David Adam Gallery
David Adam ..... Scottish creative artist ...... author of Wildsketch ..... social realist in Postcard from Brechin
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Many years now have been spent wandering the much loved, yet, 'despised' grouse moors of Angus looking for, well, raptors and wildlife and inspiration to sketch and perchance to find a smidgin of truth ..... that's what I do to commune with nature. I do not disturb anything or get too close, and don't leave a trace except, maybe, some pastel dust that falls from sketch paper, nevertheless, doing what I do brings unjust criticism from select quarters, including game-keepers and anti grouse moor campaigners.
Also, not approving of bird ringing or satellite tagging interference because of fatal accidents, evidential stress and harness cruelty brings criticism and, despite being even-handed, my actions to show raptors 'flying with baggage' on grouse moors are ignorantly mocked and deviously doubted by those who believe that no harm can be done to these birds because the methods are self approved by the so called 'licensed experts'.
All the photos shown on this blog are taken on grouse moors in Angus that have been declared, in a 'fake news' way, to be 'wildlife deserts' with no raptors by those lobbyists who pursue an end to driven grouse shooting .... they meekly and hypocritically proclaim that they are not against shooting, yet wish death upon every game-keeper in the land; an attitude that is 'charmingly' left unmoderated by the author of a well known raptor persecution WordPress blog page when sycophantic followers post unsavoury comments.
Typically, showing a photo of a raptor with the caption, 'Golden Eagle in an Angus glen' can be met with mocking derision and laughter 'imojis' when posting on certain internet media outlets, therefore an imposed 'lockdown' on showing that the Angus glens do have wildlife and raptors has been cunningly contrived by the deception of Tingay of the RaptorPersecution blog, Packham of the BBC, Thomson of the RSPB and Avery of the Wild Justice organisation who hold great sway over the news media, and their keyboard followers.
For many years, I and others attempting some sort of moorland revelation, have suffered defamation by certain members of the local raptor study group, the local wildlife officer and by that blog page aforementioned, who think that they have a right to socially abuse a person who does not readily fit in to their mindset or adopt their maligned agenda.
I hear it now, 'You're disturbing the eagles ..... you shouldn't be in that glen ..... your blog should stop ..... when you sketch you're too near ..... you're giving away a nesting location ..... if you see him acting suspiciously on the hills, phone the police wildlife officer' ..... and the slanderous, verbal diarrhoea goes on. One bullying individual in particular should be ashamed of his own petty vendetta, and I do wonder as to how these twisted, lying individuals become involved in raptor monitoring because they have not one jot of welfare empathy for their targeted birds when ringing or satellite tagging.
Today the glen is paid a visit by a known pair of Golden Eagles that I have been following for a few years now near Glen Esk. One is a leg ringed female that still shows sub-adult plumage, yet has reputedly nested three times, and the other is a satellite tagged male. I witnessed him courting the female with a heather kow held in his beak and was featured back in March 2019.
They have no fear of my presence, freely coming to fly overhead. I love to see them meet up then head off in different directions to forage for food and in this instance they do not have to travel far as the deer stalkers have been out leaving some gralloched carrion behind on a hillside nearby. They are not alone, for dozens of scavenging Ravens swish black, iridescent wings through blue skies as they gather for a moorland table feast.
Died in the wool bird ringers or satellite taggers are very defensive when their practices are challenged and rise to criticism as if their long lost conscience had been pricked. I look at the ring lodged above the talon on the female Golden Eagle and perceive a mobility problem; the ring even looks swaged at the end with ware to form a cone shape.
Most recorded instances of someone ringing an eagle shows the ring being fitted on the feathered tarsus and they wiggle it around to prove it has room to move but do they ever imagine that the enlarged ring will migrate to a lodged position above the talon digits to restrict mobility ..... their arrogance generally denies that, and a future of never finding out perpetuates their 'turn the other cheek' attitude.
I now have records of three instances of possible leg ring issues and six records of harnessing problems on eagles and 'experts' cannot, dare not, provide proof that satellite tagging or ringing interference does not affect the future welfare of a bird ..... they can only utter dogmatic rebuttals that 'you' are no expert and even refuse to acknowledge that any problems could arise ..... they are brick wall experts that contentedly abandon the birds to suffer ..... those birds have no say.
The male eagle is satellite tagged which means that a solar rechargeable GPS transmitter unit with a long aerial is harnessed to the back of the bird, between the wings, to form a wind catching bulge that ruffles protective covert feathers out of shape revealing the downy insulating layers below. This ramshackle procedure was originally devised to track the movements of a bird on a map to provide scientific data about its migration or natal area dispersal route.
Nowadays the method is used for location curiosity, to reveal and locate 'dead bird found' persecution and, more commonly, is employed to create allegations of persecution without evidence by using the catch all phrase, suspiciously vanished, usually over or near a grouse moor when a satellite transmitter fails or stops especially in winter, low light 'no charge' conditions ..... it makes me wonder why our mobile phones do not have solar recharging panels built in.
The cruel and primitive method of using an improvised, over feather harness to hold on a GPS transmitter must stop.
Currently, grouse moor shooting estates in Scotland are to be licensed, but never before has a licensing law been introduced on the back of satellite tagging data that has provided no substantiated evidence to date that could be used in a court of law and therefore has gathered no prosecutions to warrant the introduction.
The licensing issue has been brought about by a few rogue game-keepers and farmers being a persecuting law unto themselves, media propagated hysteria, a publicly adopted hatred and ignorance of estate management, land ownership, political bargaining within government and the 'Disney-fied' cult for animal rights to the point of being ridiculous.
Therefore I do disapprove of how the decision to license was influenced by extraneous factors and challenge the ethicacy of those making the decision by ignoring the Werritty report recommendation that a period of probationary grace be initiated.
When compared to other countries in Europe and the Middle-east, Scotland's significantly decreasing bird persecution statistics pale to insignificance, and with a growing population of eagles the allegations of continuous covert persecution by the RSPB et al. seem totally contradictory.
Bucking the trend for a nationwide, diminishing Kestrel population the Angus glens seem to be a haven for these aerially agile falcons that hunt for ground scampering voles, insects and pipits. The same can be said for the Merlin, whose local distribution has never really been established by the local raptor study group. Angus breeding sites have doubled under the independent surveys by Mike Groves and, in part, by myself.
Hen Harriers, that have undoubtedly been subject to persecution in the past, are gingerly making an Angus breeding comeback under the supervision of Mike Groves but the future will determine whether grouse moor managers will pay heed to licensing laws ..... the will is there when game-keepers are asked, but what of the estate owner's balance sheet principles?
Allowing infiltration by one of the grouse moor's worst enemies, the harrier, can be unpredictable as the Langholm moor project discovered. Some estate owners have been silently negligent in their response to challenging law change, or indeed unproven allegations against them, so will they welcome back the ringtail and grey bogey-bird? I hope so, but still have some negative reservations it must be said ..... maybe some leeway might have to be given to a brood management scheme in the distant future, meaning never in the eyes of the RSPB.
Many conservation organisations like to hold back on certain common sense actions that just might solve a problem in the short term. Nature Scot and the RSPB love to dilly-dally over problems that concern the conflict between nature and man. Take for example the introduction and expansion of the population of White-tailed Eagles in Scotland.
Many years ago, no-one consulted the sheep farmers about lamb predation concerns and now it is a big problem on the west coast that has seen many diversionary action plans (a favourite term) put in place. If you ask me, the action drags out into needless stupidity, time wasting and thickens the sponge for subsidising money and, meanwhile, the eagles cock-a-snook at the experts who continue to dribble drivel onto paper ..... consequently the farmers lose stock or, fall to the increasing trend of going out of business.
That same 'expert' arrogance ignored the possibility that White-tailed Eagles will take live prey. Studies in Norway, where most of the introduced eagles came from, claimed that local farmers suffered no livestock depletion and that the eagles only consumed carrion or fish ..... wrong. These eagles are very adaptive and now hunt Mountain Hare and deer on the hills of Angus on a parity with the Golden Eagle. I mind of one chap that contacted me, who was studying eagles in Norway, being amazed at the turn around in their normal foraging habits ..... expect the unexpected ..... maybe a lesson the experts have yet to learn.
Enough rant ..... the tracks held their breath today as thick ice choked any easy movement along them and Winter had truly returned to the moors of Angus. Several miles of sliddering, skiteing and skittering around was the order of the day until snow cover was reached and then the eagles came; how grand to see and share with you all in virus lockdown Scotland.
By the way, this wee Robin took over the car this dark morn, perched on the steering wheel and fluffed his feathers into the dying embers from the car heater and would not leave until sandwiches from the depths of my rucksack were unwrapped and shared ..... how cunning and coercive, cute nature can be on our snowflake culture.
All text, photographs and sketches done on the 6 January 2021 and subject to copyright - no reproduction.
RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
My other web pages
David Aam Gallery
My new book 'Wildsketch' is available from Blurb bookshop
Income from book sales will form a donation to CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter)
If you are inspired to go out into the hills and glens of Scotland please leave it as you find it, respect the environment, do not litter or discard so called 'biodegradable' fruit and especially if you are a dog walker keep your beast on a lead and do not bag up its waste then chuck it by the wayside. I recently came across one black poo bag neatly hung on a tree branch for someone else to take home and also a bright blue one thrown in the moorland verge .... why?
Moorland birds like Curlew, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Dotterel, Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and many raptors nest on the ground, it is advisable to keep dogs at heel or preferably on leads when walking on the high plateaux of the Cairngorms during summer months.
Please be aware that it is illegal to disturb nesting eagles or other raptors and you may do so inadvertently in your journeys into the highlands. Observe protected species at a respectful distance usually from about 1000 metres and for short periods of time only.
No wildlife was unduly or knowingly disturbed by my presence or for the purposes of this web page other than what would be expected on a normal hill walk. Many geographic names and location recognizable photos have been omitted to prevent persecution or inquisitive disturbance to named species.
Canon camera 200D with optical zoom lens EFS 55-250mm used; please note that the zoom range distance if given is calculated by OS map from subject location to camera.