A gamekeeper on a neighbouring Royal Deeside estate to the Queen at Balmoral was yesterday fined #120 at Stonehaven Sheriff Court for using an illegal trap.

James Davidson, 46, of Tynabaich Cottage, Crathie, who works on the Invercauld Estate, admitted a charge under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, in that he used a spring trap - banned for almost a century - to catch a rook.

The court was told he had set the trap at the rear of his cottage on the morning of July 4, to catch a rook which had been eating rabbits - which he had trapped in snares.

The barely-alive bird, caught by a leg, was later found by a passer-by walking his dog who called the police.

Fiscal Ernest Barbour said: ''Spring traps in the open have been illegal since 1904, and setting such a thing is totally indiscriminate to what kind of bird it will catch.''

The court was told the conviction might affect Davidson's right to hold shotgun and firearm licences which he needed for his work on the estate.

Defending, Mr Taco Nolf said the gamekeeper regularly trapped rabbits which he sold to supplement his income of #600 a month. On the days previous to the incident, the father-of-four had spotted a rook eating the rabbits and set the spring trap to catch it.

He added: ''This is an area very well known to my client, within 100 yards of his house, and he knew there were no birds of prey about.''

Later, senior RSPB officer Dave Dick said he thought Davidson's career history compounded the crime.

''He has been doing this job for 30 years and he knew that putting a spring trap out in the open was illegal.

''It is more culpable that an experienced gamekeeper is using well-known illegal trapping matter,'' he added.

A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage said that while spring traps are recognised for catching rodents, they should be in a pipe or a tunnel.