Tuesday, 22 December 2015

CALL FOR GOVERNMENT PROBE AFTER STAGS LEFT TO ROT

One of the Stags left to rot at Li and Coire Dhorcail, managed by conservation body, John Muir Trust.



The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has today called on Scottish Government to investigate why a landowning conservation charity left dozens of Stags to rot on a Knoydart hillside.
The deer culling practice by the John Muir Trust on their land at Li and Coire Dhorcail has left neighbouring deer managers sickened.
Stags, some with haunches and heads removed, were left to decompose on the moor and online images of the carcasses, viewed by thousands, have elicited angry responses.
The normal practice of engaging with neighbours in the local deer group about intentions for the cull was not observed by John Muir Trust who, instead, informed Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Despite only 14 Stags being observed during indicative cull counts by SNH on Li and Coire Dhorcail, the conservation body shot 86 Stags, most of which it admits were left on the open hill.
Neighbours in the deer management group have claimed, whilst being disrespectful to the animals, the practice has cost the local area £100 000 in wasted venison and income from visiting stalkers.
It is not the first time the wild land charity has been criticised for this practice.
In 2008, senior officials from the conservation body promised to stop the policy after over 40 discarded deer were discovered left on a west coast property where it was advisor.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The charity in question have made it their political prerogative that they stand outside of the voluntary code respected by other deer managers in Scotland because they are lobbying to have this replaced by statutory arrangements.
“The only body who can scrutinise this incident properly to decide whether it is in the best interests of deer, best practice or the local people in Knoydart, therefore, is Scottish Government.
“The lobbying charity has claimed this is about repairing ecological damage. If a private estate did this, there would be an outcry. Leaving deer in this manner has nothing to do with environmental repair.
“Deer were extracted from this area successfully before it was managed by John Muir Trust. The culled animals do not need to be left on open hill.
“Sometimes a stalker has to leave a deer, if its condition makes it unfit for consumption. A professional decision may be taken to leave it to feed a bird of prey and it may be placed out of view of those accessing the countryside.
“However, not at this number. What is considered ethical and decent has been over-stepped. Deer management groups are under close scrutiny by government in context of the Land Reform Bill. It is only fair similar scrutiny is applied to bodies who place themselves outside of existing local engagement processes.”
John Muir Trust has successfully applied in recent years to cull deer on Li and Coire Dhorcail, outside of the legal seasons, under authorisation by licensing body, SNH.
This year, the licence was refused by SNH as John Muir Trust did not provide enough evidence of winter habitat damage by deer.
An SGA Spokesman added: “John Muir Trust officials have claimed this is a difference of opinion between traditional sporting estates and those who wish to repair ecological damage. It is highly unlikely anyone on either side of the argument would view leaving deer to rot, lack of community engagement and an over-reliance on out of season culling as either progressive or modern.”
John Muir Trust deer culls were called into question recently in the Assynt Community when SNH counts revealed hundreds of deer were missing.
Despite arguing their cull policy in the area is to promote regeneration at Ardvar SSSI, independent woodland advisers say deer numbers have been low enough for five years to achieve this aim.



*If the cull policy at Li and Coire Dhorcail is of concern, individuals can write to their constituency MSP to make their case. MSP contact details can be found, here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps.aspx








Monday, 21 December 2015

FESTIVE OFFICE HOURS


The SGA Office will be open on 21st – 23rd December from 9am – 12 noon. It will then be closed  until 9am on 5th January.

Urgent enquiries should be emailed to Carol@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk or by calling 07471 350950. This number will be checked periodically over the festive period.

The SGA wishes all members and supporters a wonderful festive season and prosperity in 2016.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

SURVEY SHOWS EXTENT OF EAGLES NESTING ON MOORS


A new survey by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has identified golden eagles nesting in 58 occupied territories managed by their members for grouse shooting.
The survey was carried out this year over four key regions covering the Cairngorms National Park and surrounding lands lying outside the National Park boundary.
The findings eclipse the SGA’s previous eagle study of 2013, which showed 55 eagle nests on grouse areas managed by gamekeepers.
New figures also include the driven grouse estate in the eastern highlands which made headlines in late Spring this year when three healthy chicks were fledged from the one nest.
According to RSPB Scotland, eagles usually lay two eggs in a year when breeding has been successful. 
In 2014, Invermark Estate in the Angus Glens, managed for grouse and deer, also boasted three young from the one breeding site.
Scotland is home to the entire UK population of eagles with the exception of one male in the English Lakes.
The population is stable, at around 450 breeding pairs, after recovering from a sharp decline in the sixties due to organochlorine pesticides which caused infertility and eggshell thinning.
Ronnie Kippen of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, one of the four members of the SGA tasked with collating the regional information, said: “It was important to update our previous work from 2013 and it is good to see more eagles nesting on occupied territories where our members are working every day.
“Without their local knowledge, it would not have been possible to pull the survey work together as it covers grouse areas from the Monadhliaths, the Cairngorms National Park and land which lies outwith the boundary.
“Legal predator control and heather management by gamekeepers has been proven to help provide a vital food source for eagles such as red grouse, mountain hare and rabbits. 
“The lack of a small prey in the west, for example, is a problem for the eagles on that side of the country so providing this food source is important. Obviously breeding success can vary, depending on weather and food availability but despite the wetness this year, we have heard of good reports of nests coming away with youngsters. Although we have not included them previously in our counts, we also had sea eagles breeding successfully this year on managed ground, which is positive.”
Although the SGA has been advised not to publish a map, in order to protect the birds, nesting eagles were identified in 12 grid referenced territories in the Monadhliaths grouse areas.
Amongst the findings, 19 nesting eagles were located in occupied territories to the west of the A9 corridor.
Golden eagles have been constrained by historic persecution and poor quality habitat, with lack of prey a particular problem in the west of Scotland.
Range loss through afforestation- particularly in the South and West- disturbance and displacement through the spread of renewables have all been cited by scientists as constraining factors.
An FOI by the SGA in 2013 showed that the majority of the 66 golden eagle chicks relocated to Ireland for their golden eagle reintroduction project came from keepered uplands.
A Spokesman for The SGA said: “Where persecution has been a constraint, the SGA and others have worked hard to tackle this through partnership and education. We were pleased to see the number of crimes committed against wild animals in Scotland falling to its lowest level for five years, according to the latest official Scottish Government figures. This shows tangible progress being made although there is an acknowledgement from everyone that more work remains to be done.”

Friday, 11 December 2015

MEMBERS HELP FOOD BANK WITH CHRISTMAS VENISON


A deer management group in South Lanarkshire has teamed with a church in East Kilbride to provide fresh local venison for Christmas dinner to around 100 food bank users.
The South Lanarkshire Deer Group, members of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, made contact with Calderwood Baptist Church, asking how the local deer resource might be used to benefit those in need.
Now they are to prepare food parcels of venison steaks, sausages and burgers as part of the festive food hampers handed out to 80-100 individuals and families on 23rd December.
Calderwood Baptist Church co-ordinates the East Kilbride Community Food Bank, a partnership of churches which provides between 450 and 500 food parcels per month across East Kilbride.
As part of a wide-ranging community care programme, the Maxwellton Road church also offers debt management, job clubs and training as well as helping families with household goods.
The Christmas venison, supplied with cooking instructions, will come from the area around the Whitelee Forest, which is leased to the group from Forestry Commission Scotland and also houses Britain’s largest onshore wind farm.
Highly trained deer managers from the South Lanarkshire Deer Group control numbers on the ground and its fringes whilst maintaining a balance of healthy roe deer in the area.
After becoming aware of the work of the church and food bank, they wanted to play their part to help at a time when some families may be stretched by the pressures of Christmas.
David Quarrell, Chairman of the group, said: “We knew about the work of the church. My daughter gives to the local food bank and the lads in the group wanted to do something which might help.
“The venison comes off public land, locally. It is a sustainable resource and there are no food miles. We wanted it to be going back into the community and, aside from being charitable, we feel the more people get a chance to try it, the better. Thanks to the Forestry Commission leasing us the ground, we can use the venison in a way that might help people, locally. With the right infrastructure, it is something that could be done in many areas.”
The group initially volunteered to provide a cooked venison meal for the church’s Christmas event on 18th December but the more traditional turkey had already been ordered.
Instead, after church officials enjoyed some ‘tasting’, it was decided that it would form the fresh food offering for the seasonal hampers, given out 2 days before Christmas.
Lead Pastor, Rev. John MacKinnon of Calderwood Baptist Church said: “We feel this could be the beginning of a very positive relationship.
“When we started providing food parcels to people in our own locale, as part of our community care, we discovered very quickly there was actually a real need for it all over the town. Our aim has always been not just to prop up the problem but to address the root of it, hence the other support that we give people.
“What David and the lads are doing is a super thing. We give food parcels to regular users of the food bank, to keep them going over Christmas time and it will be great to see something of such quality going into the parcels this year.”
The project has been supported by local MSP for East Kilbride, Linda Fabiani, who backs local resources being used to benefit communities.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

SGA REPORT HIGHLIGHTS UNTHINKING LOSS OF MOORLAND IN SCOTLAND


Scotland’s gamekeepers have launched a new report aimed at halting the ‘unthinking’ loss of Scotland’s globally rare moorland landscapes.
Seventy five per cent of the world’s remaining heather is found in the UK, with most found in Scotland.
Yet despite the defining role open moorland landscapes of all types have played in the nation’s history and psyche, Scotland has never had a unified national policy to retain its signature treasure.
The dramatic open moors lure international tourists, generate vital rural employment, are home to threatened bird species and have inspired artists, writers and film-makers.
However, a lack of a policy vision has seen huge areas of open moorland being lost in this country since the 1940s, with afforestation and reclamation for farming hastening its fragmentation.
An estimated 20 per cent of heather moorland disappeared between 1940 and 1970, a decline which continues today with new emphasis on energy and woodland expansion.
Indeed, if the Scottish forestry strategy target of 25 per cent of land under trees by 2050 is realised, potentially a further 5000 sq km of moorland will be lost, as trees will have to be planted on open moors.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association say the devaluation of one of Scotland’s greatest national assets cannot be allowed to continue blindly, through the lack of a unifying objective.
Today (Dec 8th) it launched, A Future for Moorland in Scotland: The need for a locational strategy at an event in Edinburgh, attended by heritage bodies and MSPs.
The 34 page report, authored by independent ecologist, Dr James Fenton – who previously worked for NTS and SNH- maps the extent of the moorland left in Scotland, highlighting the obligations Scotland has to its conservation.
It also recommends that woodland creation should be targeted on areas already fragmented in places where moorland remains common, to avoid complete disappearance in some regions.
“Bearing in mind the importance of moorland to Scotland’s landscape, biodiversity and economy, it is surprising that there is no strategic policy guidance available, similar to the Scottish Forestry Strategy for trees and the regional Indicative Forestry Strategies,” the report says.
“Although the justification for new woodland has been made strongly, there is no similar justification for the retention of moorland.”
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg believes the importance of moor habitats should be reflected in the forthcoming Land Use Strategy 2016-2021, under consultation until January 29th. He fears that, without a proper pause for thought, Scotland could lose species like the Curlew forever.
“This report is not a ‘no-trees’ policy, but a ‘where-trees’ policy. It acknowledges competing demands on land use and makes sensible suggestions as to where moorland must be retained and where we can afford to lose bits without breaking the whole thing.
“We need to value these special landscapes again instead of paying lip service, and place them at the heart of our land use strategy. Last week, the Curlew was placed on the red list and described as the UK’s most pressing conservation concern.
“What are we offering the Curlew when we don't even have a policy to retain one of its key breeding grounds? Our members work these areas every day and have a depth of attachment to them few would understand. By controlling common predators, they give birds like the Curlew a chance. If we continue to stumble blindly and allow our moorlands to disappear, we won’t have these species any more.”
Dr James Fenton said: “Perhaps because it has always seemed to be common, we tend not to value our moorland in Scotland even though it defines our upland landscapes. Our open moors and hills are our speciality which distinguishes us from our European neighbours.
“It is surprising, therefore, that there is no strategic guidance for its conservation and that we continue to accept its loss in an ad hoc manner.
“This new document has mapped all the moorland on mainland Scotland and has identified the remaining core areas. It calls for a public debate to discuss and agree where in Scotland we want to retain our open moorland landscapes as the dominant landscape.”
*********The Scottish Gamekeepers Association represents 5300 gamekeepers, stalkers, land and river ghillies, wildlife managers and rangers across Scotland.
The report’s author, Dr James Fenton, is an independent ecological consultant based in Argyll. Previously he has worked as a scientist for the British Antarctic Survey, been the first Ecologist employed by the National Trust for Scotland, worked with Scottish Natural Heritage on landscape policy, and, most recently, been CEO of the Falklands Conservation in the Falkland Islands.
This report represents, as its subject, a locational overview of land use type in Scotland. It is not intended to add to the myriad scientific reports or studies on woodland or moorland management.
Printed copies of the report ‘A Future for Moorland: the need for a location strategy’ can be obtained by contacting the Scottish Gamekeepers Association on 01738 587 515.
Digital copies will soon be available to download from the SGA website: http://www.scottishgamekeepers.co.uk
For a short video presentation about the SGA’s Moorland vision, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cmUrQ_sigA

Friday, 4 December 2015

RESPONSE TO LAND REFORM BILL REPORT BY RACCE COMMITTEE

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association welcomes the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s report on Stage One of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “In particular, we back the need for a more robust assessment of economic, social and environmental impacts of ending the exemptions from non-domestic rates for shootings and deer forests.
“Whilst supporting fully the principle of community empowerment, careful consideration has to be given to maintaining that which is currently a source of resilience in our present communities, particularly in fragile rural areas.
“Shootings and deer forests, which can operate on marginal profitability, currently provide valuable employment, youth opportunity, tourism and spin-off business as well as vital land management at minimum public cost.
“The benefits of this helps to keep families in our glens and communities alive, which is surely the agreed collective aim of land reform. Indeed, some communities which have purchased land have themselves realised that sporting potential assists their own economic viability.
“We are pleased the Committee has recognised the fundamental role these activities play in rural communities and agree Scottish Government needs to provide a more rigorous analysis of community and economic impacts if it is to justify the removal of exemptions which currently remain in place for many similar rural industries such as aquaculture, forestry and farming.”

Monday, 30 November 2015

CONDOLENCE: A FAITHFUL SGA SERVANT


Everyone at the SGA would like to pass on condolences to the family of Sheila Beattie, our office manager, who sadly passed away on Sunday evening following a brave battle with cancer.
A faithful servant to the SGA, Sheila was highly popular with members and her skill, drive and personality transformed the office.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg, the Committee and her colleagues wish to pass on our thoughts and strength to Sheila's family.

Picture shows Sheila (left), Mo Baillie and Hazel Reddington after Sheila collected the GWT Gamebird of the Year award in June at the Scone Game Fair.

Friday, 13 November 2015

SGA COMMENT: HIGH COURT RULING

Reacting to the news that a gamekeeper in England today (Nov 13th) won a landmark legal battle against the refusal of a licence by Natural England to control a small number of buzzards:

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “This is the correct legal outcome but it is a shame we are welcoming a decision which should have been made by the licensing body at the outset, based on the evidence before them. In the meantime, a man has lost his business.

The SGA has always said that we can only have a fair, workable and sensible licensing system if cases are judged solely on merit and not on the basis of who the applicant is. This is a step in the right direction for all fair-minded people who believe access to justice is the right of everyone.”

SGA TAKE THE LEAD ON A MOORLAND STRATEGY FOR SCOTLAND


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has been working with independent ecologist Dr James Fenton on producing a strategy for Moorland in Scotland, something recently identified by SNH as a national priority.
With many of our members working daily in these rich habitats, they are concerned at the loss of heather moorlands which help define upland Scotland as globally important in conservation terms.
Heather moorland is restricted to the uplands of Britain and Ireland and is found in a few areas of mainland Europe the west coast of Norway, making it internationally rare.
Between 1940 and 1980, though, heather cover in Scotland declined from 53 per cent to 29 per cent, largely due to afforestation and changed land use on our moors.
The loss of heather and other types of moorland in the post-war period has been scientifically acknowledged yet policy guidance today remains scant.
This short video explains the thinking behind our strategy and how we hope it will encourage people to evaluate what we have and pinpoint the core areas we cannot afford to lose through the lack of a cohesive approach.
The SGA is set to launch its Moorland Strategy next month.
To play the video, click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cmUrQ_sigA

Thursday, 5 November 2015

SGA URGES RESTRAINT TO MINIMISE PRESSURE ON WOODCOCK


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is following the recommendation of conservationists in asking for restraint to be shown in the shooting of woodcock this year.
The woodcock is a wading game bird of field and wood which, today, is shot in season at low densities in Scotland and is also prized as a culinary delicacy.
However, the secretive long billed birds, known for their mating or ‘roding' displays, are in decline in the UK overall with the Scottish population faring better than other parts of Britain.
Mindful of the wider conservation picture, Scotland’s gamekeeping body is asking local shoots to show restraint and schedule any shooting for as late in November as possible.
This will allow the resident breeders, which are under pressure, to make their migration to more temperate parts, with the more plentiful numbers of wintering woodcock migrating here from Scandinavia, the Baltics and Russia.
The most recent science by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and BTO stated there were 55,241 breeding males in the UK in 2013, a fall of 29 per cent from 2003.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “GWCT has done a lot of scientific work regarding these birds and we agree with their guidance that shoots should leave it as late as possible in November before shooting woodcock.
“While it is legal to shoot woodcock from September 1st, the majority of estates offering it don’t start this early in the season.
“However, it is sensible to minimise the pressure on the birds as much as possible to ensure the resident breeders get the best chance for future years and we will be encouraging our members to take these steps going forward.
“Shooters have always been receptive to conservation guidance, as was shown with black grouse, and those we have spoken to are happy to support the later start to help the resident woodcock.”

Although black grouse is still on the quarry list in Scotland, few are shot, with many shooters and estates actively involved in habitat and predator management for black game conservation.



SGA STATEMENT: GENERAL LICENCE RESTRICTIONS

On November 4th 2015, SNH announced general licence restrictions to two areas encompassing four properties.
The SGA has issued the following statement in response to questions.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The SGA cannot condone wildlife crime and has a clear and consistent policy regarding this.
“As regards this case, it is our understanding that legal discussions are taking place regarding the areas affected and, therefore, it is not appropriate for us to comment further.”

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

SGA FISHING GROUP PRAISES KILL LICENCE DECISION


The SGA Fishing Group will be submitting a response to the next 28 day Wild Fisheries consultation after Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod announced this week that the proposed kill licence for salmon, and associated fees, will not be progressed.
Scottish Government was considering introducing the system for the start of the 2016 season.
However, conservation proposals now being put forward for discussion include, instead, measures appropriate to the the number and status of salmon in particular rivers.
Following the announcement, the SGA Fishing Group praised the Environment Minister for taking the views of consultees seriously and advocating a balanced approach.
SGA Fishing Group Representative Duncan Ferguson said: “The Environment Minister deserves praise for listening and acting. The kill license concept would have been very difficult to enforce and police and, in some cases, may have led to more fish rather than less being killed, especially given the high level of voluntary catch and release being operated already by rod anglers (82 per cent of all fish caught in 2014). 
“The SGA Fishing Group believes the ideas now up for discussion could help to strike the right balance between salmon conservation, which is necessary, and the needs of the workers and communities that depend on anglers coming to our rivers to fish, and the benefits that brings.”




Tuesday, 15 September 2015

POLICE SCOTLAND NOTIFICATION: ERROR REGARDING SNARE TAGS


Notification to SGA Members: Snare Certificate Error (issue of duplicate numbers).

We have been notified by Police Scotland that a small number of individuals who had snare certificates issued from March 2015 may have been allocated duplicate snare tag numbers due to an administrative error.

Police Scotland has sent a letter to the 60 individuals who have been allocated duplicate snare tag numbers, with a message about what to do if questioned about their use of the duplicate tags. 

The guidance is that, as Police Scotland has the hard copy original applications and paperwork, should any SGA members be challenged in respect of use of a duplicate number, they should refer to the Glasgow Firearm's Licensing Office. 

The number for this is 01786895586.


GRADUATE/POST GRADUATE CAREERS EVENT – WEDNESDAY 11TH NOVEMBER 2015, OATRIDGE CAMPUS

Graduate/Post Graduate Careers Event – Wednesday 11th November 2015, Oatridge Campus

We are delighted to invite you to our annual Careers Convention, and hope you will consider attending what I am sure will be a productive day for prospective employers, volunteers and students.

Following the merger of Scottish Agricultural College with Barony, Elmwood and Oatridge Colleges on 1st October 2012, we are now one of the largest organisations of our kind in Europe and can draw on an accomplished history of more than 100 years of success in supporting students and passing on our considerable expertise. Our comprehensive skills, education and business support to Scotland’s land-based and rural industries is founded on world-class and sector-leading education, research and consultancy.

We will have students/ potential volunteers from all our courses, including degree courses, attending the event from all our campuses, which include:

·         Aberdeen – Craibstone
·         Ayr – Riverside
·         Edinburgh – Kings Buildings
·         Elmwood Campus – Cupar
·         Oatridge – West Lothian
·         Barony – Dumfries & Galloway

Friday, 4 September 2015

OFFICE CLOSURE DETAIL

Please Be Aware The SGA Office will be closed Monday 7th September and will re-open on Tuesday 8th  September.

Friday, 28 August 2015

BOOK NOW: SGA RODENTICIDE COURSES FOR GAMEKEEPERS

 Rat Control Course for Gamekeepers 

Monday 21 September 2015
1000 – c.1600 hrs
 
Horseupcleugh, Longformacus, Berwickshire


Rat Control Course for Gamekeepers

Wednesday 23 September 2015
1000 – c.1600 hrs

Hopetoun Estate, West Lothian

TO BOOK A PLACE, CONTACT THE SGA OFFICE ON 01738 587 515.

SGA FISHING GROUP MEETING: PERTH


SGA Fishing Group members, please note, we are hosting our first official group meeting at the SGA office on Sunday 6th September at 10am.
On the agenda will be the Wild Fisheries Reform process and SGA involvement/progress to date, building the group’s delivery arm and laying out the group’s policy objectives for the weeks and months ahead.
We hope to see representatives from the Tay ghillies group at the meeting. Anyone coming from the north, please contact Duncan Ferguson, who can assist with transport. (m) 07823 334747  (e) d.ferguson.spey@btconnect.com

The tight timescale of the Wild Fisheries Reform process, coupled with work commitments on the rivers, has prevented a meeting of the group until now.
We hope as many members as possible can attend.

Date: Sunday September 6th 2015.
Venue: Inveralmond Business Centre, 6 Auld Bond Road, South Inveralmond, Perth PH1 3FX.

Please report/buzz side entrance to the main car park, signposted for Balfour Beatty. 

OFFICE CLOSURE DETAIL

Please Be Aware The SGA Office will be closed Monday 31st August and will re-open on Tuesday 1st September.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN BIRDERS AND GAMEKEEPERS NETS CONSERVATION WIN

An experienced bird ringer believes conservationists need to work more with gamekeepers after he recorded trend-bucking numbers of rare owls on grouse moor areas.
For two decades Neil Morrison, a ‘hobby’ owl specialist, licensed to ring birds by BTO Scotland, has developed relationships with gamekeepers and landowners in Perthshire.
That partnership has helped produce valuable data, with numbers of endangered short eared owls in three neighbouring glens- comprising grouse moor and farmland- being amongst the best in mainland UK.
At least 18 pairs of the amber-listed birds of prey have bred in the last two years and Kestrels, declining alarmingly across Britain, are thriving, with eleven breeding pairs recorded since 2014.
Neil’s communication with the gamekeeping staff also recently enabled BBC Natural World programmers to film owls hunting, with researchers writing to praise the abundance of wildlife.
Now, on the eve of the 2015 grouse season, the raptor study group member believes warring factions should learn to put differences aside, so birdlife can be the winner.
“All my interest is in birds. I have never got involved in countryside politics but, personally, the benefits I have reaped from working with gamekeepers and landowners has been far greater than I initially thought.
“All professions have good and bad but, from my experience, gamekeepers tend to get tarred with the same brush. For me, I couldn’t have worked on long-term projects without them.
“The owls have an amazing record of success in these three glens and it must be to do with the land management by the gamekeepers because, to get ground-nesters to be as successful as they can be, rats, stoats, weasels and foxes can be a problem.
“The gamekeepers control their numbers and, from over 80 nests I’ve counted over the years, I haven’t lost many to predators at all.
“The patch work quilt of heather, created by muirburn for grouse management, also seems to be working for the short eared owls, to a lesser extent the kestrels, and also for the barn owls, which we suspect are hunting the moorland more than we realise.
“I know that bickering between both sides has gone on for a long time and it doesn’t seem to be changing which probably needs new approaches. There are trust issues on both sides.
“In my view, progress can only come from working together. Ultimately, the birds have to come first.”
Through regular communication with gamekeepers, Neil has been able to spot and study all four species of native owls breeding in the glens.
Estates have helped him place mist nets on the grouse moors and he has undertaken radio-tracking, tagging and ringing programmes.
As well as short and long eared owls and barn owls, he regularly spies other birds of prey and smaller rare birds such as Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher and Kestrel.
“Good communication with gamekeepers has worked very well for me over the years. They know the land better than anyone and have pointed me in the right direction many times, saving me valuable time in the relatively short but hectic breeding season.
“From the small amount of literature available, this is one of the best places in mainland Britain for short eared owls and the kestrels do incredibly well. We regularly ring broods of five or six whereas, where I live, the kestrels are in sharp decline.
“There is a healthy population of many species and a lot of that is down to the management.”
Ronnie Kippen of the The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, one of the gamekeepers who has worked with Neil said: “There is a growing appetite amongst gamekeepers to work with bird experts willing to communicate and build trust rather than campaign.
“The best results come when there is good communication between the bird experts and the estates. Our members are keen to work with the BTO to have their wildlife recorded because there are many successes for vulnerable species.”

STATEMENT: HEN HARRIER FIND, SOUTH WEST SCOTLAND

Commenting on the discovery of a shot Hen Harrier near Daer Reservoir, Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman, Alex Hogg, said: “There has been a lot of good partnership work recently regarding Hen Harriers in Scotland so this discovery is obviously a setback. We are disappointed not to have known about it, as a PAW partner, until now, given the discovery was made in April. As an organisation, we condemn wildlife crime but it would be wrong to pass judgement on who might be responsible until more is known. We would encourage our members to assist Police Scotland with their inquiries."

Friday, 7 August 2015

WINNERS OF INAUGURAL RONNIE ROSE AWARD ANNOUNCED


Two individuals who launched the careers of young land managers and helped drive up standards in Scotland’s gamekeeping profession have jointly landed a new conservation award.
John Waters (72) and Iris MacKenzie (65) were presented with the inaugural Ronnie Rose award by Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg at Moy Highland Field Sports Fair yesterday (fri).
The award was introduced by the SGA this year in memory of acclaimed Scottish wildlife manager and author, Ronnie Rose, who passed away at his home in Eskdalemuir last December.
The judging panel received nominations from all over Scotland for the honour, which recognises individuals who have made a lasting contribution to conservation, species management or rural education.
John and Iris worked together for many years at the now North Highland College UHI in Thurso, helping students gain practical placements and learning opportunities on the college’s early gamekeeping course.
The first of its kind in the highlands, the course helped launch generations of young land managers, regularly achieving a 100 per cent success rate for students moving into full-time employment.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “What John and Iris achieved at Thurso is remarkable. They left no stone unturned trying to help youngsters make their way and there are gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies across Scotland, and their families, that have a lot to thank them for today.
“We received many high quality nominations, from all aspects of land management but, in the end, the decision was unanimous and we are delighted to be recognising both John and Iris in our Year of the Rural Worker, 2015.”
Both John and Iris worked on educational projects at Thurso with Ronnie Rose MBE, whose pioneering work in wildlife management and forestry are now staples of forestry best practice.
“Ronnie did a lot of work at the college, playing a big part in establishing exchange visits to Denmark and Sweden. We shared a lot of the same ideas and approaches,” said John, who worked as a lecturer on the gamekeeping course for 23 years until his retirement.
“Ronnie was education all the way but he was adamant the students should never forget the basics which was the practical, hands-on work and that is what we focused on.
“When I started at Thurso, the course had been running one year, mostly with skill-seekers, but a lot of good kids have now gone through that course and have gone on to senior positions. Many still keep in touch.”
Iris worked for 12 years as Training Organiser in the Gamekeeping section and helped place youngsters at estates Scotland-wide.
Known affectionately as ‘Auntie Iris’, her role helping the pupils also extended to amateur psychology and moral support. 
“A lot of the youngsters were only 16 years old and needed a bit of extra help. John and myself would travel all over Scotland to find placements for them. It gave me a great deal of pleasure seeing them progress. We regularly had all the students going on from the course straight into work and a lot of them are now Head Gamekeepers.”
Ron Rose junior is delighted the pair have received recognition in the first year of the award.
“The Rose family would like to take this opportunity to thank the SGA for sponsoring an award in recognition of Ronnie’s  lifetime of work in wildlife management and conservation by acknowledging and celebrating the work of others who have devoted their time and energy to similar effect.
"We are delighted that the first winners are John Waters and Iris Mackenzie. We are sure there are many former students out their now working in countryside management who would like to join us in acknowledging the significant contribution they have made and congratulate them in receiving this award.” 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

BUZZARD CASE: DUMFRIES

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has a clear and consistent policy on wildlife crime.
It would be inappropriate in this case for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association to comment until the legal process has concluded.

Friday, 31 July 2015

NOMINATIONS CLOSED FOR RONNIE ROSE AWARD

The SGA would like to thank all those who have nominated individuals for the inaugural Ronnie Rose award. A number of high quality submissions have been received and the Committee will be working through the nomination short-list on Sunday ahead of informal interviews and an announcement at Moy Highland Field Sports Fair next Friday (Aug 7th, 2015).
"The response has been great and there will be a lot of debate and discussion required before we finalise the short-list and the overall winner is selected," said SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg.
"The office is very busy just now preparing for Moy and we hope to see as many members and supporters as possible at our stand over the two days. As well as the award announcement, there will be lots of information boards and infographics on our Year of the Rural Worker programme; with the award forming another part of that.
"There will be Committee members and staff on-site to answer any member questions and to renew memberships or process new ones. We look forward to seeing you all and hope the Scottish summer finally arrives in time."

SGA SILENT AUCTION- A BIG THANK YOU


The SGA Silent Auction 2015 is now closed and all at Team SGA have been busy notifying winners this week. The SGA Committee and staff would like to thank all those who donated lots for this year's auction as well as all those who bid for the wonderful and diverse array of sporting and other items.
We hope the winners will enjoy their prizes and can assure all that the funds raised will be used wisely to promote and champion the interests of all SGA members over the months ahead.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

NEW COURSE ALLOWS GAMEKEEPERS TO KEEP USING RODENTICIDES


The SGA is pleased to announce it now has courses available for gamekeepers who wish to undertake the necessary training to enable them to use rodenticides under strict new guidelines.
Our first course - run jointly with GWCT - will be delivered by the SGA's Qualified Trainer and Committee Member, George Macdonald, and will be held on 21st September in Berwickshire (further details below).
We will be running further courses in future, based on numbers.
If you want to attend the course on 21st September, or would like a course on another date, please put your name down by contacting info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk or mailing George Macdonald directly on georgemacdonald1@btinternet.com
We will notify of new course dates on our website, social media, digital newsletter and in the member magazine. Anyone who has a suitable location or venue for a course should get in touch so a course may be organised in their area. Please see media release below:


A new one-day course will allow gamekeepers to go on controlling rats using professional rodenticides after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) deadline of 1 July 2016.
Representative bodies for shooting and gamekeeping have combined with the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) and with BASIS Registration Ltd (BASIS), to offer a new course, Rat Control for Gamekeepers, which will include the necessary certification for successful candidates to go on buying and using professional rodenticides when product authorisations change next year. 
After 1 July 2016, anyone without an appropriate certificate will be restricted to using amateur-pack rodenticides only, or will have to rely on traps, shooting and terriers - unless they have an alternative qualification for using Aluminium Phosphide gas.
The new rodenticide course, jointly owned by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), Countryside Alliance (CA), Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (SGA) and CRRU, will be available from the end of August, giving gamekeepers eleven months in which to attend before the new restrictions come in. It is approved on behalf of the HSE and meets their requirements for best-practice ‘Stewardship’ to reduce the risk of rodenticide residues getting into non-target wildlife.
The one-day courses will be run by BASC, GWCT, the NGO and SGA. Members of any of those organisations, and of the CA, will be entitled to a special members’ cost price of £150 plus VAT, regardless of which organisation is delivering the actual course they attend. Non members will be charged £200 plus VAT wherever they attend. Both fees will cover the training itself, course literature, the exam and - if successful - the issue of a certificate for the purchase and use of professional rodenticides. 
The exam, a one hour multiple choice/true or false test, has been compiled and will be overseen by BASIS. It will either be taken on paper immediately after training finishes, or on-line later, depending on the course attended.
The first dates and venues for the new Rat Control for Gamekeepers course are now being arranged, with the following already available for booking direct with the organisations that are running them:
24 August 2015 Englefield Estate, Berkshire   (Organised by NGO)
1  September Stowell Park, Yarnworth, Gloucestershire (NGO)
15 September Fordingbridge, Hampshire (GWCT)
21 September      Longformacus, Berwickshire                (GWCT Scottish HQ / SGA)

12 October Loddington, Leicestershire (GWCT)

6   November Loddington, Leicestershire (GWCT)

Other courses will be arranged by BASC, GWCT, NGO and SGA in the weeks and months ahead and those interested should keep an eye on their membership publications and the organisations’ websites for details of courses near to them. Remember that you can go on a course run by any one of the training organisations and you will still get the discounted rate provided you are a member of one of the five gamekeeping sector co-owners, including the CA.
“We have worked together to make attending these courses as easy and economical as possible,” said Charles Nodder, adviser to the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, who chaired the gamekeeping sector meetings that put the training together. 
“There is plenty of time for everyone to get qualified before the 1 July 2016 deadline. No-one likes extra bureaucracy but two years ago we were on the brink of losing rat bait altogether. Now we have an excellent course in best practice, put together by the shooting industry for its own people and fully approved on behalf of the HSE. 
“It will give gamekeepers a proof of competence for the use of professional-only anticoagulant rodenticides, both first and second generation products.” Charles went on to thank all the organisations, including CRRU, who had worked so effectively together to make the new course available. 
Glynn Evans, BASC’s Head of Game and Deer Management said: “As part of the stewardship process we have worked together to develop a course which will not only provide the necessary qualification to allow the continued purchase and use of these products but importantly it will help to reduce residues in non-target species, which is what led to calls for rat bait to be banned in the first place”
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance commented: “The work of keepers is a vital part of countryside management. The Countryside Alliance is delighted that this course has been approved and will enable keepers to continue the responsible use of rodenticides, which are an essential tool.”

Some gamekeepers may already have undertaken training for rodenticide use that is compliant with the new rules. Others may prefer to qualify themselves via alternative courses, although Rat Control for Gamekeepers is recommended as the only course specifically developed for the gamekeepers’ needs. A full list of past qualifications that will be valid, and all new courses available, is on the CRRU website (under Press Releases) at http://www.thinkwildlife.org/crru-approved-certifications-for-purchase-and-use-of-professional-rodenticide-products/.

Friday, 17 July 2015

GET YOUR NOMINATIONS IN FOR THE RONNIE ROSE AWARD


Nominations are now open for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s inaugural Ronnie Rose Award, with a special trophy to be presented at Moy Highland Field Sports Fair next month.
The award was set up in memory of the acclaimed Scottish wildlife manager and author from Eskdalemuir in the Scottish Borders.
A new, specially designed trophy will be presented to an individual whose management has made a lasting contribution to conservation, habitat, species management or rural education on river, low ground, hill or forest. 
Having already attracted a number of strong entries, the judging panel expect a tough task in selecting the winner when the nominations officially close on Monday 27th July. 
Ronnie, who sadly passed away at his home in Eskdalemuir last December, was a central figure in the SGA’s development.
A passionate advocate of the work of wildlife managers in enhancing and caring for Scotland’s natural heritage, Ronnie’s pioneering principles of forest design saw him oversee a 300% increase in bird species in the forests of Eskdalemuir.
The award in his name has also been set up as part of the SGA’s Year of the Rural Worker programme which aims to highlight the valuable contribution rural workers in Scotland make to their communities. 
Earlier this month, Inverness-shire youngster Duncan Seaton was announced as the 2015 SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said, “We have already had some strong nominations at our Head Office in Perth which is great. We would like to encourage more before the deadline.
“It is clear that the judging panel are going to have a really difficult job picking the winner, with nominations from all over the country so far.
“Ronnie was a true giant. Wildlife management was his life and many of his ideas are now staples of forestry best practice. 
“The award is open to all those who practice or educate in wildlife management.”
Throughout his 50 year career, Ronnie Rose, whose father and grandfather were both Head Stalkers at Balmoral, received many conservation awards including the Balfour Brown Trophy for Humane and Sustainable Management of Deer. 
He helped establish the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in Loch Lomond and his pioneering work for Economic Forestry Group Scotland at Eskdalemuir is a permanent legacy to his stewardship. 
His book Working with Nature: The Conservation and Management of Scottish Wildlife is still widely read and appreciated today.
Individuals nominated for the award, which closes on 27th July, should be experienced practitioners.
Anyone wishing to nominate is being asked to send an email to info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk or phone The SGA office on 01738 587515.
Information required is the name of the person nominated and the reasons why they are deserving of the award.
Those making the nominations should also include their own name, relationship to the person, and contact details. 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

SGA OFFICE MANAGER IS GAME BIRD OF THE YEAR


SGA Office Manager Sheila Beattie has been crowned Game Bird of the Year 2015 for her “incredible commitment and enthusiasm”.

The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust presented Sheila with The Lady Scott Rose Bowl earlier this month at the Scottish Game Fair in Scone.

Rewarded for her extraordinary dedication to Scotland’s gamekeepers, Sheila was also praised for the superb work she has carried out on behalf of the SGA, along with colleague Mo Baillie, during the past five years.

Helen Benson of GWT said, “We are delighted to present Sheila with this award which recognises ladies who go above and beyond the norm to support their gamekeepers. 

“Sheila supports all the gamekeepers in the SGA and has done so with incredible commitment and enthusiasm.  She has become a dear friend to all who know her and is a very special lady."

Helen Benson, GWT Trustee Raymond Holt and SGA Chairman Alex Hogg presented Sheila with her award on Friday 3rd July in The SGA/ GWT tent at the Game Fair along with flowers donated by Game & Country, the main sponsors of the Game Bird Award.

Chairman of the SGA, Alex Hogg, said, “I know that I speak for everyone at the SGA in saying that I am really delighted Sheila has received this recognition.

“She is an inspiration to all of us and it is only through all her diligence and good work that the SGA is on the stable footing it now is.

“Sheila has revolutionised our office, she has struck up a real rapport with members and has developed a great relationship with the staff and everyone at the SGA.

“It is only fitting that she should be recognised for all of that, and for the person she is."

The Game Bird of the Year Award was set up by Lady Scott, a GWT Trustee, to recognise the extensive support of wives/partners/daughters or female friends of gamekeepers across the UK.

Their work on shoots and estates varies widely. Organising refreshments and lunch for shooting parties and beating teams, picking up and beating on shooting days, and helping on the rearing field are all in a day’s unpaid work for many women who help the gamekeeper in their life.