Friday, 14 August 2015

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Ahead of the Glorious 12th

At this time of year we are contacted by journalists for our comments on the conservation value of grouse moors - have you considered writing to a newspaper to make your views clear?

You may have seen in the weekend editions that much discussion has been taking place regarding the future of driven grouse shooting upon the eve of this year’s Glorious 12th.

Whilst some individuals are calling for an outright ban and others (including the Observer newspaper) are calling for the licensing of grouse moors, there are some journalists who are taking a more measured approach, urging compromise and a sensible, collaborative approach when it comes to the crux of the issue – the future of the hen harrier.

The GWCT has previously published its view here and here showing the conservation benefits of driven grouse shooting.

Local and national newspapers are used to receiving letters sent in by angry readers disagreeing with a particular story or viewpoint expressed within. What they receive less of is support for a particular piece they have published…


So if you agree or disagree with the thrust of pieces written by Clive Aslett (This battle over grouse shooting isn't worth having – The Telegraph) or Charles Clover (Stop this grousing and work together to save the hen harrier – The Times) why not let them know?

This will help demonstrate that those seeking a ban on driven grouse shooting are not the only ones with a voice and that those in the shooting community also care deeply about Britain’s wildlife.

Contact The Telegraph

Email dtletters@telegraph.co.uk (Daily Telegraph) or stletters@telegraph.co.uk (Sunday Telegraph). Or write to: 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0DT. Include name, address, and work and home telephone numbers.

Contact The Times

Email letters@thetimes.co.uk or write to Letters to The Editor, 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF.

Don't forget to let us know how you get on!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Launch of National Rural Broadband Helpline

Photo by JP Foto
Photo by JP Foto
by Stephen Roberts
Marketing and Sales Director,
C&R Technologies Ltd

Updated 24th August 2016:

BT hike their prices – again!

Millions of BT customers are about to pay even more for their landline and broadband services, just nine months after they were hit by their last price rise!

And in addition, BT have recently started charging all their TV customers an extra £5 a month for European football matches, unless they opt out.

Line rental will increase by 5.8 per cent to £17.99. The remaining price increases for Voice, Broadband and TV are no greater than 6.94% say BT.

If you’d like advice on your fast, reliable rural broadband and telephony options please feel free to call us on 0800 298 9368 or email us via enquires@candrtechnologies.com.


We are now launching a National Broadband Helpline Service

Please call us FREE on 0800 298 9368 with your broadband queries and questions about Rural Broadband and the options you or your business have to get fast, reliable broadband service.

Please email your questions to us via enquiries@candrtechnologies.com or call us FREE on 0800 298 9368.

You can also visit our website or tweet us - @RuralBROADband1

A question we often get asked is "if I change broadband phone line provider, will it improve my broadband ADSL service?"

The answer is this is very unlikely as your new supplier uses the same line from your local exchange to you so moving ISP is unlikely to solve drop out or poor speed problems.

Moving to one of our fast, reliable broadband without a phone systems will improve your service – just call us on 0800 298 9368 to discuss your needs or visit our website.

Testimonials

"Thanks again to C&R Technologies Ltd for providing their Fast, Reliable satellite broadband system and Wi-Fi on our stand at this years CLA Game fair"
- Andrew Gilruth, GWCT Director of Communications

"We now have fast broadband at the farm! Thanks to C&R @RuralBroadband1"
– Oliver Hudson, @wodehill, Farm

First Spanish-British Small Game Management Meeting

by Carlos Sanchez, Wetlands Ecologist, GWCT

Although the British moors and lowlands are quite different from the Spanish Mediterranean forest, small game shooting takes place in both locations, with this an activity of high socio-economic and ecological value to both countries.

Hence, gamekeepers, landowners and scientists from Britain and Spain often deal with similar challenges but, can we learn something from each other for the benefit of game and other wildlife?

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is going to participate in the first “Spanish-British Small Game Management Meeting”, to be held in Ciudad Real (the ‘Spanish Norfolk’) on the 25-27th of September.

This meeting provides a rare opportunity for an exchange of information about game management and will consist on a series of talks and workshops, together with a field trip to a well-managed shooting estate.

Myself, Dr. Nick Sotherton and Dr. Roger Draycott will impart unique advice based on practical experience and science developed by the GWCT, and the same will be done by Spanish scientists and practitioners.

The days will involve inspiring talks and practical demonstrations on habitat creation and management, predator control and other techniques. The event will be held in Spanish.

Would you like to attend?

If you would like to come to the event or are interested in finding out more information please contact csanchez@gwct.org.uk.

You can download the event programme (in Spanish) here.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Friday, 31 July 2015

Friday morning at the Game Fair

Breakfast at the GWCT stand
The 2015 CLA Game Fair is now underway and the GWCT stand has already been a hive of activity with a busy breakfast service and press briefing having already taken place.

Our full English breakfast was a hit and if you're coming to the Game Fair this weekend you can get £2 off by downloading this FREE voucher.

The press gathered on our stand for the unveiling of our new guide to best practice use of medicated grit. You can download this new guide FREE here.

Countryfile team preparing to interview us - Photo by JP Foto
The Game Fair is to be featured on Countryfile on Sunday night and we're pleased to have their team visiting us for an interview on the important conservation work our team of scientists conduct.

The weather's good so far and you can check the latest forecast for Harewood House right here.

We'd love to see you so please pay us a visit at stand A44 by the main arena. Check out what else is going on at our stand here.

Our stand first thing Friday morning
The GWCT full English breakfast - Photo by Andy Poynter
Gathering on our stand ahead of the press briefing - Photo by JP Foto

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Misled about snaring?

GWCT fox snare with 'breakaway' device
In an article in the Veterinary Times, June 2015, Professor Ranald Munro exhorted the veterinary profession to speak out against the use of snares.  Jonathan Reynolds BSc, PhD, Head of Predation Control Studies at the GWCT, submitted a response arguing that Munro had given a very misleading synopsis of the subject.

There has been a lot of scientific research on snares lately.  Jonathan’s article summarises how the subject has developed, and indicates where to find the evidence. It was first published in Veterinary Times 45 issue 30.

Non-lethal intent

Fox snares are not intended to be lethal devices.  Since 1981, when self-locking snares were banned by the Wildlife & Countryside Act, the intended function of fox snares has been to hold the animal alive until it can be humanely dispatched.  Perhaps surprisingly, the captured fox is at little risk (less than 1%).

Wildlife scientists like myself rely on this when we use snares to catch foxes (and other canids) for radio-tagging studies.  For this purpose snares are uniquely effective, injuries are rare, and behaviour after release appears to be normal.  You might argue that this view is biased because we are motivated to ensure the welfare of our study animals and take unusual care.

The veterinary experience of snares, in contrast, typically consists of animals brought for treatment which have been injured in snares.  This brings a different bias, towards snares used unwisely close to housing, captures of domestic pets, and cases involving very poor welfare in wild animals.

In 2004, the Independent Working Group on Snares (IWGS)1 brought together expertise from snare users, animal welfarists, veterinary practice and scientists.  The consensus view was that while snares were an effective tool, they could also cause immense suffering in some circumstances.

From experience, the group felt it could identify aspects of snare design and working practice that led to bad outcomes.  They encapsulated this knowledge in a Code of Practice (CoP),2 which Defra published as its own.  In essence the message was ‘Limit your use of snares and use them with great care’.

Message not received

The Defra study3 referred to by Ranald Munro sought to estimate the extent of snare use across England and Wales, by telephone survey across a random sample of landholdings.  This uncovered the important fact that almost half of snare users were not gamekeepers as expected, but farmers.

As a group, gamekeepers were more familiar with best practice recommendations than were farmers, reflecting where educational effort had been directed.

Nevertheless, it was clear that poor working practices persisted in both groups, and at the date of the study (2009-10) no UK snare manufacturers had yet produced snares that met CoP recommendations.  Why had the message not got through?   I suggest two main reasons.

First, organisations associated with game management or shooting promoted this Code to gamekeepers through training courses and other material; but neither Defra, nor animal welfare organisations, nor farmer organisations did anything to promote the Code.

Second, the CoP was based on expert views, but many snare users also considered themselves experts and were unconvinced that a change in practice was necessary.  To persuade them, the CoP needed to be evidence-based.

How good could it be?

In a second section, the Defra study tested the humaneness of fox snares when used by an experienced technician in a field situation; injuries were independently assessed post mortem by veterinary pathologists, and compared against international humaneness standards for restraining traps.

Best practice was followed.  Provided a CoP–compliant snare was used, humaneness standards for restraining traps were met for foxes.  (For non-target species, the numbers caught were insufficient to judge).

Much more extensive field evidence came from a contemporaneous study by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)4, in which a thoughtfully re-designed snare was trialled by 34 gamekeepers in a 2-stage, 18-month study, in comparison with whatever snare design they previously used.  No attempt was made to influence their working practices.

The study showed that the risk of injury or death greatly increased if the captured animal could entangle the snare with nearby objects.  For foxes, the risk was 40% when old-style snares were used and entanglement occurred, but less than 1% when entanglement did not occur and improved snares were used.  Entanglement can be entirely avoided by following the working practices recommended in the CoP.

Snares are certainly not ‘totally indiscriminate’ – it is amazing how such a sketchy device can be made to outline where in the landscape a fox will put its head – but there is an attendant, lower risk of catching certain other species.

In an ideal snare, those non-targets would quickly self-release if caught; or, if held until the snare is inspected, would be un-injured and fit for release.  The GWCT study showed that non-target captures could be substantially reduced through hardware design, and that if experimental snares and good working practices had been used exclusively, the underlying risks of injury or death would have passed trap humaneness standards for non-targets as well as for foxes.

The actual incidence of poor welfare will obviously reflect both the density of non-targets and the intensity of snare use: it’s a balance judgement to be made for each situation.

It’s ironic that the non-target species most at risk in terms of numbers caught and injuries sustained was the brown hare; and that a significant cause of injury or death for hares held in the snare was predation by foxes.

It grimly illustrates the difficulty of finding wholly satisfactory solutions to wildlife issues.  The brown hare is a Priority Species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan because of a long-term decline in abundance.

In population terms hares benefit dramatically from fox control, even when that included the use of old-style snares5.  The GWCT’s experimental snare allowed 68% of captured hares to self-release, and a further 24% were judged fit for release when found in the snare.

It is during the breeding season (for hares and other prey), when fox control by shooting is limited by tall vegetative cover, that snares come into their own.  Despite their shortcomings, snares have a role in wildlife management that we cannot yet replace.

GWCT took a constructive approach to an evident problem, and as a result we now have a greatly improved snare design which meets trap-testing standards, and sound best practice guidelines backed with persuasive evidence.

One might have expected all interest groups to embrace these developments, and to join in a renewed educational campaign to drive down the incidence of poor welfare.

Regrettably, animal welfare groups have not done so, nor have they contributed in other ways to constructive progress.  Perhaps the real difference there is idealism versus pragmatism.

Support our predator control team

Please donate so that our dedicated team of scientists can continue their vital work.

£67 – covers the cost of attending a meeting with Defra or other bodies, to present our evidence and help shape policy

£176 – buys a trail camera which can be used for several years to monitor traps and other sites

£480 – pays for a day’s labour and equipment for our three person predation team, producing the science that can influence policy and practice for years to come

Please click here to donate >


References

1.    Defra (2005) Report of the Independent Working Group on Snares.
2.    Defra (2005) Defra Code of Practice on the Use of Snares in Fox and Rabbit Control.
3.    Defra (2012) Determining the extent of use and humaneness of snares in England and Wales.
4.    Short, M.J., Weldon, A.W., Richardson, S.M., Reynolds, J.C. (2012) Selectivity and injury risk in an improved neck snare for live‐capture of foxes.  Wildlife Society Bulletin 36(2): 208-219
5.    Reynolds, J.C., Stoate, C., Brockless, M.H., Aebischer, N.J., & Tapper, S.C. (2010)  The consequences of predator control for brown hares (Lepus europaeus) on UK farmland.  European Journal of Wildlife Research 56: 541-549

Jonathan Reynolds BSc, PhD is a scientist at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) with more than 30 years post-doctoral experience.  He leads research on how mammalian predators and pests are managed in the conservation of game and other wildlife.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Guest blog on Rural Broadband

by Stephen Roberts
Marketing and Sales Director, C&R Technologies Ltd

C&R Technologies Ltd are extremely pleased to have been asked again to provide the GWCT stand at the 2015 Game Fair at Harewood House with one of our fast, reliable satellite broadband systems and associated FREE Wi-Fi for it’s members and guests.

We will be on hand during the event to answer all your questions about Rural Broadband.

If you can’t make the event, please feel free to email your questions to us via info@candrtechnologies.com

Or call us Free on 0800 2989368 or Follow us on Twitter - @RuralBROADband1

We’ve been in the telecommunications satellite and antenna business since 2007 and there are now over 4,000 sites benefiting from satellite broadband (no phone line required) across the UK.

Testimonial from one of our rural clients

"We now have fast broadband at the farm! Thanks to C&R @RuralBroadband1"
Fast Rural Broadband Testimonial via Twitter from @wodehill, Farm, Bedfordshire - Oliver Hudson

Satellite Broadband - How it Works

Traditional "wired" internet services connect you to the internet using copper phone lines, or if you are really very lucky, fibre optic cables. This works well if you live near an exchange or street cabinet, but less so if you live more remotely, or even if the cables between you and your exchange/cabinet take a tortuous route.

Satellite Broadband uses a dish on your building allowing the signal to be bounced from your computer, via a modem / router off a satellite and connect with the internet. As Broadband via Satellite doesn't rely on miles of cables to connect you to the internet, it can deliver fast reliable, quality connections practically anywhere in the UK and most of Europe.

Our systems are proven to support the following:-

  • IP CCTV
  • VoIP telephones (no BT line req’d)
  • Web browsing
  • Email
  • VPNs
  • Live Streaming (YouTube, on-line training videos etc)
  • Video conferencing
  • SONOS
  • Catch up TV
  • Remote desk top access
  • Cloud based systems such as Microsoft365
*System speeds - 22MBps (max headline rate download and 6MBps upload)

With many years experience providing broadband without a phone line to businesses both large and small, please feel free to visit our website.

Or just give us a call on 0800 298 9368 to discuss your requirements and the technology options available to you.

Promote your business with the GWCT

A GWCT Trade Membership entitles you to a FREE guest blog spot which will be promoted to thousands of GWCT members and non-members alike. Find out more >

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Guest blog by Ros and Simon from Smugglers Catering

We are Ros and Simon who own and run Smugglers Catering - an established family run business based in East Anglia and our passion is for great locally sourced food, lovingly prepared and cooked.

Smugglers Catering are extremely pleased to have been selected as the preferred caterer for the GWCT at the 2015 Game Fair at Harewood House and will be offering members and guests:-

Breakfast Menu
  • Full English Breakfast
  • Bacon or Sausage Baps

Lunch Menu
  • Hand carved honey roast gammon
  • Coronation chicken
  • Whole roast salmon
  • Roast beef
  • Sausage and cheese pie
  • Vegetarian Tart

A selection of salads including,
  • Our famous coleslaw
  • Tomato and olive salad
  • Sweet and bitter leaves
  • Fruity Waldorf Salad
  • Pasta salad
  • Salad Niçoise
  • Hot local buttered potatoes
  • Local bread

Home made desserts
  • Meringues with fruit compote using British sugar and Williamson’s fruit whipped Marybelle cream
  • Home made Chocolate torte
  • Home made Lemon cheesecake
  • Apple & Blackberry Crumble
  • All served with cream

Afternoon Tea
  • with cakes Scones and fresh strawberries and cream

All locally sourced and freshly prepared on site

Ros, Simon and team
When we aren’t at the Game Fair Smugglers Catering can offer you:-

Hog Roast - we breed our own pigs we know a thing or two about hog roasting. Why not ask us about our fantastic Hog roast? Perfect for alfresco dining for large numbers or even for smaller gatherings.

Spit roasting any meat gives it that slow roasted succulent flavour with the added advantage of the hint of smokiness that comes from flame roasting. Remember you are not restricted to pork.

We are able to spit roast most meats and they can all benefit from a fragrant marinade which we will baste the meat with as it cooks.

Paella - For something different we will cook on site the largest paella you have ever seen! Full of giant gamba prawns, Chorizo Sausage, Mussels, and chicken or more traditionally rabbit.

Our paella pan can feed up to 120 people for a main course lunch or up to 200 people for tapas style.

Cooked with Spanish rice and saffron this is great party food or perfect to satisfy your wedding guests after a full day of partying. Or for a summer garden party. Or it is perfect for cooking large quantities of prawns or fragrant Moules marinière.

Parties - whatever the occasion we can cater for you, we can make your celebration special and worry free, leaving you to relax and enjoy your party with your guests.

Our menus are suitable for Christenings, Anniversary and Birthday parties are all interchangeable and can be tailored to suit your requirements, please call us for a no obligation chat.

Events Catering – shows, fairs, product launches we can make your event memorable with a menu to suit your needs.

We have a passion for great food and believe that outdoor catering should offer delicious food and excellent service.

We use locally sourced, top quality fresh produce and make sure all of our ingredients are cooked to perfection to give every customer something that is extra special.

Our specially designed and regulation compliant kitchen means we are able to produce your food safely. And specially designed temperature controlled transport so we can transport your food to where ever you need it to take place.

For large events and shows we will prepare and cook on site.

And with a team of experienced service staff over seen by both Ros and Simon you will be made to feel like royalty for the day.

As caterers of long standing we have the experience and ingenuity to make your day unique.

We have beautiful crockery and extravagant glassware that will compliment any style of table lay up. And With linen cloths and napkins we will ensure your function will be the talk of the town.

With many years experience catering for groups of people both large and small. Visit our website or just give us a call on 01473 828885 – and then leave it to us!

Promote your business with the GWCT

A GWCT Trade Membership entitles you to a FREE guest blog spot which will be promoted to thousands of GWCT members and non-members alike. Find out more >

Monday, 6 July 2015

Thursday, 2 July 2015

What wild bird cover mix should you plant for grey partridges?

Keeping seed mixtures simple is often best as it can help prevent drilling and establishment problems.

By using carefully planned wild bird cover a tailor-made partridge habitat can be created and this can offer an insect-rich brood rearing environment with safe canopy, good winter cover and useful nesting cover.

Spring mix

A spring mix is usually kale based which helps to provide good over winter cover and supplementary feed in year one as well as useful brood rearing habitat in the spring.

A good spring mix is made up mostly of kale, a small amount of mustard, sweet blossom clover and a food crop such as linseed, millet, quinoa or a cereal. If kale proves difficult to establish, spring sown triticale and linseed would offer good brood rearing in year one.

Autumn mix

The role of the autumn mix is to provide good cover for foraging broods during the following year.

Our research indicates a triticale based mixture is best, including a small amount of winter oil seed rape and winter vetch.

Our Rotherfield Game Restoration Project

We are working to bring back a viable population of grey partridges to an area where they had gone extinct. We want to demonstrate how modern farming and legal predator management can increase gamebird numbers and lead to significant biodiversity benefits.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

GWCT dates for your diary in July

July equals Game Fair time as attention turns to the Scottish Game Fair at the start of the month and the CLA Game Fair in Yorkshire at the end.

GWCT Scottish Game Fair

Taking place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th July at Scone Palace, the GWCT Scottish Game Fair provides the perfect mix of traditional events, sporting competition and 'have a go' activities with great food and shopping stands.

Last year over 34,000 attended and with more than 300 exhibitors signing up for this year's show we're really looking forward to the weekend at Scone.

Read more and book your tickets >>

CLA Game Fair

The CLA Game Fair is taking place at Harewood House in Yorkshire this year from Friday 31st July to 2nd August and once again we'll have a major presence at the show.

Stationed by the main arena on stand A44, you can find out 5 reasons to visit our stand here.

If you are planning to come to the show don't forget you can get £2 off a full English breakfast at the GWCT stand - simply download your FREE voucher here.

Away from the big shows we have a range of events taking place throughout July.

Cambridgeshire Golf Day

On Wednesday 1st July the Bourn Golf Club in Cambridge will be playing host to our Cambridgeshire Golf Day. Open to teams of four, there will be prizes for the top three teams plus longest drive and closest to the pin. Find out more here.

Kent Game Bird Challenge & Auction

If clays are your thing then get along to Charing Chalk Pit in Kent on Friday 3rd July for our Game Bird Challenge Shoot and Sporting Auction. Featuring some of the highest clays you'll ever shoot there will also be a BBQ.

Buckinghamshire Ferret Racing

Perhaps the most exciting event taking place in July is the Buckinghamshire Ferret Racing evening on Friday 3rd at Church Farm, Aldbury. With live music, a BBQ and raffle (not to mention the cash bar) it should be an evening not to be missed!

The Comedy of Errors at Glemham Hall

If theatre's more your thing than ferret racing then get yourself along to Glemham Hall in Suffolk on Sunday 5th July for an outside production of Shakespeare's 'Comedy of Errors'. The garden will be open from 5.30 with the performance starting at 7.

Devon River Walk

Join us for an informative walk on the River Culm on Thursday 16th July where we'll be discussing management options for fur, feather and fin - especially the fin!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Help us breathe new life into our displays with your stuffed animals

by Austin Weldon, GWCT Advisory Team

Throughout the year the advisory and research teams attend lots of shows and events. Whilst it’s great having well-presented posters demonstrating our work for wildlife and game conservation, nothing really beats having good quality taxidermy as a talking point about the species in question.

Whilst looking in the store room recently it became very apparent that our existing collection of stuffed specimens are looking quite tired - and rightly so - they have educated and inspired many people over the years.

We would very much like to expand our collection of exhibits and replace the old ones, so if you have any thing you can spare which is relevant to our work with British game and wildlife we would gratefully give it a good home. We only ask that it is in good condition and that you don’t need it back in the future.

Please contact Lynda Ferguson on lferguson@gwct.org.uk or 01425 651013 to let us know what you have on offer.

Guest blog by Tom Maplethorpe, Dale Drills

The new Eco T range
As a new GWTC trade partner, it is with great pleasure that I write the first Dale Drills blog.

When offered the opportunity to become involved with the trust we jumped at the chance.

Here at Dale Drills we share the same philosophy that good conservation goes hand in hand with economic land use, and it is, we feel, the responsibility of those land users to do all they can to preserve the land for future generations.

Edward Dale founded Dale Drills in 1999, when he produced the Zero Till seed drill. Although not necessarily a new concept to the UK, direct drilling is a technique of establishing combinable cereal crops in such a manner that no cultivation is required.

James Dale explains the features of the new
Eco T range at a Recent NFU event at Loddington
Following a period farming in Manitoba Canada, Edward quickly learnt that by changing his outlook and a few simple techniques, establishment costs on his own farm could be greatly reduced. For a number of years farmers on the plains of North America and Canada had been perfecting a method of farming that enabled seed to store contracting rates to be as low as £14 per acre.

Whilst some of what he learnt on the other side of the Atlantic may perhaps not have been  completely relevant in the UK, at the forefront of his ideas was the concept of direct drilling and how it could be developed for use on the family farm in North Lincolnshire.

So was born the John Dale Zero Till Drill. Always a keen engineer Edward designed and built his own machines utilising the Seedhawk tine assembly he had seen work so successfully overseas.

Fast forward 15 years, and here at Dale Drills we now produce our own low draught tine assemblies that are specifically suited to the heavier, stonier soils of the United Kingdom and machines with a minimum horsepower requirement as low as 20hp/m.

What are the other advantages of direct drilling?
9m Eco drill direct drilling winter wheat

Apart from the obvious savings in fuel costs related to “one pass” establishment, research by organisations like the GWCT has proven that low disturbance farming goes a long way to preserving the natural and healthy structure of our soils, by increasing the biomass content and reducing weather based erosion. Not disturbing the flora and fauna in the ground means the naturally occurring ‘glues’ that bind soil together retain nutrients and promote faster draining of surface water through worm holes and root systems.

Already a satisfied customer of Dale Drills, Allerton Project farm manager Phil Jarvis shares our enthusiasm for direct drilling, stating that “whilst the advantages of reduced fuel costs, better soil health through improved structure and resilience are important, the key aim is to increase yields. Direct drilling does require more thought as a farmer and careful management is required to get it right. It may take some time get there but this system is a much more enjoyable method of farming”

For more information and to learn more about Dale Drills please visit www.daledrills.com

Promote your business with the GWCT

A GWCT Trade Membership entitles you to a FREE guest blog spot which will be promoted to thousands of GWCT members and non-members alike. Find out more >



Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Royston Grey Partridge Recovery Project revisited

With our Rotherfield Restoration Project blog now up and running it seems like an opportune moment to quickly revisit our Royston Grey Partridge Recovery Project which ran from 2002-10.

The project in Hertfordshire was designed to illustrate that restoring the grey partridge population in a modern farming environment was possible. The target spring population density we set ourselves was 18.6 pairs per 100ha whilst maintaining farm profitability.

We conducted intensive counts on two 1,000ha areas, one would be the reference site and the other the demonstration site.

How the demonstration site was managed

•    Partridge predators were controlled, including egg predators
•    Habitat was created or improved to provide nesting, rearing and winter cover
•    Supplementary feeding was provided in both summer and winter

The graph below shows how the two sites compared throughout the duration of the project:


Whilst we didn’t achieve the target density of 18.6 pairs per 100ha we were able to demonstrate that with the right management measures in place, a density of 15 pairs per 100ha can be achieved on a modern farm. Farmland biodiversity also improved with pheasant and red-legged partridge numbers increasing.

After the Royston Project ended in 2010 we launched the Rotherfield Game Restoration Project in Hampshire. Unlike Royston this project aims to illustrate the benefit of game management for the full range of game and other wildlife on the site and runs until 2017.

Please help support the Rotherfield Project


Monday, 15 June 2015

Guest blog by Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler

Many members of the GWCT will be active shooters and many will probably remember their first ever gun. I’m willing to bet that for a large proportion of us, that gun was an air rifle? I bet, like me, you had little access to advice from experienced air-gunners, particularly when it came to hunting or vermin control? Well, for your own children or folk new to the air rifle, that’s where I can help.

While the majority of shooting folk go on to bigger and more powerful guns (be that shotguns or small bore rifles) there are many of us who find modern air rifles perfectly adequate for small vermin control. I have been carrying out pest control and pot-hunting with air rifles since I was a lad…and that was half a century ago! I started writing about hunting and fieldcraft around ten years ago and have been lucky enough to have written for a number of periodicals over that time.

I currently write for Airgun Shooter and The Countryman’s Weekly, but have (in the past) also written for Shooting Times, Airgunner and other periodicals. ‘Wildscribbler’ is my medium for promoting my writing and photo-journalism on rural and country-sports issues. My books (I have now published six shooting related titles) are designed to educate and inform, written in an anecdotal style which takes the reader out into the countryside with me.

The modern pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle as fantastic tool for predator and nuisance control around the farm, in the wood and along the field margins. Silent, relatively cheap to own and maintain, deadly accurate in the right hands and also very safe. Locating and getting close to wild animals, for either shooting or photography, is a black art. My books are packed with hundreds of tips, tricks and hacks learnt across a lifetime of hunting. They include quarry identification, habits and habitat, shooting techniques, how to gain shooting permission, prey and predators. Three titles also contain tips on kitchen preparation and recipes for the pot-hunter, for I firmly believe that we owe it to a culled creature to recycle it, not waste it.

Hundreds of readers of The Airgun Hunter’s Year and Airgun Fieldcraft have said that while reading these books, they were itching to pick up a rifle and get out into the countryside. For there really is a useful part to play in the conservation of songbirds and the protection of crops. If any of my books encourage a single young or novice shooter and instil my own values on gun safety and respect for quarry, then they were worth the writing.

If you’re a parent, pick up a copy of one of these titles now and inspire another generation of shooting conservationists.

Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler
www.wildscribbler.com

Promote your business with the GWCT

A GWCT Trade Membership entitles you to a FREE guest blog spot which will be promoted to thousands of GWCT members and non-members alike. Find out more >




Thursday, 11 June 2015

Who is feeding the rats! Our letter in The Telegraph

Dear Sir

There has been an uncontrolled growth of the rat population in this country, and knowing what pests are eating vital food provided for birds and finding a solution was an essential part of our new study (Pheasant shooting feeds a rise in rats, report 9th June).

Our previous research has shown that pheasant shooting can be a force for good in the countryside and providing over-winter supplementary food during the lean times of winter for gamebirds is very beneficial for a whole suite of other farmland birds including declining species such as yellowhammer and corn bunting.

However, we need to investigate why the rat population is exploding in this country and treat the cause. Inadequate pest control to keep their presence at low levels all year round especially around farm buildings is not helping to control their growth, while increasing maize production could also be contributing to their rise.

Our study on hopper feeding wanted to investigate what pests are stealing food and to explore ways that will make this life-saving activity more effective. Now we have identified the level of the problem, particularly where pests are not being controlled, we are looking at ways to mitigate how we can overcome this dilemma, such as improving hopper design. 

Although our study did not address habitat loss such as hedges, it is misleading to say that farmers are ripping them out as the Hedgerow Regulation Act now provides legal protection of this important wildlife habitat.

Dr Carlos Sanchez-Garcia
Research Ecologist
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

CLA Game Fair Update

With the Game Fair at Harewood House in Yorkshire only a few weeks away (31st July - 2nd Aug) we thought we'd provide a quick update on the latest GWCT news for the show.

Our stand number has been confirmed as A44 and we'll be stationed by the main arena. As in the last two years we'd like to offer you £2 off a full English breakfast at our stand - simply download this voucher and bring it with you.


Perdix Wildlife Supplies on display

We're delighted that Perdix Wildlife Supplies will be on our stand's Advisory area, demonstrating the latest trapping and wildlife monitoring techniques and hardware.

Science in action

Demonstrating how research is getting to grips with the terrible parasite Gape Worm is sure to prove a fascinating but gruesome draw! Researchers Dr Rufus Sage and Owen Gethings will be graphically demonstrating how the parasite successfully survives in the soil and discussing how to reduce the intensity of this infection around feeding areas.

New GWCT microsite for Game Fair

We've launched a new microsite dedicated to our stand at the Game Fair so you can easily find all the important information about the what's on right here.

Volunteers get in FREE!

We're looking for a team to help us on our stand so if you can spare the time, please click here to find out more. Don't forget - volunteers get in to the show FREE!

Monday, 8 June 2015

How to create the ultimate Beetle Bank

Predatory insects and spiders can play an important role in reducing the number of damaging crop pests. With a little help, farmers can boost their numbers, reducing the need to use pesticides in the countryside.

We know that over-wintering habitat is often lacking in the modern agricultural landscape, especially in the middle of large fields.

Understandably, it’s a long way to travel when you have short legs, so we can create refuges for them in the form of beetle banks.

These are long, thin strips of perennial grasses which fit in well with agricultural management and really take very little maintenance. Once the spring warmth arrives, predatory insects will be well positioned to travel out into the crop, doing us a big favour as they go about their daily business predating species such as aphids.

1. During normal autumn cultivation activities, create a ridge or earth bank approximately 0.4 metres high and 1.5–2 metres wide by two-directional ploughing. The beetle bank will run to within a sprayer’s width of the field’s boundary hedge. Leaving this gap helps to reduce interrupting agricultural work and also reduces access to the bank by ground predators which may predate ground-nesting birds and small mammals such as harvest mice.



2. Once the ground has been prepared, the ridge should be sown with a mixture of perennial tussock and matt-forming grasses such as cock’s foot, timothy and red fescue at a rate of 30kg/ha. These should be planted either when the ridges are formed or the following spring, which avoids a harsh winter affecting germination.

3. Opportunistic weeds can be dealt with using a broad spectrum herbicide. Once the grasses have been established, they will do a great job of out-competing other weeds.

4. Beetle banks can also be floristically enhanced with flowers, which not only creates a nice nectar source but will also encourage other predatory species such as hover flies and parasitic wasps.

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Understanding a prickly subject - hedgehog research in the countryside

The hedgehog is one of those animals that seems to belong in the British countryside by ancient right. They are embedded symbolically and sentimentally in our culture, and it is easy to see why they remain popular.

In evolutionary terms, the world’s spiny hedgehogs have changed little in the last 15 million years. If you think of that as a day, modern man appeared about 10 minutes ago, agriculture less than a minute ago, and the last 100 years occupied the last half-second. Given that the hedgehog ‘formula’ developed in a world radically different from that of today, it is astonishing that they persist at all.

Nevertheless, within living memory hedgehogs have been – and in some parts of Britain remain – a very successful species. For instance, a study in north Norfolk in 2008 found a density there of more than 40 per 100 hectares.

Hedgehogs are a component of the farmed landscape that the GWCT has scarcely considered before, but ecologically they are at the heart of ‘hot’ countryside issues. The invertebrate creatures that form the bulk of their diet are affected by the intensity of modern agriculture, making an obvious parallel with farmland birds.

Agri-environment schemes to mitigate this impact potentially benefit hedgehogs just as they do farmland birds; and indeed hedgehogs have been shown to favour grassy field margins in an otherwise intensive arable landscape. But dead hedgehogs cannot benefit, and there is known to be a strong negative relationship between badger density and hedgehog density; foxes, too, can learn to kill hedgehogs.

Then again, hedgehogs are predators themselves. Predation by hedgehogs on the eggs of ground-nesting wading birds is the reason they are being removed systematically from the Outer Hebrides (where they are not native) and transferred to the mainland.

When hedgehogs were more common on the mainland, they were killed on shooting estates as predators of wild gamebird eggs, and thus were routinely recorded in National Gamebag Census data.

Both the number of estates recording hedgehog catches and the numbers reported have fallen dramatically since the early 1960s. The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 ruled that hedgehogs may not be deliberately trapped, though unless measures are taken to exclude them they can still occur as a by-catch in tunnel traps.

Regrettably, we cannot distinguish to what extent the trend in NGC records indicates a declining hedgehog population, lower trapping effort, more focused trapping, unwillingness to record hedgehog captures, or all of these effects.

There is nevertheless a widespread perception that there has been a decline in UK hedgehog numbers in recent decades. As with many other mammal species, there is no routine surveillance system, and no established method to determine distribution or population trends. There have been questionnaire surveys, and systematic recording of road kills.

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species has mapped hedgehog distribution through questionnaire surveys to householders. This has told us a lot about the national distribution of hedgehogs in gardens, but inevitably it also reflects the distribution of people in Britain.

Trends in the number of hedgehogs killed on roads are complicated by traffic density and speed and by shifts in recorder enthusiasm. In either approach, the 70% of Britain’s land area that is agricultural is essentially unsurveyed.

Fig 1: GPS tracking of a single night’s movements
by an adult male hedgehog during one April night
The Nottingham Trent University, in partnership with the Mammal Society, has researched the use of simple ink-and-paper tunnels to detect the presence of hedgehogs by recording their footprints. This provides a cheap tool to help determine hedgehog distribution, and potentially an index of abundance too.

So hedgehogs present themselves as a component of the farmed environment in which the GWCT should take an interest. As opportunity and resources allow, we have made the decision to do that. We believe that we have something to offer, both in further developing the detection methodology (much as we did in the context of mink control), and in establishing what is happening to hedgehogs in the farmland landscape.

Is there a decline? And if so, is the cause a shortage of invertebrate food, or predation, or something else? Why do hedgehogs appear to favour gardens, even in the middle of farmland (see Figure 1)? How can we best manage farmland so as to achieve the most satisfactory balance between all our native species?

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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Exclusive Scottish Game Fair benefits for GWCT members

The 2015 Scottish Game Fair takes place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th July and GWCT members will be able to enjoy a host of exclusive benefits.


Our members can access a designated forward car park and those registered in Scotland will receive a Fair information pack enclosing their car park pass and informing them of our members’ welcome marquee. Those members south of the border can email membership@gwct.org.uk to request a pack.

If you're not a GWCT member you can join online and request a pack.

Once we've greeted you in our members' marquee we'll provide you with your official swingtag to allow you and your guests entry to the Members’ Enclosure. At the Main Entrance those who have purchased tickets online will have them scanned in the fast access lane. There will also be a special members’ lane for those purchasing tickets on the day.

Members also benefit from the excellent restaurant facilities and comfortable surroundings of the Member’s Enclosure where Saltire Catering will be providing us with delicious food and bar facilities throughout the day. Just display your member’s badge at the entrance and we will be delighted to welcome you and your guests.

Order your tickets and get 10% off

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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

5 tips for successful gamebird & songbird feeding

1. Feed during and after the shooting season

2. Set excluders around your feeder to reduce visits by deer and badgers

3. If you cannot control rats, place your feeders in open fields, far from hedgerow cover.

4. Change the location of your feeders regularly: birds will find them quickly and you will prevent rodents becoming established beneath the feeder.

5. Use camera traps and get an estimation of the grain consumed to see who is eating what.

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Guest blog by W Horton & Sons Ltd

W Horton & Sons Ltd started out life in Birmingham’s Gun Quarter in 1855. William moved his business to Glasgow and the business blossomed, carried on later by his son Oliver. Oliver had two daughters, in the 1920’s it wasn’t seen as good form for Ladies to run any business, let alone a gunmaking company. The stock was sold to Arthur Allen and the records passed to Olivers cousin James William Horton who at the time was foreman at BSA (Birmingham Small Arms).


Steve Horton, great grandson of James William Horton, has re-started the business back in Birmingham’s Gun Quarter literally feet from where it started back in 1855. The aim is to be the Midlands Premier retail destination for the shooting community in and around the Birmingham. We offer a friendly consultative sales experience, with a cup of tea always offered.

We have a well presented Gunroom containing a selection of new and used guns manufactured by Berreta, Browning, Fabarm, Caesar Guerini, Lincoln, Rizzini and Zoli. We have the largest selection of classic side by side game guns in the midlands (Old English and Spanish). An up to date stock list with pictures can be viewed on our website www.hortonguns.com.

W Horton & Sons Ltd offer a wide range of clothing for shooting and general country wear from Deerhunter, Laksen, Seeland, Harkila, Le Chameau, Aigle and Musto. In readiness for the 2015 season, we’ll also be offering Dubarry boots and clothing. This again can be viewed on our website.

We have some unique selling points within the industry:
  • Finance up to 4 years (0% APR is available on selected items) along with a guaranteed future value on any purchase based on a part exchange with us within 5 years (allowing for fair wear and tear).
  • Your new gun can be delivered to your home address (mainland UK) for £45 allowing us to sell nationwide with little effort from our clients.
  • Due to our location, we have several highly skilled gunsmiths on our doorstep and can offer a wide range of servicing and repairs.

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Thursday, 28 May 2015

GWCT dates for your diary in June

As we head into summer we’ve got a packed diary of events here at the GWCT.

We begin on Friday 5th June with a charity clay pigeon shoot hosted jointly with ABF Soldiers’ Charity at Warter Estate in East Yorkshire. Up to 30 teams of guns will compete for a range of valuable prizes during this two-day event and all proceeds will be shared jointly by the two charities.

Also taking place on the 5th is our annual Essex clay pigeon shoot, held by kind permission of Andrew Tetlow at Debden's Hidden Valley at Blue Fields, Debden.

Meanwhile in Warwickshire, and also on 5th June we will be organising a simulated game day at the Foxcote Estate, Ilmington. The day will consist of 5 x 80 bird flushes with 400 clays per team of four.

Now in its tenth year, Open Farm Sunday takes place across Britain on 7th June. We'll be opening our doors to the public at our Allerton Project farm in Loddington, Leicester for what promises to be a wonderful day out for all the family.

Up in Scotland on Thursday 11th June we’ve arranged a very special evening walk at Kinnordy Estate, Angus. An informative guided tour around the grounds will be concluded with a fantastic barbecue back at the estate.

By way of contrast our Somerset committee have organised a river walk along a beautiful stretch of the River Barle on Tuesday 23rd June. Running through Exmoor, the guided walk is just upstream from the world famous Tarr Steps and the evening will finish with dinner at the Tarr Farm Restaurant.

Over in the Cotswolds on the 23rd our Gloucestershire committee are inviting those interested in grey partridge recovery to a farm walk at Far Hill Farm, current holder of the Cotswold Grey Partridge Trophy. The evening will be rounded off with a barbecue and drinks.

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Cover crop news - Summer 2015

It’s been a busy few months at Loddington as James Watchorn, Phil Jarvis and Richard Barnes have been planning, preparing and planting the spring-sown habitat crops. Having reviewed the performance of the crops through autumn and winter, it was agreed that the crops had achieved the desired results; the shooting season had been a great success, with significant progress seen from the increased area and diversity of cover crops, while farmland birds benefited from the extensive seed supply across the farm.

As we reviewed the first three years of the GWCT and Kings partnership, all agreed that good results
have been achieved in the demonstration and delivery of best practice for integrated game and wildlife management. Our focus is now on creating the diverse range of cover needed to meet the educational needs of a farm that received over 3,000 visitors in 2014, while also meeting Environmental Stewardship obligations and being at the forefront of habitat management.

We’re looking forward to the autumn period as Richard Barnes and Roger Draycott have set up a fascinating trial programme. It will focus on a range of brood-rearing mixtures that have been designed to meet the needs of farmland bird broods in the spring and early summer while coping with some of Loddington’s finest heavy clay soils.

From this work, we’ll look to develop further key components that can establish well in September, ready to deliver a mixed but open canopy and a diverse, insect-rich food source in May and June 2016. Monitoring will be essential to this work and will allow others to learn about the most effective techniques in this vital area for wild game management.

Kings will also be supporting the development and understanding of how green cover crops can benefit the farm, in terms of both agronomy and habitat. Interest in green cover prior to spring-sown arable crops has risen rapidly and the benefits to the rotation and water quality have been proven, but there is still plenty to learn about the benefits they can bring to the wider farmland environment. We look forward to sharing the results.

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Providing the ideal habitat for bumblebees

By John Holland

Bumblebees are declining across Europe and some species have become extinct in recent decades, whilst the range occupied by others is declining.

Agri-environment schemes have offered the opportunity to create the flower-rich habitats that they desperately need on farmland. There is plenty of evidence to show that areas planted with good bumblebee plants are utilised for the gathering of nectar and pollen, but until now there has been little evidence that this helps increase the size of bumblebee populations on farms providing such resources.

One way to measure a population increase is to measure nest density, and this can be achieved using a molecular technique because all the workers in a nest share the same genes and are distinct from other nests. A recent study, supported by the Trust, compared total bumblebee abundance and the nest density of four common species on arable farms with and without flower-rich habitats. The abundance of bumblebees along transect walks was higher on farms with flower-rich habitats compared to without.

The density of bumblebee nests was almost twice as high on farms with flower-rich habitats and three times greater for Bombus hortorum, also known as the garden bumblebee.

The provision of flower-rich habitats did not, however, increase the overall diversity of wild bees, of which 104 species were found in total, almost half those that occur in southern England, highlighting the importance of farmland for wild bees. However, it wasn’t all good news, as the rare species were seldom found. Looking at which flowering plants were visited revealed that bees visited 124 plant species. Just over half of bumblebee nectar visits were to black knapweed, with twenty percent of pollen visits to bird’s-foot trefoil.

The other popular forage plants for bumblebees were clovers, spear thistle, hedge woundwort, lesser burdock, white dead-nettle and wild teasel. For other wild bees, such as the solitary bees, black knapweed was also the most popular, but flowers with more open structures were also used such as hogweed, catsear, ox-eye daisy, scentless mayweed, smooth hawksbeard, red bartsia and fleabane.

Many of these species are not included in commercial wildflower mixes, which shows the importance of protecting the hedge and woodland edge, where they naturally occur, from fertiliser and herbicide drift, which damages the plant community.

To benefit the rarer bumblebees and other wild bees that typically only forage over short distances (less than 200m) it is important to provide flower-rich habitats evenly across the farm and, for mining bees, patches of bare ground for nesting.

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Thursday, 21 May 2015

New issue of Gamewise magazine previewed

The summer issue of our Gamewise magazine has gone to print and will be arriving with our members in early June.

Here's a brief outline of what's inside:

OUR WORK IN SCOTLAND
Scottish special - Scottish Game Fair
preview, policy, education, news and events

A MILLION ACRES AND COUNTING
The second Big Farmland Bird Count engaged even more farmers than we’d hoped for

CONTRASTING FORTUNES
The national black grouse lek survey gives hope, but there is still work to be done

PROVIDING THE IDEAL HABITAT FOR BEES
Understanding the impact of flower-rich habitats on the size of bumblebee populations

STUDYING OVER-WINTER FEEDING
Who is eating the grain and what can be done to control it?

A RAY OF SUNSHINE FOR GREY PARTRIDGES
Autumn counts show positive steps for the Partridge Count Scheme

WORKING TOGETHER FOR SALMON
The MorFish project shows the importance of international co-operation

INTRODUCING OUR NEW WOODCOCK
All the latest from our Woodcock Watch team

A DOG’S LIFE
The role of pointing dogs in the Uplands Expert Advice

NOT MUCH AROUND, UNTIL YOU LOOK
There may be more on your farm than you expect

THE FINAL WORD
George Eaton explains about the effort that went into Rectory Farm winning the 2014 Purdey Gold award

INCREASING ATLANTIC SALMON SURVIVAL
The effect of environmental conditions on salmonids

SUMMER ACTION PLAN
Expert advice for June to October and all the latest courses

CREATING THE ULTIMATE...
Beetle bank, the latest news on rodenticides and a product review Conservation Features

COUNTRYSIDE STEWARDSHIP
Understanding the latest changes to agri-environment schemes

OUR CONSERVATION PARTNERS
Beccy Speight, chief executive of Woodland Trust, gives her opinion

REGIONAL EVENTS
A round-up of events around the UK

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Plan your summer events


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5 reasons to visit our stand at the CLA Game Fair

It may be a few weeks until the CLA Game Fair gets underway in Yorkshire but we've been busy planning for our stand. Read on to find out why you should pay us a visit.

Andrew Hoodless presenting our latest woodcock findings at last year's fair

1. Learn with live pheasant chicks

Young pheasant poults will help demonstrate the results of a fascinating study in to whether simple techniques introduced in the early stages of a reared pheasant’s life help it survive better once released and this has achieved some remarkable results.

2. Discover the latest Woodcock Watch findings

We'll be reporting the latest findings from our satellite tagging project, which is now following the hazardous migration journeys of more than 56 tagged birds as they fly back to their breeding grounds in Siberia and beyond.

3. Enjoy the comfort of our members' area and bar with FREE wi-fi

Our welcoming members’ area will definitely be the place to relax with friends and guests. You'll be able to enjoy a selection of delicious food from our new caterers and a well-stocked bar serving a full selection of soft and alcoholic drinks including local draught ale and lager. We will also be providing FREE wi-fi on our stand.

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Enjoy great food and drink plus FREE wi-fi

4. Find out about the latest cover crop developments

We're delighted that Bright Seeds will be displaying an extensive range of fully-grown crops on the stand enabling people to catch up on the latest developments in cover crops and wildlife bird seed mixes.

5. Meet the next generation of scientists and conservationists

Sparsholt College from Hampshire will be demonstrating how they use our science and research in education through their courses and careers advice.

UPDATED 29th June - click here to read our latest CLA Game Fair news and discover more excellent reasons to visit our stand.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Sir Ian Botham joins the English hen harrier debate

Image by Laurie Campbell
by Andrew Gilruth 

Following RSPB reports that hen harrier nests have been abandoned in Lancashire, Sir Ian Botham is reported to be offering a £10,000 reward to anyone prepared to rescue abandoned eggs and release them back into the wild.

Clearly people monitoring harrier nests would have had to act before the eggs cooled so it’s too late to do anything for the clutches abandoned a few weeks ago.

But could it work in future?

Have chicks been reared in captivity before?
Yes. In 1973-77 in North America, conservationists managed to produce more than 300 peregrines from eggs1. By 1979 more than 30 species of raptor, from falcons to large vultures, had been raised in captivity. Today bird conservation programmes are increasingly focused around captive propagation and release for supplementing dwindling populations2.

Does this extend to collecting eggs from wild birds?
Yes. This has been undertaken for several species around the world. In 1994 French (love it, blame the French) conservationists3 started collecting Montagu’s harrier eggs from nests located in arable fields just before harvest. The details, which were published in 2000, strongly suggest there are no grounds for concern over behavioural issues after the fledged chicks were released back into the wild.

Could this work be undertaken while investigations continue into missing adults?
Yes. It’s hard to think of a reason why it could not be undertaken alongside any ongoing criminal investigation by the police.

Surely birds’ eggs are protected?
Yes. This type of conservation activity would have to be authorised by Natural England. They would carefully review the facts before issuing a licence. Under the EU Birds Directive they can grant permission for intervention on conservation grounds. Such a licence would need to be granted in advance of the harrier nesting season.

Could the eggs be moved fast enough?
This would need careful planning. Remote cameras continually monitor each nest so it should be possible to asses when a male is late retuning to the nest. As soon as the female leaves the nest observers could move quickly, with portable incubator boxes and switch the eggs with ‘dummies’. If the adults were to return the real eggs could be replaced. Either way the eggs are not lost.

Should there have been such a contingency plan ready?
Yes. One report4 suggests 70% of hen harrier nesting attempts failed on grouse moors due to adults going missing. Having a contingency plan in place would ensure the eggs hatch and the progeny are returned to the wild. With the hen harrier population so low, it appears odd to repeatedly allow clutches of 5-8 eggs to fail.

What next?
Whilst those on the ground continue their investigation into the missing birds, perhaps it is also time to start planning conservation contingencies before any more nests are abandoned.

All the remaining eggs have a chance – we should prepare contingencies now. 


Footnotes

1. Population Ecology of Raptors, Ian Newton 1970
2. Wiemeyer 1981, Meyers & Miller 1992, Cade & Temple 1995
3. Amar et al 2000
4. A Future for the Hen Harrier in England, Natural England 2008

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✓ essential hen harrier facts
✓ details of the hen harrier recovery plan
✓ summary of the issues and arguments surrounding a proposed ban on driven grouse shooting
✓ key figures and scientific findings

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