The osprey is back in the skies, and thieves are in its nest

Wildlife/ prey to collectors

THE Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has stepped up security at the 100 osprey nesting sites in Scotland after three nests were robbed and nine chicks killed.

As the vital hatching season begins, volunteers across the Highlands are keeping watch over nests 24 hours a day. RSPB officials fear the latest robberies could herald a spate of attacks by egg collectors.

Forty years after it returned to colonise Scotland, the fish-eating bird of prey has become a victim of its own success. There are now so many nests in Perthshire and Tayside, built after the birds return from Africa each summer, that the RSPB cannot monitor them all.

The latest attacks, which began last week, were on unprotected eyries. A gang of thieves used tree irons to climb 60ft Scots pine trees in Perthshire and Strathspey to reach the nests. Nine eggs were removed.

After the attacks, RSPB officials appealed to ornithologists to take to the hills to prevent further losses. Most sites are now guarded all day and volunteers have begun to cover tree trunks with razor wire and cut down branches to deter raiders. David Mitchell, the RSPB's Scottish representative, said: "The response has been terrific. Volunteers are out there giving up their time to help protect one of world's most magnificent hawks."

Egg collecting, which is illegal, has been fashionable since Victorian times. Today, most gangs are found in Yorkshire and the Midlands. Gang members steal eggs and inject solvents which "dissolve" the embryo before the egg is dried and polished.

As recently as 1991, up to half of all osprey eggs in Scotland were stolen. The number of attacks declined, however, after a series of high-profile prosecutions in which raiders were fined more than pounds 10,000. But in the past two years the number of attacks has begun to rise.

The trend worries and angers the RSPB. Mr Mitchell said: "Not only is it illegal, but it is immoral. The chicks die an agonising death - literally dissolving. It means there are fewer adults each year and people across Britain are denied the opportunity to see one of the most thrilling natural sights - an osprey swooping down on to a loch to seize a trout. These people must be stopped."

The latest raids have prompted some RSPB members to call for a change in the law to force persistent offenders to report to police stations during the osprey breeding season. Keith Brockie, a wildlife artist who helps to safeguard eyries in Perthshire, said: "Most of those who raid nests keep on doing so even if they are fined in the courts. Few collectors can kick their nasty habit. We have to protect the birds from these people and if they are, say, in England, they should be required to report to police each day in April and May to stop them heading north."

In recent years the successful reintroduction of the osprey north of the border has raised hopes that it will recolonise England, where it has been extinct for many years The RSPB insists that the latest attacks threaten the process.

Mr Mitchell said: "After the low point of 1991 we thought we had conquered the problem of egg thefts and the bird looked set to head south. It was wiped out in Britain in the early part of this century by hunters and egg collectors. We must not allow it to happen again."

Tayside Police are investigating last week's incidents.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Secondary teachers needed for supply roles in Sudbury

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

Head of Technology

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Head of Technology needed for a Outsta...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits