a General Licence restriction for this incident (and SNH has refused to discuss its decision saying ‘it’s not in the public interest‘ to tell us). Last year satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ disappeared in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in this area (here), although it’s not clear whether this was on Invercauld Estate or neighbouring Dinnet Estate.

This part of the Cairngorms National Park is identified as a wildlife crime hotspot, but not to worry, the Scottish Government has it in hand. It recently launched a pilot scheme deploying five police special constables (i.e. part-time volunteers) in the Cairngorms National Park, tasked with addressing wildlife crime (see here). What a joke.

Illegal raptor persecution is out of control and the Scottish Government needs to act, now. No more procrastination, no more excuses, no more chances.

We’ll be blogging more about the missing white-tailed eagle later today when more details become available.

UPDATE 16.30hrs: RSPB Scotland statement:

UPDATE 12 May 2018: Article in The National: ‘Gamekeepers and RSPB at loggerheads over sea eagle’s disappearance’ (here)

UPDATE 15 May 2018: Missing sea eagle Blue T: statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority (here)

47 thoughts on “Satellite-tagged sea eagle ‘disappears’ on Invercauld Estate in Cairngorms National Park”

  1. This does appear to be a change in strategy as far as DGM damage limitation strategies go. It’s most probably based on the idea that people form their opinions on “first impressions” and they hope that by stating that land managers and gamekeepers are out searching for the eagle the public thus take a positive view on their role. They seem to have simply ignored the protocols that are in place to stop this sort of manipulation. If they were truly seeking the truth they would play by the same rules as others bound by these guidelines but by now a realisation has arrived that they are losing the battle in the public mind, and, habitually they once more try to unfairly influence public opinion. The sad part is that other “partners” stand idly by and withhold comment on these tactics, including those who should know better.

    However I truly beleive tdhat the end is nigh for [the industry] as one things they can never do in in todays world is to suppress the reality of what is occurring on our uplands and the evidence which will one day place [the industry] in the dock.

    1. The difference is that the landowner would know, potentially weeks in advance, before the news of any casualty or missing bird normally becomes public. The difference here appears to be they’ve recognised that they’re always going to be in a position to make the first influential statements if they choose to. Why would they do that when it’s clear it lessens the chances of catching the perpetrator if it’s later proved there’s been criminality. In the early stages any clear minded individual would allow an investigation to proceed unhindered. If you were to be cynical about it – no-one would invite early publicity unless they were absolutely certain that there was no chance of finding evidence. The only way anyone can guarantee that there’s no evidence to be found is to already have found and disposed of it.

      Is this a case of the landowner being informed by the police as soon as they have been informed the signal has been lost but before any search is conducted. The protocol should surely be followed meticulously and any variance from that should require the details and timelines be made public.

      All very well for gamekeepers reported to be out looking for the missing bird in the interests of conservation. If they really wanted to win over the public they would have an immediate assisted search with police and / or RSPB in attendance.

    2. I fully agree with your conclusion. The more that ordinary, law abiding, folk become aware of what is going on in the uplands of our country, and the illegality involved, the sooner this appalling industry will be brought to book.

      We are getting there. There is more and more high profile reporting of the issues in the mainstream press and TV. People who sit on public bodies must be acutely aware that they can no longer ignore the view of the general public. We all have a vote.

      This website, by concentrating so professionally on the facts, is a key influencer. Well done and keep it up.

      One last thing. With the amount of typos George, have you ever thought of getting a job at the Guardian!



    3. No surprise a certain ‘toxic*’ PR company had been noted as involved with the land industry

      *Toxic being the nickname of it’s founder

  2. Without jumping the gun, it DOES seem a little strange, doesn’t it? There’s been another odd disappearance, too – Bert Burnett is no longer on Facebook. Too busy out looking for eagles, I assume.

    1. Maybe he blocked you Andy as a friend tells me that he can access the page… unlike myself whom he blocked a long time back.

  3. I guess we will be given the same old excuses by supporters of driven grouse shooting; there is no proof, raptors benefit from moorland management, we are the real conservationists etc. etc. I agree that enough is enough. Licence it or stop it.

    1. It is a lot more likely to be burried in a deep hole with it’s sat tag and lead shot, so that it is never found.

  4. Why don’t the police threaten to start removing gun licences from gamekeepers in the areas where BOPs go missing? There is no “right” to ownership of a gun, and it is clear that without them there would be much less persecution. Licensing of guns is a civil issue and they can be revoked by the police because the person or persons are of an “intemperate manner”. Anybody know any civil and temperate gamekeepers? Surely the threat “if birds keep going missing we will remove your guns” would make some of them think twice?

  5. Agree they are up to all the PR dodges – gamekeepers out looking for them – financial rewards for information (which they know fine they will never have to pay up on because , well we all why !)
    Do we have any update on the Glen Quaich bird yet ? it seems to have gone very quiet.
    Can some one put me right here ,are they killing the bird and destroying or burying the tag , and if this is the case do we not have to rethink the approach ?

  6. Just seen the RSPB update written by Ian Thomson, thank god for Ian, what a really good job he made of cutting through the crap! He can’t be wrong about this threatening the expansion of the East coast reintroduction/population, it can’t possibly sustain this level of loss. Is this beginning to look like a Black Isle red kite situation?

    1. It will be interesting in due course (hopefully sooner rather than later) to see a review of the East Coast Sea Eagle project. My impression is of failed breeding attempts in grouse areas, the disappearance of established pairs within the wider grouse moor orbit and of sat tagged subadults on grouse moors. The survivors seem to be the birds which made their way to the west coast and no doubt some comparison will be made between the two coasts which could mirror the kite comparisons between the Black isle and the English midlands. It looks rather like the whole east coast effort and expenditure could be a failure and we know who will be responsible.

  7. Complete joke, the protocol is more about damage limitation to those with vested interests that any real investigation and actually catching those that may be responsible.

    As for gamekeepers leading the search……has the world really gone mad.

    The reality is there is no real partnership working.

    What a disgraceful situation

  8. Some thoughts on this news.
    About the estate: brazen, ignoring protocol, does not care what the public think as long as they can control the information.
    About who the landowners have in their pockets to assist in what they see as a public relations issue:
    BBC (no update from RSPB I notice), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Crown Office, Crown Office procurator fiscal service, perhaps the police (but let’s face it, it beggars belief to think that the estate did not know on Saturday) , as many Tory MPs as they need to roll out, the list is almost endless.

    1. It is unfoubtrdly the case that what the public hears about this case is being controlled by the media, and by extension, the estate. My friend Google can find many references to the report by the estate in Scottish papers and fieldsports. I can find nowhere a reference to the breaking of the PAW protocol or the statement by the RSPB.
      The attitude of the BBC in particular amazes me.
      I am in remote Spain at the moment, with raptors in view almost every moment. Yesterday I saw a farmer carrying a dead lamb from a field. They are still being born here. Raptors are quite safe here,with cafe/bats often having identification charts and no fences littered with corvid corpses as in the recent past in Scotland.
      The attitude of the media to Ravens bears a remarkable similarity to the vanishing Scottish raptors.
      The BBC hatred for Ravens, ignoring scientific evidence, would have us believe that in Scotland we would have no lambs in the countryside if we don’t kill all Ravens.
      Thank goodness for this website.
      Or perhaps you have made it all up, and the truth is in the morning papers and the BBC…..
      Perhaps all readers of this blog should be required to go for re-education.

  9. I look forward to a platitudinous response from SNH, saying how much they deplore any persecution of birds of prey but how they are going to do nothing about it. Of course, they might just blame it on ravens.

    1. Sorry but i look forward to silence from SNH. As a fervent supporter of the estates it does no good to even mention it.

  10. I walk the hills and glens of Scotland, not only for the great scenery,but for the wild life as well and am sorry so say I have seen less and less of wild life apart from Deer, Pheasant,Grouse etc Some areas are void of any wild life, why is that ? Because any animal that moves in that area,apart from the aforementioned, are tracked down and ” put down ” by what ever means necessary and in most cases illegally. And what gets done about ? In most cases SFA because the Scottish Judicial system is a joke.
    I think Simon Tucker has a point about banning ” firearms ” in the worst areas of Raptor persecution after all why are so called ” Gamekeepers ” allowed to walk the land with a loaded shotgun.Are they protecting themselves from the odd Wolf or Bear they may cross their path ( no because they were wiped out years ago ) So could someone from the shooting community explain to me why they are allowed to carry loaded shotguns ? ( please don’t reply ” because they can ” that would just be childish )
    Am also of the opinion that in the Cairncorms area it is a small group of individuals who are killing our natural heritage. Maybe some are gamekeepers but I don’t believe there all gamekeepers, there are quite a few rural NED’s is this area and I would imagine that the best way to supplement your ” income ” is to be in the pocket of the local land manager or gamekeepers.After all when your out and about on the hillside or in a forest there ain’t no coppers about to check up what your doing or ” smoking ” for that matter( allegedly)
    Sadly another animal ( a beautiful Sea Eagle ) may have been illegally killed by some perverted individual/ individuals who have a hatred for Rapotors ( then you need to see a Doctor) or it is done to protect the ” income ” of the Independent Estates of Scotland i.e. Game Shooting. And what about the individuals who pay to go on a ” shoot” knowing wild life is illegally killed so they can take to the hills to blast birds out of the sky and be ” pampered ” for the day ( again, you should see a Doctor) If these individuals or groups of individuals( Iv’e noticed that most of them are from ” overseas ” ) stopped or were made to stop taking part in shoots would this put a stop to our wild life being illegally killed ? I for one would like to think so, but then again you’ve still got the idiot/ idiots from the Conon Bridge incident still on the loose.

  11. At this stage the odds of any BOP flying unmolested by criminals from one end of a grouse moor to another on any given day is about 50/50

  12. Perhaps what is needed is a bona fide sympathetic investigative journalist to do a programme..panorama or something, with help from RPUK and others. Would the BBC buy it I wonder.

    1. I think there’s been a massive need to do something like this for ages, not just what’s clearly happening to raptors (and probably wildcats, pine martens, otters and badgers too) but the extraordinary lengths the estates are going to cover this up, smear their opponents etc. Bogus ‘conservation’ organisations trying to legitimize ‘controlling’ birds of prey, police officers with shooting interests putting themselves forward to be WCOs, Simon Barnes being kicked off the Times and of course the pro DGS coverage from newspapers with editors/owners that have grouse moors, fifth columnists and spying on their opponents etc, etc etc. Is this any less extreme and nasty than what tobacco companies have done? The full implications of this are phenomenal – it means great swathes of our country have their recreational, educational, ecological value seriously suppressed and with it the rural economy and job creation – if you do DGS then there’s not much else you can do and forget about full scale eco tourism or tree planting/beavers to alleviate flooding downstream for starters. Most people have absolutely no idea how much their own country and thereby their own lives have been seriously compromised by having vast swathes of upland given over to a ridiculous hobby that really needs to be treated as a nasty obsession/addiction. That mainstream media hasn’t already looked into this is a scandal, it certainly isn’t working in the public interest.

  13. C’mon SNP they are laughing at you get your finger out and do something instead of one commitee after another, If it was’nt for raptor groups,raptor lovers, and. wildlife lovers and this gutsy website creating a fuss there would be no Raptors in Scotland and what a sad thought that is. it’s time to act and act now”…………..

  14. I thought estates stayed silent in these situations, xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx Has there been a change of ownership or personnel on the estate thst might be behind the change in approach?

    Also, could someone provide a link to the protocol that has allegedly been broken on this occasion?

  15. same thought as expressed in an earlier post – How did the estate know that the transmitter had stopped? working? Surely they do not have access to the data comes from the transmitter?

    1. [Ed: Thanks, Bill. You probably didn’t intend it to be but that comment was borderline libellous so we’ve not published it]

      1. To the Editor, I’m surprised by your note, that my comment, “was borderline libellous”. It is your blog, so the decision to publish or not is for you to make.

        My interest in natural history is a thing of my retirement. My working life was in television broadcasting, in the UK and abroad. (There is an entry in Wikipedia.) I have worked with the law, for forty years.

        In common speech, we all use the term libel. However, in Law, it is an English term, with no standing in Scottish Law. The nearest we have is Defamation. A fundamental difference, between the two is, that if I am accused in England of libelling someone, I have to persuade the jury, that what I said was correct. In Scotland, if I am accused of defamation, my accuser must persuade a jury, that I was wrong. That is generally regarded, as a much more difficult job, with the result, that defamation cases in Scotland are rare.

        Besides, I did not name anyone, so a plaintiff would have to start by trying to persuading the jury that I meant, they had done something, when I had not named them. That would be a fool’s errand.

        Thirdly, I did not say anything had been done. I did humorously ask your followers, try to imagine certain events. However, you and many others, both imply and state that such events take place on many, if not every Scottish grouse moor. So, as I say, I am surprised.

        And by the way, there are three comments on this very Blog, which are dodgy, but both the BBC and Invercauld have more to do, than to sue for Defamation. Which tells you, you really can defame people and live to tell the tale.

  16. Have emailed BBC via there contact us button on the website and then selected contact us. This can be found at the bottom of any online story.

    There is an option for factual or grammatical issues with on line stories.

    I have respectfully suggested that they have a look at this page on RPUK in order to get the wider context of the issue. If we are concerned about the lack of balance or accuracy of stories on their website I suggest this is a route to use.

  17. Once again it would appear that the killer and the criminal co-conspirators have got away with it. Meanwhile the National Parks part time pretend cops are litter picking, whilst the professionals of the SSPCA are conveniently kept in check in case they should ruffle the feathers of the landowning fraternity. The establishment looks after its self, whether Westminster or Holyrood.

  18. One of our Taiga Bean Geese died recently in Dalarna County Sweden. The data from its collar tag continued to send out information on its location and enabled us to recover it from what was left of the bird (a few feathers) death was due to natural predation. The tag signal continues to send out information even although it is now many miles to the north east at Imea on the baltic coast.

    It proves to me that a bird with a GPS type collar/or similar even although dead and not interfered with will continue to let you know where it is.

    Birds that suddenly disappear can only mean one thing and that is the hand of ‘man’ has interfered with it.

  19. It’s quite incredible that the BBC report what is in essence a “rapid rebuttal” PR exercise, without any proper critical analysis of the PR exercise which was spoonfed to them?

    The article states “Shooting estates are often blamed for bird of prey disappearances”, and then allows the estate to give all sorts of justifications, which imply that this blaming of shooting estates is false. There was no balanced response to these points. The term “blamed” implied that this blame maybe baseless. Yet this is a massive body of evidence of dead illegally killed raptors, traps, poisoned baits, videos, and convicted employees of these estates, which say that this is not just blame, but something backed up by massive evidence.

    The photographer who took the photographs in the article specialises in “Fieldsports”. No allegation of impropriety is alleged against the photographer, but the estate appears to have rapidly employed a photographer to take staged photographs for what is a PR puff piece.

  20. With the advent of satellite-tagging, it’s becoming more and more difficult for the shooting community to simply deny that there’s a problem as they did previously. Their only long-term option is now faux concern and spin with the latter being hugely helped by their friends in the press, a timorous BBC and a lack of interest elsewhere in the media.

  21. For a number of years now, I’ve made my position on the antics of the BBC very clear, but just to assure all of those that have complained, or are considering lodging any complaints, you have already wasted your time and effort, or are about to.

    This corrupt organisation will, at best, palm you off with a “promise” that they will try not to act in such a manner in future, but more than likely, they will consider that their approach was fair, followed strict guidelines and procedures, and no further action need be taken.

    The BBC is a morally bankrupt propaganda arm of the Conservative Party and UK government, and its televised output on country issues is heavily biased towards farming and hunting/shooting. Just watch any episode of Landward or Countryfile for a brief taste of ingrained propaganda and bias.

    Considering that raptor persecution is an ongoing thing, and occurs regularly throughout the UK, how often do these “countryside” programmes highlight these widespread crimes? Not very often, and when these programmes do decide to cover it, they will ensure that the shooting industry is represented.

    Consider that approach, then watch how often they present gamekeepers and farmers as the “countryside guardians”, but never with an alternative viewpoint highlighting the criminality or environmental destruction carried out by these industries.

    And then there is the persistent illegalities connected to foxhunting, not only with the illegal hunting of foxes itself, but of the numerous accounts of trespass, or vicious assaults on hunt saboteurs and legal hunt monitors. When the BBC decides to cover this, they invariably portray the incidents as rare and isolated, and at the same time some mention will be made of hunt saboteurs breaking the law, just to “balance” the report.

    The fact is, that the BBC could easily have a half-hour Watchdog-type programme run on a weekly basis, dedicated to the serious crimes carried out by the “Guardians of the Countryside” and their supporters, but choose not to.

    Ask yourself why.

  22. This is an update to give details of the complaint I sent to BBC about their article. I received their response today.
    My first complaint:
    BBC reporters and researchers will have been well aware of the following:
    a) Invercauld Estate has a long history of persecution of schedule 1 species.
    b) The press release issued on behalf of the estate was in contravention of the protocol agreed by all parties to the Scottish partnership against wildlife crime.
    c) That bodies such as the RSPB would be aghast at the press release and would issue statements deploring the release. The RSPB issued a release that day, but it was not mentioned in the article or any subsequent article by the BBC.
    d) Bodies such as the RSPB should have been consulted before the article was printed.
    e) It is likely that the perpetrator was an employee of Invercauld estate.
    f) The Press release was intended to stifle and suppress any subsequent police statement. It appears to me that the BBC is happy with the article as it stands, as no subsequent edit has taken place.

    My second complaint after the BBC updated the story in somewhat bland terms with quotes from the National including statements from Ian Thomson and Grant Moir:
    I received a holding response to the original complaint. I note that changes have been made to the original article. In my complaint I listed 6 items which showed bias by the BBC. The changed article unbelievably did not satisfactorily deal with any of the 6 items. The bias is still abundantly evident in the altered article. Why has someone with even a minimum of knowledge reviewed this?

    The response I received today:

    Thank you for getting in touch about this BBC News Online Scotland article: I am sorry it has taken this length of time to reply.
    Your comments, noted under references CAS-4936030-WP5RS3 and CAS-4955812-FLFWSG were passed to the News Online Scotland team.
    They explained that we have reported extensively on issues of raptor persecution in Scotland, and felt this was a valid story to cover. As you note, we have updated the article with comments from RSPB Scotland and the National Park Authority. We do not propose to make any further changes to this story.
    We hope this clarification is useful and thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.

    1. And let that be a valuable lesson for anyone considering complaining to the BBC. This corrupt organisation will deliberately lie, spread malicious information, and regularly use known items of propaganda in its news stories, all in contravention of their “ethical” code of “fairness and impartiality”. Once the initial story has been aired or published, they might make a wee edit here and there, but by the time any amendments are made, the damage has been done.

      It’s a bit like the newsprint industry, where they can regularly scream about outrageous stories on the front page, with the full knowledge that what they are printing is abominable lies, then after they have been caught lying, they get to print a tiny correction the size of a very small postage stamped, tucked away on page 22. However, the only difference between the newsprint industry and the BBC, is that the BBC very rarely admit to any wrongdoing, and hardly ever offer any apologies whatsoever.

      I have tried to advise people that they are wasting time by complaining to the BBC. The best thing to do is stop paying your licence fee. They might send you threatening letters, about non-payment, heavy fines, imprisonment, or that your house is being targeted by “enforcement officers”, with a visit due “any day soon” (I receive mine, without fail, once a month, usually in the first week of the month), but there isn’t much they can do to you, in Scotland anyway. You see, these “officers” have no right to access your home, and the only way they can catch you watching television, is if you grant them access to your home. No access = no evidence!

      Oh aye, despite receiving these threatening letters on a monthly basis, I have yet to see an “officer” at my door. And the reason for that is that they know they have no powers to act, and they rely on the fearmongering used in these menacing letters. Ignore the letters, and ignore their requests for money.

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