I see from my most recent issue of Scottish Birds, published by the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, that the latest survey of peregrines does not make good reading. The birds were surveyed on (1) coastal areas; (2) Lowland farmland; (3) deer forest, (4) grouse moorland, and (5) other, which I presume would include birds nesting in towns, cities and quarries. Of these habitats I would have thought that grouse moorland would have the most plentiful supply of food, especially since grouse numbers have been high in recent years. One would imagine that suitable habitat would equate to best breeding success. The table published with the article and covering north-east Scotland, however, does not reflect this.
Only two of 28 known nesting ranges on grouse moorland were occupied by pairs of birds, while a further four had a single bird. Discounting the single birds (which may or may not be as a result of the other half of the pair being illegally killed) two is a disappointingly low percentage from 28 known nesting sites, particularly when 17 of 27 known nesting sites in coastal areas were occupied by pairs. Worse still, only one grouse moorland nest appears to have successfully fledged chicks, as compared with 11 from the 17 coastal nests.
Over the years I have been involved in criminal investigations into suspicious disappearances of nesting peregrines on grouse moorland. These have ranged from birds shot off the nest, traps and poisoned baits left at or near nests and eggs or chicks mysteriously disappearing. Admittedly some of these investigations took place some years ago but it is hard to argue from the table above that the situation has changed much.
At a time when grouse moors, particularly those with driven grouse, are under public scrutiny and public pressure as never before their days may be numbered. As I have said in an earlier article regarding crime committed against hen harriers, if driven grouse shooting is banned or game shooting is licensed, landowners only have themselves to blame.