A couple of years ago (20 June 2014) we blogged about the alleged coordinated hunt and shooting of a male hen harrier on a grouse moor in Scotland (see here).
This alleged crime had actually taken place in May 2013 – it was reported to Police Scotland by the two members of the public who had witnessed the event, Police Scotland investigated but no further evidence was available to take the case forward.
For some reason, Police Scotland failed to publicise this incident or appeal for information, despite hen harrier persecution being a UK National Wildlife Crime Priority. Instead, it was left to the RSPB to issue a press release over a year later (see here) as part of a wider call for more sporting estates to take action to protect hen harriers.
At the time, the location of this incident was pretty sketchy. The RSPB press release said it took place ‘on a moor in the eastern Cairngorms, within the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park’.
But then roll on to late 2015 and the publication of RSPB Scotland’s 20-year review of raptor persecution crimes. If you have a look at Table 3 in this report, which details confirmed incidents of persecution or attempted persecution (excluding poisoning) of birds of prey in Scotland 2013, the following information appears:
According to this table, a hen harrier was shot at ‘Glen Gairn’ in Aberdeenshire in May 2013. We presume, given the date and location, this is the same incident as referred to in that 2014 RSPB press release.
So, Glen Gairn. Where’s that then?
Well, would you believe, part of Glen Gairn appears to lie at the eastern boundary of Invercauld Estate, not a million miles from where those illegally-set spring traps were recently discovered at Gellaig Hill. (Map detail created from information provided on Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website).
Now, we should urge caution here before anyone jumps to conclusions. This map is slightly misleading because it suggests that Glen Gairn lies entirely within the boundary of Invercauld Estate. It doesn’t. Glen Gairn extends east across the river, beyond the Invercauld Estate boundary, and on to the grouse moors of neighbouring Dinnet Estate.
We don’t know exactly where in Glen Gairn those two members of the public watched the alleged coordinated hunt and then shooting of that male hen harrier in 2013. It could have been on the Dinnet side of the Glen, or it could have been on the Invercauld side of the Glen, or it could have extended across both sides of the Glen. We don’t know, but presumably Police Scotland will know if those two members of the public were able to give accurate grid references.
As so often happens, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution so we have no idea who was responsible. It must have been the handiwork of those pesky moorland fairies. They do seem to be quite active in this part of the Cairngorms National Park, don’t they?
Photo of a male hen harrier by Robin Newlin