The Scottish Gamekeepers Association claims Predators are the problem.

 The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has declared 2014 as its ‘Year of the Wader’ to highlight the threats now facing species such as lapwing, curlew and plover throughout grouse moors in Scotland.

The extent of the problem has been brought into focus by the latest statistics from Wales, which show numbers of the birds down by a shocking 75% in the last few decades.

Keen to stop the situation becoming as bad north of the border, the SGA has asked all grouse moors owners in Scotland to report counts of wading birds in order to gain an accurate picture of how waders are faring on keepered land north of the border.

Ground nesting birds, such as lapwing, curlew and plover, have always bred up to three times more successfully on grouse moors, but recent years have seen a decline. We would like to remind the SGA that raptors have also been in serious decline on keepered moorland in Scotland as well as south of the border on England’s northern uplands, strange the SGA show little if any concern about this appalling situation.

The SGA hopes any data collected from grouse moors will determine how proper management for waders, including legal predator control and rotational muirburn, can be delivered in areas where numbers of these species are in decline.

Scotland has lost 56% of its lapwing and curlew in only 17 years, with conservationists blaming climate change and habitat loss through farming practices according to the SGA.

However, Scottish gamekeepers believe these factors are only a small part of the story and have called on the Scottish government to take action before wader decline passes the point of no return. Once again no mention of the disappearing raptors from grouse moors, we wonder why?

SGA chairman Alex Hogg said: “It is clear that new conservation responses are needed to help our vulnerable ground nesting birds. Again not a whisper by the SGA chairman Mr Hogg about vulnerable birds of prey, which on the majority of red grouse moors are conspicuous by their absence on both sides of the border.

“Millions of pounds of tax payers’ money have been spent on costly habitat programmes through the advice of conservation bodies according to the SGA. However, The State of Nature Report, which showed 60% of the UK’s species continuing to decline, and the latest BTO Breeding Bird Survey, prove that this approach, when taken alone, has failed to deliver the answers for birds such as waders. What to mention of raptors, not that’s any surprise.

“Our keepers, who have physically protected and worked to protect curlew, lapwing and plovers on their ground for years, have been warning that this is happening. We now have an imbalance in our uplands that needs to be addressed by government before Scotland goes the same way as Wales.” Isn’t is curious no details have been given highlighting the hard physical work undertaken by keepers protecting raptors on their ground, or the warning keepers have given highlighting their decline on red grouse moorland – we wonder why?

Mr Hogg explained that predator control could be instrumental in helping advance numbers of waders: “It has been widely accepted that predation by larger predators can have a devastating affect on the survival of vulnerable prey species, particularly when the predators are increasing and their prey decreasing significantly. Is Mr Hogg perhaps talking in riddles when referring to predators, using smoke and mirrors to avoid using the word ‘raptor’?

“The government needs to adapt to this scientific reality and use the legal licensing powers it holds to relieve the pressure on some of our precious wild birds. Notice in this sentence the phrase ‘some of our precious wild birds’ not all is being used. Again smoke and mirrors.

“Licences have also been issued to protect sheep at lambing time from ravens so there are already examples where the powers the government holds can be used to bring about positive results.

“Throwing public cash, which will be siphoned by conservation groups for habitat schemes, without control of predators, is self-defeating.”


25 comments to The Scottish Gamekeepers Association claims Predators are the problem.

  • Circus maxima

    Used to be lots of lapwing round here….but then the farmers started growing silage. Maybe the problem is that farmers are not employing enough gamekeepers? Maybe the keepers could get licences for controlling farmers?
    The trouble is the more bullshit there is the better the silage grows.

  • John Miles

    How to brain wash ministers!! Once they have independance they will trash the country.

  • nirofo

    The biggest threat to the waders is from selfish unjustified monocultural manipulation of their upland environment, all for the sole gratification of the shooting estates and their relentless obsession with driven Red Grouse shooting at all costs. The SGO can’t blame the Raptors for the plight of the waders because they’ve removed the majority of the predators by use of the gun, trapping and poisoning.

    Add to this the totally unnecessary drainage and ploughing of wet meadows and upland pasture for nothing more than the greed of the farmers in their quest for even more public funded grants under the guise of “land improvement”.

  • People can ridicule all they want with regards to declining wader populations but the scientific evidence clearly shows that it’s happening dramatically.
    My experience and feeling is that the cause is multifactorial with predation being only part of the decline. What do others think?

  • Falcoscot

    I’ve lived in Scotland for 22 years and have recently moved north to Moray, all bird life has been devastated by poor land management, vast areas covered with green concrete (conifers) pushing bird life as such waders and raptors out but very few people notice or even care. I’m just thankful I got to see some of what it should be like 30 or 40 years because the future looks very bleak indeed with more government sponsored destruction of our natural heritage.

    • Terry Pickford

      It’s become all too clear national organisations tasked with protecting Britain’s raptors are compromised, placing politics, their own self interests together with the interests of shooting estate owners before the security of birds of prey the law stipulates are protected. Take a look around at what has been allowed to take place since the Tories took power, raptors have almost completely disappeared from the uplands of England where red grouse are shot – its called raptor cleansing. This appalling situation will never stop until enforcement is taken seriously and those responsible face more appropriate penalties for the crimes they commit. Just ask yourself, why the Tory government are not interested in introducing the law of Vicarious Liability following Scotland’s example?

      Just in case you are not convinced it was no coincidence hen harrier, peregrine falcons together with goshawk have now been persecuted out of existence throughout Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland in just 4 years. This unprecedented situation was allowed to happen under the noses of both the RSPB and Natural England after licenses which had previously been issued to the North West Raptor Protection Group since 1973 were withheld in 2010.

      I feel it is important for everyone to understand why specific group licenses for use in the Forest of Bowland alone were withheld 4 years ago? The truth is very simple, after the group had reported wide scale raptor persecution which of course was damaging to the reputation of the regions shooting estates, rather than tackle the problem the RSPB and Natural England were so embarrassed at a situation they had been unable to prevent, Natural England decided the best solution was to shoot the messenger, which of course has now made a bad situation much worse.

      • kevin moore

        And to add to the RSPB’s embarrassment in Bowland, they tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to bring a malicious prosecution with no foundation against 2 members of the NWRPG for allegedly, recklessly and intentionally, disturbing nesting Peregrine Falcons. They failed miserably with that after both investigating police officers found no credible evidence to support the complaint which had been made. It is curious the RSPB find it inappropriate to direct resources at their disposal to seek out and prosecute those responsible for the disappearance of almost all of Bowland’s raptors, but do have enough time to undermine work undertaken by well meaning people who are intent on protecting these birds.

      • Hi Terry and Kevin,
        This is a totally appalling situation and basically I’ve never really understood all the politics over the years. I take it that yourselves and none of the other members of NWRPG are no longer members of the RSPB?
        What I don’t really understand is why didn’t you get moral backing/support from the likes of other raptor protection/conservation groups in England?
        I take it that things are totally unresolvable between parties or could conflict resolution possibly be applied?

      • alan

        What relevance does this have to the story about waders?
        Is there now more waders in this area, or are they still in serious declibe?



  • bubo bubo

    I have just recieved a fantastic book as a christmas present from a friend who is 20 years my senior,it is a Poyser Monograph about a wonderful bird of prey called the Hen Harrier (circus cyaneus)in it i have read that this beautiful bird used to be widespread on the grouse moors of northern england where it used to build its nest in the deep heather,as a keen birdwatcher and frequent visitor to these grouse moors were i go birdwatching i wondered why i had never been lucky enough to see this bird,so i decided to call my friend that gave me the book which is when he told me about the tragic story of this wonderful bird and its conflict with gamekeepers and how they have wiped it out.

    My friend then went on to tell me about another book he is giving to me next christmas about another fantastic bird of prey called the Peregrine Falcon that used to widespread on the same northern grouse moors.

    I thought we had a charity in this country called the RSPB that is there to protect birds, i wonder why they have done nothing to protect these two birds on the grouse moors of northern england?

    • nirofo


      “I thought we had a charity in this country called the RSPB that is there to protect birds, i wonder why they have done nothing to protect these two birds on the grouse moors of northern england?”

      That’s easily answered for 3 main reasons.

      Firstly, it’s because they’re too busy making a pound and gleaning brownie points from gullible well meaning people who believe they are doing a good job protecting birds.

      Secondly, they’re arrogant, they like to think that because they’re the RSPB they know what’s best for the birds and dislike anything or anyone that interferes with this, especially where individual face is at stake and called into question, hence the reason for the NWRPG feeling the whip when they reported the shenanigans going on in Bowland, (Bowland is not the only place where they have this attitude).

      Thirdly, they like to think that it’s best if they suck up to the shooting estate owners and turn a blind eye to what they know is happening to the Raptors on these estates instead of challenging them, even to the extent of holding the annual Scottish bird fair at Hopetoun Estate, a proven Raptor persecution hotspot. I see they’re holding it there again in 2014, even though they know the Raptor Study Groups and many of the country’s most experienced and dedicated ornithologists are against it and have told them so, this just goes to prove my point.

  • calidris

    SGA clearly want to score lots of plus points on the basis that they are very concerned conservationists. Politicians will quite likely be taken in by this stance but realistically what will the data they collect show, without it having some rigorous scientific basis? Yes it would seem to be a pretty obvious smoke screen and part of the game which they are playing in order to favour their own situation.

    As for events in Bowland – well it’s bad enough having the raptor persecution activists versus the raptor supporters fighting it out without having raptor supporters fighting between each other. In that respect the SGA are doing rather better than we are by having a bit of solidarity in their camp. It is far too easy to have NWRPG members using the site to shout about how they have been wronged and how raptors are suffering when the reality is not as black and white as that. Surely there’s a long history and some very genuine concerns behind the withholding of licenses to NWRPG.

    Then again that’ll be what the Politics of Raptors is all about and we draw our own conclusions about what is in the best interests of the birds and what is damaging our cause!

    • calidris,
      I fully appreciate that there are always two sides to a story but could you please enlighten me with regards to your above statememt ”Surely there’s a long history and some very genuine concerns behind the withholding of licenses to NWRPG”.
      What basically are these concerns you infer?

    • Pragmatist

      >”Surely there’s a long history and some very genuine concerns behind the withholding of licenses to NWRPG.”

      If there were any concerns, Natural England didn’t admit to them. They simply gave licences to others. What happened subsequently is really a matter of genuine concern – if you care about the welfare of the birds, of course.

      It’s worth noting that licences were only withheld from the NWRPG by Natural England for the Bowland area (where they’ve been monitoring raptors for over 40 years) – not for elsewhere in the UK.

      >”It is far too easy to have NWRPG members using the site to shout about how they have been wronged and how raptors are suffering when the reality is not as black and white as that.”

      And your evidence to back up that supposition (presented as fact) is?

  • alan

    You have to admire the Gamekeepers for this one.
    It’s very clever PR. Even better, it might be based marginally on fact.
    Bullshit is always easier to swallow when sprinkled with a tiny smattering of truth.
    In the glens where i come from, there has been a visible decline in lapwings, curlews and grey patridges for the last 30 years.
    The number of eagles has probably stayed the same, perigerines probably doubled and hen harriers has probably decreased slightly.
    There has been a large increase in buzzards and ravens.
    It may not be directly related, but the biggest change in the last 30 years has been the seagull colonies that started appearing, again about 30 years ago.
    It maybe that seagulls are to blame, but it could just as well be that what ever change encouraged the seagulls to move in is detrimantal to the waders.
    Agriculturally there has been almost no change, if anything it has reduced.
    There is one estate that is a desert with regard to raptors, and there doesnt seem to be any extra waders on it.
    Raptors may have a minimal impact on the decrease in waders, but something is having a huge impact.



    • nirofo

      Throughout the biggest part of Scotland gulls are in a steady but well documented decline, the large colonies you mention no longer exist or are much reduced, Black-headed Gull colonies have almost disappeared, Common Gulls once widespread, although not so much as their name suggests, have declined drastically, Herring Gulls are still fairly numerous but are also in steady decline, and the list goes on. So to put it in a nutshell, raptors are not prolific enough anywhere to have such a widespread drastic effect on the populations of waders as the gamekeeper organisations would have us believe. As for the gulls being detrimental, waders were much more abundant at the same time the gulls were more abundant, so you can’t really blame them for the decline either. The common factor which is well known to have drastic effects for waders is the destruction of their nesting habitat and feeding grounds, some of which along with Raptor persecution can be blamed on the shooting estates and their obsession with maintaining unnaturally high numbers Red Grouse at all costs. Greedy farming interests have also caused much damage, draining upland pastures and wet meadows, intensive farming removing almost all opportunity for breeding and feeding. It’s not just the waders that are suffering from this lust for more and more agricultural land without giving a thought to the wildlife it’s destroying in the process.

    • Alan,
      Firstly, I totally agree with your point regarding this blog being side tracked from the main issue. Unfortunately this is the case with so many issues. Lets be honest this dispute between NWRPG/NE/RSPB/Bowland has gone on for several years and keeps on resurfacing. All I’d like to know is the truth, hopefully get a resolution and get more breeding raptors back in Forest of Bowland.
      Secondly, I agree with several of your above comments regarding potential causes of the decline of breeding waders. Could the something that is having a huge impact be the tick?

      The bottom line that nobody can dispute is that wader numbers are declining dramatically and any positive actions should surely be encouraged!

  • skydancer

    I don’t know the full story of what went on with the rspb and the nwrpg but I think we all only need to look at the figures of birds of prey in bowland since the nwrpg had their licenses withheld for use in bowland, the disaster that has happened in the 4 years since says it all .

  • nirofo

    “This is why many licensed raptor workers simply ignore these regulations and get on with the job unknown to the estate. Can you imagine the consequences of asking for approval to ring peregrines or hen harriers on a red grouse moor (also a BTO ringing requirement by the way) where these birds are persecuted? That would be like sentencing those birds to certain death, what a stupid rule and counter productive to nesting raptors period, but its a rule the BTO will not change irrespective of any harm caused to nesting raptors.”

    That’s one of the reasons we stopped obtaining our Schedule One licences through the BTO years ago and got them elsewhere. The standard scientific research and education licence doesn’t require you to obtain permission from the land owner except on national nature reserves, however it does state that it doesn’t confer any right of entry on to land or property. I assume that means on land where there is no public freedom to roam, such as on MOD restricted land etc.

    Editor’s comment, Nifofo, many people would rather apply for licenses elseware if they could, but in England applicants are forced to go via Natural England and now the BTO. Do you know of any alternative in England? Its a pity gamekeepers in England and Scotland who visit nests on a regular basis, reasons unknown don’t need licenses, or do they?

  • nirofo

    I thought that anyone who knowingly visits the nest of a Schedule One protected bird species that contains eggs or unfledged young without an appropriate licence was committing an offence, and that includes gamekeepers. Just because they work for the owner of the land where the nest is located doesn’t exempt them. If a gamekeeper is known to be visiting the nest of a protected species without a licence then he should be prosecuted the same as anyone else, although it does seem that gamekeepers are very rarely prosecuted for any sort of criminal activities against protected Raptors.

    Editor’s Comment, You thought wrong, on red grouse moors where peregrine eyries still exist, gamekeepers follow daily routes patrolling their beats, taking them regularly past all historical peregrine nesting locations. This is one reason why breeding peregrines move on to different breeding locations so often on grouse moors. Very few if any of course survive because of this disturbance which is simply ignored by you know who. Then the gamekeeper installs grit feeder trays and vermin traps encircling known traditional nest sites ensuring when servicing these legal installations on a daily or at least weekly time scale, no nesting peregrine is allowed to settle. I hope this clears up in reality what seems now to have taken place throughout the Forest of Bowland in the last three years almost everywhere.

    One last legal point, if you are brave enough, it is possible to venture close to a peregrine nest knowingly containing eggs or small young without breaching any legal consideration. Just as long as the adult falcons are not disturbed in any way, and of course its just not possible to disturb eggs in a nest or a carton from Tesco now is it?

    Sorry, we have just been reminded. In 2009 when a beat gamekeeper holding a loaded shot gun below a peregrine nest was observed by two witnesses, after being reported to the RSPB, the Police and landowner it was ignored.

  • nirofo

    I was not referring to the fact that gamekeepers can get away with anything if nobody does anything about it, or if they don’t disturb the birds, or if nobody sees them. I said knowingly visits the nest, being at or near the nest containing eggs or unfledged young where the adult birds are clearly alarmed construes visiting the nest, in which case you are breaking the law if you are not licenced. Show me in the licensing laws where it says gamekeepers on Red Grouse moors are exempt and are allowed to disturb nesting Schedule One Raptors any time they choose. Red Grouse moors are no different, it’s just that they seem to be more immune to prosecution than anywhere else. Your last paragraph just goes to emphasises this point and shows just how much control the estate owners have over the RSPB, the police and our justice system, not to mention NE and SNH.

  • alan

    The Glen im talking about has had almost no change in agriculture.
    In some ways a backward timewarp.
    There may be less gulls in this glen, but certainly still plenty.
    (i wasnt advocating getting rid of the gulls, just looking for what has changed)
    Mike Groves, may well have hit the nail on the head.
    The glen im talking about had virtually no ticks, when the waders and patridges were plentiful and is now plagued by ticks.
    This may well be the common denominator.

    Happy New year and cheers for your comments gents.


  • nirofo

    The tick problem may well be a contributing factor in the demise of the waders and there may be a common reason for the abundance of these ticks. Looking back the start of the tick problem seemed to coincide with the time the subsidies were removed or reduced for sheep farming / crofting, this led to a large scale reduction in the number or removal altogether of sheep on the hill. As everybody knows sheep were a ready made host for a multitude of ticks, remove the sheep host and the ticks have to look for a new home, more than likely waders and Red Grouse among others were the new hosts. Removal of the sheep has also helped another invasive species to thrive, Bracken now seems to grow in profusion on all the hillsides and Birch woods, and in some places where it had never been before, bracken seems to attract large numbers of ticks just waiting for a host to come near enough.

  • Anthony Phillips

    I think an important point has been missed here. In their natural state a large amount of these grouse moors would not be moors at all, but would be covered with scrub and woodland, habitats not associated in general with waders. These waders in many places have merely taken advantage of the changes in the landscape made by man. Should we not be more interested in allowing these landscapes to return to their natural state as willed by nature, than maintaining them as archaic agricultural landscapes for the benefit of species chosen by ourselves?
    If I may, nirofo, I would like to defend bracken, one must remember that it is a native plant to the UK and has its place in the ecology of this country. To describe it as invasive is unfair, (if you can be unfair to a fern?),it is merely doing what it does and in turn providing habitat for other species. All that is needed to “control” it is the return of a another native species, the wild boar.

    • nirofo

      You’re right about the Red Grouse moors, without the grouse they wouldn’t exist in their present form, 200 years of moorland manipulation so that one species of bird above all others could thrive has led to a monocultured wasteland. That may or may not be a good thing depending on your opinion, I tend to think it is bad for all species and the moorland environment it destroyed in the process!

      When I said Bracken is an invasive species I was referring to it’s rapid expansion into areas where it had never been seen before, in the areas I am familiar with this coincided with the very large reduction or complete removal of close grazing sheep from the hill and the natural woodlands. This rapid expansion is to the detriment of many other native species, including many wild flowers and ground nesting birds among others. While I have no objection to wild boar, the problem is who would be responsible for them and what would control them, we killed the last wolf in the 1700’s

      While I am no great lover of sheep they did provide a kind of service by keeping unwanted vegetation in control, unfortunately they weren’t particular in what they ate, orchids and other flowers were also on their menu. One thing they did provide however was carrion for the Eagles, Buzzards and Ravens when they died.