Legal Action

I am absolutely fuming today after receiving a ridiculous email threat of legal action. You might remember a few weeks ago dad and I saw some gorgeous owls from the Clyde Valley Birds of Prey Trust on display at a garden centre and I posted up some photographs I took of them? Well I just had this ‘urgent’ message from James Walsh, Clyde Valley Team Leader:

I have been informed that you have pictures of Birds of Clyde Valley Birds of prey centre on your site
. i have emailed you just to inform you that we have Privacy rights on the all the photos taken of the birds and is only allow for personal use. We have now contacted the Company lawyer and informed use that we can take legal action for have copyrighted pictures on your site. Could they be removed ASAP

I am bloody furious at this. The birds were on display to people at the garden centre to raise awareness of the Trust, I made a donation and asked the man in charge if it was okay to take photos and he said yes. You’d imagine if you were trying to raise awareness of your work and funds you’d want members of the public to share their positive experiences with the world, its free advertising and its how the modern, digital world works – any organisation with a bit of common sense would be embracing that and using it, encouraging it. Not so the Clyde Valley Birds of Prey Trust. Please notice it wasn’t even a friendly ‘we’d prefer you not to post pics of our birds’ email, it goes straight to the incredibly heavy handed legal threat. For taking my own photos of a public display that I had permission for (I wouldn’t just take pictures of wild animals like that, even at this kind of display, I ask first. And James, those are MY pics, so no, you have no legal rights over them, be different if I had just taken images from your own site, but I didn’t, these are my pics, I take many and share images of our beautiful country with readers and no-one has ever complained until your miserable, unfriendly lot).

I am extremely angry that they are using legal threats over my OWN pictures that I took MYSELF and with the PERMISSION of the person who was in charge of the animals. This does not promote a positive image of the people behind this trust – it makes them look insular, unfriendly and, frankly, rather abusive of the freedom of expression of others (and is this how they use the donations I and others gave them that day? To pay a lawyer to threaten people who were sharing happy memories of encountering some of the animals they protect? Surely they should have other priorities for their funds?).

I did not use copyrighted images from their site and resent their implication;, they were my own – a smart organisation would be encouraging people to share their experiences and photos on their sites and also with the official site; instead this is what you get. I certainly will never again offer any monetary donation to this group nor will I ever go to see any of their displays again if this is their ridiculous attitude. Why on earth take the birds out to the public to create awareness if you are then going to be threatening to anyone who talks about how they enjoyed that experience and shares their own pictures? Good god but you lot have a lot to learn about creating a decent public persona for yourselves.

Well, never again, I won’t go near these people with their legal bully-type tactics and if you are thinking on going to see any of their displays you obviously better be careful if you take any pictures, even if you ask and are given permission beforehand, in case they jump on top of you with legal intimidation. This last year has been so damned hard for dad and me and little events like coming across these owls cheer the two of us up, something we both need badly, but now this heavy handed person has ruined that memory for me. Thanks for your heavy handed and utterly out of proportion (and wrong – as these images are mine, I didn’t use any of your pics without permission, did ? Did you even look??) email, James, thanks for ruining what had been a happy experience and thanks for making me now change from having enjoyed and promoting the beauty of our country to regretting ever coming across you and your organisation and your despicable attitude to the very people you were supposedly trying to reach out to with this display of birds. If I hand you a second bullet would you like to shoot yourself in your other foot now?

Update: I’ve had a couple of emails further from others in the Trust in the couple of days following this original nasty email from someone else (who hasn’t actually identified themselves and seems to have a number of spelling errors although not as many as the original message) in the Trust who apologised and said the initial person should never have sent such a message and has been reprimanded for it (it didn’t really explain why on earth such a ridiculous threat came around in the first place though). And now I’ve had another saying that the person responsible has been removed from the Trust because of previous (unspecified) incidents and asking in that light if I would remove my post about the original email since the person was no longer involved with them. Frankly, having already deleted one post because of this lot I’m not minded to delete another so the answer is no, this post remains, but to be fair (which, let’s be honest, they have no right to expect given their initial treatment of me) I’ve added this update, but no, I’m not deleting anything else.

Dusk at Fidra

Burned off a little of the constant over-feeding from the Festive period by going for a good two-hour walk on the beach with my mate Gordon when he took his dog for a decent run (Bruce does enjoy a good run on the beach although I think he enjoys all the other dogs he meets more, all those bums to sniff). On the way back the daylight was fading rapidly and the Forth was full of the noise of the many birds making last forays into the wet sand for food or flocking through the air while the lamp came on in the Fidra lighthouse.


Down on the beach next to Yellowcraig by the Fidra Lighthouse, a couple of miles up the coast from North Berwick this afternoon. We lucked out in that the gray clouds parted to give us some sunshine, but the chill wind coming in right from the North Sea was bitterly cold and it drove the waves into the rocky shore so energetically we had to cut short our walk because sometimes the waves would literally come right up the entire beach to the dunes, so if you didn’t want to do some November paddling (and this water is bloody cold in August!) then it was best to just head off elsewhere.

(seabirds skim the crashing waves at North Berwick)

(with the changing of the tides the seabirds were out in force but every time they landed to check the wet sand for tasty morsels the violent waves would come crashing in once more and into the air they’d leap)

The birds

A very disturbing story doing the rounds of the Scottish media this week – the unlawful killing of various Scottish birds of prey, from hen harriers to one of the nation’s symbols, the magnificent Golden Eagle, are at a twenty year high despite legal protection. And gee, isn’t it just a coincidence that the geographical distribution of the cases often matches the location of major ‘sporting’ estates where fat businessmen shoot flocks of tame pheasants scared into the line of their shotguns by beaters? (I put ‘sporting’ in commas because I don’t see anything sporting in killing animals for kicks, especially when it involves practically tame creatures and almost no skill from the so-called ‘hunter’) Yes, I’m sure that’s just coincidence and not gamekeepers and landowners poisoning, trapping and shooting raptors on the side to make sure they don’t interfere with with their game birds.

Or maybe there are just a lot of scumbags out there who don’t give a damn about our wildlife and environment (or law) as long as they can exploit it for money – a double irony some of the people in these sorts of jobs who are probably doing this vile act like to tell the rest of us that they are ‘the guardians of the countryside’ No, you’re not, you condescending, tweed-clad twats, you’re vicious, amoral bastards. I’m sure there are plenty of gamekeepers who do adhere to the law and try to protect species including raptors, but from the evidence there are obviously a hell of a lot of them who are only to happy to kill even endangered animals. The answer? Well these feckers all love hunting and complain we’ve restricted so much of that, so let’s have some more hunting – open season on hunting anyone in tweeds or Barbour jackets and Deerstalker hat, anyone? Tally ho and give ’em both barrels – don’t worry, its a humane way to kill ’em, you know, otherwise they ruin the environment…

Bird in flight

Seabirds wheeling, screeching overhead, noisy, loud and then suddenly grace personified; flight, the dream of humans since time began, so effortless to the bird, wind slipping over and under wings constantly adjusting to the flow by instinct, making the finest human pilot look like a clown by comparison, feathers that took millions of years to evolve insulating, guiding, hollow bones to give less weight but remain strong to hold the elegant curve of wing. How can something which moments ago was a noisy nuisance scavenging for food from parties on the beach be so utterly perfect. More than a dozen frames in rapid succession on the multi-shot function, most blurred, out of frame, empty sky but one, just one like this came out and I am happy. What would it be like, I wonder, to fly like this? No engines, no whirling propellors or screaming jets, just the wind and muscle and instinct, skimming across the face of the world…

When Penguins Ruled the Earth

For years I’ve made jokes about gigantic prehistoric penguins, from millions of years ago – Penguinosaurus Rex, tall, with a huge, long, sharp and deadly beak, from the Time When Penguins Ruled The Earth and Doug McClure had to rescue buxom women in fur bikinis from them. Then today I read that actually there is a little truth to my penguin-obsessed nonsense. I just love it when real life is almost as weird as fantasy.


Gorgeous, clear blue skies and spring sunshine today to mark the start of April, although being Scotland the temperatures were cruelly more winter-like in stark contrast to the sunshine. Gordon was taking Bruce the greyhound off to the beach for a good chance to run around like a loon and sniff as many other doggy bottoms as he could (the beach is essentially a dog social club) so I tagged along. Part way down we saw a bird of prey – neither of us is very good a ornithological matters and so we had no idea if it was a kestrel or whatever, but we could tell is was clearly a bird of prey. It was a stunning silhouette soaring effortlessly over a field, elegant dark shape against a luminous blue sky, only the occasional beat of those powerful wings, the rest of the time it simply glided with a grace no human aircraft can ever match, confident, powerful, assured, monarch of its realm of air. Simply stunning. I wonder what our earthbound world below looked like to its razor sharp eyesight?

Just a little later we came round a bend on a country road and a grouse ran right across the road in front of us, paused for a moment at the edge of the road, looked at us, then vanished through a fence. Most of the time the birds I see, living in the city, are pigeons (pooing everywhere) and those raucous seagulls, making a dreadful racket and raiding the bins (although to be fair they look amazing when they seem to hover almost motionless in a stiff sea breeze). I do sometimes see some bats flying around Mel’s garden (which I love) as dusk falls, although they, of course, aren’t birds (bit they are so darned cool – Mel hates them, I love them). So to see one unusual (for us) bird was one thing, but to see two was a real treat. And whatever that bird of prey was that soared over us, passing like a lord of the air, ignoring the assembled crows picking at freshly ploughed fields with a regal disdain, it was an amazing sight. Just for a few seconds the world stops and you see something amazing.