To shoot or not to shoot. Did politics ruin the day!!

Some of you may know that at Langholm in 2014 there was sufficient Red Grouse to hold a shooting season. So many people were amazed when they heard that the estate had curiously made a decided not to hold a shoot last year despite the high numbers of red grouse on the moor. This is the statement provided by the Langholm moor project –The recommendation of the Head Gamekeeper and the project’s Scientific Contact Group is that we should not shoot in order to protect the breeding population of red grouse in 2015. The Directors accept these recommendations and confirm there will be no shooting in this the seventh year of the Project.. Given that £3.5 million of public funding  was provided for this project, and the Buccleuch’s estate were keen to see the moor returned to viable shooting, was there more at stake here? Even the RSPB were amazed at this outcome.

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Remember, contained in the Seven Year Project Review there were concerns that the winter population of Red Grouse was being predated, even though a massive number of staff involved on the scheme had not actually seen any predation of red grouse taking place. Given that in the summer of 2014, 18 out of 20 red grouse nests were not predated resulting in productivity on the moor being very high, and after 2 amazing summers even the Meadow Pipits and voles were at an all time high offering alternative food for the predators.

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Langholm in the Scottish Borders

So again why no shooting!! Given that a Northumberland estate was given the right to destroy Buzzard nests the fingers will be still pointing at birds of prey at Langholm especially Buzzards, by other shooting estates. Was politics the reason why no shooting was held at Langholm?

With a vole crash less food would be available for the birds of prey, and Red Grouse may well be on the menu yet again. As the project has destroyed other moorland habitats and will destroy more, no wonder food can be a limited resource.  Work on other moors has shown the need for providing alternative food resources, and supplementary feeding of Hen Harriers  does not go far enough to help Buzzards and Ravens especially.  Winter is a period when no supplementary work takes place so the project is more inclined to call for a cull of birds of prey.

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Red Grouse predated by Peregrine, Langholm. Image by Keith Cowieson

The wider world of shooting estates do this already (KILL BIRDS OF PREY)and want to be justified this illegal activity regardless of the law. So not to have a shoot works in their favour, and given time is running out for this 10 year project, a shoot in 2014 would have taken the pressure off the birds of prey. If the summer in 2015 is not as good as the last two and the Red Grouse have a bad breeding season due to the weather no doubt the birds of prey will be blamed and suffer the consequences!

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Langholm in the Scottish Borders

Remember the only Red Grouse witnessed being killed by a predator on Langholm was attributed to the work of an adder, so don’t let these slithering bastards get away with murder!!

8 comments to To shoot or not to shoot. Did politics ruin the day!!

  • Ian Whittaker

    The Langholm review report suggests that the problem now lies with raptor predation of adult grouse. But there are some very serious inconsistencies in the report that must cast doubt on its findings: – the report states that diversionary feeding of hen harriers seems to be effective in reducing predation on grouse chicks but that so far other raptors are not in the frame for grouse chick predation; – the report also says that most tagged grouse recovered show signs of raptor predation without specifying which raptors are responsible.

    I should have thought that a healthy adult grouse is too big a prey item for a hen harrier and Langholm research suggests that grouse chicks, never mind adult birds, form only a very small part of a buzzards diet which only leaves peregrine falcon and goshawk in the frame; – but the evidence for heavy predation of healthy adult grouse by peregrine and goshawk is not compelling.

    The report states that 78% of grouse found dead were predated by raptors. Yet the report also states that the number of birds recovered represents only 10% of adult grouse mortality. Extrapolating the numbers would mean that peregrines and goshawks are responsible for killing nearly 8000 grouse in 7 years – 1100 grouse a year or 3 every single day of the year. I might be wrong but bearing in mind the pitifully small and declining numbers of peregrine and goshawk in the area, this does not seem to add up. This suggests that there is something wrong with the assumptions made in identifying raptor kills as opposed to scavenging and in any case there is no analysis of how many of these grouse would have died anyway ie that raptor predation is additional; – the comparison of grouse numbers with other grouse moors seems flawed based as it is on an average between 2009 and 2012. Not only is this starting from a very low base but it misses the upward trend since 2012 which should be seen as encouraging. This is clearly not comparing like with like although interestingly the other grouse productivity measures for Langholm are comparable with other Scottish grouse moors.

    It seems to me that the review’s objective is to paint the worst possible picture in terms of grouse numbers and the impact of raptor predation. The report itself shows grouse numbers recovering towards the target. Even taking into account that the target density has been bizarrely increased to cover a 25% reduction in the grouse’s core habitat, this represents progress. Numbers of grouse shot at Langholm have been in decline since the 1930s because of a number of factors mostly unrelated to raptor predation. The report’s claim that the resumption of a viable grouse shoot at Langholm is now only threatened by raptor predation seems at best made on shaky ground and at worst a disingenuous attempt to give credibility to the legalised removal of birds of prey from grouse moors.

    Editor’s Comment. Ian thank you for this very important update. When you investigate the information provided carefully there are always flaws. Thank goodness there are people like you who are able to find and then highlight these flaws.

  • Julie Wright

    So who has put this report together? If it’s not an unbiased party, then I suggest they put an independent team in to study how many birds of prey there are and what they are predating. It’s always the bird of prey that gets the blame and I’m sure if these birds were predating that many grouse it would be quite a spectacle to see or there are some very fat birds of prey.

  • Trapit

    Adult red grouse are within the prey range of hen harrier,especially the larger female. I have even

    known of sparrowhawk killing grouse close to the edge of plantations. For an estate the size of Langholm I think three raptor kills a day with the present population of grouse is entirely possible .

  • John Miles

    But where is the management to encourage alternative food. No point just having heather. By only creating heather which this project is doing it encourages raptors to take Red Grouse.

  • Keith Cowieson

    With respect to the statement that ‘…the only Red Grouse witnessed being killed by a predator on Langholm was attributed to the work of an adder…’ for information, I saw a peregrine flush off a recently killed red grouse on 2nd July 2014 (and I was only visiting for the day). Although I didn’t witness the kill, peregrines do not normally feed on carrion and the grouse was headless, a common characteristic of a peregrine strike, so I am in no doubt that the peregrine had just predated the red grouse. (I have sent photos of the kill to RP separately).

    It is disingenuous to suggest that Langholm’s suite of predators do not prey upon the red grouse there. Wouldn’t it be better to just let the scientific staff get on with the study, and publish their findings and make suitable recommendations in due course, without casting aspersions or suggesting some sort of conspiracy?

  • Coop

    Wouldn’t it be better if Mr Cowieson and his shabby organisation came clean regarding their true agenda, and stopped hijacking conservation issues in order to further their own vile desires?

  • Keith Cowieson

    No idea who Mr ‘Coop’ is – wouldn’t it be better if he posted under his own name, then he might perhaps refrain from being unnecessarily abusive?

    My personal hope, I don’t have any agenda, is that the LMDP reaches a scientifically sound set of conclusions and recommendations, acceptable to all stakeholders, and that help bring about an end to conflict in our cherished uplands, nothing else.

  • Ian Whittaker

    The point I was trying to make was that the review was making headline assertions that did not match the content of the report or known science so far from Langholm e.g., no evidence presented that hen harriers, peregrine, goshawk or buzzard are responsible for such large scale predation of adult grouse which gave no analysis of the reasons for grouse mortality at Langholm, including the proportion of “additive” predation. The evidence may be there, but wasn’t presented. If anything the evidence presented points to limited numbers of birds of prey that regularly predate adult grouse (according to the evidence)and a significant recovery in grouse numbers.By all means let the science get on with it but the headlines made in this review appeared misleading and unfounded.