Scottish grouse moor owners want options for ‘managing too many birds of prey’

According to Tim (Kim) Baynes, Director of landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates, there is “very little evidence” of ongoing raptor persecution in Scotland.

It’s a bare-faced denial that Baynes and his grouse shooting pals have been making for years e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Deny everything, carry on and hope that nobody checks the actual facts, eh?

This most recent denial came in a podcast for Living Planet, a programme on the German International English Language Service, of all places! The seven minute programme also features Ian Thomson (RSPB Scotland) and Logan Steele (Scottish Raptor Study Group) talking about satellite-tagged golden eagles that suddenly ‘vanish’ from Scottish grouse moors and how last year the tag of one of those missing eagles was found with cut straps, wrapped in lead sheeting (to block the tag’s signal) and dumped in a river (see here); a clear indication of the lengths the eagle-killers will go to cover up their crimes.

[Golden eagle photo by Getty]

As well as denying the extent of ongoing raptor persecution, Baynes was asked about grouse moor licensing, due to be introduced by the Scottish Government because, er, last year Ministers accepted the indisputable evidence of ongoing raptor persecution on some driven grouse moors.

Here’s what he said:

There needs to be a balanced approach to it, so if you have too many birds of prey there has to be some mechanism for managing them, to keep them in balance with the prey species. And that’s what we’re asking Government to address“.

Now, some might argue that this is not anything we need worry about because the probability of having “too many” (whatever that means) birds of prey on some driven grouse moors seems quite unlikely given the long-term absence of breeding species like hen harrier, golden eagle and peregrine on many of these moors, as a direct result of on-going persecution.

However, having seen how DEFRA and Natural England define a ‘high density’ population (two hen harrier nests within 10km of one another!) for the purposes of the insane hen harrier brood meddling trial, and knowing that Scottish Land & Estates has expressed an interest in having a hen harrier brood meddling scheme in Scotland (more on that shortly), we should all be alert to the very high probability that grouse shooting reps will be lobbying the Scottish Government hard when consultations open for views on what the grouse moor licensing scheme should look like.

To listen to the short podcast click here

36 thoughts on “Scottish grouse moor owners want options for ‘managing too many birds of prey’”

  1. There’s that favoured, slippery word ‘balance’ again, which slides so easily off of the bird killers’ forked tongues. Perhaps Baynes could actually spell out what EXACTLY he and his chums mean by ‘balance’? We’re all ears Baynes. I put it to Baynes et al that ‘balance’, quite simply, is what is determined by Mother Nature, not the lethal meddling of a rotten shooting ‘industry’.

    Apart from the most ardent head-bangers among the of bird killers – who will always want legal lethal ‘controls’ on raptors – it seems highly likely that they’ll go for something like brood meddling or diversionary feeding when the bird killers get the Scottish Government to do their bidding with DGS licensing. Can you imagine brood meddling covered/sanctioned/protected by a DGS license in Scotland; wouldn’t that be a great conservation result?…

    1. Yes, I too would like to know how they define “balance”.

      Because as soon as you start to kill foxes, stoats, weasels, and any other creature that thinks about taking a grouse, a grouse egg, or a grouse chick, then you have already started to upset the natural balance.

      And when you add in the slaughter of Mountain Hares, and the burning of moorlands, which indiscriminately kills unknown numbers of invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals, and it’s all done to protect one species of bird, then you have created a monoculture, and the idea of balance never existed in the first place.

      1. Mr. McGinty, the animals you refer to are mesopredators or second tier predators. In a balanced ecosystem they themselves would be ” controlled” by apex predators, wolves, lynx and large raptors. A trophic cascade. The balance in Scotland went long ago. The need for deer culling also demonstrates this. I guess one could make a case that in some ways gamekeepers and certain conservation bodies have taken over the role of these predators. This is of course a totally unsatisfactory state of affair and would be better managed by nature.

        1. Yes, the Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle are the apex predators, and they fill the role in other habitats quite well. However, we all know that these creatures are routinely killed on driven grouse moors throughout Scotland as well.

          As I said, the DGS idea of “balance” simply doesn’t exist in any meaningful, balanced way, being skewed to suit just one species only. Any other species that is seen to have any negative effect on their precious moors or grouse, is exterminated by fire, poisoning, trapping or shooting.

        2. While I agree with the pyramid of predators to an extent, it is not the complete picture. While the management of wildlife continues we never get to the stage of natural selection within a species,
          Predators will self regulate, they are cruel and greedy just like people , some will kill competitors just because they can , but to get to a stage of self regulation they need to be left alone.
          It’s not a secret that Owls kill Owls, eagles kill eagles and falcons kill each other , meddling at nests acknowledge this , If accepted then why not wait , if allowed to self regulate we might find true density is much lower than now believed.

    2. Balance?…..why not ask NaturistScot for the answer?
      They issue the licences which enable the killing of the native species, they claim to be a science based organisation, so therefore they must know the answer.

      If they issue a general licence to allow the killing of stoats, how many should there be, when are there too many? Is it legal to kill them all?

      If they cant answer questions like this how can they possibly advise government and the public?

  2. Thank you so SO much for keeping on keeping this issue in the news and at the forefront of people’s minds. You are doing a fantastic job, without which the criminal raptor killers would be able to hide under their cloak of spurious lies and continue their raptor killing crime spree unrestricted in any way by our ineffectual laws and enforcement processes.

    Every single post you make shines a light nnto the putrid actions that the obnoxious individuals endlessly deny. Thank you!!!!

  3. Ruth, I’ve managed to dig out an article from Baynes (Birdwatch: issue 126, Dec 2002) entitled “Manage harriers for a better moorland”. As the title suggests, it’s much the same bullshit (surprise). If you can’t find it, I’d be happy to take a snap and send it somehow.

    1. I remember that written when he was the moorland policy advisor or some such nonsense for the CA. The same old shite as I recall. I think he is also the originator of the RSPB have buggered the Lake Vyrnwy area which again is patent nonsense. He manages to say or write the most outrageous nonsense and shite whilst keeping an absolute straight face and moderate tone. So lots of the folk in DGS have always swallowed this crap because of the way it is said and we of course tell lies, nothing could be further from the truth and it is really a case of vice versa. Dangerous man not to be underestimated.

  4. Well, I suppose we should expect nothing less than this sort of nonsense from a paid representative of an industry on the back foot. If I were looking for long term employment it wouldn’t be in the shooting industry and that’s for sure.

  5. I was struck by the phrase “keep them in balance with the prey species.” Surely this would mean hundreds of birds of prey to cope with all the grouse? Or is that not quite what ne means?

    1. Indeed if Grouse were at a truly natural density there would probably in time be far fewer raptors nesting on grouse moors, along with fewer upland crows and foxes. It is surely the surfeit of prey that attracts them and they cannot be blamed for doing what basic biology suggests.

  6. Too many birds??? Think 50million alien Pheasants.
    Scottish Land & Estates…who is their press secretary??? Hans Christian Andersen.

  7. By 1900 gamekeeping, supported by egg & specimen collectors, had achieved ‘balance’ – there was almost, but not quite, the right number of raptors – no Hen Harrier, no Goshawk, no White Tailed Eagles, no Red Kites no Osprey. A few fewer Golden Eagles and Peregrines would have rounded things off nicely.

    1. You missed a couple or more Rod, No Montagu’s Harrier, no Marsh Harrier and no Honey Buzzard along with precious few Hobbies and Merlins. Of course all these birds are notorious predators of game birds in the delusional thoughts of the Baynes et al. It is not that long ago that a retired Nidderdale Keeper was quoted in the Yorkshire press claiming getting rid of all these dreadful predators was a crowning glory of his Victorian forebears and now we were bringing ruin by having them back. Some fools praised him for this!

  8. It sounds to me like another player in the shooting industry who is making a desperate attempt to try and shift the argument towards the subjective concept of balance of raptor numbers. It is a failing, sinking industry and it looks like this is the angle they are going to pursue as a damage limitation exercise. One to watch.

  9. Within six or seven months of the beaver being given legal ‘protection’ in Scotland approx one fifth of the population had been killed via granting of licences and about another dozen would have been too if they hadn’t been trapped and translocated to schemes in England, so this is not at all far fetched. In fact this would be pretty par for the course. That some raptors are now at a higher population than they’ve been in living memory or even since relevant records began isn’t a sign they’re out of control, it’s indicative of the extreme levels of persecution our predatory birds and mammals have underwent for hundreds of years – Scotland actually lost the polecat FFS. They’re just starting to recover. That’s not the story the public are going to get though it’ll be twisted as usual, but how will they know that?

    Since I last mentioned on RPUK the anti otter vitriol that’s now seeped into the public domain I came across the worst example of it by far, it actually shook me although I’ve been watching and expecting this for years. As otters move back into old territories the local newspaper will typically do a positive, upbeat article often on the front page. When that’s posted on social media the comments flood in and in this case they were virtually all negative ranging from – ‘water rat’, ‘vermin’, ‘they’ll eat all the fish then start on the ground nesting birds’, ‘me and my dad used to watch fish there, now I won’t be able to do that with my little lad’ (probably not true…and you might see an otter there too), ‘they’ll eat all the carp’, and of course umpteen pictures of otters grabbing ducks and swans – who’d have thought that of a predatory mammal! An absolute deluge of nasty sentiments and images, how will anybody coming to this quite innocently be affected?

    Will counteracting this guff be helped by the same argument being put forward in still ridiculous, but more polished form re ‘controlling’ birds of prey on grouse moors? In the public mind how more credible will these calls for killing of birds of prey be if the same points are being made about otters too from another section of society? Even as things stand brood meddling has been enabled, it needed a big public push to stop the slaughter of ravens at Strathspey, and don’t forget buzzards were killed legally on licence because they might eat some pheasants. We’ve actually gone further down this road already than we’d like to admit. We desperately need to get the lynx back and are struggling to hang on to hen harriers. Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but way, way past time that the conservation organisations got together on a joint predation awareness project. If not we are continually going to be on the back foot trying to react to pieces of crap like this – as with the time they tried to use the capercaillie as an excuse to trial culling pine martens.

    The fact is we need more of our predators as close as possible to what we would have without human interference. Make gamekeepers grind their teeth by showing how the pine marten is helping the red squirrel. If you genuinely think there are too many magpies, crows and jays why aren’t you waving the flag for the return of the goshawk which will polish off grey squirrels too? If flocks of cormorants really are descending on Norfolk rivers and (temporarily) depleting fish stocks it might be a good idea to have sea eagles around to eat the occasional one and disperse the rest. Lynx eat a fair few foxes, certainly better at that than raiding the nests of ground living birds and otters suppress mink numbers. This is exactly what the anti predator lobby will hate. When a project pointed out that it had increased capercaillie and black grouse numbers through habitat work and not only NOT do any predator control but welcomed the return of the pine marten and goshawk the lead staff member got dog’s abuse from you know who on social media for daring to say that. There needs to be a platform for this.

    In the meantime if anybody fancies having a perfectly legitimate poke back if you haven’t already signed this petition please do and consider asking others to sign, it’s already got a good number of signatures for a Scotgov petition, but you couldn’t have too many and this is hitting driven grouse shooting from a different angle https://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01850?fbclid=IwAR3poweQOMLOS6dg0FAzh4dLnJZBPs6_VIyJ3X64q5YteU-JMpBCEszNCd0

  10. “There needs to be a balanced approach to it, so if you have too many birds of prey there has to be some mechanism for managing them, to keep them in balance with the prey species. And that’s what we’re asking Government to address“.

    What about the absurdly high density of Red Grouse that are maintained on driven grouse moors, how balanced is that!? Money rules and obfuscation is rife!

  11. Sorry for being very blunt about this. But the people who know more than anyone about the level of the illegal persecution of raptors, are the grouse shooting interests themselves. This is disingenuity and dishonesty on an epic scale. Presumably they think we are too stupid to see past their lies.

    1. Well said Jimmy. All the evidence shows that anything less than a ban will end up a sham that will be ruthlessly exploited by the DGS lobby aided by their friends in high places.

  12. Ban all driven bird shoots then see if the wee fat hooray Henry’s can cope with walked up shoots , I bet at the end of the day there not so keen to part with big tip money

  13. When you think 2020 saw the highest ever number of Birds of Prey on Geltsdale but also more Red Grouse than the neighbouring commercial shoots, this statement by a so called educated man seems crazy. One of the problems is that so many of these types are still believing the 10 year Langholm programme which has been shot to bits with this breeding season. Even the poor new Poyser Buzzard book was whitewashed for following suit. What these boys have to understand is the management of these uplands are going to change from less peat fires and cattle instead of sheep on the moors.

    1. Aaaaahhh…..that might explain why the claws are out for Geltsdale in the form of this rather ridiculous video from the [Ed: there’s no way on earth I’m giving a platform to that!]

      1. You’re right of course, but I find *** ********** ******* to be its own worst enemy, giving away ammunition by the barrowload to shoot it down with to its opponents. Predictably there are equally pathetic videos about gamekeepers being ‘bullied’ and smeared.

  14. I think the DGS industry in Scotland think of ‘balance’ in a number of ways, but rarely in terms of Ecology. The ‘balance’ that is in the thoughts of most Owners and Agents is just the balance of Estate revenue vs expenditure, and every grouse lost to a predator of any sort is just income thrown away before it was gained. Then again their concept of ‘balance’ may also mean the ‘balance of probabilities’ of an employee keeper getting caught doing his job. Just a few years ago the odds of being recorded blasting a bird of prey out of the sky on a lonely grouse moor would be what, 1000 to 1? But with mobile phone cameras and social media increasing public awareness, this must surely have halved I would have thought. Then again, ‘balance’ to a Scottish Estate might soon mean the balance of risk that getting caught as above might actually mean more than the usual measly little fine, and penalties such as withdrawing a Licence or barring an Agent might be realistic and prove a genuine problem.

  15. Mr Baynes, is half correct in his statement that there is “very little evidence” of ongoing raptor persecution in Scotland, grouse moor owners and their minions do their damnedest to hide the evidence. However, the evidence that is there is damning, raptors are more likely to die on grouse moors.
    Also bare in mind, this is the tip of ice berg, the raptors for which there is evidence of an illegal death, have either been tagged or remains found. How many other raptors have been killed where the evidence is destroyed?

    As for options to control birds of prey, I suspect most grouse moor owners and their minions view one bird of prey as too many. Time to put an end to their illegal activities.

  16. Is the answer to Mr Baines problem not….”there are too many grouse”…. if he didnt create the problem, he wouldnt have the problem.

    There is nothing sustainable about the intensive effort that is necessary to create and maintain a dry moorland/heather desert for the benefit of a single species. So that it can then be killed in silly numbers just for the perverse enjoyment of a handfull of people.

    What the government have finally woken up to is that there is no public benefit to this ongoing destruction of landscapes and biodiversity….it is in fact a burden on society. Poor water management, poor air quality, poor carbon sequestration, poor ethical standards, poor for public enjoyment and poor for biodiversity. In short, the Victorian, over exploitation of our fragile resource is no longer acceptable to the public. The regulatory landscape is changing, the public expect change….
    ……the tiny group of people who inflict this destructive abuse on our resources need to accept this and adapt to the change or forever expect the law to chap on their door.

  17. Please see reply to my complaint to the Cairngorms NP. You can use as you see fit.

    Kind Regards Richard Ortyl

  18. “so if you have too many birds of prey there has to be some mechanism for managing them”

    There is: it is called dynamic equilibrium. It is the fundamental mechanism which controls the predator/prey relationship. Too many predators for the available prey? The predators starve until a reduction in their numbers allows the prey species to recover. As soon as there is an abundance of prey species, then the predator species begins to recover. And so it goes…

    But, of course, what Baynes REALLY means is that there are too many birds of prey COMBINED WITH shooters for the prey species to survive, so the shooting industry must be allowed to kill all the ‘other’ predators, so that the prey species can be killed by the shooting industry alone.

    SL&E call that nature conservation. Maybe the Scottish Government and NatureScot agree?

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