A man and a woman have been arrested and charged after a “large number” of eggs from nesting sea birds were destroyed in the Highlands.
The 21-year-old man and 22-year-old woman have also been charged with the disturbance of a key breeding site for corncrakes.
The incident occurred at a site in Durness, Sutherland on May 17.
Constable Daniel Sutherland, Police Scotland’s wildlife crime liaison officer, said: “The destruction of such a large number of nesting birds’ eggs at an established sea bird breeding site is extremely sad and disheartening.
“The disturbance of the corncrake, an extremely rare breeding bird, in the process is extremely frustrating knowing that this may hamper the successful breeding of such a rare bird.”
In the UK, the corncrake is listed in the Red list of birds of high conservation concern because of major population declines both historically and recently.
Once widespread throughout the UK, their population declined catastrophically during the 20th century due to the mechanisation of mowing and earlier mowing of grass crops.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “This incident is particularly depressing. Not only were numerous eggs of several species destroyed in what appeared to be an act of senseless destruction, but even more worryingly, a key site for one of Scotland’s rarest breeding birds will have suffered significant disturbance as a result. We are very concerned about the potential impact this could have on this year’s breeding season there.”
Constable Sutherland added: “Police Scotland takes the unlawful disturbance of protected breeding birds seriously and all reports and information received regarding any possible disturbances will be investigated thoroughly and dealt with appropriately.
“Our Wildlife Officers work closely with partner agencies, including RSPB and the Cairngorms National Park Authority in relation to cases of unlawful bird disturbance. We rely on their expert assistance in cases such as these and extend our thanks to them for assisting our investigations.”