A Peeblesshire gamekeeper is leading a bid by Scottish keepers to boost wader numbers across the country, following a decline in the birds’ populations.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg says keepers are concerned that numbers of ground nesting birds are declining, even on ‘safer’ habitat such as grouse moors.
Lapwings, curlew and plover have bred up to three times more successfully on grouse moors because of heather burning and predator control by gamekeepers, said Mr Hogg.
Scotland has lost 56 per cent of its lapwing and curlew in only 17 years, with conservationists blaming climate change and habitat loss through farming practices.
And now keepers are inviting grouse moors to report counts of waders and their productivity, saying the figures will provide an accurate benchmark for future counts on how the birds are faring on keepered land.
“It is clear that new conservation responses are needed to help our vulnerable ground nesting birds,” said Mr Hogg.
“Millions of pounds of tax payers’ money has been spent on costly habitat programmes through the advice of conservation bodies.
“However, The State of Nature Report, which showed 60 per cent of the UK’s species continuing to decline, and the latest BTO Breeding Bird Survey, prove that this approach, when taken alone, has failed to deliver the answers for birds such as waders.
“Our keepers, who have physically protected and work to protect curlew, lapwing and plover on their ground for years, have been warning that this is happening. We now have an imbalance in our uplands that needs to be addressed by government before Scotland goes the same way as Wales.”
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s study of Berwyn Special Protection Area (SPA) in North Wales between 1983 and 2002 – when grouse shooting ceased, gamekeepers were removed, and it became a National Nature Reserve – showed lapwing became extinct, golden plover declined from 10 birds to one and curlew declined by 79 per cent, said the association.