New information has come to light in the case of a satellite-tagged Golden Eagle that disappeared under suspicious circumstances in Scotland's Pentland Hills in January.
On 21 January, a GPS satellite tag fitted to the young eagle, known as Fred, suddenly and inexplicably stopped sending data close to a grouse moor in the Pentland Hills, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Up until that point the tag had been working perfectly and was providing accurate and frequent location information about Fred's travels. Strangely, three-and-a-half days later, the tag began to transmit again for a short period, but astonishingly, it was in the North Sea, 15 miles offshore from St Andrews. No further GPS data have been received.
The researchers who had been tracking Fred's movements, including Dr Ruth Tingay of Raptor Persecution UK and broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham, alerted experts at RSPB Scotland. The organisation immediately notified Police Scotland, who began an investigation into Fred's suspicious disappearance.
The analysis of new technical data, provided by the tag manufacturer, has now shed some light on the approximate location of Fred's tag during those three days of lost GPS transmissions.
Although the GPS transmissions were suppressed, the tag's technical data, which includes time and date, shows that it was still functioning and was periodically communicating briefly with a series of mobile phone masts closest to its then location. These data, giving locational information for the phone masts, suggest that in the days after Fred's disappearance his tag moved eastwards away from the Pentlands, along a route similar to that of the Edinburgh City Bypass and subsequently the A1 towards Haddington, before it travelled to the North Berwick area on the East Lothian coast. From there, it is likely that the tag went into the sea as the data then show that it began to connect with phone masts along the Fife coast, across the Firth of Forth. Later, the tag briefly resumed giving locational GPS transmissions, but by then it was well offshore.