I spent Saturday – a lovely sunny day – inside the SNH conference centre at Battleby – at a Scottish Raptor Study Groups’ conference. It was a great day.
I was speaking, which always takes the shine off my day (and perhaps others’ too), but the other speakers were a very impressive line-up.
We heard about raptor monitoring and arrangements for this year’s Hen Harrier survey as well as an update on Hen Harrier research findings.
There was also an update on Langholm by Sonja Ludvig which revealed (although it wasn’t a surprise) that post breeding Red Grouse numbers at Langholm in 2015 were much lower than in previous years. This gave us the opportunity to ask why there has been no shooting at Langholm in 2013 and 2014 when post-breeding numbers have been as high as in previous years when many Red Grouse were shot. The explanation still seemed very shaky to me, but although I intended to have a friendly chat with Sonja it didn’t happen so I can’t enlighten you.
Elsewhere we heard, from Stuart Benn, that there was progress on Golden Eagles in a study area where some estates (not named, but I think I know which some of them were) have been protecting their eagles in recent years. I’d be willing and ready to praise these estates but I am not able: their identities have to remain secret for a while longer. Still, it’s good news.
Pete Cairns made a very interesting opening speech about predators (furry ones as well as feathery ones) and he made some good points along the lines that clashes over attitudes to predators were sometimes clashes over much bigger things – clashes of world view.
Andy Wightman talked about land ownership and the report he produced with Ruth Tingay last year. It was good to chat to them both about issues.
And we heard from Ian Thomson about the ways that potential court cases can fall by the wayside.
Miguel Ferrer gave a very interesting talk about Spanish Imperial Eagles as the Derek Ratcliffe Memorial Lecture.
All in all – an impressive bunch who are doing some great work (eg the recent BB Hen Harrier paper) but you can’t change the world by ringing raptors, that information must be used as a fulcrum with which to move the earth. My message was ‘Let’s get more political and make more noise about what we all know is happening’. That’s what is needed – and I met many kindred spirits on Saturday.