Highlands & Islands

Steam train 'focus' of Forsinard reserve fire probe

Common scoter duckling. Pic: RSPB
Image caption The reserve's common scoter duck have been the subject of research

A passing steam train may have started a wildfire on a nature reserve in Sutherland, RSPB Scotland has said.

About four square miles (10 square km) of moorland at the RSPB's Forsinard reserve has been destroyed.

Firefighters and water bombing by a helicopter brought the fire under control on Monday before it was fully extinguished by overnight rain.

The company which owns the locomotive suspected of being involved said it knew nothing about the incident.

A spokesman for RSPB Scotland told BBC Radio Scotland that the fire had come at the beginning of the breeding season.

He said ground nesting birds such as greenshank and lapwing were establishing nest sites, or already sitting on eggs.

The spokesman added: "We suspect the fire started due to a steam train passing.

"That's not confirmed and that's where our investigations will focus."

A steam train owned by West Coast Railways carrying holiday-makers on a long distance trip was passing through Sutherland on Monday.

A spokesman for the company said: "I know nothing about it. I have nothing to say."

Forsinard has been the focus of research into the decline of common scoter duck.

Climate change and mink have been among suspected factors behind a fall in their numbers.

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