Yet more criminal activity on driven grouse moors. Some options for change.

Hen harrier chicks about to be ringed

Bogland preserved for wildlife on Perthshire estate

In the past few weeks on driven grouse moors in Scotland we have had a satellite-tagged hen harrier caught in a Fenn trap, two satellite-tagged golden eagles on the same estate and on the same day where the signals from the sat-tags suddenly stopped despite having been working perfectly well up until then. Now we have news of a male hen harrier caught in a Fenn trap near to a harrier nest on Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire, the female from the nest ‘missing’ and a Fenn trap set at the nest alongside two harrier eggs. Despite the harrier in this case being taken into the care of the SSPCA and some sterling treatment by specialist vet Romain Pizzi the bird in the end had to be euthanised.

Seven weeks after the discovery, Police Scotland investigating the crime led a multi-agency search. I’m not sure why the seven-week delay, unless a result on DNA tests on the traps was awaited, but I can’t criticise without knowing the full circumstances.

It is not surprising that no evidence was found to link the setting of the traps to any individual, but circumstantial evidence and a previous history of the discovery of up to 70 earlier wildlife crimes found on the estate over the past 20 years would suggest to any rational person that the incidents are linked to grouse production. Despite the attempts of a few individuals to deflect blame away from gamekeeping I personally have no doubt that this is where the blame lies. Intensively managed driven grouse moors like this may have up to seven or eight gamekeepers, probably a sporting manager and a sporting tenant. Will all or any of them be to blame or could it be some mystery person going around the countryside unseen, with a bag of Fenn traps, a hidden agenda and with the expertise to set a trap at any hen harrier nest encountered?

There is no doubt that those involved in driven grouse shooting are well aware that under present legislation the police are unlikely to get a case to court, especially against someone higher up the chain of command. So what can change to assist in convicting or at least deterring the criminals?

If we rely on convictions the police must have more scope under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 – RIP(S)A – to enter estate land to gather evidence. This would mean increasing the penalty for all or certain wildlife crimes to at least 3 years imprisonment so that incident like this come into the official category of serious crime.

To assist with the identification of those illegally setting traps, the traps could have a number or mark issued by the police or by SNH to the user of the trap, as is the case with snares. This is certainly not foolproof but it could be a step forward, especially if spot checks could be made.

Even with these changes detection and conviction rates would be low. The answer lies with a suite of sanctions.

Better use could be made of the removal of the right to use general licences, even though this is a minor sanction. I hope this is being considered as we speak in the case of this estate.

Better use could also be made of the clawback of single farm payments, though I’ve no idea if in this instance a payment is being made to the estate.

With only a few weeks to go (hopefully) to the submission to the Scottish Government of Professor Werritty’s report on grouse moors we are as well to have the patience to await its findings. I assume that the Scottish Government will already have a flavour of the report content, in particular the issue of the licensing of grouse moors. I cannot see the licensing of grouse moors being avoided. Poisoning of wildlife has maybe lessened but there has been no let-up in the illegal shooting or trapping of raptors; it has simply been a change of tactics. If the raptor persecution incidents being investigated by the police over the past few weeks have not already convinced the Scottish Government that nothing has changed and of the need to licence grouse moors (or something even stronger) then I feel the public has been betrayed.

It should be mandatory for each estate to nominate the person ultimately responsible for the estate so that there can be no escaping vicarious liability should the police and prosecutors require to go down that road.

In the case of an estate losing the licence to shoot grouse and to manage moorland for grouse shooting, if the estate is under the control of a sporting agent who is also sporting agent for another or other estates in Scotland, then these estates should also lose their licence.

Beyond these sanctions it should be mandatory for estates involved in shooting of any kind to demonstrate that they are improving the habitat for the wildlife that is, or should, be there. I’m working with an extensive low-ground estate just now that demonstrates this in no small measure.

I think that any reasonable person would now agree that the time for sitting round a table to reach a compromise has long past and decisive action by the Scottish Government is required. I have long been an advocate of SNP but if we are let down on this then they would no longer either have my confidence or vote.

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The disappearance of two sat-tagged golden eagles

Alan Stewart with the poisoned golden eagle Alma in 2009

For those who are unaware, it was announced today that on the morning of 18th April two satellite-tagged golden eagles vanished within hours of each other on a grouse moor in Perthshire. The estate on which they were last located through the sat-tagging data is named as Auchnafree Estate.

So what could have happened to them? Might they have died of natural causes. Two young and apparently healthy golden eagles don’t normally die on the same date and in the same place. But what if they did. Satellite tags keep transmitting after its host bird dies. The signal would indicate that the bird was on the ground and stationary and would give an accurate grid reference to within a few yards of the bird. The signal may even have given more information than this. In any case those responsible for monitoring the signal would know that something was wrong, especially if the signals suddenly stopped as so many have done in the recent past despite the tags having been working perfectly well up to that point. All of this follows a sinister pattern and those monitoring the signals (or lack thereof) would suspect that the birds had been removed. The police would then be contacted.

A thorough search for the birds was reported as having been carried out by Police Scotland, National Wildlife Crime Unit and RSPB Scotland Investigations. If the birds had still been at their last location as transmitted by the tag, the recovery would be straightforward. When I went to recover the poisoned golden eagle Alma from Millden Estate in Glenesk in Angus in 2009 the reference given by the tag led us straight to the bird. Since in this case the birds were no longer at their last reference point it was hardly surprising that no trace was found of either of the golden eagles. Had the two tags fallen from the birds by some remarkable coincidence the result would have been the same.

It was even more suspicious that the last reference point of one of the golden eagles was at a turning point of a hill track on the estate, and it is also known that at that time the eagle was at ‘ground level’ – in other words not in the air – for six minutes before the signal disappeared. Had it been put in a vehicle and removed? I doubt that taking all these circumstances into account anyone could argue that the disappearance of the two golden eagles was in any way through a natural death.

These circumstances suggest to me that this is a crime, indeed two crimes, and I am sure that the police will record it as such based on circumstantial and sat-tag evidence. But It is highly unlikely, given the complete absence of information coming forward from the game management community, that anyone will be convicted or even charged. Nevertheless the police will continue their investigation.

What lines might they follow? Looking at intelligence held on the Scottish Intelligence Database and by the NWCU is always the starting point. Is there intelligence showing that related incidents have taken place in that area, on that estate or by any named individual? Intelligence, of course, cannot convict anyone; it needs to be converted to evidence, but it is a good start and I bet that the officer in charge of the case already has one or maybe even two likely suspects.

Grouse moors are always well guarded by the gamekeepers and not much can move on the estate without them being aware. If a vehicle was involved in picking up or disposing of the birds who might have access with a vehicle? This is especially interesting in the case of Auchnafree Estate as it is ‘landlocked’ and not connected by any public road. Can any conclusions be drawn from that? Would an eagle-sized bird placed in a vehicle or any receptacle leave any DNA traces? That possibility will have been considered.

How did the birds die, always a difficult question to answer in the absence of the bodies, (yet people have been convicted of the murder of humans without the body being found). Options are shooting, trapping or poisoning. My guess, because there are two victims and their deaths are closely related in time and location, would be poisoning. There may have been evidence found of how the birds died during the search, but the police would be keeping that under their hat meantime.

It is early days but so far the only comment I have seen from the gamkeeping community is a press release from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. Did they roundly condemn the killing of two of Scotland’s golden eagles? Did they say that it looks highly suspicious and if it was the work of a gamekeeper he is a disgrace to the name of gamekeeping? Did they ask their members to report any suspected killing of birds of prey to the police? Did they say to their members please stop this as it will ultimately ruin all our occupations?

No, none of those.  They put out a mealy-mouthed statement that they will expel members who commit wildlife offences and state that ‘We understand, despite extensive and thorough searches by the Police, that no evidence of a wildlife crime was discovered on the land in question.’ Is that not a signal to criminals involved in raptor persecution to just keep doing more of the same? They also launched a Parliamentary petition calling for independent monitoring of satellite tags fitted to birds of prey as they have doubts on the accuracy of sat-tag data. If they knew a bit more about the ownership of sat-tag data and if they had been at a recent conference on sat-tagging hosted by Scottish Natural Heritage at Battleby they would have no need to petition for independent monitoring and could put their efforts into putting an end to crime committed against protected species on grouse moors.  

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Wildlife and the Law: New edition available from 12 June 2019.

When I had the first edition of Wildlife and the Law published in 2012 I didn’t expect that all 500 copies printed would be sold. Nevertheless that was the case, so in early 2019 I was keen to update the book to incorporate new legislation since 2012 and partly renew the photographs.

As they did with the first edition, PAW Scotland kindly agreed to help to fund publication, since this remains the only book in Scotland looking at the practical application of wildlife law. PAW Scotland’s agreement meant that I could get to work on the new edition. Unfortunately this blog suffered with an absence of new posts since, as well as updating Wildlife and the Law I was – and still am – carrying out a wildlife survey of a large estate in Perthshire as well as writing chapters and taking photographs for a book on my regular and exciting walks on the estate (this should be published in the autumn.)

The new edition of Wildlife and the Law, recognising, reporting and investigating wildlife crime in Scotland, is edited and published by Thirsty Books, Edinburgh. Due to PAW Scotland subsidising the cost, the price remains at £10. It is due back from the Glasgow printer on 12th June. Additional features in the book include:

  • The role of the NWCU
  • The many changes in general licences
  • The limitation on traps allowed to be used to trap stoats
  • Suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged raptors
  • The Werritty review
  • Inclusion of the beaver on the Habitats Regulations
  • The updated COTES regulations
  • The Ivory Act 2018
  • Updated tail docking legislation
  • Improved forensic capability
  • Comment on possible future wildlife legislative change

Wildlife & the Law is designed in part to help prevent wildlife offences being committed, though where prevention has failed the well-indexed contents should help the reader recognise the offence and respond appropriately. It spells out chapter and verse in an easy-to-follow text and numerous colour photographs. As well as covering wildlife law, the book includes separate chapters on cruelty to domestic and captive animals, a brief chapter on offences relating to dogs, and one on offences committed against Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

As the sales of the first edition demonstrated, Wildlife & the Law is of interest to a range of people, including:

  • Police officers, and the staff of other organisations who have some responsibility for the investigation of wildlife crime;
  • Countryside rangers, foresters, badger groups, bat groups, raptor groups and others with a professional interest in wildlife issues;
  • Landowners, gamekeepers, farmers and pest controllers, who might use traps and snares or control ‘pest’ species in the course of their work;
  • Hill walkers, and others who take advantage of the countryside for recreation;
  • Property owners, developers or even householders who might have concerns with nesting birds, bat roosts or badger setts.

Comments on the first edition Wildlife are:

‘Whether used as a quick reference or to understand wildlife crime’s complex legislation, this book is a real aid for any wildlife or rural officer.’                                                                PC Charles Everitt, investigations support officer, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit 

‘A great asset not just for those who are following-up potential wildlife crime incidents, but also for any countryside user who wants a better understanding of the laws protecting our fantastic wildlife.’                                                                                                                                Ian Thomson, senior investigations officer, RSPB Scotland.

‘No stone is left unturned as the wildlife crime detective par excellence deploys his great breadth and depth of specialist knowledge.’                                                                      Professor Des Thompson, Scottish Natural Heritage

Though the book primarily covers wildlife law as it applies in Scotland, much of the law in the rest of the UK is similar, as is the practical application of the law for enforcement purposes. Hopefully therefore the book will be of benefit beyond Scotland.

Please note that this book, at least in the meantime, is not available in shops, but signed copies can be obtained from:

Alan Stewart – wildlifedetective@gmail.com  or 01738 840769. This book retails at £10 but for £15, which includes p&p, you can have a signed copy of Wildlife and the Law PLUS any other one of my books. See ‘My Books’, let me know your choice and I’ll get them in the post.

Copies of Wildlife and the Law can also be obtained from

Sean Bradley – thirstybooks@hotmail.com  or 07598 323440

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Book Review – The Photographs of Archie Chisholm by Michael Cope

Before I move on to my review of a fascinating book, apologies for the lack of new blogs so far this year. I have been really busy re-vamping Wildlife and the Law in Scotland to produce a new edition incorporating changes in wildlife legislation in Scotland since the first edition in 2012. PAW Scotland has kindly agreed to support the new book financially and I hope it will be published at the end of April or, at worst, early May.  I am also writing another book on wildlife on a lowland Perthshire estate to complement an earlier book, A Wealth of Wildlife: A Year on a Highland Perthshire Estate. I began my regular walks over the estate in August and will continue until July. The wildlife on this estate is equally as enthralling and I am writing the chapters and taking photographs as I go. This book should be published in the autumn.

I recently received a present of a new book The Photographs of Archie Chisholm: life and landscapes in the Outer Hebrides 1881 – 1913 by Michael Cope. For several reasons this book was of great interest to me. Firstly the Outer Hebrides, particularly North Uist, is my favourite holiday destination and I am familiar with many of the places described in the book. Next, many of the recent photos comparing the old photos taken by Archie Chisholm were taken by his grandson, Alistair Chisholm, whom I knew well. Lastly, at the time of taking the photos Archie Chisholm was the procurator fiscal for the area and based in Lochmaddy. I knew one of the much more-recent procurators fiscal at Lochmaddy, John Bamber, through his interest in dealing with wildlife crime and we met or communicated on many occasions. Hardly surprising then that I delved into this book with great interest.

One of the first things that struck me in the book was the power over other peoples’ lives held – and often wielded – by landowners. Archie Chisholm, as befits the role of a procurator fiscal, was clearly a fair man. As well as his public role he also ran a private solicitor’s practice and had refused to act for the landowner of the time, Sir John Campbell-Orde, in connection with eviction disputes with Campbell-Orde’s tenants. One of the solicitors in the practice was more than happy to act for the tenants seeking to avoid eviction. As a consequence Archie Chisholm was forbidden by Campbell-Orde from taking lodgings at any house on the estate, to purchase a feu so that he could build a house or even to stay in the hotel in Lochmaddy, making it extremely difficult for Archie to reside near to his place of work. To this day there remain many inconsistencies with the bestowing of a knighthood on a person and that person’s regard for humanity, fairness or public interest.

Archie’s photographs give an amazing insight into life in the Western Isles just over a century ago. He operated a small business, having many of his photographs professionally printed by a Manchester company as picture postcards and many of these appear in the book with the photograph overlaid by an apt description. The author, Michael Cope, whose wife is the granddaughter of Archie, covers a wide range of occupations and interests relating to Hebridean life, naturally illustrated by the photographs. Chapters include landscapes, the post offices and the post system (which again was much manipulated by landowners), crofting communities, churches and field sports, where the deer, salmon and trout on the islands attracted wealthy tourists for shooting and fishing.

This is a fascinating book which is complemented by the author’s research and text. Yet the photographs could probably stand alone, leaving this ancient lifestyle, so different to mainland life but maybe not so different even now to Hebridean life, to the readers’ imagination.

The Photographs of Archie Chisholm: life and landscapes in the Outer Hebrides 1881 – 1913 by Michael Cope. Thirsty Books, Edinburgh. £14.99  The book is available post-free within the UK using the link https://www.thirstybooks.com/bookshop/ygy9rpryi78o9bhg83l14kfr940pja

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Book review: The Arctic by Richard Sale and Per Michelsen

The Arctic, by Richard Sale and Per Michelsen.

This is an extremely well laid-out book, written by Richard Sale and with photos by Per Michelson on almost every page helping the reader to understand the subject under discussion. To read it was a fascinating learning experience, though with its weight, not one for reading in bed.

The Arctic details the geology of the area, the climate, the Arctic’s unique solar and atmospheric phenomena including the aurora borealis. The author even explains how the simple snowflake forms, yet how unique and complex each individual snowflake is.

Since the Arctic is made up of parts of different countries these areas are visited in turn and the author writes of their most interesting historical and natural features, including the indigenous peoples and their former and modern means of survival.

Much of the second half of the book – the part that I found absolutely fascinating – covers habitats and the birds and mammals that live there. Like the whole book this part was illustrated by amazing photographs of the animals and birds and Per Michelsen has to be complimented on both his photographic skills and the range of photos. Photographing mammals in the Arctic will present many challenges.

The book concludes with a warning on the fragility of the Arctic and the real risks of commercial exploitation, particularly of oil. The reader is reminded of the huge cost to wildlife and to the undersea habitat when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in 1989 and released 250,000 barrels of oil into the sea.

Reading the book I was in awe at the vast knowledge of the author. This is not a book about one aspect of the Arctic but of a wide range of complex topics. The compilation of such a book, and its photographic illustrations, are a credit to Sale and Michelsen.

The Arctic by Richard Sale and Per Michelsen.                                                                Whittles Publishing Ltd, Dunbeath, Caithness, KW6 6EG  www.whittlespublishing.com  £25.

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Wildlife on an overcast day – an excerpt from a forthcoming book

Mute swans on the estate loch with whooper swan at the back

One of the fieldfares on the hawthorn trees

A buzzard flew over the fieldfares but its presence didn’t concern them

More pink-footed geese were landing among the thousands already feeding

My blogs have been more scarce recently as, surprisingly for a retired person, I have been incredibly busy. The activity taking much of my time is the carrying out of regular walks over a large estate in Perthshire. My intent is to see what wildlife is there and compare the estate and its wildlife to that which I knew intimately in the 1960s and 1970s. I began in early August and intend to do this over the course of a year, producing a book at the end of the same type as that which I wrote in 2012: A Wealth of Wildlife: a year on a Highland Perthshire estate. I have 14 short chapters written so far. Here is a taster:

Wednesday 7 November 2018. Dull, mild, stiff breeze. 11 degrees.

Another dull day with heavy rain forecast but I took the decision to go for it. I wanted to visit the lochs again just in case we get a cold spell soon and the lochs freeze over. Since my last visit here an ancient beech tree and a huge and absolutely straight conifer had been blown over. The foresters had trimmed the branches off the conifer and no doubt it will be carted off to the estate sawmill. The beech will either finish up as firewood or be left to rot down where it fell.

The larger of the estate loch’s attraction to wildfowl has waned, with the birds now favouring the smaller one. There were three mute swans on the loch today plus ten or so tufted ducks. Newcomers though were a small flock of about 25 greylag geese tight in to the rushes on the east shore. The loch – in fact this whole estate – is much more popular with pink-footed geese so these slightly larger geese are less-common visitors. A herring gull overflew the loch. As it came over the trees on the far side it somehow looked like an osprey, with its long narrow wings, but its identity became clear as it came closer.

Also new on the loch today were two cormorants sitting on a partly-sunken branch at the far side of the loch, plus three sitting in a tree to their left, their white breasts briefly shining in a blink of rare sunshine. The two on the sunken branch were drying their wings; with their wings spread they looked like miniature Angels of the North. I watched for a while and the three on the tree flew closer to me and started to fish. They look strange birds when they are in the water, with almost all of their body submerged and their neck and head sticking out of the water like a periscope or a sea serpent. I wondered if they sometimes hunt as a pack since most of the underwater forays were carried out in unison. I’m always hoping for a sighting of an otter but though I watched for nearly half an hour none of these large mustelids put in an appearance.

I walked along the forest track to the smaller loch. It had its usual compliment of mute swans, most of which were at the east end today. The wind was from the south-east and the waterfowl were taking advantage of a bit of shelter. A single male tufted duck was busy at the north-east corner. I took a couple of photos through one of the wire squares in the deer fence. When I looked at the photos later one photo summed up my photographic skills: I’d photographed a black spider hanging on a silk thread in the centre of the square.

I began to take a bit more notice of a small flock of swans feeding in the reeds on the far shore. It’s difficult to define why but I just thought they looked a bit different. Sure enough when I studied the members of this group through the binoculars they had yellow and black bills, wedge-shaped heads and, even though I was mostly seeing their raised bums, their necks were straighter than those of their mute cousins. There were half a dozen youngsters among this group of whooper swans, plus one away on its own half-way up the loch.

I continued up the north shore of the loch, noting a dozen or so tufted ducks resting on the far shore along with the same number of mallard. Further up, a raft of eight wigeon relaxed just out from the far shore. As I watched they were joined by another four which had flown down the loch. When the two groups combined they seemed to celebrate the meeting with much whistling. Their lovely musical calls whee-ooo, whee-ooo, whee-ooo floated across the loch.

As I continued up the lochside the numbers of waterfowl decreased, which was the complete opposite of my last visit. It demonstrates the influence the wind has on where waterfowl feed. One of the last birds on the loch was a heron, which rose at the edge of the loch ahead of me, circled over my head and landed somewhere behind me. I sat on the bank near the west end of the loch enjoying the view – albeit without waterfowl – enjoying my sandwiches and, most of all, enjoying the fact the rain had stayed away.

Having exhausted the lochs I had a look over the gate into the north-west moor. Two croaking ravens flew over at a distance and a flock of what appeared to be fieldfares were landing on the loose clump of berry-laden hawthorn trees on the moor. I climbed the gate and started to walk to the trees hoping to get close enough to determine whether the birds were indeed fieldfares, or could they be redwings or even a mix of both.  As I got closer I was able to confirm that all the birds I could see were fieldfares. A jay landed momentarily among the fieldfares but quickly spotted me and made a quick departure. A buzzard flew over at that point and it was interesting to note that the fieldfares were not in the least threatened. They continued gulping down hawthorn berries though no doubt still keeping one eye on the buzzard.

I sat down at the base of one of the trees and though the birds had flown to the furthest-away trees at my presence I knew their pattern and was satisfied that they would be back within a short time. Within ten minutes the flock was starting to return to the hawthorn trees beside me. Suddenly they rose in a cloud and fled towards taller trees in the wood. The cause of their panic was a male sparrowhawk that flew straight at them at tree height. It certainly meant business but was possibly confused by the sudden volume of birds and veered away. Amazingly it was then mobbed by a single fieldfare which almost made contact with the raptor. Do birds know that they may be safer from a sparrowhawk if not taken by surprise? Could it have been that because the sparrowhawk was high in the air the fieldfare could have climbed to safety if required? I once watched a merlin trying to catch a meadow pipit, which climbed higher and higher and eventually outflew the merlin, which gave up and looked for an easier meal.

I walked back to the car but on the way home I spotted a large flock of pink-footed geese in the same stubble field as they had been on my previous walk. They were in a position that I could stalk them with a reasonable chance of getting within seventy five yards or so. I succeeded in getting behind a drystone dyke just as several more skeins with maybe forty geese in each were gliding in to join the feeding flock. Luckily I had my back to the wind, which meant the geese would land into the wind and not have to overfly my position and spot me. I’m always fascinated by geese landing. Though I’d watched this at a distance on my previous walk here it was happening right in front of me. I managed to creep away from the now-enlarged flock without disturbing it. It was a great end to my morning. And a bonus that the rain stayed away.

 There is as yet no title for this book, which I hope to have published in autumn 2019.

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A shot goshawk – comment

x-ray of a shot buzzard taken at Dundee Airport.

x-ray of a shot goosander taken at HM Prison, Perth.

I read in the blog Raptor Persecution UK of the recovery in March this year of the goshawk washed up at the mouth of the River North Esk near St Cyrus. I may have missed it but it was disappointing not to have read of this or heard about in any other form of media. Is there so little interest in the shooting of a rare bird? Considering the 7 months delay before this found its way into the public domain it was very fairly reported by RPUK. Briefly, for those who are unaware, the bird had been found by a member of the public. The person who had ringed the bird was then notified and he arranged for the bird to be collected from where it had been washed up and sent to the Royal School of Veterinary Studies at Edinburgh University. The bird was x-rayed and found to have been shot by a shotgun at close range. It was then sent to Scottish Rural College (SRUC) for a post-mortem examination.

For whatever reason Police Scotland appeared not to have been notified of the dead bird or any outcome at any stage of this process.

It’s not too easy to get close to a goshawk so it may well have been caught in some sort of trap first and shot at close range within the trap. No x-ray is publicly available though the shot pattern on such an x-ray might throw some light on how close the bird was to the person shooting. The post-mortem examination should also be able to give a rough period over which the bird had been dead.

While the chance of Police Scotland getting anyone to court for this crime was minimal, it was in no way helped by the time delay. I accept that the failure of any organisation to notify the police was unintentional but nevertheless surprising considering the close working relationship by these agencies with police wildlife crime officers.

It may be that Police Scotland will remind the public and other agencies that may be involved in any way with the finding of a bird or animal which may have been killed unlawfully or the subsequent investigation to make contact with them at the earliest opportunity.

So far as raptor species are concerned, in particular if the bird is a goshawk or hen harrier, they are intensely disliked by many folks with shooting interests. The finding of a dead one should always arouse suspicion and I’d suggest the police should be notified and given the chance of collecting or examining the bird. In addition it is also worthwhile notifying RSPB Investigations so that they can link in with the police and provide advice or assistance if necessary.

If it helps, I can detail what I did when with Tayside Police and a dead raptor was reported. Firstly, the circumstances may suggest a high probability of accidental or natural death. Examples are an immature sparrowhawk found dead near a window or conservatory, a bird under power lines, a bird at the roadside or beside a railway line, or a thin bird during a hard spell of weather. Most of these can be discounted, though in hardly any circumstances would I suggest that a goshawk, hen harrier, golden eagle, peregrine or white-tailed eagle should not be collected for further examination. Even if the police officer is unable to make the collection RSPB Investigations are normally delighted to assist.

If I had collected a dead raptor I would initially have it x-rayed either at HMP, Perth or at Dundee Airport, whichever was handiest. This would give an immediate result if it had been shot and an investigation would begin. If there was no evidence of shooting it would be taken to SRUC for a post mortem and for samples to be submitted to Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) for examination for pesticides. From recovery of the bird to x-ray and passing to SRUC would almost always be done with 24 hours, 48 hours at most.

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