Ospreys at T in the Park – An explanation of why the Wildlife & Countryside Act is so important by Alan Stewart

Despite being retired I have had two contacts regarding the Strathallan (T in the Park) ospreys over the Easter weekend. One contact was by email; the other by telephone.  Firstly this is an extremely difficult situation. T in the Park brings considerable revenue to Scotland and in particular to Perthshire. With concerns this year with conservation issues and worries about the minor roads in the area not being able to cope, TITP may well decide to move out of Perthshire, which would be a disaster. Having said that, the law applies to everyone and, according to news reports, TITP do not appear to have made a very good job of the nesting osprey issue. The easiest solution may have been to remove the nest early on, but reports are that the owners were thwarted in this by their neighbours, on whose ground the tree is situated. The question now is are TITP and their ornithologists committing an offence by trying to keep the bird off the nest to encourage it to go to an artificial nest on a quieter part of the estate?
The video showing an osprey bringing nesting material into the old nest.

The relevant parts of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, as amended, are as follows:

Protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs.

1.- (1)    Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally or recklessly–

(a)   kills, injures or takes any wild bird;

(b)     takes, damages, destroys or otherwise interferes with the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built;

(ba) at any other time takes, damages, destroys or otherwise interferes with any nest habitually used by any wild bird included in Schedule A1;

(bb) ///// obstructs or prevents any wild bird from using its nest ///// ; or

(5)     Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally or recklessly–

(a)   ///// disturbs any wild bird included in Schedule 1 while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young ///// ; or

(b)   disturbs dependent young of such a bird,

he shall be guilty of an offence.

If we look at S.1(bb) those acting for TITP appear to be obstructing or preventing a wild bird from using a nest.  A photograph in today’s Courier shows a cherry picker raised near to the nest tree. Two men are on the cherry picker, at least one of whom is masked. (Recent photos of masked people include terrorists, hunt saboteurs and a number of people who were shooting at a goshawk nest. Naturally this makes identification of an offender more difficult).   There seems little doubt that they are there to keep ospreys away from the nest, so it is likely that the term ‘intentionally or recklessly’ would be met. However if the birds do not come near to the nest can it be proved that that are ‘disturbed?’ There may also be difficulty in proving that the nest belongs to the particular osprey trying to access it (to satisfy the wording ‘it’s’ nest). Look no further than Loch of the Lowes this year when a new female has claimed the nest occupied for years by Lady.Up to this point if it cannot be proved that the ospreys involved at Strathallan were the ones that used the nest last year then there would, in my view, be no offence. Whoever the expert is advising TITP, or anyone who has monitored these birds, may of course be able to state categorically that the bird this year is the same as last year. I don’t think it would matter whether it was the male or the female as they both ‘own’ the nest. This is where the police, to be satisfied that an offence is taking – or has taken – place, or to get a case to court, often rely on experts.

The osprey is a bird included on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but until it starts refurbishing a previous nest or building a new nest S.5(a) does not apply.

The telephone call to me on Easter Monday suggested that the evidence available had increased. The allegation was that an osprey had been filmed landing on the nest with nest material. If indeed this is the case then it could be argued that the osprey has laid claim to the nest and that the two subsections highlighted now apply. Depending on what the footage shows an offence may be complete, but further efforts to keep the birds from the nest would now certainly constitute an offence.

The Courier newspaper report indicates that Police Scotland are in possession of the video clip, the matter is under enquiry and the police are receiving assistance from RSPB Scotland and ornithologists.

We are grateful to Alan Stewart for allowing Raptor Politics to republish this story.

https://wildlifedetective.wordpress.com/

 

16 comments to Ospreys at T in the Park – An explanation of why the Wildlife & Countryside Act is so important by Alan Stewart

  • Alan Stewart

    Unlike you I have not seen the footage; merely descriptions of what is happening from the media. My interpretation of the WCA is that, in relation to Sch 1 birds, once they have started building a nest (which would include refurbishing a previous nest) the nest is protected. This seems the case here. In addition, in Scotland, it is an offence to prevent any wild bird from using or accessing its nest. The term ‘it’s nest’ could have posed a difficulty before, but if it is refurbishing a nest it seems reasonable to argue that it is now ‘it’s nest’.

    I would like to see T in the Park going ahead but the law must apply to everyone; there is no exemption for a commercial enterprise.

  • To be clear, the video link above shows footage of the birds on the nest on Tuesday 7 April. Monday’s footage should be available shortly. It shows the osprey on the nest, carrying nesting material to the nest and also chasing away a corvid, all prior to the removal of the cherry picker. Hence our belief – shared by RSPB – that an offence was committed.

    DFC have attempted to cast doubt on the veracity of this footage. The only issue was that the version seen by the police did not carry a date stamp. However, the original footage does carry a date stamp, so this is a pure technicality which can be resolved by the police looking at this material. Despite repeated requests, the police seem to be in no rush to do this, presumably because the cherry picker has now moved and the focus is now on suitable buffer zones.

    • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Group

      Hi Zazie,
      Based upon my many years experience with osprey and white-tailed eagles in both the Czech Republic and Poland, where a 500 m exclusion zone is mandatory during the whole breeding season around each nest, very few problems are encountered, nests are usually productive. I believe once there has been a public exclusion zone placed around this nest from now until the end of the breeding season, the pair of nesting osprey should be OK. I doubt if they will be bothered too much by the music, as long as all human activity is restricted to outside of the exclusion zone of at least 500m, a larger zone would be better.

      • kathleen warton

        Does that include the lighting displays, laser lights and pyrotechnics alongside the sudden onset of the concert all within a week of fledging?
        Smith Mountain Lake Virginia had three youngsters fledge prematurely when a boat of revellers let off a few fireworks on the lake on the 4th of July. They were well outside the exclusion zone for boats, but in a normally quiet setting it spooked the young at around the same age as any chicks could be at Strathallan.

        Editor’s Comment. Hi Kathleen, we were not aware of this new information. Yes we would agree, that will almost certainly be a problem to overcome. This new information will have to be taken into consideration by the planners and RSPB.

  • Alastair Henderson

    The video shows far more than nest material being brought to the nest – there are a pair of Ospreys quite clearly displaying in the immediate vicinity of, and landing on, their nest. I would dispute the credentials of any so called ornithologist employed by TITP since they obviously have no regard for either the birds or the WLCA given the deliberate disturbance to which they are complicit.

  • Circus maxima

    Has T in the Park actually got planning permission yet?

  • Pete McDougall

    Hi,

    I’m a big music fan, bigger wildlife fan, living and working in Scotland. T as a festival is over, it’s pretty rubbish really, with no stand out acts for the last few years. It’s like a groundhog day of a festivel. Belladrum, Wickerman and Loopallu are consistently better, Skye, while it lasted was awesome, as was Rockness, but sadly the halcyon days of Scottish music festivals are on the wane. Yer T is Oot,. as we might say.

    Geoff Ellis is is the new Donald Trump ….T in the Park is long past its sell by date with its second rate, ‘has been’ bands offer nothing culturally to out youth. However, big business dominates, another example being Edinburgh’s Christmas shenanigans courtesy of UnderBelly – thanks Charlie, but is it’s a bit inconvenient having our premier park out of bounds for three months of the year.

    TITP are not WANTING to move to Strathallan, but what they want to do is find something to blame for cancelling, it saves their face, they can go under with dignity and blame those ‘damned environmentalists’ and ‘planners’ for their failure to compete with Glastonury etc etc…..

    Why do young folk accept the quality of the crap acts at TITP anyway, as this mediocre offering has been masquerading as a ‘music festival’ for the last five years???

    Geoff, when you read this you know I am right. Give it up dude.

    cheers,

    Pete

  • Latest update: RSPB have objected to TITP at Strathallan, and will only remove this objection if the organisers adopt their conditions. In brief, they have requested a buffer of 500m around the osprey nests (there are two active nests – altho’ the organisers deny the presence of the second nest) until mid June. The idea (I think) is to allow the birds to become habituated to activity during the construction period. By the time of the festival, RSPB has agreed a buffer of 250m should be in place. Is this REALLY enough, when 85,000 people rock up on Friday morning? And noise levels hit 140dB. That’s the noise a jet engine makes at 100ft above the ground.

    A wildlife crime seems bound to be committed, when the ospreys are disturbed. The Police have already said they will not stop the festival (for fear of riots). And we’re in the hands of the same experts (presumably) who devised the original (failed) Osprey Management Plan, to decide when the birds have been disturbed.

    Would be good to hear your views. Let me know if you need any more info.

    NB The full report can be found on the PKC planning portal, under Ref 15/00081/FLM

  • Meant to say, planning has not yet been approved. The decision is expected to be made in mid-May. The Council is under a huge amount of pressure – not just from the organisers, but also from some MSPs to ensure this goes ahead. (And, I think, Scottish Government, but that is just my own view.)

  • A Paton

    I would like all communication to be published, re any council or police action. However, as an RSPB member, I would very much appreciate the publishing of the data and advice used/given with particular reference to all the advice options available and why this advice has been given out.

    The osprey is a schedule 1 species, if disturbance has happened we need to see the correct protection through legislative action, as anyone of us disturbing these birds would receive as individuals.

    Serious concerns as to what has been happening with this process. What does the SNH have to say ?

  • SNH not posted response on portal yet. They have been strangely quiet.

  • John Mckenzie

    Zazie McIntosh.140db, Steady there tiger thats gonna cause permanent hearing damage and the council monitor the festival for noise. thats a non fact. do you know 56% of statistics are made up on the spur of the moment

  • Hi John, It’s counterproductive for us to exaggerate on these things. The figure has originated from the maximum of 137dB on the licence, combined with the fact that the noise limit has on numerous occasions been exceeded. I’ve looked a bit further into it and here’s an example of noise levels at Balado: on Sat 12 July, 2014, noise levels at an offsite recorder, over 1km from the Slam Tent, and further still from all the other stages, reached 98.9dB. The osprey nest is just 75m from the main arena. The fundamental point is that the festival is extraordinarily loud, over a long period, and beyond anything we believe the birds could tolerate. Zazie

  • John Mckenzie

    Yes and this reading has very much to do with the proximity of the sound measuring device in relation to the sound source. The meter can be in line with the sound source where the ear is at right angles. This greatly decreases the pressure of the sound wave and the volume of the sound. Its may say 137 at the meter depending on its position but a more accurate measure of the volume would be meter the sound at the ear. Any sound can also be reflected and absorbed by the strategic placement of sound baffles. This can have the effect of no sound being projected into an unwanted area.

  • John Mckenzie

    Also because the db scale is logarithmic it is a much larger reduction in sound from 140db to 100 db than you would imagine

  • A Paton

    As Alan Stewart mentioned above:

    ” the law must apply to everyone; there is no exemption for a commercial enterprise”

    Could we have some access to the conversation/communication that must have been happening between the Police/SNH/RSPB/PKC/TITP/Scot Gov regarding the Osprey’s protection (Schedule 1 species). Why no transparency ?, are the Strathallan Osprey’s subject to a Post code Lottery interpretation of the law and its protective legislation.

    Lets have things open, where is the impartial expert advice ?.

    Many thanks.