Rural business owner Euan Webster was appalled when he witnessed one of two osprey chicks being fledged in a nest on his property being snatched from the nest by a buzzard earlier this week.
As the mother osprey left her nest, the buzzard swooped down on the nest at Lochter in Aberdeenshire and stole one of the chicks, which are extremely precious and are currently being managed to ensure the future of their species.
The half-eaten carcass of the chick has now been recovered near the nest and is to be handed over to SASA (Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture - the Scottish Government laboratories) for proper analysis.
Mr Webster has 24/7 video surveillance on the nest, both forwildlife watching for the enjoyment of the public and protecting the rare ospreys.
He said: “This was a shocking act and clearly demonstrates why something needs to be done to control buzzards. It cannot be right that the buzzard remains protected yet they swarm over the countryside in large numbers eating prey – including iconic and beautiful birds such as ospreys – at will.
“Any farmer or shepherd will tell you about the threat from buzzards yet the powers that be are reluctant to face up to the fact that sooner rather than later measures have to put in place to control them. This incident should sound alarm bells among those who care about the conservation of our rarer wild birds such as ospreys in Scotland.
“As a former chairman of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust's Grampian regional group I am an enthusiastic believer in balanced and managed conservation.
"I know research by the trust is suggesting buzzards are active predators that may well be affecting conservation of birds in some parts of Scotland. However, I was not prepared to have buzzards active predatory behaviours so clearly demonstrated right under my nose. It would be a great shame if we could not find a way to reduce the very clear predation pressure from this now ubiquitous predator."
Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners and rural businesses, said buzzard numbers have been growing steadily since the 1980s and numbers in Scotland are now at record levels. It said the latest official BTO Bird Atlas Survey demonstrates a more than healthy population which is no longer of conservation concern.
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “While previous reports of such predation have been brushed off by those who do not like the reality of what is happening in the countryside, this video provides the sad but clear and conclusive evidence of the serious impact that this growing population of buzzards is now having. The time has surely come for common sense to prevail and for measures to be introduced to be able to properly protect these wild birds and other species that we value so highly. The need to strike a proper balance is now well overdue.”
The latest Scottish Natural Heritage guidance on the common buzzard states that it is the most common raptor in Scotland.
The Scottish population is estimated to be 15,000-20,000 breeding pairs compared to a British population of c44,000-61,000 breeding pairs.
Population trends from the BTO Breeding Bird Survey suggest a significant UK increase of 56% in the common buzzard population between 1994 and 2007. In Scotland, the increase in the population over the same period has been 36%. The population recovery in Scotland is likely to have been at a lower rate of increase as common buzzards were already present in more parts of Scotland at the start of the reference period than in other part of the UK.'
The BTO Bird Atlas shows almost complete coverage across the country now, compared to about 50% cover in the 70s, and the BTO website states that buzzards are of green conservation status and are not of concern.
While smaller populations of buzzards may at one time have been able to survive mostly on carrion, rabbits and small game, this is now clearly not the case with growing numbers of reports of buzzards preying on other wildlife such as red squirrels and other wild birds, some of them being rare species of conservation concern such as osprey.