Royal grouse shoot in the Cairngorms National Park: a military operation?

The tabloids have been making much of the fact that the Queen was photographed driving Kate Middleton to a picnic on Balmoral Estate last week, joining Prince William who had apparently been grouse shooting (Daily Mail here; Daily Mirror here; Daily Record here). Photo by Peter Jolly.


Whilst the tabloids focused on the important things like patterned scarves and casual sleeveless jackets, our attention was drawn to something else:

At the butts behind imposing Creag Bhiorach, dozens of soldiers were waiting to do the beating and drive the grouse towards the waiting guns“.

Eh? Soldiers working as beaters on a royal grouse shoot in the Cairngorms National Park? Shurely shome mishtake?

Surely a case of mistaken identity? Surely anybody camo-ed up to work as beaters weren’t professional soldiers paid for by our taxes? Surely they were simply local men and women from the rural community, reliant on the oh-so-important beater’s wage (average £55 per day) so ‘vital’ to the local economy? Isn’t that what we’re so frequently told?

But maybe it’s not a mistake. Maybe soldiers are being used to work as beaters on the royal grouse shoot. Have a look at this (here), a report detailing the royal duties of the (now former) 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1962:

“(b) Beating.

There were seventeen days of grouse driving on the two moors, Micras and Gairnshiel, which lie side by side to the North of the River Dee. The Balmoral ground was not driven at all, there being too few birds to merit it. On all shooting days one officer and forty ORs turned out as beaters to the Royal shooting party. This duty required a high standard of fitness, alertness and a definite restraint on language: it was not universally a popular duty despite the extra-duty pay (!), but the standard of beating achieved was good enough to please Gillan, the head-keeper, and to provide a total bag for the guns of over 2,200 brace which was considerably higher than anticipated at the beginning of the season”.

Has this been going on since 1962? Great to see our taxes being put to such good public use, and inside a National Park, too.

More on the harriers of Glen Tanar Estate

Following yesterday’s story of the sad loss of the young hen harrier ‘Tanar’, satellite-tracked from her natal site on the Glen Tanar Estate last year, it looks like more young harrier chicks have been recently tagged from this progressive estate.

Wildlife photographer Mark Hamblin has written on his blog about his recent adventures photographing hen harriers at Glen Tanar. As well as taking some spectacular photographs, he also reports that Roy Dennis was back in June to tag some more chicks. Working under a special photography licence, Hamblin has been allowed access to this year’s hen harrier nest, thanks to Glen Tanar Estate owner Michael Bruce. Hamblin reports that this particular hen harrier pair is the only known breeding pair in north-east Scotland. That’s a pretty startling statement when you consider the amount of potentially suitable hen harrier habitat in this part of the world.  What about the land managed by Glen Tanar Estate’s near-neighbours on Deeside? Invercauld Estate, Balmoral Estate, Glenmuick Estate, Dinnet & Kinord Estate? All these estates operate high-profile grouse moors, providing excellent habitat for hen harriers and other upland raptors. Is Hamblin’s assessment correct, that there aren’t any known breeding hen harriers on this vast expanse of land? I guess we’ll find out when all the records have been submitted at the end of the year.

We have reported before about the laudable raptor conservation efforts of Michael Bruce and his staff at Glen Tanar Estate (see here). It is becoming apparent that he deserves even more credit, as he’s seemingly working in isolation in an area where raptors are rarely tolerated. Well done Sir, you are putting your peers to shame.

For more information about Glen Tanar Estate, visit their website here