Grouse moor management by Gamekeepers keeps the Merlin off the red list!

Read the story below and you might begin to believe society has misjudged the gamekeeper and the hard work he undertakes to save and conserve  protected raptors on the grouse moors in the northern uplands of our country!

Grouse moor management has saved Britain’s smallest raptor from the red list, according to the results of a study commissioned by the Moorland Association (MA). The research, carried out by Penny Anderson Associates, has shown increases in Merlin populations on moorland managed for red grouse.

Based on data from the British Trust for Ornithology Bird Atlas, the study found that nearly four-fifths of records for the protected species were from keepered land. The results suggest that four times as many Merlin are found where gamekeepers are active, and that there are twice as many pairs on grouse moors than 20 years ago, in spite of a decline elsewhere.

Chairman of the MA Robert Benson said: “Plenty of heather to nest in, ready food supply and the control of merlin’s natural predators are the winning combination of grouse moor management. That the work of gamekeepers has been recognised by this valuable study is praise indeed for their huge efforts, particularly as the nesting season gets under way.”


What Mr Benson does not acknowledge or admit, while the merlin may be increasing on keepered  moorland,  protected raptors like the hen harrier, peregrine falcon and short-eared owl have either completely disappeared or are in serious decline on grouse moors where gamekeepers are active. In fact the peregrine falcon is now more numerous in our large cities than  on moorland where red grouse are shot, thanks in no small part to the winning combination of grouse moor management gamekeepers undertaken so well.

8 comments to Grouse moor management by Gamekeepers keeps the Merlin off the red list!

  • nirofo

    If you believe all that crap you must believe in fairies !!!

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

    The fact that the merlin is allowed to remain on heather moorland where red grouse are shot is really very simple to understand. It has nothing what so ever to do with grouse moor management or food availability, its simply because the merlin rarely kills red grouse and are therefore tolerated. This is true for the kestrel and to some extent perhaps even the buzzard, although even the buzzard is still persecuted.

    The way this article has been written is significant, not because of what it tells us, but because of what the writer has failed to tell us. To some degree this article tells its own pathetic story, individuals like Robert Benson and moorland management have well and truly been shot in the foot with this one. If the merlin can thrive on heather moorland managed by gamekeepers, then why can’t peregrines, hen harriers and short-eared owls do the same? But we all know the answer to that question don’t we, it’s because they kill and eat RED GROUSE.

  • Kevin moore

    As hen harriers nest in exactly the same habitat as the merlin, what is the reason for the disappearance of the hen harrier from England’s uplands? Does this not put to bed the excuse about weather affecting the hen harrier in its breeding attempts as the merlin would have to cope with the same weather patterns.By trying to hoodwink the public with this statement they have scored a spectacular own goal. Its about time the shooting industry respect the laws of our country like other citizens, or will our government allow this single privileged set to work to different rules indefinitely?

  • Daniel Marsden

    Would admin/editor please detail where this article was published? And more specifically if there is hard data to support Robert Benson’s claims?

    The use of ‘fractions’ and ‘percentages’ are a brilliant masquerade of portraying abysmal figures in a somewhat positive light.

    For example (NOTE; EXAMPLE ONLY) if there was 1 breeding pair 20 years ago and now there are 2, that indeed reads as a superb 100% increase in numbers. It doesn’t mention how many breeding pairs in the interlude of the 20 year cycle either? In fact it does a fantastic job of circumventing the data and portraying a ‘loaded’ view.

    The reason I ask is the habitat in the near by forest of Bowland is now more suitable for crown green bowls and cricket than it is heather nesting birds.

  • nirofo

    “habitat in the near by forest of Bowland is now more suitable for crown green bowls and cricket than it is heather nesting birds.”

    You could say that for the moorlands in the far north of Scotland, they’ve been burnt off that many times there’s hardly anything left worth burning. The bonnie heather banks and braes that once used to be prime Merlin, Harrier and S.E.Owl territory have nearly all gone up in smoke !!!

  • Skydancer

    Daniel I can tell you this article was in this week’s edition of that we’ll known raptor friendly publication shooting times.

  • paul williams

    Robert benson…. using propaganda as a smoke screen for the eradication of Peregrines and Hen Harriers….This so transparent!!!

  • Andrew Gilruth

    Are we not missing the point. The merlin thrives where the hill keepers are. Why not give them recognition for this?

    Editor’s Comment. Andrew forgive a forthright reply to your assumption, we assure you we are most definitely not missing the point here. The point being made is that while merlin may be thriving on upland moorland, other similar species like hen harrier, short-eared owl and peregrine are most certainly not. The crystal clear answer why this situation exists is the result of persecution of the latter three species because they predate upon game birds, in particular red grouse. You could also include goshawk in the latter category. If you think these species are absent because of the weather or a lack of food then you are clearly wrong. If you care to explain why you think these four species are conspicuously absence from England’s uplands, our followers would be interested to hear what you have to say.