Their Lives Matter

Today I was standing on the cliffs of Waternish on Skye watching a White Tailed Eagle hunting. It was breathtaking and I felt privileged to be in the presence of such a striking creature. I felt even more privileged to watch it being mobbed by a Peregrine Falcon.

Peregrines are my favourite bird, but, like White Tailed Eagles, they have been viewed as pests. Historically they suffered persecution to protect the interests of a wealthy shooting minority, who had replaced this swift hunting companion of kings with the cold and brutal gun. Their persecution escalated during the First World War, when they were killed for their tendency to eat messenger pigeons. Egg collecting only worsened their plight and then came DDT, which nearly drove the species entirely extinct. By the start of the 1960s 80% of the UKs Peregrines were gone.

This extraordinary bird, the fastest creature on earth, a beauty to behold, was nearly lost forever by the culmination of many very short sighted and ultimately selfish acts. They hovered on the brink of extinction in the UK, but thankfully avoided that fate. The White Tailed Eagle was not so lucky.

The last of the UKs White Tails was shot in Shetland in 1918. The last recorded breeding attempt was two years earlier here on Skye, almost a century before my own visit and sighting of this magnificent bird. The persecution suffered by all predatory birds and mammals during the Victorian era had driven them extinct. Thankfully they are returning.

Peregrines’ can now be found even in the heart of major cities, nesting on office blocks and cathedrals. I have seen them hunting Crow and Pigeon in Essex, their wild cries an echo of distant sea cliffs, above the bustling commuters below. White Tailed Eagles returned to the UK with the help of conservation bodies via a campaign of reintroduction beginning in 1975, opposed from the start by the very interests that drove the bird into extinction to begin with. A study by the RSPB has found that tourists attracted to the Island of Mull alone by the eagles bring up to five million pounds annually to the islands economy. Sheep farming eat your heart out.

Sadly however the Victorian attitudes that saw these birds, and others like them, swept from our countryside have yet to face their own – well deserved – extinction. Today marks one year since the event that has come to be known as the Ross-shire Massacre. In the space of a few unpleasant days 16 Red Kites and 6 Buzzards were found dead in the area around Conon Bridge in the Scottish Highlands. It seems the police are no closer to catching the culprit (suspicious folk suggest they’ve not been looking that hard…) although toxicology tests have shown that most (if not all) were killed by ‘an illegally-held poisonous substance’.

The graceful Red Kite once foraged on city streets throughout Europe. In the disease-ridden middle-ages its habit of scavenging waste was seen as a boon and a public health benefit. They were protected by royal decree with execution the punishment for anyone who killed a Kite. Like the Peregrine however the kite found that kings make for fair-weather friends. Classed as ‘vermin’ alongside all other birds and beasts with hooked beaks or claws they were slaughtered until the British population was reduced to only a tiny remnant in the Welsh uplands.

The Kite’s return has been spectacular and heart-warming. Aided by reintroduction schemes by conservationists the Red Kite now has an estimated population of around 1,800 pairs in the UK (compare that to less than 20 back in the 1950s). Does it matter then that 16 were killed a year ago? Of course it does, because this killing is indicative of the very problem that led to the collapse of the population in the first place. If people such as those who carried out this atrocity are allowed to have their way the Kite will be gone from our countryside once again. With it will go the Peregrine and the Eagles, the Hen Harrier and the Goshawk, the Wild Cat and the Martin and everything else that doesn’t fit in with their idea of a sterile, orderly countryside where nature and people alike ‘know their place’ and wildness exists only for show.

My trip to Skye is coming to an end (expect a blog or two about it – and plenty of pictures! – soon). Watching the eagle, mobbed by its smaller, more nimble, cousin in the sky above Waternish gives me a great deal of hope, hope that the lack of any prosecution over the ‘Ross-shire Massacre’ might have denied. These birds can come back, they can live alongside us and enrich our lives, but only if we refuse to allow a minority of selfish individuals to vandalise our countryside in their own interest.

Having followed the story of the Red Kites at Conon Bridge I painted this image, which is available as a limited edition print. All funds raised from sales of this print will be donated to the RSPB in order to help them fund their investigations department whose work I believe is vital in the fight against wildlife crime. Prints are still available so if you’re interested please get in touch at Janice.Duke@hotmail.co.uk

Red Kite: Update

You may be pleased to hear that my efforts to fundraise for the RSPB in the aftermath of a mass poisoning incident by selling limited edition prints of a Red Kite painted especially for this purpose have been paying off so far. I have raised over £800, woohoo!

The piece has been featured on the BBC Website, in the Press and journal, and has been tweeted by Chris Packham and Mark Avery, two of my wildlife heroes!

It is on display in the hide at Argaty Red Kites, the Red Kite feeding station near Doune, Stirling; and in Pitlochry Pet Supplies, Perthshire. Hopefully helping in some way to continue to draw attention to the issue of wildlife persecution.

Every buyer so far has been very happy with their purchase. Thank you to all of you, as well as those who share this effort, your support and enthusiasm really makes this feel worthwhile.

If you or anyone you know would like one of these special prints email me at janice.duke@hotmail.co.uk

Help spread the word and together let’s make it over £1000 for the RSPB. Let’s shine a bright light in the darkness of this tragedy and show how much we love our beautiful birds.

Save Our Flows

Continuing to campaign to protect the Flow Country. So proud of you guys.

The fight continues to protect this nationally and internationally important habitat: [Click Here]

A spokesman for RSPB Scotland said: “It is very disappointing that SSE continue to push for a windfarm on this wholly unsuitable site.  We need renewables, including windfarms, to reduce the damaging environmental effects of climate change but there is no point building them if they are going to destroy the natural environment they are intended to protect.  A windfarm here would not only be very bad news for bird species such as greenshank and hen harrier, it would also undermine efforts to protect and restore damaged areas of the Flow Country peat bogs.  RSPB Scotland will therefore be doing everything we can to stop this destructive development from progressing.  We would encourage everyone who cares about this special place to register their objections.”

If you have yet to register your objection please do: [Click Here]

Janice Duke:

My entry is #3

The deadline for voting is 10pm (GMT) on Sunday 18th January 2015.

Click Here To Vote

You can see more about my entry:


Originally posted on Beltane Fire Society:

These are the submitted designs for the Beltane 2015 poster. To vote, please either click on the Facebook link below your favourite image(s) and Like the post on the BFS Facebook page OR email festival@beltane.org with the listed number of your favourite(s).

You can vote for more than one entry if you like, but please don’t vote for all of them as it is the same as not voting for any.

Clicking on an image will give you a slightly larger view.

Remember, you are not just voting for a pretty picture. You are voting for an over-all design to advertise a festival. Please consider how noticeable designs will be on a wall surrounded by other posters, how clearly information is presented and how readable text will be from a distance.

Please note some of the information presented in the designs may be subject to change before printing.


View original 94 more words

Happy New Year!

Wishing you a Happy New Year and a fabulous 2015! xx


Season’s Greetings

Wishing you a fab Yule and a great New Year :) x

Samhuinn 2014 Art

Inspired by the Beltane Fire Society Samhuinn Fire Festival:

A3 archive quality prints are available from me for £35, postage included (UK mainland only). Send me an email at janice.duke@hotmail.co.uk to purchase.

The sketch is available as a print worldwide via DeviantArt:

If you would like to print off either image from your home printer a donation of your choosing would be much appreciated. PayPal me at janice.duke@hotmail.co.uk

Enjoy! :)


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