Goshawk chicks shot on nest in Borders

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POLICE are investigating the shooting of rare goshawk chicks otn their nest earlier this summer.

Raptor enthusiasts found the two dead chicks in woods near Innerleithen.

Tweeddale councillor Gavin Logan, the Lothian and Borders Police Board member with special responsibility for wildlife crime, said: “It is disgraceful and all stops should be pulled out to find the perpetrators and bring them to book.”

Lothian and Borders Police wildlife crime officer, Ruaraidh Hamilton, said: “It is a bit of a tragedy for the local population of breeding goshawks that these two chicks have been killed.

“Enquiries are ongoing and we are appealing for anyone with information to get in touch with the police.”

Local birdwatchers say there are 38 areas frequented by goshawks in the Borders, and an estimated 100 nesting pairs across Scotland.

An RSPB Scotland spokesperson said: “Goshawks are scarce breeders in Scotland, with most pairs in Borders and the north-east of the country. Sadly, just like other birds of prey, they are still the victims of illegal trapping, shooting, poisoning, and nest destruction.”

Goshawks were once widespread in the UK but became extinct in the late 1800s through deforestation and persecution.

They were reintroduced about 40 years ago when imported falconers’ birds escaped or were deliberately released.

The latest incident follows several bird poisonings in the area in recent years.

Seven years ago, police and RSPB Scotland officers raided an estate in Peeblesshire’s Manor Valley where they found the remains of 22 buzzards, a tawny owl, a goshawk and a heron, the largest number of dead birds recovered in Scotland by wildlife protection teams in a single search.

Four years ago, a female golden eagle was found poisoned on another estate near Peebles.

The latest Scottish Government figures show 22 of the 32 deliberate poisonings in Scotland last year were of birds of prey – 13 buzzards (two in the Borders), seven red kites and four golden eagles. This is the first reported case of a nest has being shot at.

Goshawks, like other birds of prey, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

They build large nests in quiet forests and return to the same nesting area each year. The secretive raptors eat birds and small animals. About two thirds of their prey are thought to be crows, rooks and pigeons.

It is their reputation for taking gamebirds that provokes persecution.

Councillor Logan says police treat wildlife crime seriously.

He recently met Detective Inspector Brian Stuart, the head of the wildlife crime unit, and said: “He was very well briefed on all the crimes in the Borders with which I was familiar and I was left confident that these crimes would be pursued vigorously.

“As the police board member with special responsibility for wildlife crime, I am confident the police regard wildlife crime as just as important as any other crime.”