Highlands & Islands

'RSPB not welcome' signs on Gairloch and Conon Estate

Red kite Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Landowner John MacKenzie had given permission for a red kite nest on his estate to be monitored

A landowner has put up signs with the message "RSPB not welcome here" on his estate in the Highlands.

John MacKenzie has accused the charity of treating landowners, farmers, crofters and estate workers with "suspicion".

The owner of the 60,000-acre (24,281 ha) Gairloch and Conon Estate, said he believed 99% of people involved in land management felt the same way.

RSPB Scotland said it preferred "constructive dialogue" to signs.

Mr MacKenzie told BBC Radio Scotland that he erected the notices after similar action was taken by another Highland landowner.

He said he wanted to show his unhappiness with the RSPB.

Mr MacKenzie had given permission for the monitoring of a red kite nest on his estate, believing that the work was being done by staff from Forestry Commission Scotland.

However, he withdrew his consent when he learned it was being done by an RSPB employee.

Mr MacKenzie said he also found out that the RSPB was monitoring a different bird's nest on his land than the one he had been told about.

'Charitable work'

He said the charity treated landowners, their workers and others involved in agriculture with a "degree of suspicion".

Mr MacKenzie added: "If you were to speak to 98-99% of all shepherds, farmers, crofters, ghillies, foresters, stalkers, gamekeepers and landowners in the Highlands they would say they simply do not trust the RSPB in the way they operate."

He said the vast majority of these people supported wildlife conservation.

RSPB Scotland said it was not required by law to notify landowners of its survey work, but usually did so as a courtesy.

A spokesman added that the monitoring that was done on Mr MacKenzie's estate had involved the use a vehicle provided by the Forestry Commission as part of its support of red kite conservation.

Checking on the health of the Highland's red kite population has added significance following the deaths last year of 16 kites and six buzzards. Some of the birds were poisoned.

The RSPB spokesman said the charity wanted to be clear that the Gairloch and Conon Estate had not been implicated.

Responding to Mr MacKenzie's signs, the spokesman said: "Whilst we would prefer a constructive dialogue with anyone who disagrees with our charitable work, especially in local communities, it is of course the right of any individual to erect a sign on their private land expressing their opinion, if they wish to do so."

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