Since posting about hen harriers on the Chayne two days ago, one or two self appointed pundits have been in touch with me on this blog. By leaving comments and personal slights on the site, they have shown the depth of feeling around this harrier/grouse debate. Since I work as a journalist and a copywriter, I am used to having my words heavily edited, and I hope that they in turn will forgive my decision not only to edit but to entirely erase their comments. In my defence, bogus “statistics” which supposedly prove that every grouse moor in Scotland is responsible for raptor persecution perhaps do not belong on my blog.
I certainly seem to have stirred up something of a hornet’s nest with my post about hen harriers, although having re-read my own text more than once, I fail to see why. As explained in this blog’s introduction, I am passionately interested in Scottish wildlife. The fact that I also have an abiding love of shooting and country sports is supplementary to that interest, not in conflict with it. I happen to find grouse more interesting and exciting than raptors, and that is a matter of taste, not an indication of twisted and nefarious tendencies.
I do not hold with the patronising school of thought which brushes my attitude aside as naive and unusual. I have been shooting for more than fifteen years and have worked as an underkeeper on a large shooting estate, gathering a fair consensus of shooting opinions during that time. It is plain fact that raptor persecution is a problem, but we should be careful not to overestimate its scale, and should be wary of totalitarian assumptions.
While looking around at some websites this afternoon, I found furious and critical posts on the subject of raptor persecution from a variety of misinformed megaphones. One observer on a thread about hillwalking was concerned to see what he assumed was poison left out for raptors by a footpath (it was a grouse grit tray full of grit), and another was disgusted to find a pile of “poisoned” birds concealed in a patch of rushes (it was a fox midden filled with woodpigeons and rabbits). Whipped up by these moronic pseuds and stirred into a hyperbolic froth by conservationists who should know better, the British public has started jumping at ghosts, assuming the worst at the slightest provocation and interpreting the base acts of a sad minority as standard practice for keepers across our uplands.
It is not only insulting for my conservation project to be deliberately misconstrued as an attempt to destroy birds of prey, but it shows just how out of touch some people are with shooting and country sports. Using recent national survey figures for hen harriers, it looks like I have 0.2% of Scotland’s population of breeding birds on the Chayne. That’s a large percentage for such a small farm in such a marginal area, but whether you choose to believe it or not, I am honestly pleased to have these birds around and will look into conserving them. Happily, much of the vermin control I have been working on to date also benefits these vulnerable raptors, as has also been shown to be the case on a number of other grander and higher profile moors.
The floor is hereby closed for comments on this subject, and particularly to those which are designed solely to inflame and upset. What a load of utter nonsense.