Chairman's blog: There are good things happening in Strathbraan

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg MBE says good things are happening to change perceptions in Strathbraan, Perthshire.

Much has been said and written about Strathbraan in recent times.

Everyone, of course, has an opinion. There were stories of missing satellite tagged birds and there was the whole controversy surrounding the raven licence to protect wading birds, which was then revoked after an outcry.

I am not going to add to speculation, or rake through past stories. There’s little constructive purpose in doing so, now. It won’t change anything.

What I do want to say, in this blog, is that it was pleasing to see- and for the SGA to be a part of- the translocation of a healthy young eaglet from a Strathbraan grouse moor in late June.

The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is trying to bolster eagle populations in the south of Scotland. This eaglet will be part of that effort.

When the project was in the discussion phase, the SGA entered into robust debate, like others, about issues such as food source for the eagles in southern Scotland and other issues. We attended the meetings. Reservations were raised and discussed- and there have been some fair and constructive comments this week, too.

That said, having these conversations is important and the SGA, through its members, have played a role in the project and helped it along - because of the goal of eagle conservation.

An eaglet from a Strathbraan grouse moor has been donated to the South of Scotland Golden Eagle project.

I pay tribute to the estate who donated the eaglet and the gamekeeper who played a big part.

We look forward to hearing reports of how the bird is doing.

Read about the work, here:

This follows, a week or so on, from gamekeepers in Strathbraan calling in a dead eagle to Police for a post-mortem, to ensure it had not come to harm from a cause other than a natural one.

The SGA’s stance on how Tayside Police handled this case is well known. You can read it, here:

It certainly didn’t smooth partnership working to have the same gamekeepers who did the right thing by contacting the Police to then be on the receiving end of abuse and accusations that it was they who were responsible for its death. 

We will be seeking a meeting with Police officials to discuss this in due course and how they can make their messaging more evidence-based in future.

What has to be remembered, though, is that the gamekeepers and the estate did the right thing from the outset and followed good procedure. They deserve credit for that. The eagle did, indeed, die from natural causes.

Oystercatchers do well in Strathbraan because of predator control by gamekeepers

The Strathbraan community, rightly or wrongly, feel they have become targets in recent years.

No matter what your opinion of that is, to me, the important thing is that they are taking positive actions to change that.

Last year, the community attempted to enter into a conservation partnership with a body which had been involved in satellite tagging eagles for some time.

The outline idea was to tag an eagle from a local nest and place data online so people could see the eagle’s movements on an open app. The project was well developed.

It was hoped this would benefit eagle conservation in Strathbraan and would give the community a sense of ownership of the project.

Sadly, the effort didn’t happen because the community found that satellite tagging, and those licensed to undertake it, is a tight grouping in the UK and it seemed that that ranks were closed when they heard about the conservation collaboration.

Those who had expressed a willingness to become involved in a novel approach- and to try to break down some trust barriers along the way- were discouraged by others and the project didn’t happen. That saddens me because the community were keen to make progress.

Wading birds on show in Strathbraan, benefitting from the work of skilled Scottish gamekeepers.

Strathbraan is a beautiful place. Wildlife photographers visit the glen regularly. It is one of the few places remaining in Scotland where you can see abundant and diverse wildlife - literally through the car window.

Indeed, NatureScot and others, using monitoring data, have acknowledged it is nationally important for breeding waders such as Curlew, Lapwing and Plover.

This is not an accident.

It has been created this way by the activities and land management practices of gamekeepers, shepherds and farmers for many, many decades. It is a success in many, many ways.

These people have taken flak in recent times, much of which they contest or feel is unfair.

No one can be deluded into thinking this will just go away overnight.

What I feel that is important to say, from a personal perspective, is that I see a community changing, trying to change and doing positive things and the right things.

The future, after all, is the thing which is able to be changed, not the past.

This can only be a good sign. Credit where credit is due.

A Curlew nest in Strathbraan, with 4 eggs. Curlew benefit from skilled predator control and habitat management by Scottish gamekeepers.Image: Curlew nest in Strathbraan with 4 eggs. 

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