Two photographers found guilty of illegally disturbing nesting White-tailed eagles on Mull.

Two wildlife photographers have each been found guilty of illegally disturbing a nesting pair of white-tailed sea eagles on the Isle of Mull.

On 24th November at Oban Sheriff Court, 32 year old Yuli Panayotov from London and Ivaylo Takev,(36) from Norwich were charged with disturbing the breeding birds of prey near Killechronan in May 2010. They were convicted under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) 1981. The two photographers were fined a combined total of £1100.

[singlepic id=163 w=450 h=338 float= centre]

The White-tailed Eagle is very susceptible to human disturbance during the breeding season, especially at a nest containing eggs. The image above was taken by Terry Pickford under licence at a nest in Poland. The distance from hide to nest was 150 m and the hide had been constructed two years prior to the beginning of any photography.

The court heard how police had been alerted to the disturbance at the nest after a number of witnesses had spotted both the adult birds circling over the nest and alarm-calling. At the time of the offence the nest had contained two eaglets. Fortunately, despite the problems caused by the two photographers on this occasion both chicks contained in the nest managed to fledge successfully.

Followers of Raptor Politics will recall an incident which we reported from the Forest of Bowland last summer when a hen harrier nest containing two small chicks was being photographed under licence supplied by Natural England. On that occasion the outcome did not result in such a fortunate or happy ending for the nesting harriers, as both nestlings either died or disappeared shortly after the filming had commenced.

Getting back to the Mull case the court was told Panayotov and Takev had erected a photography hide a short distance from the occupied nest despite not having a licence to photograph the nesting eagles.

Speaking following the conviction, Sheriff Douglas Small remarked that the two photographers had disregarded prior warnings they had been given from RSPB Mull Officer, Dave Sexton and local holiday-makers.

White-tailed eagles have been the subject of a successful reintroduction to Scotland, having become extinct early in the 20th century following extensive persecution. The reintroduction began in 1975 and there are now over 50 breeding pairs of White-tailed eagles on the west coast of Scotland, several pairs nesting on the Isle of Mull. Their presence on the island is a significant tourist attraction, bringing an annual £5m to the local economy.

The White-tailed eagle (Earn) is afforded the highest level of protection of any British bird, due to both its rarity and also its sensitivity to disturbance, particularly during the breeding season.

Speaking following the conviction Bob Elliot, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: ‘We welcome this result as it sends out a clear signal that wildlife crime will not be tolerated and we thank the Procurator Fiscal and Strathclyde Police for their work on this important case.’

Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland’s Mull Officer who had warned off the men, added: ‘Mull’s economy depends to a large extent on wildlife tourism and we welcome thousands of responsible, law-abiding visitors who respect and enjoy the wildlife they’ve come to see.

‘But unacceptable behaviour from people who think they are above the law and choose to disturb protected wildlife like the eagles will not be tolerated – wildlife photographers in particular need to take note.’

8 comments to Two photographers found guilty of illegally disturbing nesting White-tailed eagles on Mull.

  • paul williams

    Re:- Hen Harrier licensed photographers in the Forest of Bowland last year. Did Natural England afford the same level of unacceptable behaviour to the photographers and remove their licenses for having a hand in the the demise of the nest and loss of the Harrier chicks? Considering the critical status of the Hen Harrier in England, someone surely must be accountable for the loss and failure of this nest? Just as important people have a right to know why this incident was covered up, and why a photography licence was issued by Natural England at all?

    • Rebecca Willis

      I find the exposures highlighted on Raptor Politics relating to the poor and inappropriate field activities of a number of licensed individuals working in the Forest of Bowland rather worrying, especially as the people who have reported this improper and unacceptable field practice have themselves been discriminated against for reporting the truth. The discrimination surely has gone too far after members of the North West Raptor Group had their licenses revoked for whistle blowing ( telling the truth), while the transgressors retained theirs. What is Natural England playing at, getting rid of such experienced and dedicated field workers who have done nothing wrong? At a time when protected raptors need all the help that can be afforded to them, resulting from their persecution and a lack of experienced field workers, now is NOT the time to restrict or remove licenses from experienced and dedicated independent field workers who’s only crime has been placing the interests of the birds top of their agenda.

  • paul williams

    Gamekeeper Buzzard Trapper Is Fined £300

    Sep 27 2008

    A GAMEKEEPER who left a buzzard in a cage trap for more than 48 hours was fined £300 yesterday.

    David Whitefield, 42, broke terms of his licence to use the crow trap by failing to check it.

    At Lanark Sheriff Court, he admitted two charges over the incident at Culter Allers Farm near his home in Biggar, Lanarkshir in March.

    Whitefield will pay the fine at £15 a week.

    The bird survived.

  • Chris

    Whilst I fully endorse the fact that these two persons were prosecuted, I can’t help but think that protecting Mull’s tourist industry was the primary reason for it ever getting to court. At least wildlife benefits from human obsession with £ for a change!

    Ediotors note: Chris let know one forget the two men were warned, yet they still went ahead and installed an illegal hide too close to the eyrie. What they did was illegal and now they have been punished for their offence as a warning to others.

  • paul williams

    I do feel that Chris has a point regarding protection for the Eagles which goes hand in hand with the revenue from tourism.I wonder how the local Cafe and Garage will fair at Dunsop Bridge when the Hen Harriers and Peregrine Falcons have finally disappeared from the moorlands surrounding Dunsop Bridge.

  • paul williams

    It has been highlighted on the (Name and Shame them Facebook site) that a license may soon be issued to cull Buzzards. This terrifies me greatly considering how easily Eagle Owls,Short-eared Owls and female Hen Harriers might be mistaken for Buzzards. If a Peregrine Falcon can be mistaken for a Red Grouse on a charity shoot in the Forest of Bowland,anything and everything may well get the same persecution treatment.

  • che

    Did this horrendous crime of Peregrine persecution ever reach the judicial system???