Saturday, 20 July 2013

Silly Season in Scotland

The good folk at Raptor Persecution Scotland flagged up an interesting press release from Scottish Land & Estates about an incident of attempted predation by a Buzzard on an Osprey nest. A typically opportunistic and natural occurrence that happens in the wild is suddenly turned into the centrepiece of a typically opportunistic attack on Buzzards in a laughable press release filled with opinion and little else.

Read the press release  then take a few seconds to ask a few basic questions -

1. "This cannot be passed off as simply nature taking its course" - why not? In fact that's exactly what it is, nothing more and nothing less. Similar events take place across the natural world, it's called predation and it exists.

2. "Buzzards numbers have been growing steadily since the 1980s and are now at record levels in Scotland. The latest official BTO Bird Atlas Survey demonstrates a more than healthy population which is no longer of conservation concern." - all true but where is the balancing statement highlighting that Osprey populations have also grown in the same period allowing its conservation status to be reduced from Red to Amber? Of course it's missing precisely because the fact Osprey numbers are growing at the same time as the Buzzard population completely debunks the 'Buzzards are a serious conservation threat to Osprey myth' that this press release is trying to create.

3. "While previous reports of such predation have been brushed off by those who do not like the reality of what is happening in the countryside, this second video provides the sad but clear and conclusive evidence of the serious impacts of the growing population of buzzards.   There are gaps in scientific knowledge about these impacts"- Let's be clear, there is a huge amount that goes on in the countryside I don't like, poisoning, illegal trapping and shooting of birds of prey, widespread use of lead-shot illegally just for starters but a natural predation event whatever species are involved does not concern me nor does it constitute a 'serious impact'. When it comes to gaps in scientific knowledge perhaps Douglas Mcadam (CE of Scottish Land & Estates) would perhaps be better minded to address concerns over the impact of 35m non-native gamebirds released into the countryside each year, many by his members.

The problem is that he and his ilk don't really care about the 'natural countryside' their concern extends to the impact on grouse or pheasants and the profits derived from the shooting thereof. That's what rankles when they try and hijack a natural event and use it to demonise the species involved in predation. These kind of attacks and attempts to create hysteria surrounding Buzzards are simply part of a bigger campaign to persuade government that they should be allowed to kill Buzzards under licence. To hear SLE conclude that because of the occasional predation of Ospreys by Buzzards "A rational debate is urgently needed in which evidence from land and wildlife managers, such as Euan Webster can be taken into account" is ludicrous, irrational, emotive nonsense. If there is to be a debate then perhaps the need for 'wildlife managers' and the scope of their responsibilities is where we should start, I can think of many species that would benefit from a reduction in the activities (currently legal and illegal) of this particular group.


Andrew Hodson said...

Wouldn't it be fantastic if those who claim to be custodians of the countryside came forward with plans to improve the prospects of such as Hen Harriers and Merlins, rather than trying to promote the persecution of species that are succeeding.

Alan Tilmouth said...

It would be Andrew, I've been making the point recently that they seem to have found the motivation to get a multi-organisation industry led campaign off the ground in relation to ensuring they get to keep lead-shot but similar efforts and publicity to persuade those engaged in illegal raptor persecution rarely receive more than a casual nod.