Calluna Calling

“‘Calluna’, a female harrier, was tagged this summer at a nest on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate, near Braemar. We were monitoring her transmitter’s data which showed that she fledged from the nest in July. She left the area in early August, and gradually headed east over the Deeside moors. However, while the tag data showed it to be working perfectly, transmissions abruptly ended on 12th August, with no further data transmitted. Calluna’s last recorded position was on a grouse moor a few miles north of Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park.” http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/skydancer/b/skydancer/archive/2017/09/01/calluna-has-disappeared.aspx

Representatives of the shooting lobby have already stated the ridiculous. My work is done.

Response of Scottish Land & Estates – “Estates in the area have welcomed a number of hen harriers to the area during August and only today one moor reported three harriers. Local land managers reject the inference that the loss of signal from this tag is connected to grouse moor management and are now offering every assistance in searching the area where the last transmission was recorded.“

Response of Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association – “The SGA would urge anyone who saw the bird or knows anything about it to contact Police Scotland. This is the first we have heard of this. Obviously any news like this is very disappointing. The SGA condemns raptor persecution and if any of our members are convicted of a wildlife crime they are removed from our organisation. We have learned from those monitoring tags that birds can move some distance away from where they were last recorded so it is important that, if people know anything, they alert the Police immediately.”

Response of Scottish Association for Country Sports – “We would remind the RSPB that tag technology can fail for a number of reasons, and that raptors are susceptible to natural causes of death as well as to illegal persecution.“

From https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/satellite-tagged-hen-harrier-disappears-on-grouse-moor-in-cairngorms-national-park/

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Eagle Eight

“These eight birds have all disappeared in an area where driven grouse moor management dominates the landscape, and where there have been many previous cases of illegal killing of protected raptors, including the poisoning of a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle as recently as 2010.
Given the reliability of the transmitters, the chance of so many birds disappearing over such a short timescale without some kind of human interference is so small as to be negligible. The pattern we see here is consistent with the birds having been killed and the transmitters destroyed.” (http://www.rspb.org.uk/media/releases/423406-satellite-tagged-golden-eagles-disappearing-in-the-monadhliath-mountains)

“I have instructed officials to analyse the evidence from around 90 surviving and missing satellite-tagged eagles, to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity. … The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception.” (http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Eagle-disappearance-review-2881.aspx)

Let’s not leap to any conclusions: this could be the work of extreme conservationists, systematically bumping off birds of prey in the vicinity of grouse moors over decades in a bid to undermine the inglorious twelfth. Or alien abductions. Or spontaneous combustion.

If you’re cynical of the grouse shooting industry’s hand-wringing over these unfortunate but unconnected crimes, please consider signing and sharing the petition to ban driven grouse shooting in the UK and the petition to license gamebird shooting in Scotland – or read more about the case at Missing Hen Harriers: time for zero tolerance.

Small Mammals of Prey

“Landowners and shooting groups said it was too early to tell whether the voluntary arrangements under the action plan had failed.
They accuse the RSPB of ignoring other reasons for the hen harriers decline, such as weather and the activities of other predators, including voles.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/07/countryside-groups-split-over-hen-harrier-conservation-plan/)

Curses, the campaign targeting grouse shooters as responsible for the near-extinction of hen harriers is rumbled as the true culprits emerge: vegetarian, hedgerow-dwelling small mammals.

If this smells fishier than an osprey’s talons to you, please consider signing and sharing the petition to ban driven grouse shooting – or read more about the case at Missing Hen Harriers: time for zero tolerance.

Gone Harrier

“A lot of work went into establishing the six long-term actions which stakeholders and groups believed would help stabilize then, ultimately, increase population levels of these rare birds.” (https://basc.org.uk/blog/press-releases/latest-news/basc-disappointed-as-rspb-abandons-hen-harrier-programme/)

The grouse shooting community should be congratulated for the considerable effort they have invested in stabilising the hen harrier population level at zero.

Please consider signing and sharing the petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Or read more about the case at Missing Hen Harriers: time for zero tolerance.

Raptor Fractions

“The number of breeding pairs of hen harriers in England so far this year ranges between 0 and 1.” (https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/how-many-hen-harriers-breeding-in-england-this-year/)

0.5 of a breeding pair? Just out of interest, is it hermaphrodite?

Please sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

Natural Selection

Natural England, a non-departmental government body sponsored by DEFRA, is recruiting for 29 professional posts (https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/csr/jobs.cgi?jcode=1472685%20 and https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/csr/jobs.cgi?jcode=1472667%20). Twenty-nine. At £24,120pa each, that costs £700,000 even without employer’s pension contributions. Where’s that money coming from during the current sustained attack on environmental public spending, including severe cuts to DEFRA?

Interestingly, these roles are in “Sustainable development” – that delightful oxymoron – as Planning or Wildlife Management Lead Advisers. Could these be aimed at combatting wildlife crime and protecting our wildlife?

Perhaps the role specifications may offer clues:
“Support the delivery of the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS)”
“Working with a range of partners, customers and colleagues to implement changes in the delivery of land use work.”
“Building partnerships with customers (primarily LPAs [Local Planning Authorities]) and stakeholders to resolve complex and often contentious planning issues and to develop collaborative strategic land use approaches to conserving and enhancing the natural environment.”
Curiously open to interpretation. “Changes.” “Enhancing.”

More curiously,
“Spotting opportunities for income generation through our Discretionary Advice Service including preparing Customer Contracts and delivering the service specified.”
“Spot opportunities around income generation, draw up contracts and work with customers on Pre Application advice.”

Perhaps government is expecting these roles to pay for themselves through licensing land owners to indulge their delusions of military control over nature. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive since our equivalent, Scottish Natural Heritage, is on its own crusade to monetise nature. Ah, time for my anti-cynicism medication.

Featherprints

“Red and green magnetic fluorescent powders were the most successful at recovering fingerprints from feathers. Black magnetic powder was the most successful at recovering fingermarks from eggs.” (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/14/scientists-recover-fingerprints-bird-feathers-eggs)

Not all you clutch is fair game so beware of being fingered for foul-play.