Driven grouse shooting last week, on the Twelfth, returned to the Glen Tanar estate in Royal Deeside for the first time in more than a decade, following the introduction of diversionary feeding to prevent hen harriers from predating grouse populations.
Driven grouse shooting stopped at Glen Tanar in the 1990s as the population dropped below a sustainable level — partly due to the hen harriers on the estate.
Golden eagles also breed regularly on the estate.
Along with normal moor management of heather burning and pest control, breeding hen harriers were given supplementary food this year.
Feeding started when there were three eggs in the hen harrier’s nest and continued until after the chicks had fledged.
The food included white rats and chopped-up poultry.
Three chicks have subsequently fledged.
One female and one male were fitted with satellite transmitters, which record their position every 30 minutes.
Michael Bruce, the owner of Glen Tanar estate, last week said: “Estates where shooting forms an important part of the economy have to find innovative ways of reducing conflict between raptors and red grouse. Supplementary feeding may be one way of doing this.”
He added that at Glen Tanar concerns over boosting the hen harrier population were mitigated by the presence of golden eagles: “Some estates fear that feeding hen harriers will simply increase the harrier population and increase predation on grouse, and there is a risk this may be true. However, feeding hen harriers has never been tried before in the presence of golden eagles, which themselves predate harriers. The hope in Glen Tanar is that eagles, harriers and grouse will all find a level that allows commercial shooting of driven grouse to take place.”
Golden eagles on the estate this year produced two of the heaviest chicks ever recorded.
The eagles had been fed over the winter with thin, un-saleable deer carcasses.
This food was given partly to attract the birds to a regular winter-feeding site where it is hoped to provide a photographic hide.
However, the estate managers believe winter-feeding should also reduce predation on grouse.