The eagle’s satellite tag found in the river: poetic injustice

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.

16 thoughts on “The eagle’s satellite tag found in the river: poetic injustice”

  1. What do you expect from these kind of people ??
    This whole thing seems to be descending to some kind of farce which is sad for such a serious subject .
    I expect even with tighter covid rules these gun toting thugs will carry on regardless.

  2. Dear Silly Bert Burnett.. Sir Walter Scott had you well sussed when he wrote :-
    “O What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Decieve”

  3. A woman, climbing, unaided, with breasts, who holds the relevant licence to ring the bird and then has a photo taken???? Oh my dear lord, what strange times we live in!!!!!! Just proves that SGA live in Victorian times promoting a Victorian, out of date, barbaric, so called, sport. I would love to be a fly on the wall when they read some of the articles in this blog.

  4. The lady involved in the tagging must surely be nominated for the SGA ‘Game Bird’ award.

    Not even neanderthals, they’re way more backward than that. Dinosaurs hardly does the Association justice.

  5. He no doubt realises that he’s made a total and complete arse of himself, but he’s not going to lose face by admitting it.

  6. Dr Shipmans of the wildlife world. Bloody sad job killing Eagles, very sad indeed, no need for it, cant understand it, the killers will end up in Jail if they are caught, and there own sport will be tarnished and banned,
    in the end they have caused their own downfall, its not just a few bad apples in the barrel its the whole tree thats being affected, despair.

  7. More derogatory comments? Wild Justice will benefit again! Fighting for our Grandchildren’s rightful heritage.

  8. These people really are the scum of the earth, the world could come to an end as we know it as long as they can shoot grouse, it’s the be all and end all this very important hobby so much so that it’s even above climate change measures . It’s no good appealing to the government for change because the conservatives are led by a complete clown who couldn’t make the right decision if it was staring him in the face

  9. That lead around the tag has not been in a river long as it would be dented and scarred by flooding.if you wanted to get rid if a plastic tag you would smash it with a rock to stop it transcending.looks like it has been kept in a bucket if water for a short time due to the oxidizing on the lead.this looks like another stunt to blacken grouse shooting.i hope people aren’t gullible.

  10. Actually, I find it annoying that this necessary procedure was obviously being treated as some kind of social event including someone’s dog. We all know that birds do experience stress when they are ringed and tagged etc. so most would assume that disturbance, including the number of people present, would be kept to a minimum! To me this was just handing ammunition to the ‘dark side’, which is exactly what has happened.

  11. Yet again the finger of suspicion points at the obvious and you can bet that yet again, the ranks of the game keeping society will pull together and deny all knowledge, complete denial is the best form of defence but it’s another nail in the coffin for this outdated Victorian past time.

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