Police appeal from ‘threatened’ Findhorn Bay birdwatcher

Birdwatcher hits back at claims of interference.
Birdwatcher hits back at claims of interference.

THE BIRDWATCHER AT the centre of a row over a shooting incident on the Findhorn Nature Reserve has hit back at claims she was deliberately standing in the way of shooters.

Claudia Matheson reported an incident last week to police that she says was just the latest in a series of incidents that are making life for everyone using the Nature Reserve both tense and dangerous.

When insideMoray told Claudia’s story, our social media page generated a high level of sensible discussion on the issues from both sides – but was also laced with the type of intimidation that Ms Matheson had reported, with neither side prepared to give an inch on their entrenched views.

Those in favour or carrying out the sport of wildfowling in the Reserve were invited to put their side of the story to us – but failed to do so. However, a report in another media source claimed that the incident was the latest in a series where campaigners against wildfowling had attempted to disrupt wildfowlers by deliberately placing themselves between shooters and their targets.

While police did acknowledge they had received a complaint from Ms Matheson, they insisted that “no criminality had been established’ and so suitable advice was given to all parties involved.

However, Ms Matheson has now written to local police inspector Grant McCutcheon complaining that this and previous complaints over incidents on the Reserve had not been followed up or taken seriously.

In that, she provides social media exchanges between those involved in the incident – including one who commented that it “was a shame someone did not take a proper shot at her”.

Taking Advice

Responding to claims that wildfowlers were being disrupted by organised groups, Ms Matheson said: “I am not aware of any such organised tactics being used – I’m only aware that people are now scared to even enter the area.

“I understand police advice is to wear high visibility jackets and try to take care to keep out of the way of other activities in the area, and certainly that is something I have tried to do – but I do not see why I – or anyone else – should be subjected to threats and intimidation either in the Reserve or through Social Media sites.

Refuting claims that she had deliberately scared birds away to avoid their being shot at by wildfowlers, Ms Matheson added: “Claims that I waved my arms around to scare birds away are also untrue – how stupid would you be if you are photographing roosting birds, they might take flight into the direction of the wildfowlers.”

One wildfowler has claimed that he has video footage of the organised tactics being used by protesters – something that Ms Matheson has challenged him to produce.

She added: “When I entered the bay with my friend we discussed where to walk. I needed to go further South to get the sun behind me and he had to stay where he was as he didn’t have wellies.

“However, he will and can back me up should we ever be granted an appointment with the local police inspector to state case.”

Ms Matheson produced photographs taken at the time of the incident which, for legal reasons, insideMoray has declined to publish.

Editor’s Note

I said when we first reported this incident that it was an escalation in the war of words and deeds that has gone too far.

Personally I cannot believe that a wildfowler would be so stupid as to deliberately open fire even over the heads of a member of the public, and I’ve taken on board many of the sensible comments made by wildfowlers following our initial report last week.

However, having seen some of the social media exchanges – both on insideMoray’s Facebook page and other comments brought to my attention – I can well understand just why people are feeling intimidated.

Of course, there are always two sides to every dispute – this community site is open to every point of view, but all we have had from the wildfowlers themselves are Social Media and private message accusations that we are being biased, that we would not publish their side of the story.

Yet, as they have never given us their side of the story, that claim falls at the first hurdle.

It is now well past the time when claim and counter-claim is allowed to heat up an already boiled-over debate.

Both sides need to step back now, both sides need to identify and admit to any individual or group activities that have done nothing more than inflame the entire situation. Only when they have done that will everyone using the Findhorn Nature Reserve be able to do so in safety and without fear.

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