Friday, 28 February 2014

5 most read blog posts from the GWCT this week

These are the most read blog posts from the GWCT this week:

1. Why we all owe it to our kids to be part of the wildlife revival (GWCT News)

2. Spring partridge count about to get underway (GWCT News)

3. Counting roding woodcock - an update (Woodcock Watch)

4. Why sheep should wear dog collars (GWCT News)

5. An update on the Big Farmland Bird Count (Big Farmland Bird Count)

Subscribe to Blog Update Emails

Simply enter your email address in the box on the right of this page to receive daily email updates from our blog.

A need for partnership - star letter by Rob Yorke

The following letter appears as our star letter in the latest edition of our members' magazine Gamewise.

Dear Editor

I wholeheartedly agree with Ian Lindsay that there is a need for a partnership between conservation agencies and sporting interests (read Ian's article from Gamewise Aut/Winter 2013).

However, few parties seem to be interested in finding common ground on which to build solutions that enhance sound shooting practices while also benefiting nature.

We cannot afford to placate members’ vested interests by maintaining a ‘carry on and keep your heads down’ stance when science is pointing towards a decline in biodiversity – which includes some quarry species.

Once shared ideas are discovered, it is then healthy to argue over the differences but without incessant finger-pointing from either side centred on ideals that require compromise.

The State of Nature report was based on a mere five per cent of species and it is down to all of us to provide data to build up a realistic picture of the remaining 95 per cent of wildlife around which policyholders can then propose practical solutions.

Rob Yorke, Abergavenny
Follow Rob on Twitter - @blackgull

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Why sheep should wear dog collars

Sheep need to be treated for ticks and this is usually done by applying acaricide pour-on at regular intervals between April and October when ticks are looking for a blood meal.

The best acaricide is only effective for 8-12 weeks meaning sheep need to be treated 5 times. This is obviously costly and time consuming so we began looking at alternative treatment techniques.

We conducted an experiment within a tick-infested rough grazing paddock on Rosedale Estate in the North York Moors using 66 sheep, divided into four groups:

1. Fitted with a pendant made from cattle fly tags incorporating 935 milligrammes of cypermethrin and attached to plastic neck collars for sheep.
2. Fitted with a commercial tick collar for large dogs, which contained one gramme of deltamethrin.
3. Treated with Crovect, a conventional pour-on, containing 1.25% w/v cypermethrin, at an application rate of 10 millilitres per 20 kilogrammes live weight of sheep. Sheep were re-treated with Crovect after measuring tick burdens in week 12.
4. A control group with no acaricide treatment.

The Outcome

The graph below shows how tick numbers responded to each of the four treatments. As you can see, after week 14 no ticks were found on those wearing dog collars, unlike those in the other three treatment groups. After week 2 the dog collar had a kill-rate of 93% compared with the control group.

This data has given us reasonable confidence in the effectiveness of dog collars and their ability to stay effective from April to October.

What's inside our March newsletter?

Our March newsletter will be hitting inboxes early next week so here's a sneak preview of what's going to be inside:

  • Upcoming events
  • Volunteering at the CLA Game Fair
  • The Big Farmland Bird Count update
  • Woodcock Watch update
  • GWCT Research Conference in May
  • Species of the Month
  • Salmonids in the floods
  • Discover the GWCT's new Blogs
  • Julian Gardner Photography Award

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter

Make sure you don't miss out on all the latest GWCT news. Subscribe for free today >

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The current scene at our Salmon & Trout Research Centre

These photos were taken on 25th February at our Salmon & Trout Research Centre on the Frome at East Stoke in Dorset. They show the high water flow through the counter and flooding:


This image shows before the floods (left) and yesterday (right).

Have you had any experience with beavers?

In light of the beaver blog we posted on Monday we have been contacted by Tayside Beaver Study Group who are keen to hear from any landowners or land managers who have beaver activity on their land. They have a questionnaire they would like to issue and can also undertake site visits.

Please contact Helen Dickinson on if you would like to share your experiences.

About the Tayside Beaver Study Group

The Tayside Beaver Study Group is an independent and neutral group set up by Scottish Natural Heritage on behalf of the Scottish Government in 2012 to monitor and study the impacts of the beaver population in Tayside. They are gathering information on the impacts of beavers on land use, documenting the experiences of landowners with beaver activity on their land and trailing and offering advice on mitigation methods to minimise beaver/land use conflicts. They are also running a beaver trapping and re-release programme to gather health and genetic information from the population.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Why we all owe it to our kids to be part of the wildlife revival

The Beaulieu River, New Forest
As the father of a highly excitable 2-year old it’s great to have the New Forest on our doorstep, it provides the perfect environment for her to let off some steam and burn off some excess energy.

It’s also a great place to introduce her to British wildlife. One of my favourite things about being a dad is when Anna stops charging around outside because she’s seen something that fascinates her, something she’s never seen before. All of a sudden I’m viewing the world through the eyes of a child, stopping to look at things more closely.

As we were walking across a place called Godshill near GWCT HQ in Fordingbridge I said to my wife ‘did you know a recent study showed that 60% of recorded wildlife species were in decline?’ She couldn’t believe it. It's a shocking statistic when you first hear it.

I tend to look at things differently now I’ve got a kid. I think about not only my future but her future too. If 60% of British wildlife is in decline now what’s that figure going to look like when she’s my age with kids? How many species will be extinct altogether in this country?

I’ve been working at the GWCT for nearly a year now and I’ve seen how hard the team are working to try and reverse that 60% decline. Research conducted at our pioneering Allerton Project farm has shown what can be achieved, with songbird numbers increasing 42% over 10 years.

Be part of the wildlife revival for just £5

At the GWCT we are all committed to helping the British countryside thrive now and in the future. With the generous support of our members we are able to conduct the research that is so vital to restoring wildlife population levels.

For just £5 per month you too can be part of the wildlife revival by becoming a GWCT member. It's quick and easy to join online and a GWCT membership entitles you to a host of exclusive benefits.

Rob Beeson
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Spring partridge count about to get underway

Our spring Grey partridge count is about to begin with those who have signed up to our Partridge Count Scheme due to receive their counting forms very shortly.

We've been running this voluntary scheme since 1933 to collect information on the annual abundance and breeding success of grey partridges.

During the spring count we are looking to assess breeding abundance whilst the autumn count measures breeding success.

Already signed up to the scheme?

If you are already signed up to the Partridge Count Scheme please look out for your count forms as they should be hitting your doorstep in the coming week.

Given the saturated ground, access to count may be delayed for a while, so the opportunity to count could be short. But please don’t leave it too late.

We need your support with the count so we can highlight the successful measures employed and provide landowners and managers with further encouragement to strengthen their conservation efforts.

Joining the Partridge Count Scheme

If you are a farmer, landowner, land manager, or keeper who is interested in helping conserve grey partridge please click here to find out more.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Perhaps beavers aren't the answer after all...

With the severe flooding that's affected parts of Britain over the past few weeks, some people have been calling for the reintroduction of wild beavers as a way of preventing flooding.

The photos below were taken in Scotland at the weekend and show a beaver dam before and after heavy rain fell overnight. The top photo shows the dam before the rain fell when it was already full, whilst the bottom photo was taken after the rain and shows water pouring through and over the dam.

Looks like it's back to the drawing board for now. In the meantime, why not read this article from our website: 'Beaver re-introduction plans - Does it really make sense in our countryside?'

Dam face before rain

Dam face after rain

We're looking for volunteers...

It may not even be March yet but our preparations for this year's CLA Game Fair and Scottish Game Fair have begun in earnest. We want to involve as many people as possible in both events and are therefore asking if people could spare some time to help.

Those who can help will be given FREE admission in return.

What we need your help with

✓ Building stands
✓ Greeting visitors
✓ Assisting in our shop
✓ Helping serve food and drink
✓ Clearing tables and washing up
✓ Taking down stands

If you're interested in volunteering to help with our stand at the CLA Game Fair please register your interest here.

If you'd like to help at the Scottish Game Fair please apply here.

Friday, 21 February 2014

5 most read blog posts from the GWCT this week

These are the most read blog posts from the GWCT this week:


GWCT events coming up in March

We've got some exciting events coming up in March. In Scotland we're running Grey partridge re-introduction days on the 3rd and 4th March. The course is designed to help clarify and guide people through some of the pitfalls of Grey partridge re-introduction and will offer lots of tips and encouragement.

Tickets for the 3rd are sold out but we do still have a few tickets for the 4th available.

Book your tickets here >

On 7th March Peter Thompson (GWCT) and Bruce Fowkes (RSPB) are leading a two and a half hour walk around Rotherfield Park Estate in Hampshire, focussing on farming and conservation in the South Downs. The walk is free and you can book your place here.

Our Allerton Project plays host to a series of on-farm events throughout March. Organised in conjunction with the Welland Valley Partnership and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, events include Controlling Blackgrass and Other Herbicide Resistant Arable Weeds, Improved Soil Management Giving Improved Yields and All You Need to Know About Biobeds.

Tuesday 25th March sees our woodcock expert Dr Andrew Hoodless and renowned artist Owen Williams of the Woodcock Network host a fascinating talk about this most elusive of birds at the Royal Air Force Club in London.

Book your tickets here >

GWCT Events & Courses

Check the events section of our website to keep updated on all the latest GWCT events and courses taking place throughout the country.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A word from GWCT chief executive Teresa Dent

The State of Nature report, published last summer by a number of UK conservation charities, illustrated that what we need is a wildlife revival.

The challenge is how to do it. The GWCT is rooted in game conservation, which is all about managing a species to create a surplus, whether it be habitat, food supply or protection from predation. It does not mean creating a surplus of one species at the expense of the survival of others; but it does require one to think at a population not individual
level. As Mike Clark, CEO of the RSPB, said in the pages of Country Life soon after the State
of Nature report was published: ‘these declines reveal the sharp edges of nature conservation...
and provide nature conservationists with tough choices’.

So maybe the first revival we are seeing is a revival in a game management approach to conservation. Gamekeepers of course need no revival to adopt this approach. Farmers find it straightforward too – its principles mirror livestock husbandry – food, shelter and protection.

It is encouraging to contemplate. I joined the Trust 12 years ago and by then we had done the research that put game management options into agrienvironment schemes, but no-one else was of the view, or prepared to acknowledge, that game management had lessons of benefit for mainstream conservation. Since then a lot more research and many miles of corridor treading have gone into making the case. So it is good to see views changing, to find people prepared to listen to the evidence, to see more proactive polices of wildlife management adopted. Some of the time we need to manage wildlife so that we can protect it.

It will still take enormous determination and resolve to achieve a wildlife revival – so we welcome the Scottish Gamekeepers initiative on wader revival. Nature reserves are wonderful things but we will need much more done in the wider countryside, and projects like the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area, which we have been involved in since the start, give a glimpse of how that might be done in the future.

I like to think Charles Coles OBE, who ran the Trust until 1981 and died last year, would be proud of these changes, though to him it would probably simply represent a reversion to a previous era of common sense conservation.

Teresa Dent
Chief Executive
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Be part of the wildlife revival

Find out how you can help us reverse the decline in wildlife populations for just £5 per month.

Learn more >

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Send us your countryside images

We're looking for entries for the third annual Julian Gardner Award photographic competition, with the winning photographs being those that best encapsulate the beauty and wonder of nature.

Split into two categories, adult and 16 and under, entries close 31st May 2014.

Click here for full details >

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

What are the basic rules for good game crop establishment?

First of all, test the soil for pH, and levels of nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Acidic and poorly fertilised soils are more likely to suffer from clubroot. If the pH is below 6.0, an application of lime would be advisable. Further tests after every four years or so are advisable. Good seedbed preparation is essential, with a fine, firm seedbed being the ideal.

Ensure weather and soil conditions are right before drilling each variety of seed, for example, whilst triticale can be drilled in early April, it is too early for kale, sorghum or maize. Poor thin soils should benefit from spreadings of farmyard manure to boost organic matter levels.

Understand the likely weed burden in the soil and apply appropriate pre- or post-emergence herbicides. Remember to check on possible restrictions imposed by SEERAD or Defra on pesticide use on set-aside or Stewardship crops.

Inspect crops regularly for signs of pest attack and take immediate action whether it be spraying for flea beetle or employing bird scarers.  Once the crop is established, give it a further boost of nitrogen. The one exception to this is triticale where nitrogen application should be kept to a minimum. Too much will likely result in the crop lodging.

We recommend that crop sites are rotated to reduce the likelihood of clubroot. Purchase good quality seed from a reputable supplier to ensure good germination and vigorous growth.

Read our Game Crop FAQs >

Monday, 17 February 2014

Upcoming Event: Woodcock - Revealing the Secrets

Dr Andrew Hoodless of the GWCT and renowned artist Owen Williams of the Woodcock Network will delight London with their extensive knowledge of woodcock on Tuesday 25 March 2014 at the Royal Air Force Club.

Dr Hoodless is currently leading the GWCT woodcock research and has 20 years of experience and Owen Williams’ knowledge of the small bird is extensive. The GWCT’s Woodcock Watch project has produced many new insights into the extraordinary travels of this amazing bird, but funds are required to complete the satellite tracking programme and to study winter site fidelity and cold weather. For this reason Ted Clive will be conducting a small auction after the talk where we are hoping to raise money towards this worthy cause.

Please come and join us for drinks and canap├ęs to learn more about this fascinating bird.

Event details

The Royal Air Force Club, 128 Piccadilly, London
25 March 2014
6pm to 9pm

Book your ticket now >

Thursday, 13 February 2014

How did we achieve a 42% increase in songbirds?

We all know that songbird populations in Britain have declined sharply in recent decades. Skylarks and Song Thrushes have halved in number. The beautiful Lapwing has declined by 80%.

But did you know that songbird populations on our pioneering Allerton Project farm actually increased by 42% in 20 years?

By researching different management techniques and experimenting with supplementary feeding and predator control our team at Loddington achieved these impressive results.

We specialise in this type of scientific work and it holds the key to reversing the decline in songbird populations throughout Britain.

Find out how YOU can help >

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

10 reasons to support our feed hopper research

To continue our work on winter feeding we are going to investigate the effects of different hopper designs, so that we can show the most efficient methods of winter feeding.

10 reasons to support our work

1. There is not enough food – modern farming is very efficient and there is not enough food left in late winter to feed our game and wildlife.

2 Feeders keep gamebirds in good body condition – this helps to improve the breeding potential of our gamebirds.

3. Feeders increase densities of seedeating songbirds – our research shows that using feed hoppers more than doubles the number of farmland birds, including some red-listed species.

4. Proper feeding = successful pheasant shooting – well-placed feeding sites hold birds during the shooting season.

5. Keep your gamebirds in place – Feeders help to hold breeding pairs of birds to an area.

6. Help with counts – Birds stay closer to feeders during certain periods of the year.

7. ‘Unwanted’ visitors can take a lot of the food – losing a great proportion of the grain to other unwanted species is expensive and time-consuming.

8. The feeding paradox? – our research suggests that many hoppers could be hiding the ‘feeding paradox’; might feed those that feed on gamebirds (ie. rats).

9. Feeders for rat control – feeders can play an important role in rat control, as trapping and poisoning often take place at feeding sites – but can we reduce the use of feeders by rats through other ways?

10. Is our feeding strategy the best it can be? – is it time to re-think how we feed our gamebirds? With feed wheat at £164 per tonne, we should all be curious about whether this feed is getting to its intended recipients – we cannot afford for it not to.

Find out how you can help >

The three elements of the new research
  • To develop new winter feed hopper prototypes.
  • Fit them with motion-sensor cameras and place them on field-test sites to record how they are working.
  • Study the images triggered by birds or other mammals to see if they reduce feeding by unwanted species.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sneak preview of the next issue of Gamewise

The latest issue of our exclusive members' magazine Gamewise will be hitting doorsteps at the start of March so here is a sneak preview of what's inside.
  • Farmers unite for count
  • Definitive guide to cover crops
  • The extraordinary journey of a salmon parr
  • Freshwater habitats under threat
  • Expert advice
  • Conservation news
  • Conservation features
  • Reader offers
Special Introductory Offer

If you would like to start receiving Gamewise as well as enjoying the host of benefits our 20,000 members currently enjoy you can join today and get 3 months membership FREE.

Simply join online for just £5 per month using Direct Debit and you will get 15 months for the price of 12. Be quick though, offer ends 1st March 2014.

Join now to get 3 months FREE >

Friday, 7 February 2014

Latest National Gamebag Census data for the stoat

Following on from Peter Thompson's popular recent 'Species of the Month' feature on the stoat we have the latest information from our National Gamebag Census.

We established the NGC in 1961 to provide a central repository of records from shooting estates in Britain. The records comprise information from shooting and gamekeeping activities on the numbers of each species shot annually (‘bag data’).

The stoat is widespread across Britain. Its main prey is the rabbit and numbers of stoats dropped when myxomatosis devastated the British rabbit population in the 1950s and 60s. Since 1961, stoat bags have approximately doubled, but with a broad-based dip during the 1980s followed by recovery during the 1990s. The two increase phases match the two periods of most rapid increase in rabbit bags, while the decrease phase matches a period when rabbit bags were roughly stable and fox bags were increasing. It is thus possible that the bags reflect predator-prey interactions, but if so, it is not clear why stoat bags have remained high in recent years despite a fall in rabbit abundance and a high fox abundance.

Grey partridge re-introduction days - 3rd & 4th March

With decades of research into the grey partridge, GWCT has organised these training courses to enable grey partridge enthusiasts in Scotland to re-introduce this iconic species to the arable and hill fringe landscapes.

Participants can look forward to a stimulating course with the GWCT’s full team of grey partridge experts in tandem with Perdix Wildlife Supplies Ltd.

Kindly sponsored by Kings and Elanco, the days will involve inspiring talks and practical demonstrations on habitat creation and management, predator control and re-introduction techniques.

This in-depth course is designed to help clarify and guide people through some of the pitfalls and will offer lots of tips and encouragement to help ensure a positive and successful outcome.


Tickets are £25 each including VAT and each course runs from 9.30am to 3.00pm.

3rd March - Whitburgh Estate, Pathhead, Midlothian

Book now for 3rd March >

4th March - Clune and Corrybrough Estate, Tomatin, Inverness-shire

Book now for 4th March >

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Why you need to attend the GWCT research conference

The State of Nature report made gloomy reading and the latest CAP reforms will present a new set of challenges as we attempt to achieve our 2020 conservation targets.

We are therefore holding our second research conference at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 13th May to mobilise conservationists, farmers, policy makers and all those wishing to meet future conservation targets.

We will discuss how we can inspire the continued revival of wildlife populations and share our latest thinking and new research findings.

Professor Nick Sotherton, the GWCT’s director of research, says, “To make the next generation of agri-environment schemes work more effectively, we need to refine our research and its delivery to get a ‘bigger bang for our buck’! It is therefore vital that conservationists, politicians and scientists work collectively to achieve dramatic improvements in wildlife recovery.”

Just announced - BASIS CPD points now available for attendees

The GWCT’s research conference will present the results of more than 40 years of research and will show how this work to date has helped drive existing agri-environment schemes.  But what more can be done?

Professor Sotherton explains, “Our research has been pivotal in developing innovative and workable solutions for reviving a range of wildlife such as  wild grey partridges, brown hare and water voles.  A key aspect of recovery will always be to get more people on the ground targeting recovery more accurately. Well-researched solutions are therefore key to this and an aim of our conference is to share successes, pin-point workable solutions and importantly identify how these can be delivered on the ground to help achieve rapidly approaching conservation targets.”

Richard Benyon MP, former environment minister, will officially open the conference with a keynote speech.  Professor Sotherton says, “Richard Benyon is a passionate environmentalist and his personal insight on Government thinking and funding will prove invaluable.”


Places are strictly limited so we advise you to take advantage of our early booking discount offer of £5 off, making tickets only £40 each with lunch provided.

Book your place >

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

4 things you can do when you've got man flu

I'm ill. 'Just' man flu according to my wife (she won't accept the scientific evidence that proves men are more susceptible to flu because of higher testosterone levels). Anyway, I've been rendered unable to make it into GWCT HQ today having caught whatever it was my 2-year old daughter had last week.

It's hard to remember what life was like before we had her but one thing I'm sure of is that I never used to catch this many bugs.

Rather than sink beneath a duvet and watch low grade daytime TV consisting of people shouting insults at each other (but enough about PMQs) I've actually been getting things done, so here are 4 things you can do whilst bravely battling man flu:

1. Get on top of your emails. There's a lot going on at the moment at the GWCT and so I've been able to use the time to catch up on emails involving the 2014 CLA Game Fair (download your FREE voucher here), the Big Farmland Bird Count and a new improved Direct Debit system for our website that should be live very soon.

2. Eat. Whenever I'm forced to spend a day at home alone I tend to eat for a large proportion of it. And Warburtons crumpets are only 65p for 6 in the Co-op at the moment.

3. Spend too much time on Twitter. The Big Farmland Bird Count has been very well supported and the count results are coming in quickly. Lots of people have been tweeting about it (read a selection of their tweets here) and sending their photos in. We've been very encouraged by the response from farmers, gamekeepers, the press and those who are passionate about nature. We'll share the results as soon as we have them. Follow us on Twitter to make sure you stay up to date with all the latest news.

4. Do the washing. There's no way my wife would accept me being at home all day without doing any chores when I've 'only got' man flu. I even put the dishwasher on too. I'll be a hero if I unload it as well.

Hopefully I'll be feeling better tomorrow and will be back in the office to help build on our positive start to 2014. At least that way I won't have to do the hoovering.

Rob Beeson
Online Marketing Officer

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

GWCT Research Conference - Book your place today

Agri-environment measures following CAP reform: can we still achieve wildlife revival?

We would like to invite you and your colleagues to the second Game & Wildlife Conservation Research Conference taking place on 13th May.


As you know, the State of Nature report made gloomy reading and the latest CAP reforms will present a new set of challenges as we attempt to achieve our 2020 conservation targets.

We are therefore holding this conference to mobilise conservationists, farmers, policy makers and all those wishing to meet future conservation targets.

We will discuss how we can inspire the continued revival of wildlife populations and share our latest thinking and new research findings with you.


Places are strictly limited so we advise you to take advantage of our early booking discount offer of £5 off, making tickets only £40 each with lunch provided.

Book your place >


Tuesday 13th May - 10.15am - 4.15pm
Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
Exhibition Road Doors Entrance
1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR


• Keynote speech
 - Richard Benyon MP
• Policy setting: What are the challenges facing the Agri-Environment Measures?
 - Alastair Leake, GWCT Director of Policy
• Cluster Farms: Getting farmers to work together at the landscape scale
 - Peter Thompson, GWCT Field Officer
• The Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area: Experiences from a farmer-led initiative
 - Chris Musgrave, MD - Musgrave Management Systems
• Optimal use of Agri-Environment in the landscape: How can we do better?
 - John Holland, GWCT Head of Farmland Ecology
• Our Catchment sensitive farming project
 - Chris Stoate, Head of Allerton Project Research
• Farmland insect declines: Climate change or intensive management? The case for more mitigation
 - Julie Ewald, GWCT Head of Geographic Information Systems
• Wader recovery in the Avon Valley: A new farmer-led initiative
 - Andrew Hoodless, GWCT Head of Wetland Research

Book your place >