A PEEBLESSHIRE farmer has been fined after shooting a protected bird-of-prey near his West Linton home.

Michael Harrison of Paulswell Grange Farm claimed that he pulled the trigger on the buzzard believing it was a crow. And that he was only protecting his flock of sheep and lambs.

The 70-year-old pled guilty under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to intentionally or recklessly shooting the buzzard on November 27 last year and to injuring it by standing on its wing.

Harrison told Sheriff Jamie Gilmour at Edinburgh Sheriff Court: “I shot at this crow and it came down, but when I saw it was a buzzard, I was mortified. I was born in the countryside and brought up on a farm. All my life I have been a wildlife supporter.” The court was told that a woman in a nearby cottage had seen the bird on a telegraph pole. And moments after seeing Harrison arrive in a pick up had heard a shot. The witness went to collect the injured bird. Fiscal Depute, Mina Poppius, said the woman was very upset and contacted the SSPCA.

Examination of the bird showed it to be a one-year old female in good health.

But it had sustained a single shotgun wound and both a fractured leg and wing.

It had been ringed as part of a study into the buzzard population. Ms Poppius said The Crown accepted that Harrison had not intentionally shot the buzzard, but there had clearly been a degree of recklessness in his action.

Harrison told the court he had been driving round his farm looking for carrion crows as it was lambing time.

He explained that the crows picked out the eyes of dead sheep and sometimes picked out the eyes of live lambs. He said he spotted what he thought was a carrion crow while he was behind trees, looked through a gap in a hedge and shot at the “crow”. “It came down and when I saw it was a buzzard, I was mortified.” He added that he was trying to catch the injured bird when the woman came up and asked him to help her catch it. I just put the tip of my foot on its wing so she could catch it and she took it to the SSPCA,” he said. “I would not deliberately shoot a bird outside peoples’ windows.” Sheriff Gilmour said he would reduce the fine from £900 to £600 because of the early guilty plea and allowed seven days for payment.

He told Harrison: “It is important you identify your quarry. That is an important part of shooting.”