Friday 15 August 2014


Please find below details of a course ideally suited for estate factors and head keepers. The course, facilitated by Dr James Fenton, in association with the Field Studies Council, covers many topics which are essential knowledge for all estates marrying sport with best practice in conservation.
If you are interested in booking onto the course, email the SGA office for a booking form or contact Dr James Fenton directly at: Dr James Fenton, Polldoran, Clachan Seil, Oban PA34 4TJ
Telephone bookings can also be taken: 01852 300545 


22-26 SEPTEMBER 2014 IN WESTER ROSS Non-residential
To ensure that upland conservation management is rooted in sound ecological principles
Invasive plants
Grazing impact
Native woodlands old & new Peatlands & carbon storage Setting objectives

  • –  Nature conservation practitioners: staff of NGOs and agencies involved in practical conservation work and/or policy advice
  • –  Postgraduate students involved in ecological research
  • –  Those involved in governance of NGOs & agencies (trustees, council & committee members)
  • –  Those seeking to advance their Corporate Professional Development
Run in association with the Field Studies Council

The course provides an opportunity for practitioners to stand-back from their daily work, to look afresh at the ecology of upland ecosystems, and to discuss topical issues with their peers both informally on-site and in more structured indoor sessions in the evenings.
Wester Ross (Torridon to Loch Ewe)
Note that next year (2015 onwards) the course will be run as a residential course at Kindrogan Field Centre under the auspices of the Field Studies Council
Monday-Friday 22-26 September 2014. The course will be subject to demand.
Invasive plants
Grazing impact
Native woodlands old & new Peatlands & carbon storage Setting objectives

Emphasis will be on habitats and vegetation rather than species.
The following habitats will be studied: dry heath, wet heath, peat bog, upland grassland, bracken, native birch wood, ancient Caledonian pine forest, new broadleaved plantations, new & old native pinewood plantations.
‘Learning by doing’: participants will undertake fieldwork on key topics and thereafter draw their own conclusions on the dynamics of the ecosystems they are studying.
The course is not designed to teach standard protocols such as NVC and Site Condition Monitoring and neither will it focus on designated sites, although these topics will be discussed. Instead it will focus on basic ecology with the aim of honing observation skills.
Fieldwork sites will be chosen to best illustrate the underlying ecological principles and discussion will be based on fieldwork results obtained. Informal discussion following Chatham House rules will be a key aspect of the course
The course is focussed on ecology. There will not be time to cover other essential aspects of conservation management, such as the political context, community involvement, communicating with landowners/managers, education, etc. although they are likely to be touched on in discussion.

The course will take place in an area where natural/semi-natural habitats dominate the landscape, with improved agricultural land or urban development rare. Hence the course is targeted at those professionally working in such areas; it will be less suited to those involved in lowland areas where the reverse is true.
Participants will be expected to have had some experience of nature conservation theory and practice.
The course is centred at Gairloch in Wester Ross. See programme below for daily activities.
Note that food and accommodation is not provided on this course: participants will have to make their own arrangements. Packed lunches will be required Tuesday-Friday.
The course will be fieldwork-based in a variable climate: participants will be responsible for providing their own weatherproof clothing.
* Participants will need to be physically fit as walking over rough ground will be included.
A minibus will be provided for travel to and from fieldwork sites. A meeting room will be provided for evening sessions.
£240 per participant, which includes daily travel to/from fieldwork sites, fieldwork material, cost of room hire for evening sessions, and tutor costs.
* Course numbers will be restricted to eight. ______________________________________________________
The facilitator for this course is Dr James Fenton. The course is run in conjunction with the Field Studies Council.
James has a degree in botany and PhD in peat growth. He previously designed and tutored ecology field course for five years in the Lake District while working for the Brathay Hall Trust.
In 1991 he was employed by the National Trust for Scotland as their first Ecologist and remained with them for 14 years. Subsequently he worked on landscape policy for Scottish Natural Heritage for five years, coordinating the work to identify the special qualities of all of Scotland’s National Scenic Areas and both National Parks. Most recently he worked for two years in the Falkland Islands as CEO of the NGO Falklands Conservation.
In recent years he has also led fieldwork days in Wester Ross for postgraduate students from ETH Zurich university and been a STEM ambassador.
PROGRAMME: 22-26 September 2014
Poolewe & surrounds
1. To identify the key invasive plants in the locality
2. To assess their potential for spread
Field observations of introduced species Sources of spread
Estimated rate of spread
3. To produce a control strategy
Indoor exercise:
Prioritise species to control
Produce a control strategy for the locality
Gairloch & surrounds
all day
1. To assess the grazing levels across the locality
2. To identify the impact of grazing
Visit to grassland, heathland & woodland sites with different grazing levels
Assessment of grazing impact, including number of plants present & impact on tree regeneration
eve Indoor
3. How to set grazing levels?
Beinn Eighe/Torridon
a. To map the distribution of native woodland in the locality, and account for its distribution
Native woodland mapped on drive to Torridon, with tree species present noted
Visit to native woodland sites
Discussion of why woodland is where it is
b. To examine native woodland expansion schemes in the area and assess their appropriateness
Visit to various native woodland schemes, from Victorian times to the present day
Techniques: direct planting, mounding, planting of seed sources, natural regeneration
Analysis of site characteristics
Analysis of approaches taken over the years at Beinn Eighe NNR (ancient pine forest)
eve Indoor
c. To produce a strategy for native woodland in the locality
What native woodland management is needed in the future?
Inverasdale peninsula
a. To analyse the long-term dynamics of peatlands
Visit to different kinds of peatland: shallow peat, deep peat, peat with pools, eroded peat
Causes of erosion
Discussion of long-term peat dynamics
b. To estimate the amount of carbon stored in different ecosystems in the locality
Field visit to grassland, birch woodland, heathland, bracken and peat bogs
Measurements of soil depth & structure, standing crop estimated
eve Indoor
Indoor session: analysis of results
Is the area currently a carbon sink, source of store?
Will tree planting increase the amount of carbon stored?
What is the likely impact of fire?
am Indoor
1. What should be nature conservation aims & objectives for this area?
Using experience gained on previous days, participants produce an outline nature conservation strategy for the locality
The strategy could include:
What are the special qualities of the area?
Which ecosystems (if any) should be given a priority?
What conservation approach/es is/are appropriate where?
What would ‘rewilding’ mean in this area?
What ecological networks are present/needed? What will need to be monitored?
Departure time could be later by agreement with participants
Note: Although each day will be devoted to a particular topic, in practice there is likely to be discussion of most topics on most days, particularly when a relevant site is visited.


Monday 11 August 2014


The SGA has received a number of complaints from those unable to answer, in a digital format, the Scottish Government's consultation forms regarding more investigative powers for SSPCA regarding wildlife crime. 
Last week we made Scottish Government aware that many could not fill in the tick boxes and that the email address for sending did not function properly.
We have been made aware that this is the standard document type used for Scottish Government consultations and, if any changes are to be made, this will not happen until after the consultation closes on September 1st, 2014.
In order to assist members and others wishing to fill out the consultation, we have received the following directions in the event of people being unable to fill and send the form online.

Option 1:     Print out the form, complete it on paper and send to

SSPCA Wildlife Crime Consultation
Wildlife Management Branch,
Scottish Government,
Area 1-C North,
Victoria Quay,

Option 2: Type the responses directly into an email and send this. The Scottish Government has confirmed these will be acceptable on the condition that all the respondent information form details are included, including the question numbers.

This should then be sent to the following email address:

We hope that this will assist all those having trouble with the online consultation form.


The start of the grouse shooting seasons begins tomorrow (Tues), with gamekeepers reporting excellent prospects for both grouse and fragile bird species.
Shooting parties will take to the heather moors for the Glorious Twelfth, with sport letting agents predicting a boost to rural communities in excess of £32 million.
However, while the health of the iconic quarry will be uppermost in shooters’ minds, gamekeepers are reporting excellent prospects for threatened Curlew and Lapwing; statistics which are bucking national and UK trends.
Heather management and predator control by gamekeepers to produce a harvestable surplus of grouse for sport has been proven to provide benefits for ground-nesting wading species which have suffered alarming declines of 56 per cent in 17 years.
The Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Strategy, published last week, reported four out of five wading species showing ‘significant declines’.
However, maps and counts from grouse keepers across Scotland are showing cause for optimism for conservation-listed birds.
On one Highland Perthshire estate employing two full-time grouse keepers, Curlew numbers rose 360 per cent set against a regional rise of 54 per cent, reported in the Tayside Wader Survey.
Although Lapwing numbers declined 68 per cent across the region, the declines on the keepered ground were less at 6 per cent while Oystercatcher numbers soared 121 per cent against a regional drop of 8 per cent.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) Chairman Alex Hogg said: “The prospects for the grouse season look good. The mix of weather has been right for the birds, which have feathered up well, there’s been enough water and there has been a good insect hatch.
“It should secure a good season for sporting visitors which, in turn, helps the small rural communities; the tourism businesses, shops and retailers that require the cash injection as we head into the less seasonal months.
“The most pleasing things for us, though, is the fate of our fragile species. Through our 2014 SGA Year of the Wader project, we now have wader counts in from grouse moors in the Borders, Tayside, Speyside and Inverness-shire and the birds are faring well thanks to the work of the keepers who are putting the hard work in to help these threatened birds, which have no protection otherwise from the larger predators which dwarf them increasingly in number.
“Viable grouse shooting means estates can afford to pay keepers to do this vital conservation work without any need for public money.
“If you removed this model, the bill would have to come from the public purse and vast swathes of Scotland’s heather moorland, more endangered than the rainforest, would be increasingly under threat from afforestation.” 
Grouse shooting has often been painted as sport for the rich and landed gentry, with shooters paying between £100 and £150 per brace.
However, sporting lets agencies are reporting more days being taken by groups of working businesspeople, particularly in the later days of the season.
Grouse keeper Allan Hodgson of The SGA said: “We are even seeing groups of gamekeepers taking shooting towards the end of the season and, while many wealthy people shoot in Scotland, the idea that this is solely for the rich went out years ago.”
A new report, ‘The Value of Shooting’ from Cambridge-based Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC), released last week, showed that 97 per cent of edible quarry shot in the UK, including grouse, is destined for human consumption.
Of that, 62 per cent is consumed by those attending shoots, with 35 per cent likely to go to game dealers or local restaurants.
“Game is becoming more and more recognised again as quality, lean produce with little or no air miles.
“It’s organic, people know where it has come from and there is traceability right back to the moor.
“There will always be some who are critical of grouse shooting but the benefits of grouse and other forms of shooting are real and quantifiable,” added SGA Chairman, Alex Hogg.

The Grouse Season in Numbers:
  • The Grouse Seasons lasts from August 12th to December 10th.
  • The Grouse season brought £32 million to the Scottish economy in 2013.
  • Grouse keepers manage a heather resource of global importance. Mountain hare are almost entirely dependent on this habitat while Ptarmigan, red grouse and Golden Plover rely heavily on this source of food and breeding cover.
  • 20 per cent of heather moorland was lost in Scotland between 1940 and 1970, through conversion to forestry or grass.
  • Grouse shooting is part of a country sports product worth £313 million to the Scottish economy and £2 billion to the UK economy.
  • Shooting providers in the UK (including grouse shoots) spend nearly £250 million a year on conservation work, more than eight times the amount the RSPB spent on its reserves in 2013 (£29.6m). Source: The Value of Shooting, PACEC, 2014.

Thursday 7 August 2014


As of Friday 8th August, the SGA office will be manned on select days between 9.00am and 12.30pm until Monday August 25th. This is due to staff holidays.
All calls and emails will be picked up so, if you don't get an answer, leave a message or email and a member of staff will return your inquiry.
If you want to renew your SGA membership, you can do so online through the website or leave a message, with a contact detail, and our team will get back to you.
Anyone wishing to contact SGA Development, Training and Education Manager George Macdonald should contact the office on 01738 587 515.