IT is ironic, and very sad, that a number of bodies are concerned about the welfare of grouse chicks due to the recent cold weather (“Glorious Twelfth faces delay because of snowy spring”, The Herald, August 1) only for those same bodies to stand back, from August 12 onwards, and watch as these chicks, now become fully grown birds, are shot out of the sky with shotguns.

Alan Macdonald,

10 Brook Street, Menstrie.

I WAS somewhat surprised to read that gamekeepers were finally admitting that a long cold winter had an effect on the breeding success of red grouse. Normally the low numbers of grouse are used as an excuse to destroy even more birds of prey than normal.

Perhaps the gamekeepers could pass on their findings to sheep farmer Alastair Nairn in Moray, who “lost dozens of lambs to ravens”, finding lambs “with their eyes pecked out leaving them to die a horrible death” (“Farmer calls for gun review on killer birds”, The Herald, July 30). Of course this is nonsense.

Ravens were pecking at lambs already dead, or in the throes of expiring, brought about by under-nourishment, due to a long snow-cover in the north that lasted from mid-November to early June. Ravens would find little nourishment in the eyes of a lamb, nor indeed the tongue. These are the areas where insects congregate on corpses after death and the birds would be after those, rather than anything a lamb’s eye could yield in the way of meat. The comments are a classic case of misinterpretation of Mr Nairn’s observations. Calls for farmers to shoot ravens are totally misplaced. However Scottish Natural Heritage does not seem to question these reports and simply accepts their veracity at anecdotal level. Lack of grazing for almost eight long months will cause much mortality among sheep and their offspring as well as deer and ground feeding birds. Ravens, it must be remembered, belong in the Highlands, sheep don’t.

Bernard Zonfrillo,

28 Brodie Road, Glasgow.

HAVING read your editorial (“Action required to halt the decline of hen harriers”, The Herald, July 30) I wish to supply some facts which have been conveniently omitted by the RSPB in its political campaign to attack game bird shooting.

In relation specifically to hen harriers a group of all interested parties was formed four years ago which formulated the Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan. This was approved by all parties, though it has to be said that the major cause of the four-year gestation period was the RSPB dragging tits feet. Within six months of its inception the RSPB withdrew its support claiming it did not work. There had obviously been insufficient time to make any such conclusion so the reason for their action was clear: it did not suit its anti-shooting activists.

The press releases about the fall in hen harrier numbers makes frequent reference to wildlife crime but on inspection of the figures raptor persecution numbers have been dropping significantly over the past decade. Even these figures have to be regarded with some scepticism as the RSPB lists all reports as wildlife crime even if it later transpires that no crime existed. N-one involved in game bird shooting approves of raptor persecution and gamekeepers have done much to weed out any bad apples.

Research has repeatedly shown that the conservation work performed by gamekeepers, shooters and those linked to the sport far outweighs in quantity and quality the efforts of RSPB and all other animal charities in conserving our magnificent bird species and not just raptors.

David Stubley,

22 Templeton Crescent, Prestwick.