I was interested in a story in the media that on the evening of Wednesday 17th August a Virgin hot air balloon flew low over a nest containing four osprey chicks at Balgavies Loch, Forfar. As the balloon passed within what was reported as 50 feet from the nest the four chicks took flight in panic.
The various reports stated that the matter had been reported to the police and that it is an offence, punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 and/ or 6 months imprisonment to disturb nesting ospreys.
A few days later it was reported in the press that no report was to be sent by the police to the procurator fiscal regarding the incident. This result was clearly of concern to many people, who were quite clear that the young ospreys would have been disturbed. Indeed they were disturbed, so much so that they took off from the nest. Had they been younger they may even have jumped from the nest, which would have eventually resulted in their death, either from the fall or more likely from starvation through not being fed or as a result of predation. It was indeed a serious matter.
But what not everyone is aware of is the wording of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in relation to birds included in Schedule 1 to the Act, which includes the osprey. Section 1 (5) states:
Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally or recklessly–
(a) disturbs any wild bird included in Schedule 1 while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young; or
(b) disturbs dependent young of such a bird,
he shall be guilty of an offence.
The crux of this offence is that there is evidence that it was committed intentionally or recklessly. Whatever the situation seemed to the witnesses I suspect that the investigating police officers were unable to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, that the pilot (a) was aware of the nest, or (b) that he was aware but he was unable to dictate the route of the balloon. I know no more than what was in the media, though I suspect if the pilot was aware of the nest he may not have been able to steer away to the left or right but I suspect he could have changed elevation and risen well above the nest.
Raptor persecution continues in North Yorkshire, with another dead buzzard being found and containing shotgun pellets. It was interesting to see that this bird has at least 11 shotgun pellets in its body. One is in the head and three are in the area of the lungs and heart. From the location of these pellets there is a good chance that the bird, if not killed instantly, would fall from the sky (or from wherever it was shot) at the point it was hit. That would give the most likely location for the offence being committed as opposed to the bird being wounded and flying off to die elsewhere. This should help to limit the list of suspects. Invariably these can be found by using the force’s shotgun registration system and postcodes relevant to the area. It does pose the question, though, as to why the bird was not picked up by the person (the criminal) shooting it and disposed of.
I’m sure North Yorkshire Police will have the answer to these questions but yet again demonstrates that investigating wildlife crime is never simple.