Monday 23 April 2018


The Curlew is regarded as the UK's most pressing conservation concern
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has backed the granting of a research license by SNH in Perthshire to control abundant raven populations in an urgent bid to save crashing wading bird numbers.
The licensing authority has granted a 5 year research license to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders in a bid to save birds such as the Curlew, now described as the UK’s most pressing conservation concern.
Curlew numbers have crashed by 62 percent in only two decades and fears have been raised that the distinctive and evocative call of the bird could soon be lost forever.
The local community, representing farmers, gamekeepers and private interests, contacted SNH after participating in Scottish Government’s multi-party ‘Understanding Predation’ project which brought all rural stakeholders together and concluded that urgent and bold action was now necessary if waders were to be saved.
After over a year of bird counts and other discussions, a research license has been drafted which will initially permit the cull of up to 69 ravens in a geographically defined control area to relieve predation pressure on waders such as Curlew, Lapwing and Plover at breeding time.
The license, and any proposed raven management numbers, will be adapted each year depending on regular ground counts of both ravens and wading birds.
SNH has attached conditions to ensure the license will pose no threat to raven populations which have risen by 134 percent in the UK in only two decades.
Over many years local land managers in the area have witnessed flocks of juvenile ravens, sometimes numbering over 30, picking off wader chicks and eggs at breeding time; evidence submitted to the Understanding Predation project.
Campaigners have attacked the plans, launching a petition over the weekend.
Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The reality is no number of keyboard petitions will save the Curlew. Only action will. The practical land managers, who have shared their land with these birds for decades know the time for talk is long over.
“Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project brought together natural science and local knowledge with the common aim of saving these birds.
“Raptor workers, RSPB, farmers, gamekeepers and everyone with a stake in the countryside agreed in countless workshops that urgent and bold action was now necessary. Adaptive management was identified as one of the tools to save the Curlew and other wading birds whose populations have crashed dramatically. There is no point in reaching those conclusions then failing to act. This licence is a positive action to address a known problem before it is too late.”
He added: “The combined field knowledge of farmers and gamekeepers, gleaned over centuries, is no less valid than other science on this issue.
“Managed moorland and farmland in Strathbraan has been identified as key sites for many wader populations. Even then, losses have been evident, with predation by ravens regularly observed by land managers in the area, with juvenile flocks of 20s and 30s hoovering up chicks and eggs at breeding time.
“SNH deserve credit for working with the community to design a research license to ensure the conservation status of the raven is safeguarded while allowing an assessment of the level of enhanced protection waders could receive in the area by reducing the predation by ravens.” 
A Spokesperson for Strathbraan Community said: “Farmers and keepers in the community have for a number of years identified ravens as a predators of wading bird eggs and chicks, particularly at breeding time. The people here are proud of the number of waders they have locally and their contribution to the numbers nationally. 
“Some of the local land managers were part of the Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project which brought together conservationists, scientists, government bodies and practical folk to identify what was causing the sharp declines in population of waders across Britain and what might be done to protect those we still have.

“By approaching SNH we have agreed a community licence which will help tell us about ways to protect the waders and conserve ravens. This licence will also allow us to limit the effects of ravens predating on sheep and lambs at this time of the year.”

Tuesday 17 April 2018


Thirteen Perthshire gamekeepers have assisted Police Scotland in searching for a sea eagle after learning the bird’s satellite tag stopped working in a local glen.
Estates were informed of the loss of signal from the bird’s tag and offered their co-operation with ground searches after heavy snows around the area in recent weeks.
Yesterday, the gamekeepers accompanied Police and RSPB officials in searching areas of moorland and woodland several kilometres west of Dunkeld in the hope of finding either the bird or the tag device.
Two sea eagles have been seen in the glen since the tag stopped functioning and Golden eagles are also regularly sighted in the skies above the moors and low ground farmland.
The gamekeepers’ national body, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), has asked anyone locally with any information or sightings to contact Police Scotland.
Unknown individuals were seen by gamekeepers quartering and searching the area, days ahead of yesterday’s (Tues) search, and may know something of value to the investigation.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “When learning about the bird, the gamekeepers- working in the area around where the sea eagle’s tag was reported to have last signalled- were keen to assist the Police and immediately offered their help in the searches. There has been a lot of snow drifts in the area recently which has obviously made searching problematic, logistically.
“The gamekeepers want the bird found, if it has perished. They are first to be accused when any bird of prey goes missing, or a tag stops, so these guys want to find the bird and assist the Police in every way they can.
“They have also pledged to search other areas in the vicinity over the coming days and report to Police. With some tags, there can be hours between one signal and the next so the location of the last bleep is only an indication of where the bird was. Eagles are capable of covering considerable distances in a short space of time. If anyone else has any information on this, they should contact Police Scotland.”
Sea eagles, reintroduced to Scotland, rely on carrion for food, especially in winter.

A study of pellets of young eagles by Leitch and Watson showed 40 percent contained sheep, deer and goats, 48 percent comprised rabbits and hares and 12 percent consisted of birds such as ducks, seabirds, gulls and grouse.

Monday 9 April 2018


Friday 6 April 2018


Picture credit: SNH.
Gamekeepers fingered in a controversial mountain hare film have sent an open invitation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to learn about hare management on their ground.
Last week BBC Scotland aired a film obtained covertly by animal rights campaigners showing what they described as ‘military style’ hare culls.
The broadcast led to the First Minister describing the practices in the film as ‘unacceptable’ during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.
Now gamekeepers in the film have written to the First Minister to invite her to the highlands to see first-hand why the hare management is carried out.
They feel it is wrong for Government to obligate land managers to control deer populations then leave high populations of hares to graze the same habitats.
A number of protected sites exist on the ground and gamekeepers possess correspondence from statutory agencies outlining the value of their control of grazing in improving site condition.
Transparent records showing hares taken compared to population numbers will be made available to the First Minister, with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham also being invited to the highlands.
Head Gamekeeper for one of the estates concerned, Duncan MacKenzie, said: “We’d really like to be able to show the First Minister around rather than discuss these issues in Edinburgh. I think it would be beneficial for everyone to get an understanding of why the hares need to be managed, here.
“We had SNH out a few years ago to see how the hare populations were being controlled. We invited them out recently also, so nothing is being hidden.
“We have good records of the amount of hares in comparison to the amount we have taken off the hill, covering a number of years, and there are still high numbers of hares on the ground.
“What the footage by the anti grouse-moor campaigners showed was working people being
secretly filmed carrying out a legal management activity which is no different to other forms of species management and is well within the laws passed by Scottish Government.
“The ironic thing is that those who are seeking the end of grouse management would also be signalling the beginning of the end for the mountain hare in Scotland.
“Populations are thriving on grouse moors but are struggling badly elsewhere due to predation and loss of their preferred heather habitat and we hope to have the opportunity to explain this in full to the First Minister.”
New methods of counting mountain hares were published by SNH on 26th January and those methods are to be adopted by the estates to inform all future hare management operations.

Wednesday 4 April 2018


A carer in East Kilbride has turned pioneer by introducing disadvantage kids in South Lanarkshire to the wonders of the wild deer that find a home on the city fringes.
David Quarrell wanted to combine his skills as carer and as an authority on urban deer to help connect local kids in the care system to nature and their environment.
Now, after successfully hosting the first organised trip of its kind for children in care, he hopes to roll out the education programme further.
Passionate about the roe deer that share green spaces on the outskirts of Glasgow, the experienced deer manager showed youngsters deer, explained about their lives, how to identify them and where they prefer to live and find food.
He also explained why populations sometimes required management to minimise damage to nature reserves and gardens, to keep populations healthy and to prevent road traffic accidents.
South Lanarkshire Council helped facilitate the trip and kids were given special learning packs and identification sheets from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) and British Deer Society.
Lowland Deer Network also provided funding for costs and a breakfast for the kids and carers, who were out spying the deer at 6.30am before most people were awake.
“It was very worthwhile,” said David, who is a member of the SGA Deer Group and Chairs the South Lanarkshire Deer Group.
“None of the children had ever seen a wild deer before. They have coped with a lot of negative challenges in their lives to date and some of them have not had the chance to experience the positives of the wildlife around them. We saw about 14 deer over the morning and the kids were passing the binoculars between them, very excited.
“We talked about numbers of deer and whether they would expect the numbers to be higher or lower the following year. They also saw Herons at a protected SSSI site as well as pink footed and graylag geese, and enjoyed the whole experience.
“At the moment it is just a pilot but it teaches them a lot about their local environment. It was really good to see them connecting with nature and we hope to do more visits in the future.”
At the end of the visit, carers were given packs of venison sausages, burgers and steaks to cook; prepared by Tweed Valley Venison.
The initiative, taking place in the Year of Young People 2018, was supported by the Social Work Department of South Lanarkshire Council.

Foster carers have since given positive feedback on both the visit and the venison, saying the kids were engaged and enjoyed the experience and getting out into the outdoors.


All members should be aware that the office is suffering unforeseen disruption this morning due to weather conditions and issues with phone systems. Please allow for this when contacting the office. Due to the nature of the disruption, email is the best way to make contact. All email requests will be answered as soon as is practical. Thanks for your patience. Team SGA.