RSPB Scotland Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn, tells us about a recent protest against raptor persecution in Inverness.
It’s time to get MAD about wildlife crime!
In late March, at least 14 red kites and 5 buzzards were poisoned near Inverness making it one of the worst recorded cases of bird of prey killing ever in the UK.
Of course, the RSPB condemned the killings but what made this one different was that the reaction from others was equally immediate and loud. Within days local people had set up their own Facebook page to voice their anger and sorrow - both took off highlighting the level of public disgust.
A reward for info leading to a successful conviction was set up and currently stands at £27000 (Just Giving page here). As of today, 199 individuals have donated £5000 and local landowners and farmers have contributed a fantastic £12000.
And when the RSPB in North Scotland organised a demonstration against the killings in Inverness city centre, hundreds came, listened to a piper play a lament, carried ‘ghost’ raptors which they chalked round, and added their messages. Never before have so many people gathered in one place to show how much they like birds of prey and what they think of those that do harm to them.
None of this would have happened a few years ago. Certainly in the North of Scotland they were seen as the RSPB’s kites and, if anyone killed them, well that was seen as someone else’s problem to sort out. But some absolutely brilliant work between a whole army of stupendous volunteers, the local communities, landowners and the RSPB has turned all that around.
Now they are everyone’s kites, as much a part of ‘ordinary’ people’s lives as doing the shopping or watching the telly. They love their kites, they make them feel good and now anyone that harms kites harms them. At the demonstration I saw people in tears – that’s how much those dead birds meant to them. Birds they won’t see out the kitchen window, when they go for a walk, when they drive in and out of Inverness.
The chalk outlines of the kites and buzzards will have been scuffed off the streets of Inverness by now but the memory of the day and the resolve to keep fighting won’t be erased so easily.
The people have spoken, they are going to continue to speak, they aren’t going to go away, they aren’t going to shut up. Those who have it in their power to put an end to raptor killing would do well to listen.
To celebrate the launch of the Scottish Birdfair event programme, we are giving away a batch of goodies for your garden birds!
To enter simply visit the website http://scottishbirdfair.org.uk/ then tell us what walk, talk, workshop or special event you are most looking forward to.
You can either leave us a comment here on the blog, via Facebook or Twitter @RSPBScotland.
We'll select a winner at random by Thursday, April 17th.
Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer, is back with a new blog on the SRDP.
Hotspots and Notspots
There are management options for a range of species including corn bunting. Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com).
In my previous blog post I discussed how Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife is a management option in the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SDRP) which is good for lapwings. There are many other options that can help some of our most iconic and vulnerable birds too, such as corncrake, corn bunting and black grouse. How we ensure that the right options are taken up within the areas of Scotland where these bird species actually are – the need for targeting – has been filling some of my time these past few weeks.
In the previous SRDP some options, such as Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife, proved very popular with farmers and there was high uptake of those options across the country. But despite farmers meeting the eligibility criteria, these options weren’t always adopted in the best places to have maximum impact and used to benefit the species they were designed to help. For example, some lovely wet grassland habitat was created and managed but not always within key areas for lapwing.
This time around we have been working with Government to target options to where they are really needed. So Open grazed and wet grassland for wildlife should be geographically targeted to where there are concentrations of wading birds or other target wildlife likely to use the habitat. If we can get these hotspots right it will mean scarce cash will be used much more effectively and we will get more ‘bang for our buck’. The next scheme needs to make sure that options are selected in the right places to have best effect.
Government is also developing targeting maps to target options designed for other environmental benefit, e.g. water quality improvement, woodland planting, flood management, and greenhouse gas reduction. Overlay all these maps and as well as showing hotspots, it should indicate ‘notspots’ – locations where options shouldn’t be placed. A good example of a notspot is illustrated once again by our lapwing. A farmer might consider a part of a field unproductive and difficult to manage, and therefore a good place to plant some trees through the SRDP Forestry Grants scheme. But that field might be an ideal location for lapwings and other waders to breed. Identifying that area as a notspot for tree planting, and finding other more suitable areas on the farm, could help to avoid environmental harm and ensure the SRDP budget is spent in the best way possible.