Conflicting approaches to reintroducing golden eagles to Wales

The prospect of potentially reintroducing golden and white-tailed eagles to Wales has been on the cards for many years.

The most serious effort to examine whether this might be feasible and appropriate is being undertaken by a team of researchers at Cardiff University under the auspices of the Eagle Reintroduction Wales (ERW) Project (view their website here).

The ERW team’s approach to considering an eagle reintroduction is exemplary. It has involved several years of carefully conducting a scoping exercise, to properly consider all the factors that need to be addressed before a reintroduction licence would be granted, e.g. biological and environmental considerations, social and political considerations, and comprehensive risk assessments and an exit strategy.

The project lead is a 2nd year PhD student, Sophie-Lee Williams, who spent her first year researching and mapping the core historical ranges of both species in Wales and is currently habitat mapping and assessing prey availability etc. She has a cracking powerpoint presentation available here from a talk she gave last summer at an environmental management conference. Not only has Sophie-Lee been coordinating the research, but she’s also been busily building a genuine partnership approach, working with Wildlife Trust Wales and the highly experienced raptor reintroduction expert, Roy Dennis. This is exactly how proposed reintroductions should be managed, especially when the species is an apex predator that is likely to be both welcomed and despised in equal measure by different members of the local community.

You might have seen news of the ERW’s work in the media yesterday (e.g. BBC news here and Wales Online here). It was all over the place, and we couldn’t understand what the hook was. There was nothing new to report, other than the research project was ongoing but still a long way from drawing any conclusions, so a news release seemed a bit premature.

But then late last night we received an embargoed press release, via a colleague, about another, different project that was planning on reintroducing golden eagles to Wales. Suddenly it was clear why the ERW team had wanted to talk publicly about their own research in this area, because here comes a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ whose involvement doesn’t appear to include working in partnership with the ERW team.

The new guy on the block is Dr Paul O’Donoghue, who is apparently working under the name of a newly registered Community Interest Community (CIC), ‘Wilder Britain‘ (and see website here) and whose press release made it to publication this morning (e.g. see here). Of course, Dr O’Donoghue isn’t really a ‘new guy’ at all – he’s been around for several years and many will know of him through his connection with Wildcat Haven and the Lynx UK Trust. We don’t intend to comment further on either of those two projects for reasons that should be obvious if you know some of the history (if you don’t know, google it).

We’re not aware of Dr O’Donoghue’s experience or expertise in ornithology or in the field of raptor research and conservation.

Dr O’Donoghue was featured on BBC Breakfast this morning (see here, at various points through the programme – only available until 09.15hrs Weds morning) and again on the BBC’s Countryfile Winter Diaries this morning (see here, starts at 02.17hrs, available for 29 days).

[Screengrab from Countryfile Winter Diaries]

Dr O’Donoghue talked about the need to consider the concerns of local landowners and farmers and the need to undertake research to inform a decision about the feasibility of a successful reintroduction but it was suggested in the programme (by the presenter) that the hope was to have golden eagles back in the wild in Wales by 2020, and in the Wilder Britain press release it was stated that a licence application to release eagles would be submitted this summer.

That sounds particularly premature, and unless Dr O’Donoghue has already completed a lot of the prior scoping research required for such an application, it may well lead to a resounding refusal on similar grounds to those cited by the UK Government when it recently decided to refuse an application for the reintroduction of Lynx to Kielder Forest (see here).

This looks set to become messy.

For the sake of the eagles and a viable long-term future in Wales, let’s hope the ERW team’s efforts have not been in vain.

UPDATE March 2019: More on proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales (here)

UPDATE November 2019: No application lodged to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales (here)

UPDATE March 2020: Andy Wightman successfully defends defamation case (here)

UPDATE June 2020: New paper documents history of eagles in Wales (here)

UPDATE 4 September 2020: Proposed golden eagle reintroduction to Wales: genuine intent or just a publicity stunt? (here)

Raptor satellite tracking workshop beneficial for genuine partnership working

A couple of weeks ago we attended a raptor satellite tracking workshop in Perthshire that was designed to bring together raptor tagging experts and law enforcement officers to help promote a better understanding of how satellite tags work and how the tag data can help the police in the investigation of crimes against birds of prey.

Organised by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), approx 80 invited attendees turned up to share expertise and discuss new opportunities for working together. There were many police officers present, including some of senior rank as well as those on the ground, representatives from the Crown Office, NWCU, SNH, Cairngorms National Park, Raptor Study Group, RSPB Investigations, South Scotland Golden Eagle Project and a number of individual researchers and analysts. Many thanks to SNH for hosting us all at Battleby.

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

The workshop programme was probably quite a challenge to put together because it had to cater for a wide range of experience and expertise; undoubtedly there were some in the room who didn’t know the first thing about raptors or satellite tags and others who didn’t know the first thing about police investigations, and some in the room who knew bits, or a lot, about all three topics. Given the diversity of knowledge, the organisers did a pretty good job putting together an interesting and useful agenda.

Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland) opened proceedings with an introduction to raptors, going through some general identification pointers for the non-birders and explaining which species are most likely to become victims of illegal persecution and on which type of land-use, illustrated with a hotspot map showing where high levels of illegal persecution have been recorded in areas intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.

Charlie Everitt (Scottish Investigative Support Officer, NWCU) went through the various legislation that provides protection to birds of prey in Scotland (on paper, at least), including the European Directives, Wildlife & Countryside Act and the WANE Act, as well as the availability of additional sanctions such as General Licence restrictions.

Des Thompson (SNH) provided a summary of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, which was a bit bizarre given that one of the report’s authors was in the room. Still, Des gave a good overview of what he called “the best scientific report SNH has ever commissioned“, providing the non-expert attendees with the report’s most significant findings.

Dr Ewan Weston (Scottish Raptor Study Group) gave an excellent talk on the various types of satellite tags that are available to researchers, the main differences between the tag types, the pros and cons of using each type, how researchers choose which tag to use depending on the research questions they are trying to answer, transmission intervals, ethical justification and assessment, tag reliability issues and how a technical malfunction can easily be identified from the pattern of tag data.

Ian Thomson’s second talk was an absolute masterclass in how to interpret satellite tag data. He talked about how the data are downloaded from the tag to the researcher, the type of information collected by the tag, what the tag data can and can’t tell us, and what to look for in the data when the tag has suddenly stopped and the raptor has ‘disappeared’. He showed various examples of what the data look like when they are downloaded from the tag and then went through three case studies, showing the actual tag data from three crime cases and how the researchers knew that something was wrong, just by looking at the pattern within the data. You could literally see the expressions of enlightenment on the faces of those unfamiliar with sat tag data interpretation – they now understood how researchers can distinguish a tag that suddenly stops working in suspicious circumstances from a tag that has a genuine technical malfunction. This was probably the most important presentation of the day, to help the police understand the level of detailed data scrutiny that tag operators undertake before raising the alarm about the sudden ‘disappearance’ of a tagged bird.

Brian Etheridge (Scottish Raptor Study Group), one of the most experienced satellite taggers in the country, gave a brilliant talk on the practical aspects of fitting satellite tags to raptors. This was also a real eye-opener for those in the audience who hadn’t previously seen a satellite tag in the hand and there were a number available on the day for attendees to examine.

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

Brian’s talk covered a lot of ground including how the sat tag fitters have to be licensed, the strict regulation and scrutiny involved for every single tagging proposal and subsequent project in the UK, welfare considerations and restrictions, the new tags on the market and how they differ from the old style, how sat tag technology has improved year after year, how researchers decide which chick to tag, and then a demonstration of how the tags are fitted to the bird, making a point to say that ‘granny knots‘ are not used, which raised some smiles in the audience. Brian’s talk resulted in an exciting proposal from a specialist police officer in the audience – for obvious reasons we’re not going to discuss the detail here but what was proposed has the potential to have a significant impact on raptor crime investigations. Good stuff.

Here’s a drawing of a satellite-tagged elk in 1970, used by Brian to illustrate how far sat tag technology has come! [Illustration from the book Wired Wilderness: Technologies of tracking & the making of modern wildlife]

Charlie Everitt’s second talk was interesting – he described the process of a police investigation centred around a ‘missing’ sat tagged raptor and how the tag data can be used to raise sufficient ‘reasonable suspicion’ for police to search for further evidence at the site of the bird’s last known location. He talked about the limitations of current crime recording (i.e. how a ‘missing’ tagged bird can’t be classified as a crime, no matter how suspicious the circumstances, without further evidence. Those killing sat tagged raptors know this very well, which is why these days they destroy the tag and the corpse to avoid prosecution), how the police cannot share with anyone else the sat tag data they’ve been given, as the data are held as ‘a production’ (evidence) and thus subject to strict procedural controls, and the importance of receiving the tag data quickly once the researcher suspects a crime has been committed. Charlie used the case study of golden eagle Fred as an example of how the police could use the tag data to discount any number of ludicrous claims being made by those who sought to deflect attention from the ongoing issue of golden eagle persecution.

After the presentations there was an open discussion between the audience and the speaker panel, with some very interesting questions raised. One of those was why the police/SNH haven’t used the geographic location maps that show clusters of missing sat tagged raptors as supportive evidence to impose a General Licence restriction on certain grouse shooting estates? Good question! We were told that this was an issue currently being assessed (probably because now the police and SNH have a much better understanding of just how rigorous the sat tag data are).

We were also told, by Des Thompson, that “four of the main clusters identified by the Golden Eagle Sat Tag Review were going to be the focus of the Scotland PAW Raptor Group going forward“. We don’t know which four of the six clusters have been targeted for attention, nor what that ‘focus‘ actually means in real terms, but we’ll certainly be asking for progress reports in due course.

[RPUK map showing the main six geographic clusters of ‘missing’ sat tagged golden eagles as identifed by the Golden Eagle Sat Tag Review]

We also learned that SNH, Cairngorms National Park Authority and the BTO were trialling a number of new tags this summer to see whether the precise time and location of a suspiciously missing tag/bird could be identified more quickly from the tag data. If the tags perform well during testing, they expect to roll them out in due course. We look forward to seeing the results.

All in all this was an excellent workshop that provided a real opportunity for genuine partnership working, some of which has already proved fruitful even in the short period since the workshop took place. More of this, please!

Fieldsports Channel blatantly misrepresents Chris Packham’s remarks on Wild Justice

It didn’t take them long.

Following the successful launch yesterday of the new, non-profit organisation, Wild Justice, the gameshooting industry’s lies, spin and blatant fake news has begun.

Check out this ‘article’ on the Fieldsports Channel (here). It opens like this:

It goes on to accuse Wild Justice Director Chris Packham of saying something that he blatantly did not say during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme (13 Feb 2019):

We have listened to this interview several times, just to be sure, and nowhere during it does Chris say ‘he counts everyone in the fieldsports community as a wildlife criminal’. He says nothing of the sort. Not even a hint of it.

Incredibly, the Fieldsports Channel even provides a recording of the interview, which, when you listen to it, proves without doubt that the Fieldsports Channel’s claim is not just a blatant misreprentation of Chris’s comments, but is an outright lie, designed, perhaps, to whip up more animosity from this sector towards Chris.

In case this recording ‘disappears’, here is a transcript of the full interview:

R4 interviewer Anna Hill: The wildlife campaigner and TV presenter Chris Packham has launched a new non-profit company dedicated to bringing prosecutions against public bodies which break wildlife laws. It’s called Wild Justice and will be funded by public donations and crowdfunding. It’ll consider cases in England and Scotland. I asked Chris Packham what sort of cases he thinks it’ll take up.

Chris Packham: Wild Justice has been motivated by the fact that we think that wildlife crime isn’t adequately recognised as crime in the UK. If we rob a bank, if we rob a post office, if we break the speed limit, there’s no ambiguity about the fact that that’s a crime and it’s seen by society as a criminal offence. We will take action against anyone who is ignoring or conducting wildlife crime, and we want to raise the profile of that. There are many instances where we know that foxes are being hunted illegally, there’s no ambiguity about that, we know that there’s hare coursing taking place, and we just want to make sure that these are properly seen as crimes and the law is implemented properly in line with the rest of the law of the land.

Anna Hill: What about things like the badger culling for instance, which is within the law, or persecution of raptors for instance which is sometimes done by individuals rather than public bodies?

Chris Packham: The culling of bafgers is not illegal, that’s not on our agenda. We are interested in crime here and making sure that the crime is punished. And when it comes to the illegal persecution of raptors it doesn’t matter whether it’s groups or individuals, this is a criminal act and unfortunately its very difficult to get these cases in to court and when we do get them in to court, it’s very infrequent that the sentencing is appropriate. If I go in to an art gallery and I slash a John Constable painting, I’ve committed a criminal act and I would be pilloried for that around the world; I’d damaged a national treasure, in fact a global treasure. If a gamekeeper shoots a golden eagle on a grouse moor in Scotland, from my perspective that’s damaging our natural heritage, that’s as much a crime as me slashing a painting, it’s robbing us of our ability to enjoy an aspect of our environment and in the case of the eagle, one which is playing a critical ecological role.

Anna Hill: Litigation is notoriously expensive. What if you get caught up in a long-term legal wrangle and the money runs out?

Chris Packham: Well I’m confident that we will be properly funded for this. There’s an enormous number of people out there who are fed up with wildlife crime not being properly punished and I think that we see this in social media. We’ve seen a couple of crowdfunding initiatives recently run when we’ve had judicial reviews against a raven cull in Scotland and brood meddling with hen harriers in England, and they’ve raised the money very rapidly because people have grave concerns about these sorts of things. I’m confident that we will find an adequate source of money to pursue our objectives and equally that we will raise the profile of these crimes.

Anna Hill: Are you hoping to change legislation, because your literature mentions, and I’ll quote it, “If you’re breaking the law, if the law is weak, if the law is flawed, we are coming for you”. So do you want to change legislation?

Chris Packham: Indeed we do. We’re going to question the legislation that’s in place, see if it’s adequate, see if it’s useable, and if it isn’t adequate and useable and we’re not able to implement it easily enough to prosecute crimes, we’re talking about criminal acts here, then we will ask for changes in that legislation.

Anna Hill: It’s very interesting, earlier this week we ran a piece about hare coursing and the police were saying they couldn’t use the law that exists at the moment to stop hare coursing, they were using other laws in fact. Farmers would thank you, I think, because many of them have been threatened by people who carry out hare coursing illegally. If you could crack that, that would be quite an achievement, wouldn’t it?

Chris Packham: Yes, I’ve been following a number of campaigns that have been run in Lincolnshire looking at hare coursing and the police have shown a very clear association with people who conduct hare coursing with other rural crime, there is a clear link there, so if we can catch peple for hare coursing and we know that’s going to improve life for people in those rural communities, then why not change the law to make that easier to implement? And that’s just the sort of thing that we’re going to be looking at.

ENDS

Chris Packham is used to being wilfully misquoted and misrepresented in the pro-shooting press  – we’ve been blogging about this recently after fake news articles were published by the Telegraph (here) and Shooting Times (here) – all part of a wider and long-running nasty smear campaign to get him sacked from the BBC because he’s vocal about the criminals within the shooting lobby and people listen to him because he has the very thing the shooting lobby lacks – integrity.

We can’t speak for Chris but would guess that were he to be aware of this appalling piece of ‘journalism’ on the Fieldsports Channel he’d probably laugh it off, especially if he reads further down the article and finds them trying to portray members of Scottish Environment LINK as ‘animal rights activists’ and a senior staff member of Ramblers Scotland an ‘anti’ just because she posted some photos of traps on a Scottish grouse moor (see photo below) and questioned such land management techniques (which, incidentally, led to the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association going in to meltdown, beautifully skewered here)

Overwhelmingly, Wild Justice has been received with huge positivity (thank you!) and we’ve already made some really important connections with unexpected supporters and potential collaborators. More on that in the future.

In the meantime, we’ve now instructed our lawyers to press ‘go’ on our first legal challenge and we hope to have some news about that in approx three weeks.

For anyone who missed it, Chris was talking about Wild Justice on Good Morning Britain today which can be watched here for the next seven days (starts at 0:49.09).

 

Wild Justice launches today

Wild Justice, a not-for-profit company set up by TV presenter, photographer and wildlife campaigner Chris Packham CBE, author, blogger and campaigner Dr Mark Avery and blogger, researcher and wildlife campaigner Dr Ruth Tingay is launched today (Wednesday 13 February).

Wild Justice exists to take legal cases on behalf of wildlife against public bodies where they are failing to protect species and/or habitats.

Wild Justice is working with legal teams in England and Scotland. Legal action will be funded by public donations and crowdfunding appeals.

Chris Packham said: “Wild. Justice. Because the wild needs justice more than ever before. The pressures wrought upon our wildlife have reached a crisis point and this is an essential response. The message is clear . . . if you are breaking the law, if the law is weak, if the law is flawed – we are coming for you. Peacefully, democratically and legally. Our simple premise is to work with the laws we’ve got to seek real justice for our wildlife, to reform, refine or renew those laws we have to ensure that justice can be properly realised. Our wildlife has been abused, has been suffering, exploited or destroyed by criminals for too long. Well, no longer. Wild Justice will at last be the voice of those victims and it will be heard . . . and justice will be served“.

Mark Avery said: “Wild Justice will take on public bodies to get a better deal for wildlife. It’s a shame that we have to do this but we have little confidence that statutory bodies are fulfilling their functions properly. We aim to hold their feet to the fire in court. I’m reminded of what the great American environmental campaigner, Ansel Adams said ‘It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment“.

Ruth Tingay said: “I know many people who despair about what’s happening to our wildlife but who also feel powerless to help, typically because access to justice can be prohibitively expensive and a daunting arena. Wild Justice provides an opportunity for ordinary citizens to fight back on behalf of wildlife, collectively helping us to challenge poor decisions or flawed policies that threaten to harm our wildlife. With so many potential cases, the difficulty for us will be to decide which ones to take on first“.

For further info please visit the Wild Justice website here

Follow Wild Justice on twitter (@WildJustice_org)

ENDS

Supt Nick Lyall’s plans to tackle raptor crime unaffected by disruptive ploy

Last month we blogged about how several organisations from the game shooting lobby had ‘boycotted’ a meeting of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) in what looked like an attempt to disrupt the plans of the new Chair, Police Supt Nick Lyall (see here, here, here, here).

For the benefit of those not on social media and who may have missed it, Nick Lyall, keeping to his word about being transparent, has now written a blog about that meeting – you can read it here.

We learned a lot from his blog.

We’d always thought the RPPDG was formed in 2011, but it turns out it was actually established in 2009. So that’s ten years, not eight, of doing absolutely nothing effective to help tackle illegal raptor persecution. Marvellous.

We also learned that that the RPPDG is not the English/Welsh equivalent of the PAW Scotland Raptor Group, as we’ve often described it. The RPPDG is much more formal, and importantly, is accountable. That accountability trail is a bit difficult to follow, mainly because of the convoluted hierarchy of the police force and a bewildering number of acronyms to decipher, but the important bit is that the accountability is there.

Coincidentally, we had an enlightening conversation last week with Chief Inspector Lou Hubble of the National Willdife Crime Unit (NWCU) who also did her best to explain the accountability hierarchy – something to do with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) which replaced the Association of Police Chief Officers (ACPO) and operates through the recently published NPCC Wildlife Crime Policing Strategy with a Tasking & Coordinating Group (TCG) and Priority Delivery Groups (PDG), hence Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG). If that’s inaccurate, blame us, not CI Hubble.

Still following? It’s all a bit dry, and perhaps we’ll invite Lou to write a guest blog to explain it, but she did emphasise that after all these years, this is the first time that the RPPDG can be held to account ‘officially’ and that’s what interests us most.

What else did we learn from Nick’s blog? We noticed the emphasis he’d placed on the word ‘guests‘ when referring to the ‘new’ organisations (Wildlife Trusts, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) whose attendance at the meeting had triggered the orchestrated tantrum from the game shooting lobby. We also noticed that the game shooting lobby’s clear attempt at disruption had no such effect, as Nick chaired his way through an agenda that was full of progressive proposals that look like they’ll happen with or without the feet-stamping representatives of the owl-stamping criminals.

If that wasn’t a clear enough message, his penultimate comment definitely was:

Let me close by saying this, the prevention of the ongoing and relentless persecution of OUR birds of prey has swiftly become a matter of real passion for me. Those that attempt to get in our way will just strengthen my resolve to see it end“.

Excellent stuff. Well done, Nick, you have a lot of people supporting and appreciating your efforts.

Dead pheasants dumped in Cheshire

No surprise, another week and another report of dumped gamebirds.

It’s Cheshire this time, to add to the reports of shot birds dumped in the Scottish borders (here), Norfolk (here), Perthshire (here), Berkshire (here), North York Moors National Park (here) and some more (here), Co. Derry (here), West Yorkshire (here), N Wales (here), mid-Wales (here), Leicestershire (here) and Lincolnshire (here).

[Photo by Finn Wilde]

It seems to be a widespread problem, doesn’t it? That’s hardly a surprise when the game shooting industry is permitted to release as many non-native pheasants and red-legged partidge as it likes (estimated to be at least 50 million EVERY YEAR), with minimal regulation, and no requirement to report on what happens to those birds once they’ve been shot for a bit of a laugh.

And let’s not forget this is the same game shooting industry that is responsible for the vast majority of illegal raptor persecution, done, it says, to protect gamebirds. That’ll be the gamebirds that are shot and then dumped, with no respect for the quarry and no respect for the local residents who’ll have to foot the bill to have the caracasses removed.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph in November 2005 headed ‘Game birds for eating not dumping’, Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance said this:

Every bird shot in Britain goes into the food chain, whether into participants’ freezers, or through game dealers into an increasing number of supermarkets, butchers, pubs and restaurants“.

Hmm.

Here are some more photos showing the location of the dumped pheasants in Cheshire (photos by Findlay Wilde) and Finn has written a blog about the discovery of these sacks of dead birds on his patch, here. Well worth a read – he says the bags were originally wrapped in carpet, presumably to hide the bags’ contents.

 

Obituary: Professor Tom Cade

Tom was like no other. Quite simply, a legend.

Here’s a photo of him addressing the crowd at his 90th birthday celebrations last year (photo by The Peregrine Fund)

Here’s a tribute from his colleagues at The Peregrine Fund in the USA:

In memoriam: Tom J Cade PhD

1928-2019

Founding Chairman

On a spring day in 1980, Dr. Tom Cade climbed into a Peregrine Falcon nest box on top of a release tower in Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Just a couple of years earlier, Tom’s team of biologists and falconers had bred, raised, and released the falcon pair that now raised their own family on this tower. These two birds were part of a nationwide recovery program for the species.

Peregrine Falcon populations had declined drastically in the 1950s and ‘60s due to the widespread use of DDT – a pesticide that interfered with calcium metabolism and caused birds to lay very thin-shelled eggs that would crack during incubation. By 1970, Peregrine Falcons were extinct in the eastern United States and fewer than 40 pairs were estimated to remain in the west. Dr. Cade, an ornithologist and lifelong falconer, was acutely aware of this decline and worked with others across the nation to ban the use of DDT and develop a recovery plan for our nation’s fastest animal.

Tom marked one of the proudest moments of his career atop that tower in the spring of 1980. That’s when he discovered three young nestlings—some of the first Peregrine chicks produced in the wild in eastern North America since the 1950s. Looking back on the day, Tom recalled, “I then understood that recovery of the Peregrine would be an accomplished fact in a few more years.”

He was right. In August of 1999, Tom stood on stage with then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to officially declare that the Peregrine Falcon was recovered in North America and had been removed from the Endangered Species List. To this day, it’s considered among the greatest conservation success stories of all time – Tom would refer to it as an effort of “teamwork and tenacity.”

In saving the Peregrine, Tom co-founded a non-profit conservation organization to effectively manage the financial support being offered by the public. Called The Peregrine Fund, this organization grew to become much more than he originally envisioned, and over the past five decades has worked with more than 100 species in 65 countries worldwide. Many species such as the Mauritius Kestrel, Northern Aplomado Falcon, several species of Asian Vultures, California Condor, and more are thriving today because of work The Peregrine Fund and its many partners have undertaken.

Dr. Tom Cade passed away today at age 91 years.

The world of wildlife conservation has lost a pioneer and champion today,” said The Peregrine Fund’s President and CEO, Dr. Rick Watson. “Tom fought for Peregrines and practical conservation solutions, and mentored generations of passionate individuals. His reach extended around the globe to inspire raptor research and conservation on virtually every continent and on behalf of hundreds of species.”

While we are devastated by his passing, we are uplifted knowing his legacy lives on in this organization, and among his many students, friends, followers, and supporters. We’re grateful Tom continued to travel, write, practice falconry, and visit with the staff up until his last days. His advice, conviction, and gentle presence will be sorely missed.”

Our thoughts are with Tom’s wife and devoted partner, Renetta, and their children and grandchildren in this time of loss.”

Since his first ornithological survey of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea in 1950, Tom’s passion for natural history and his professional career spanned nearly seventy years. It involved teaching at Syracuse University and Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York, post-doctoral research on desert birds and raptors in southern Africa, starting the Peregrine breeding program at Cornell University, co-founding and leading The Peregrine Fund, and researching the critically endangered Mauritius Kestrel.

The Board and staff of The Peregrine Fund mourn the loss of their co-founder and mentor, one of the world’s most visionary conservationists and widely respected scientists, Professor Tom Cade.

ENDS

More half-baked half-truths from Shooting Times

Here’s the third distorted news item from the current edition of Shooting Times (we blogged about the first one here and the second one here).

This article is about the coordinated boycotting of last month’s Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) meeting by the Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers Organisation, BASC and Countryside Alliance. Mark Avery blogged about it (here) and so did we (here, here, here and here) when the gamekeepers formally resigned from the group with the jaw-dropping suggestion that Supt Nick Lyall (the new RPPDG Chair) lacked integrity. The supreme irony of that claim kept us amused for days.

Anyway, back to the Shooting Times and its selective portrayal of events:

Gosh, where to start.

It’s fair enough to include the quote from the Countryside Alliance, although the shooting lobby’s claims about the workings of the RPPDG have previously been found to be misleading, at best:

The RPPDG meetings are not confidential; meeting minutes are subject to disclosure via FoI requests (we have copies of every meeting report except one, so far) and those member organisations supposedly “condemning outcomes to which they agreed in meetings” presumably refers to comments made by RSPB and NERF about the discredited RPPDG raptor persecution maps that were published in 2017. However, NERF has argued that it consistently objected during meetings to how the map data were being presented but that those concerns were consistently ignored by other RPPDG ‘partners’ (e.g. see here) while the RSPB has stated that changes to the pre-agreed press releases were made without the RSPB’s knowledge or consent (see here).

The Shooting Times then goes on to discuss the ‘dispute’ about whether the Moorland Association asked, during an RPPDG meeting, about licenses to kill Marsh harriers (which, incidentally, wasn’t “leaked” at all but became known when RPPDG members were reporting to their members, quite legitimately, on the RPPDG meeting). The Shooting Times article includes Amanda Anderson’s (Moorland Assoc) response of “complete nonsense” but then completely fails to mention that further scrutiny of wider RPPDG correspondence, via a series of FoIs, has revealed that yes, this topic was indeed raised during that RPPDG meeting but every member except two (RSPB & NERF) had apparently ‘forgotten’ about it and subsequent meeting minutes, inaccurate and contested, were still approved by the RPPDG (see here)!!

Half-truths won’t do, Shooting Times, and they certainly don’t fit with the editor’s recent emphasis on “communicating the truth and demanding high standards”.

Still on the subject of alleged ‘leaks’, Shooting Times then suggests that news of the recent boycotted meeting had ‘appeared to have been leaked to a prominent anti-shooting blogger [that’ll be Mark Avery] before being picked up by The Times’. This allegation of leaking is again clearly aimed at the non-shooting RPPDG members, but had the Shooting Times done its homework it would have known that actually, a journalist from The Times knew about this boycott story and was on the phone to lots of people about it BEFORE Mark Avery blogged! Also, it’s worth noting that a copy of the National Gamekeepers Organisation’s formal resignation letter made its way in to the hands of The Times journalist. Now, who do you think sent (‘leaked’) that?!!

This Shooting Times article is looking more and more like an attempted hatchet job but the claims, when scrutinised, simply don’t stack up.

The final part of the Shooting Times article is perhaps the funniest, and is associated with the editor’s bizarre decision to use a photo of Charlie Moores to illustate this piece. Obviously being used as a poster child to represent ‘animal rights activists’ (and all the associated negative imagery of that terminology) and thus to somehow justify the game shooting lobby’s decision to boycott the meeting (or in the NGO’s case, resign), the Shooting Times couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate subject or photo.

Mild-mannered, softly-spoken, considerately thoughtful, naturally reserved and always a gentleman, Charlie Moores is about as far away as possible from being the stereotypical ‘animal rights activist’ many in the shooting lobby like to portray (i.e. ‘masked, violent thugs willing to break the law’)! NB, for the record, this isn’t our definition of an animal rights activist!

Not only that, but the photograph they’ve used was taken at BAWC’s Hen Harrier Day in 2015, shortly after Amanda Anderson (Moorland Assoc) and Andrew Gilruth (GWCT) were warmly welcomed to the event by Chris Packham who encouraged the audience to give them both a round of applause, which we did. Not quite the image of BAWC that would help justify the NGO’s decision to resign from the RPPDG, eh?!

But best and funniest of all, Charlie hasn’t been involved with BAWC since spring 2016 and so had absolutely nothing to do with the RPPDG meeting that was boycotted last month!

The Shooting Times was accurate to state that Charlie had helped set up BAWC way back in the day, but BAWC was NEVER an animal rights campaigning group – it’s mission was then, and still is now, to campaign against wildlife crime. The clue’s in the name, really.

Piss-taking of the Shooting Times’ crap journalism aside, you do have to wonder then, why the game shooting lobby really objects so strongly to BAWC’s involvement with the RPPDG (whose objective is also to, er, tackle illegal raptor persecution) as well as the other newly-added RPPDG members (Wildlife Trusts and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

Trial continues for (now ex) head gamekeeper of Edradynate Estate

The trial of Edradynate Estate’s former head gamekeeper, David Campbell, continued at Perth Sheriff Court in late January.

David Campbell, 69, denies that between 14 and 16 April 2017 at Edradynate Estate he maliciously damaged game crops by spraying them with an unknown substance which caused them to rot and perish.

At the time of the alleged offences, Campbell was no longer an employee of the estate, having worked there since 1983 but after falling out with the landowner, millionaire city financier Michael Campbell (no relation), his employment was terminated in February 2017. Michael Campbell told the court in November 2018 that he believed his former employee had caused the damage ‘in revenge’ (see here).

[Photo by RPUK]

A write-up of the latest court hearing appeared in the Courier & Advertiser as follows:

A disgruntled gamekeeper made sinister threats about what would happen on a millionaire’s shooting estate after he was replaced, a court has been told.

A witness described how David Campbell made the remarks to him at a drinks party some time before game crops were sabotaged on the estate.

Donnie Calder, 44, said: “The new gamekeeper had been appointed. He had stated that he was going to be putting in a lot of new game crops in various places. To the best I can remember, David said ‘as long as he had breath in his body, game crops would not be grown at Edradynaye Estate’. I didn’t really think much of it. David was bitter. He didn’t want to leave his employment as he enjoyed his job. I just assumed he decided there wasn’t going to be game crops. I don’t know why. He was quite calm. It was a matter of fact thing“.

Mr Calder told the trial at Perth Sheriff Court that he was called to the estate some time later to look at damage which had been done to a section of game crop. He said: “The game crops looked like they had been sprayed with a weed killer of some description. I was asked to look at them with the new keeper. The crops were dead. They didn’t die of natural causes – something had been used to kill them“.

Covert CCTV footage taken at the scene of the damaged crops showed a mystery person making a series of 2am raids to spray them. Estate owner Michael Campbell, 76, said he was sure the man in the video was David Campbell, owing to his “mutton chop” sideburns.

Farmer Andrew Kennedy, 62, said he was aware that the accused was “upset” about having to leave his job. “He had worked there for a long, long time and he was aware it was coming to an end, probably a career end“, he said.

The estate’s new head gamekeeper, Ian Smith, told the trial that the area was one of the best on the estate. He said that the damage would have cost “thousands”.

He told the court that the covert CCTV footage showed a “small” person in a white boiler suit spraying the crops with a backpack sprayer. He said the person, who was filmed during the early hours on two days, appeared to be wearing a head torch and a hood or mask.

ENDS

The trial will continue in March.

It might seem odd that we’re reporting on this case, and although we can’t explain that decision while this trial is on-going, all will become clear in due course.

PLEASE NOTE: We’re not accepting comments on this case until the trial concludes. Thanks.

Job vacancies x2: Osprey Project Assistant, Birds of Poole Harbour

The charity Birds of Poole Harbour is recruiting for two (paid!) Osprey Project Assistants.

Summary:

An exceptional opportunity for a keen conservationist to get experience on a landmark Osprey translocation project in Poole Harbour. The role will include husbandry and monitoring of translocated chicks pre and post release.

Background:

Birds of Poole Harbour was founded in 2013 with three key objectives in place; to educate and promote bird conservation, preservation and observation in and around the Poole Harbour area.

Ospreys, which feed exclusively on fish, historically bred across the whole of Britain and NW Europe; but populations drastically declined in the Middle Ages and became extinct in England by the mid 1800’s. The five-year project looks to restore Ospreys to their former breeding grounds in the south of England where they used to have the local nickname “Mullet Hawk”. At the same time the project will provide an important stepping stone between breeding populations in Britain and northern France, with the aim of enhancing the long-term survival of the Western European population as a whole. The project is part of a wider conservation recovery plan of Osprey in Western Europe and the Mediterranean region and is being led by Birds of Poole Harbour, Scottish charity ‘The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation’ and local Poole based-business ‘Wildlife Windows’.

Translocation has proved a highly successful means by which to restore ospreys to areas from which they have been lost. The much-admired population at Rutland Water in the East Midlands was established by a pioneering translocation project in the late 1990s and similar work has since taken place in two regions of Spain as well as in Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.

This pan-European experience means that the Poole Harbour project, which will involve licensed collection of five/six-week old chicks from healthy, sustainable populations in Scotland, has the best-possible chance of success. Once collected the chicks will be safely brought down to Poole Harbour and held in large holding pens at a confidential site for just two – three weeks to acclimatize to their new home and prepare for their first flights. Once released they will continue to be provided with fresh fish on artificial nests, to replicate normal osprey behaviour, and so are likely to remain around Poole Harbour for a further five-six weeks (the normal post-fledging period) before beginning their long migration to West Africa. During this period the birds will imprint on the area and adopt Poole as their new home.

We are now in the third year of the project and seeking to recruit committed, responsible and diligent individuals to assist in the husbandry and monitoring of the birds during their time here in Poole Harbour.

Duration: 3 months, 1st July –30th Sept 2019

Working Hours: Full-time (40 hours per week) including weekend, early morning and evening hours.

Pay: Pro-rata £17, 000

Reports to: Osprey Project Officer and Head of Science and Operations.

Closing Date: 28th February

Interviews are expected to be held the week beginning 11th March.

Duties:

The Osprey Project Assistants are expected to assist with:

  • Preparation of Osprey food – cutting fish
  • Feeding of Osprey chicks
  • Monitoring chicks via CCTV
  • Monitoring of fledged chicks using detection of radio transmitter signals and optical equipment
  • Collection of data on food consumption, chick development, behaviour and location
  • Data entry as per data collected above
  • Equipment, site and resources maintenance – cleaning food preparation area, re-stocking supplies
  • Supervision of volunteers

Person Specification

Full training will be provided for this role including food preparation, feeding, behavioural monitoring via CCTV and telemetry (yagi) and data recording.

Attribute Importance
Friendly and outgoing personality Essential
Attention to detail Essential
Dedicated and proactive attitude Essential
Ability to work as a team Essential
Physically fit Essential
Accurate data entry Essential
Volunteer management Desirable
Full clean driving licence and access to own vehicle Essential
Knowledge of animal husbandry or ecology, especially avian Desirable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you think you could excel in this role, then please email Jobs@birdsofpooleharbour.co.uk with a CV and cover letter explaining why you think you’re suitable.

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