Further to last Friday’s shocking news that a missing golden eagle’s satellite tag had been found in a river in Strathbraan, with aerial and harness cut and the tag wrapped in lead sheeting, presumably in an attempt to block the tag’s signal and conceal any evidence of criminal behaviour (see here), there’s an interesting background story to this particular eagle.
Cast your minds back three and half years to this blog (here) written in March 2017.
Here are the, ahem, ‘highlights’:
This photograph has been repeatedly posted on Facebook and other social media platforms as an example of ‘bad practice’ at a raptor tagging event. It shows a group of people at an eagle nest site in Perthshire in 2014. According to Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, who has posted this image several times, these people, including Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland, are “having a picnic underneath an eagle nest” for several hours and thus by implication are causing unnecessary disturbance at the site and causing the adult birds to desert.
What’s actually happening here is a group of people, including four licensed experts and their invited guests, have climbed to an eagle nest site and while the climbers have gone to retrieve the eaglet from the nest so its satellite tag can be fitted in safety on the ground, Duncan is eating a sandwich. That’s it. It’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic, or is that just Bert?
Another photograph that Bert has circulated was also taken at this site on the same day. It shows Duncan quite rightly checking the fit of the young eagle’s sat tag harness before the bird is put back in its nest.
This photograph elicited all sorts of comments on social media, with suggestions that sat tagging golden eagles is harmful to the birds, that it’s detrimental to their survival and one person even claiming that “they [the raptor fieldworkers] are a far greater threat to birds than any shooting interests“.
He posted another photograph (which we won’t post here for legal reasons) that shows a woman and her son on the nest ledge after the eagle had been returned to its nest. Bert said this about it: “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable. Allowing your families and friends to climb up intae the nest just for photo shoots is totally out of order and shows no concern for the birds future welfare“. On a later post he also claimed the woman had been “hoisted in to the nest“. What the photo actually shows is a Schedule 1 licence holder and her son who have just climbed to the nest to return the eagle after tagging. It’s probably hard for Bert to comprehend that a woman might actually be a Schedule 1 licence holder and that she’d be capable of climbing to the nest without being “hoisted in” (surely her breasts would get in the way?) but when your mindset is firmly stuck in the 18th century then it’s probably no surprise at all.
As for Bert’s comment, “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable“, well, it’s not questionable in this case. This eagle was satellite tagged in Perthshire in 2014. The bird fledged successfully and its movements were tracked until 2016 when its tag signal suddenly stopped transmitting and the eagle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Perthshire. We’d respectfully suggest that this eagle’s disappearance (probable death) was not caused by Duncan eating a sandwich at its natal site two years earlier nor by it being put back in to the nest by a woman, but was more than likely caused by illegal poisoning, illegal trapping or illegal shooting on or near a grouse moor in the Highlands.
Little did we or Bert Burnett, then a Director of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, imagine that this eagle would hit the headlines three and a half years later when its tag was found cut and wrapped in lead sheeting having been dumped in the river in one of Scotland’s most notorious raptor-killing hotspots – the grouse moors of Strathbraan, where eight satellite-tagged eagles have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in recent years.
This background information clearly exposes the desperate lies and false accusations used by some in the grouse shooting industry to deflect attention from the bleedin’ obvious and instead used to undermine the integrity and professionalism of those conservationists working hard to protect this species in the face of relentless persecution.
These fabrications were made in the build up to the publication of the Government-commissioned Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, which was published in May 2017. It’s findings were damning.
Unbelievably, the lies from the grouse shooting industry continue. Over the last few days there have been a number of so-called ‘explanations’ from within the grouse shooting industry for what might have happened to this eagle and how it’s satellite tag ended up in the river wrapped in lead sheeting. They seek to have the public believe that this is ‘a set up’ – that conservationists (and some of them named, libellously, as perverting the course of justice) found the dead eagle several years ago after it died of natural causes and they apparently decided to ‘plant’ the tag in the river to make it look suspicious.
Fortunately, the public, the police and Government Ministers are not fooled.
All eyes on the Scottish Government’s imminent response to the Werritty review on grouse moor licensing.