Monday, 13 August 2018

STRATHBRAAN RAVEN LICENSE UPDATE

Scientists in the Strathbraan area witnessed nests with four fledged Curlew chicks this year: a first.
An update on the Raven License: The Community perspective.

Scottish Raptor Study Group has launched a Judicial Review of SNH’s decision to grant a licence to the Strathbraan community to control ravens to protect critically endangered wading birds.
The Research licence was the result of 18 months of work by the local farmers and gamekeepers here who undertook counts of ravens and wading birds before applying for the license, which is supported by the SGA and Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Many of the land mangers in the license area had taken part in the Scottish Government ‘Understanding Predation’ project, overseen by Scotland’s Moorland Forum.
A multi-party project, Understanding Predation brought together farmers, gamekeepers, ornithologists, raptor workers, RSPB Scotland, forestry interests and others with the shared objective of saving declining waders.
The final report- a unique collaboration of science and local knowledge- concluded that bold and urgent actions were required if Scotland was to save its dwindling populations.
Breeding Curlew, described as the UK’s most urgent conservation priority, have declined by 46 percent in 25 years.
There are now estimated to be only 250- 300 pairs south of Birmingham, a population which could be lost in 8 years.
In Wales, it is predicted the birds could be gone completely by 2025 and Scotland’s response to this urgent wake-up call is now vital.
The UK hosts about a quarter of the world’s breeding pairs in Spring and Summer and what happens here has an impact on global survival.
Inspired by the project, land managers in Strathbraan, who had witnessed the devastation caused by flocks of juvenile ravens hunting fields of wader chicks and eggs, decided to apply for a control licence to protect the local populations.
The Strathbraan area is a core site for breeding waders; something acknowledged by the RSPB’s own  Tayside Wader Survey summary report 2013.
It described Strathbraan East as ‘nationally important’ for Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Snipe and Strathbraan as nationally important for Lapwing and Oystercatcher.
Despite this, populations are still suffering decline (although comparatively less than many other un-managed areas).
The research licence, now to be contested, is an attempt to preserve the core breeding population in a key area.
Crucially, the licence is to protect waders and ravens. In deciding upon the number of ravens to be taken (69), SNH approved the licence on the basis that the numbers would not affect the conservation status of the raven.

Recently, news emerged of the assessment by SNH’s SAC on the ‘science’ of the license.
In terms of the community, we volunteered to suspend the licence whilst these aspects were being looked at. It should be noted that it was not the job of the local land managers to craft the scientific model. It was the job of local land managers to look after the birds and carry out the control humanely and in compliance with the law and spirit of the license, which they have done.

For the community, the justification for the licence came in the shape of what everyone expected- a very good breeding season for Waders here and much better protection for them than in recent times when raven flocks have wiped out chicks in the lowland fields. This, for us, has been a success, no matter how it is measured.

Here is the Community’s statement and latest position: 

“Local farmers and gamekeepers have been united in trying to prevent further loss of rare birds such as the Curlew, which would be tragic especially as action on the ground clearly makes a difference.
“Thanks to the licence, and hens being in good breeding condition, we are delighted to say it has been an excellent breeding year in Strathbraan. Folk at the sharp end have even seen nests of four fledged Curlew chicks for the first time, greatly helped by being better able to protect the chicks and eggs from the raven flocks that have been so damaging in recent years.
“In terms of wader conservation, therefore, it has been a much better season. The license has been temporarily suspended so those on the science side can make adjustments.
“However, the community remains committed to wading bird conservation, spurred on by what has been achieved so far.”