White-tailed eagle nesting tree reported cut down in Angus.

Police  in Angus Scotland are investigating allegations that a White-tailed eagle’s  nest was destroyed in Angus by cutting down the nesting tree in January. Strange that it has taken 5 months for the information to be released to the public. Conservationists have pointed out the destroyed nest was the first constructed by white-tailed eagles in the east of Scotland in about 150 years.

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The remains of a tree containing an active White-tailed eagle nest cut down on the Invermark Estate in Angus in January. 

White-tailed eagles, and their nests, are protected by law. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy nests being built or in use.

RSPB Scotland claimed the estate had been warned that eagles were nesting in the tree. It was also claimed the nest was lined with moss and fresh down at a time when eggs would have been laid. The RSPB claim the loss of the nest meant there would be no breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in the east of Scotland this year.

It appears persecution of eagles in Scotland is not restricted to the White-tailed eagle. This week members of the North West Raptor Group working in Scotland ringing Eagles, discovered an active Golden Eagle eyrie close to Fort William which had been destroyed. Although the nest had been active and eggs had been laid, on closer inspection of the territory, the remains of two eggs were discovered smashed below the nest. The RSPB have been informed of the incident. The same eyrie when inspected last year was found to contain a single abandoned egg.

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Terry Pickford found this empty Golden Eagle eyrie near Fort William this week, the remains of two eggs found smashed below eyrie.

But since the 1970s, the species (also known as the Sea Eagle) has been reintroduced to the west coast of Scotland.

Over the last six years, the focus has been on Scotland’s east coast.

More than 80 birds, taken from nests in Norway, have been released from a secret location in Fife.

The reintroduction project is run by RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.

It has cost £452,000 to date, with funding coming from the RSPB, SNH and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Duncan Orr Ewing, of RSPB Scotland, said: “I was totally appalled and I think most right-minded people would have the same reaction.

“Here is a species that is being brought back as part of international conservation efforts, and we appear to have one individual or a couple of individuals who are undermining that conservation effort.”

Invermark Estate has rejected the allegations, and insisted it is proud of its conservation record.

A spokesman said: “Any suggestion that the estate or its employees, who are highly trained and implement extensive conservation programmes, would jeopardise or disrupt species that have made this estate their home, is disputed in the strongest possible terms.”

A spokesman for the landowners’ organisation, Scottish Land and Estates, said: “There is a worrying trend in these matters that certain people take the irresponsible view that accusations can be made anonymously through the media, in the middle of police investigations, with the objective of hoping that mud sticks and an estate can be portrayed as being guilty until proven innocent.”

In a separate development, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP, told BBC Scotland he is set to introduce new measures designed to tackle the persecution of birds of prey.

He said: “Even those stakeholders who represent landowners and the sporting interests recognise that there are those who seem hell bent on ignoring the law and the clear will of parliament and the people of Scotland to protect our natural environment.

“We are reaching the point where we do have to take further steps to reinforce that message and ensure that while we don’t want to punish those that are doing good things, we target our efforts at those who are clearly ignoring their responsibilities.”

26 comments to White-tailed eagle nesting tree reported cut down in Angus.

  • G ottley

    Find the culprits and imprison them. Who do they think they are. Rich or not prosecute and publish it don’t take forever to find lock them up

  • skydancer

    This is just another example of rich land owners being above the law , I bet no one will be prosecuted .

  • E.F

    Incidents like this need to be brought to the mass public eye. If more people knew about activities such as this it would be much harder for the offenders to get away with such crimes. Just think of the amount of people that watch for example “Springwatch” broadcast on the BBC. If a story like this appeared on the programme, surely it would have more impact and people would sit up and realise our heritage is at serious risk.

  • alan

    Im not so sure on this one.
    Invermark genuinely has a good record with repect to conservation unlike a few other nearbye estates.
    If this happened in January, why is it just coming out now? The sea eagles have been resident there for a few years with no incidents. Cheers Alan

    Editor’s Comment. Thank you for this comment Alan, Good to know at least there are a few estates in Scotland that really do care for their wildlife. There is always the possibility someone from outside the estate came in and took the law into their own hands. We just hope that who ever was responsible they are brought to justice for what they did. However, after five months the possibility of this happening are very slim. Why the police kept this incident under wraps for so long is curious. Perhaps if Invermark, the RSPB, together with other interested parties place a huge reward for information, this crime could be solved.

    • I’m also with Alan and Dave Adam (see Raptor Persecution Scotland website) on this one.
      Angus does have several good law abiding estates (e.g. Rottal Estate in Glen Clova, etc) which I work very closely with monitoring raptors and other moorland associated biodiversity.
      In my experience major hostility towards this raptor comes from people who raise sheep.

  • I saw this pair of White Tailed Eagles on 4th November 2012, in fact I have a video of them flying around the trees and settling on them maybe behaving a bit ‘broody’ come to think of it, but at that point did not suspect that they might nest. There were quite a few sightings of the pair in 2012 but strangely so far in 2013 I have not seen them again.

    I am furious with this reported incident but who is to blame? Invermark and its management have a good reputation here in Angus and the estate has two pairs of Golden Eagle that have bred successfully for many years but others do have the use of the land for sheep farming and therein begins another chapter regarding the perceived attitude to eagles some people might have.

    The RSPB were informed of my sightings and obviously were aware at that time of the nest building so it might have been wise of them to protect that nest which symbolized years of ‘investment’ in the east coast reintroduction scheme by requesting help to monitor that nest; I am sure many would have volunteered to keep an eye on nesting progress because the birds seemed to be fairly tolerant of disturbance.

    This is a sad event in the Year of Natural Scotland but I am certainly not going to be hasty in pointing the finger at Invermark management / keepers who would have benefited from White Tailed Eagles nesting here because of the estate’s innovative and recent venture into wildlife tourism that is promoting the W T Eagle as a possible attraction.

  • Paul Tresto

    Are there any recent wind farm planning applications in the area?

    If not we can probably expect one soon. I think Steven (comments above) is probably correct.

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Group

    Although what has taken place is disgraceful, the outcome may not be as bad as everyone may think. Because the tree holding the nest was cut down in January, this would leave enough time for the pair of eagles to relocate and construct a second nest in time to lay a clutch of eggs in February, or even in March.

    Were the two eagles sub adult or had they both reached maturity (5 years)? If they were less than three years old it is doubtful any eggs laid would be fertile. I am confident the pair would have had enough time and the opportunity to produce a first clutch at a second location. Does anyone know if a second nest was found? If both birds were five years old the clutch produced would certainly have been fertile.

    • Both birds had full white tails and the RSPB officer involved in monitoring them suggested that they were from the first 2007 introductions. No mention of another nest.

      Editor’s Comment. Thank you Dave, it would seem the eagles from this territory were adult if they were reintroduced in 2007, what a terrible situation, just when this pair could have made an important contribution to the start of breeding in eastern Scotland.

  • With a willing land owner a replacement manmade nest could have been built in hours.

    • Terry Pickford

      As the tree was cut down in January, the pair could with ease construct a new nest. WHite-tailed eagles do not always accept a man made structure.

  • You’d be nuts not to give them that option

    • Terry Pickford

      Dave, yes you may be correct, but in this case no one could have foreseen what took place, or perhaps they should? All I am saying, the pair had sufficient time to construct a second nest after the tree was cut down, there was no other option. However if the pair were from the eastern Scotland release scheme, they may have been immature, therefore any eggs laid are likely to have been infertile. Lessons should be learned from what took place this season to prevent it happening again. Cutting down sea eagle nesting trees is nothing new in the Czech Republic and in Poland. The difference in those countries, the tree is always felled after the eggs have hatched. Who ever cut the tree down in Scotland may not make the same mistake a second time. Interestingly, in both the Czech Republic and in Poland, nesting trees are cut down to protect fishing interests not sheep. Almost certainly the nest in Angus was cut down by someone who lives not too far from where the eagles were hunting.

    • nirofo

      It’s an interesting fact that there are tenant crofting shepherds on the estate, it’s also an interesting fact that the tree containing the Sea Eagle nest was cut down in January, just about the start of the lambing season. It’s also strange that the birds have not been reported as seen in the area since!!!

      Not that I’m trying to cast aspersions, but it does make you wonder somewhat don’t you think???

  • I’ve never said the pair didn’t have time to build a second nest, I’ve simply said a manmade one could have been built quickly which they could have the option to use!

  • Alan

    Have now heard reliably that it was a sea eagle nest, but was not approved by Invermark estate. I’m still happy that Invermark is one of the good estates.

    Editor’s Comment. Not sure what you mean, can you please clarify? If a sea eagle builds a nest on any estate it does not have to be approved as it is a protected species. The nest is also protected and should be safe with or without approval from the landowner. This applies to all other schedule 1 raptors.

  • I visited the site today where the tree was felled and saw the remains of the nest. The tree has been logged and the nest dispersed.

  • Alan

    What I meant was that the estate did not sanction the felling of the tree. The eagles are welcome there and have been for a long time.

    Editor’s Comment. Alan, thank you for the explanation. Alan do you know if after the tree was felled, the pair of eagles made any attempt to construct a new nest on the estate? Also, are there any commercial fishing interests in the area?

  • Adult White-tailed Eagles were first recorded roosting on the Invermark estate during 2012. Rod and line fishing on rivers and lochs – no fish farming only sheep farming. Check out my blog for more photos and info. Golden Eagles (2pairs) have successfully bred on the estate for many years.

  • Alan

    As Dave has said,golden eagles resident for the last 40 to my certain knowledge. Fishing on the loch for 3 months per year. Not a commercial venture. The salmon fishing is being grown. Some sheep farming. The only change is a new head keeper, I believe from Skibo.

  • Anne Cardwell

    May I make a suggestion to see how much the estate really do apprecaite wildlife, especially White-tailed eagles. Is there someone who would be willing to contact Invermark with a firm offer to install a man made nesting platform at no cost to the estate? If the estate say no this would demonstrate they are against eagles.

    • nirofo

      I don’t believe there’s any history of Sea Eagles taking to man made nest platforms anywhere in Europe, I’ve certainly never heard of it. In many areas of Europe and Scandinavia where they are not persecuted they are fairly common nesters in all sorts of trees and rock ledges and have no need for artificial nest platforms. Putting up platforms to attract Sea Eagles to nest in Scotland may or may not work, they are not like Osprey’s who take to them readily and they would probably attract even more persecution. Unfortunately, even if it were to go ahead and was successful in attracting nesting birds, it would mean that someone or some organisation would have to take responsibility for them and install a permanent watch during the nesting period, is this a likely scenario?

      Editor’s Comment. In reality, raptors throughout the UK’s uplands are not afforded much if any protection by legislation. In European countries like Poland and the Czech Republic raptor nests like the White-tailed eagle and Osprey are provided with some extra protection when nesting. Nests are surrounded by exclusion zones of 500m during the breeding season, and 250m in the winter. Anyone caught inside these prohibited areas are heavily fined or sent to prison. Man made nesting platforms are being used successfully in both of these countries, including Slovakia, so perhaps we here in the UK should not discount this altogether.

    • Bruce

      Anne

      Perhaps not the most intelligent suggestion I’ve ever heard. I appreciate wildlife though if you offered me a free badger set in my garden I’d not take you up on it.

  • There is recent evidence that an alternative nest was possibly started by the pair of White-tailed Eagles, I managed to spot one of them last Saturday on the estate. Fingers crossed for nesting next year, I will certainly be keeping an eye on them.

    Editor’s Comment. Dave many thanks for this update, please continue to keep us up to date with all developments on this estate?

  • George

    I was surprised to see Dalhousie Estates get such a positive write up. Having lived in Tarfside close to the estate for a few years and been involved in raptor monitoring that was not my experience. Indeed, I was twice assaulted by a gamekeeper employed by Dalhousie Estates, once only a few hundred yards from the tree where the sea eagles were building a nest. The police were involved and on the first occasion the gamekeeper receiveEd a warning. After the second offence he moved new employment at Mar Estate and is still there as far as I know. I know that on Dalhousie Estate there were no hen harrier nests though, given the location, there should have been several. Having “wildlife tours” and a resident pair of golden eagles could be seen as very good PR while taking the focus off the question as to why there are no hen harriers nests present. I had an encounter with the police in relation to Millden Estate just a few miles down Glenesk too. In the space of ten days I both found and photographed two illegal traps on the estate. On the first occasion I was told by the agency of Alan Stewart that a warning letter had been sent and any further offences would be prosecuted. When I reported the second offence I was told once more that a warning letter would be sent, but no prosecution. It was around that time that I began to suspect collusion at some point along the way, a suspicion I still maintain today. I still have the paperwork connected to these incidents.