Species Champion Andy Wightman visits golden eagle satellite-tagging team

Earlier this year Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman took on the role of Golden Eagle Species Champion.

Species Champions are members of the Scottish Parliament who have agreed to lend their political support to the protection of Scottish wildlife, in an award-winning scheme organised by Scottish Environment LINK.

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

As a long-time reader and supporter of this blog, Andy shares our concerns about the on-going threat to golden eagles from illegal persecution in some areas of Scotland. He’s also well aware of the compelling evidence published in the Scottish Government-commissioned review of the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles, which demonstrated that almost one-third (n = 41) of sat-tagged eagles in Scotland have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances, most of them on or close to intensively managed driven grouse moors.

As many of you will know, last year in partnership with Chris Packham we satellite-tagged a shedload of golden eagles as part of a wider collaborative scientific study on the dispersal and land-use of juvenile golden eagles, to help inform conservation planning for this species. One of those eagles, Fred, ‘disappeared’ from the Pentlands in January this year in the same highly suspicious circumstances as the other 41 ‘missing’ eagles (and this grim tally has since increased following the recent suspicious disappearance of golden and white-tailed eagles on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths (here), the Cairngorms National Park (here), and the Strathbraan area of Perthshire (here)).

This year we’ve satellite-tagged more eagles (another shedload) and Andy joined a team of expert licensed fieldworkers from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, who, with support from local landowners, have been visiting nest sites across Scotland.

We anticipate releasing a short film and an interview with Andy in due course.

Meanwhile, here’s one of this year’s satellite-tagged golden eagles. This is ‘Adam’, named by Andy in tribute to Dr Adam Watson, an influential character during Andy’s formative years on the hill!

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

4 thoughts on “Species Champion Andy Wightman visits golden eagle satellite-tagging team”

  1. This is great stuff. Since it’s relevant to this post would like to mention a cracking new book which I picked up at my library yesterday and read in one sitting – ‘Amazing animals, Brilliant science’ by Pete Minting. It’s essentially aimed at older school kids and explains how DNA is being used to help the conservation of various animals in Scotland. One of these is the golden eagle. I am extremely pleased to report that the book doesn’t shy away from mentioning the role persecution has had and is having in driving certain species to local and national extinction. There are references to the mountain hare cull, calls by the SGA to kill pine marten to ‘help’ capercaillie, how satellite tagging is being used to see why eagles are ‘disappearing’, the return of the goshawk is probably being held up by continuing illegal persecution and how the historic killing of the wildcat drove its numbers down to a perilously low level. All of this is done just by stating facts not an animal rights or anti hunting agenda just the conservation one. The most intriguing entry is on page 116 ‘A major landowner visited my stand at the Highland Show in 2014 and proudly announced, on seeing a picture of an adder “we kill hundreds of those on our estate every year!” ‘. The owner and estate aren’t identified but what are the odds it was where driven grouse shooting takes place? Well done Andy!!

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