We discussed the earliest existing map of Dumfriesshire (and Scotland) published by Timothy Pont in the 1590s, and wondered about evidence of birds in Scotland before then. Archie suggested searching the proceedings of Scottish Parliaments. Here are some interesting nuggets:
In 1235 Roger Avenel was granted 'the eyries of hawks and sparrow-hawks, so that that they are able to nest in the place in which they nest for as long as they have the habit of nesting there… trees in which they nest be assessed from the next year following until the next year following after that, whether they wish to nest in those trees or not'. This was to maintain a supply of young birds for hawking.
At the Edinburgh Parliament of 1458: 'Concerning the keeping of birds and wildfowl grown to eat for sustenance of man, such as partridges, plovers, wild ducks, it is ordained that no man destroy their nests or eggs, nor yet slay wild fowls in moulting time when they may not fly, and that all men after their power destroy nests, eggs and birds of fowls of reif (birds of prey)… As to the rooks and crows building in orchards, kirkyards and other place, it is seen as profitable that those people to whom the trees pertain let them build and then destroy them with all their power, and in no way let them fly away. And where it is witnessed that they build and the birds are flown and the nests are found in the trees at Beltane, the trees shall be forfeit to the king. And that the said birds of prey be utterly destroyed by all manner of men by all engines and any other manner of way that may be found for this, for their slaughter shall cause great multitude of diverse kinds of wildfowl for man's sustenance.'
'Having respect of the great and exorbitant dearth rising in this realm upon wild fowl…it is ordained that wild meat be sold in all time coming at the prices following: crane (?heron) at 5s, the swan at 5s, the wild goose (greylag), for the great size, at 2s, the barnacle-goose, quink-goose and rood-goose (?pink-footed or bean goose and brent goose) at 18d a piece; the grouse (?capercaillie) at 18d, the plover and small muirfowl (red grouse) at 4d a piece, the black cock and the grey hen at 6d a piece, a dozen pout (poults) at 12d; the whaup (curlew) at 6d; item, the wood-cock (left) at 4d; a dozen skylarks and other small birds per dozen at 4d; the snipe and quail at 2d a piece.
This didn't arrest the decline of either game or sporting prowess, so in 1600:
'persons who prefer their own inordinate appetite and gluttony either to the obedience of the said laws or to the recreation that may be had by the direct slaying of the same, have used all the said indirect means in slaying of the said wild fowl and bestial whereby this country, being so plentifully furnished of before, is become altogether scarce of such wares. … seeing in time of peace the said pastimes of hunting and hawking were the only means and instruments to keep the whole lieges' bodies from not becoming altogether effeminate, our sovereign lord and estates of parliament, finding that the discharging (forbidding) of the selling of the said wild fowl and venison shall procure a remedy of the said abuse, have therefore discharged any person whatsoever within this realm in any way to sell or buy any partridges, red grouse, black grouse, ptarmigans, wild ducks, teals, atteals (wigeon), golden-eyes (below), mortynis (guillemots/razorbills), heron, oystercatcher, snipe or any such kind of fowl commonly used to be chased with hawks under the pain of £100 to be incurred as well by the buyer as seller. And because one of the greatest occasions of the scarcity of the said partridges and red grouse is by reason of the great slaughter of their poults and young, when as for youth neither are they able to give pastime and for quantity can in no way be a great refreshment, therefore our sovereign lord has discharged all his highness's subjects whatsoever in any way to slay or eat any of the said red grouse or any of other kinds before 3 July, or any partridge poult before 8 September.
Much of this is surprisingly relevant in 2018.