Peregrine found poisoned in Pentlands, not far from Fred’s last known location

We were recently informed that a peregrine had been found dead in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh way back in May this year (five months ago). We were also advised that toxicology results had shown it had been poisoned with a banned poison.

[RPUK map: Pentland Hills, just south of the Edinburgh City ByPass]

Given the location, a few miles from where golden eagle Fred had ‘disappeared’ in highly suspicious circumstances in January (see here), we were obviously very interested in this case.

[RPUK map showing golden eagle Fred’s last known fix in the Pentlands in January 2018 and the location of the poisoned peregrine found in May 2018]

We hadn’t seen any media from Police Scotland about this poisoned peregrine – no appeals for information, no warnings to the public about the use of a banned poison in a regional park popular with the visiting public, nothing.

So last week we started asking questions and this morning Police Scotland advised us that the following statement had just been issued:

Police Scotland Official Statement

Police Scotland received a report of a dead peregrine falcon on Thursday 25 May 2018 in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh.

The dead bird was recovered from the Green Cleuch area of the hills in Midlothian.

Detective Constable Andrew Loughlin said: “After extensive inquiries were carried out in collaboration with partner organisations, the bird was found to have been poisoned.

Our investigation has concluded that this appears to have been deliberate as we do not believe that under the circumstances the poison could have been used legitimately.

The investigation has now concluded and no further Police action is being taken at this time.

We take wildlife crime like this very seriously and would urge anyone who has information about crime involving birds of prey to contact Police Scotland on 101 or make a report anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


[Aerial photo of Green Cleugh, at the edge of the grouse moor at Black Hill – photo from Eastside Cottages website]

According to local Raptor Study Group fieldworkers, this peregrine was an adult male and was raising a brood of chicks in the area in May 2018. Three days after his body was found, the adult female and all the chicks had ‘disappeared’.

This case raises a number of questions and we’ll be returning to some of those shortly.

For now though, why the hell wasn’t this case publicised? If we hadn’t chased it up, would it ever have come to light?

This was a banned poison. We don’t know which one because that’s a secret apparently, but we do know it’s one of eight poisons listed on The Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005 which are so dangerous that it’s an offence to even possess the stuff, let alone use it.

And to use it in the Pentland Hills Regional Park – an area that attracts approximately 600,000 visitors a year, including families walking with children and pets. Why weren’t those visitors warned that a banned poison had been used that could have potentially fatal consequences if even touched?

Here’s the poisoned peregrine, right next to the public footpath:

Who knew about this case and who made the decision to keep it quiet?

Was it a politically-motivated decision? We know there is huge sensitivity about illegal raptor persecution in south Scotland just now, with the start of the Government-backed translocation of golden eagles in to the region this year and SNH pretending that “persecution is not an issue” [in south Scotland] (see here).

It clearly bloody is an issue and we’ll be asking several politicians to look in to the handling of this case.

More on this, and other questions, shortly.

UPDATE 10 Oct 2018: Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone speaks out on Pentlands poisoned peregrine (here)

UPDATE 10 Oct 2018: BBC News has picked up on this blog  – Police criticised over bird of prey poisoning in Pentland Hills (here)

UPDATE 10 Oct 2018: Armed criminals running amok in the Pentland Hills nr Edinburgh (here)

UPDATE 11 Oct 2018: Merlin nest shot out in the Pentland Hills (here)

31 thoughts on “Peregrine found poisoned in Pentlands, not far from Fred’s last known location”

  1. For 5 months walkers and their dogs have been risking their lives walking the Pentlands area. There is no excuse for this. The police should have public protection well above their evident but never realised idea that they can solve such crimes without public help.
    On a better note, poisoning incidents in the past years in Scotland have been 10, 2 0 and at least 1. This may have been helped by the allowance of handing over poisons illegally held. Well done the government and the estates that have ceased that method of raptor control, particularly as other incidents reported on the RSPB raptor hub have taken a similar nosedive. I’ll repeat my call for a release of information about the total number of tagged raptors versus missing no trace numbers per year.

  2. Not so “well done” if all that has changed is the method of killing as when using poisons there is no guarantee that the pepetrators will reach and dispose of the corpse before it is found by others. There is also no guarantee that the poisoned bait will not be found or, alternatively, leave a trail of dead corvids, red kites, buzzards ,foxes etc., which might also give the game away. The fall-out from an incident like that would cause them no end of bother in today’s climate. From my point of view, and given the history of the past 64 years since the persecution of all raptors was made illegal, it seems much more likely that more secretive, hi-tech methods of persecution have been developed where there is no chance of the corpses being discovered as they will be taken away by the criminals. However, not all take new schemes onboard immediately as the incidents with Fred and the peregrines illustrate.
    Whether or not persecution has lessened or merely taken a different, less visible direction will require a longer term study to determine the numbers present in each area.
    In the meantime licensing regulation should be introduced for any grouse or pheasant shoot which has the power to shut them down if the civil level of proof exists to connect any to the incident.

    1. The 2017 Scottish wildlife crime report is likely to be published in December. If you look at the RSPB hub numbers for Scotland it appears that the numbers reported may look like they have fallen off a cliff.
      I don’t want to appear like SGA and SLE have over the past number of years.

      Denial is not an option for me.
      I suspect there will be no evidence to support the view you have expressed.

  3. I can see absolutely no reason for the police to have sat on this for 5 months..that is a disgrace…it would not have happened in my time at the RSPB.. We appear to be going backwards as regards effective enforcement of wildlife law. People in possession of and using poisons in the open countryside should be treated as seriously by the police as those with illegal firearms or explosives and similar resources should be used to investigate and bring these dangerous people to justice.

  4. The withholding of this information by the police until now, and then only when it was requested, beggars belief. OK, so this poison is not as lethal as Novichok, but it still presents a significant risk to all at large. It’s high time that all potential persecution cases are publicly reported in order to gather any supporting evidence whilst all is fresh in mind, and to save the public being expeosed to danger.

  5. The investigation has now concluded and no further Police action is being taken at this time. What investigation? What extensive enquiries? What partner organisations were involved? And the result is it wasn’t accidental that someone used a very toxic substance? Well done Inspector Rebus! Sorry that’s an insult to Rebus; he may be retired with no interest in birds but he wouldn’t have walked away from this.

  6. Absolutely astonishing that this crime happen so close in both time & proximity to what most rational people believe was the illegal killing of a Golden Eagle on the edge of the nations capital. There is every chance the same person/organisation was involved in both incidents…….obviously confident they are beyond the reach of the law.
    It is shocking in such a public location that no warnings were immediately put in place when there is a risk of poisoning. Someone or body is covering up.
    If this cover up was to “protect” the eagle releases in southern Scotland it will now have the opposite effect.
    The whole saga stinks. It’s an utter disgrace.

  7. “Our investigation is now concluded and no further Police action is being taken at this time”. Not the usual Police statement, when their usual line is “the case still is under investigation” or something similar. Looks like they want to put this to bed, sweep it under the carpet! Suspicious ? Under who’s direction?!

  8. As someone who occasionally visits the Pentland Hills now and again, this is quite worrying. I know that politicians and people in power care very little for wildlife and environmental concerns, but this reinforces my belief that a government does not care for its people at all unless it is in their best interests.

  9. Police say, inter alia :-
    Our investigation has concluded that this appears to have been deliberate as we do not believe that under the circumstances the poison could have been used legitimately.

    The investigation has now concluded and no further Police action is being taken at this time.

    What a bunch of dodgepots. And what is that damned lot in Holyrood doing other that waving flags and sallying about like whirling dervishes in kilts.

  10. Let’s not forget the Merlin nest that was shot out in the same area.

    Eagle, Merlin and Peregrine in the same area within a very short timescale and all within view of the Scottish Parliament.

    Rosanna Cunningham and her cronies have done precious little to deal with wildlife crime. Turned down the opportunity of increasing sspca powers which would have provided expert specialist enforcement instead chose to appoint half a dozen special constables in the Cairngorm National Park……..!

    What a complete joke and treating the public like idiots

    1. From what I have witnessed and called police about, it has long felt to me that far more raptors than above have been shot or otherwise persecuted in this area, and in fields much closer to the edge of the city. shooters supposedly shooting pigeons who seem to have their eyes elsewhere, and brown and white feathers found in the field after they leave- but this is insufficient evidence. Organised shooting until recently was conducted far closer to housing- even a well known former national newspaper editor shot on at least one occasion one field away from the well used Water of Leith walkway , with the local gamekeeper and members of the local shooting syndicate.

      What can happen at the very edge of a city, within a few hundred yards of a police station,certainly suggests the only option for a supposedly progressive government is to use all their powers to bring an end to the cowardly killing of sentient creatures as a supposed ‘ sport’ .
      Any truly progressive, compassionate country and government would tax grouse moors – with all the wildlife persecution seemingly linked to them-out of existence.The link between cruelty to animals, other creatures, and domestic, child abuse, is undeniable. A country aiming to be ACE’s Aware has to tackle wildlife crime with more than words

      1. Marlins swim in the sea.
        Merlins on the other hand. In mainland Europe Merlins nest in trees; only in tree-barren landscapes commonly found in the uplands of the UK do they favour nests on the ground.

        1. That may be correct as a general rule, but in my part of Scotland where woodland is quite prolific in the uplands, the number of ground-nesting Merlins appears to outnumber the tree nesters, although there is likely to be some bias as the open country nesters are easier to locate. I’d guess it works out approximately 50:50, but more detailed monitoring is required to attain reasonable accuracy.

  11. We’re quite right to complain, and shout loudly, about police inaction on wildlife crimes. However we have to consider this in light of the fact that at least one third of all reported crimes are ‘screened out,’ considered not worthy of investigation due to low national priorities and a severe lack of resources. This fact is not widely recognised by conservationists, given the number of comments complaining of police corruption, friends in high places, and conspiracy theories of varying credibility. Society does not work in isolation, and it seems to me that whether we like it or not, engaging in politics within a democratic system is an essential requirement for changing such matters. In particular, we need to raise public awareness and understanding of wildlife crimes in relation to the elite ‘sport’ of game shooting. Grouse shooting (not just ‘driven’) requires priority attention, particularly when up against the propaganda machine which can be financially supported by its participants and other interested parties. I think most wildlife conservationists would agree that RPUK, (originally Raptor Persecution Scotland), has broken through a barrier of pussy-footing around the problem. Personally I am forever grateful to them for their honesty and integrity. Their investigative acuity has broken new ground in exposing not just cruelty and hypocrisy, but also the blatant, almost unashamed criminality involved in this sordid historical pastime ‘enjoyed’ by the privileged few. However to finish the job, I suggest we need to extend our campaign more widely by engaging more directly with the general public. RPUK cannot do this entirely on their own, but they deserve our utmost respect and support for their ground-breaking, voluntary investigate work.

  12. agree totally Iain immense respect for the courageous and dynamic work of RPUK.
    I should add I was not suggesting the renowned journalist and gamekeeper were on that field just a field away from city council housing for anything but legal reasons .grain butts and built hides sat at various points around these fields beside small areas of bushy woodland cover at the time as game birds were released.
    The gamekeeper told me some time ago that the organised game shooting beside those fields was coming to an end as not enough money was being made- although I hope public pressure played a part too-and that seems to have happened

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: