The Gift of Grouse – a campaign run by the Scottish grouse-shooting industry to promote the so-called ‘benefits’ of driven grouse shooting, have been well and truly caught with their pants down.
(Gift of Grouse for you anagram fans: to fog figures]
Some of you may remember a story from last year, where the Gift of Grouse made great claims about the number of bird species that had been recorded on three driven grouse moors – Invermark & Glenogil (both in the Angus Glens) and Glenturret in Perthshire. We blogged about these claims (here) and have since made repeated requests to see the actual data/reports (as have others – e.g. Andy Wightman here), but all to no avail. The Gift of Grouse refused to publish the reports and instead pointed everyone to a summary, written by The Gift of Grouse and not by the ecological consultants who had conducted the surveys.
Pay attention to some of the specific claims made in that Gift of Grouse summary about the survey undertaken on Invermark Estate:
The consultants “used a variety of techniques to record birds, butterflies, mammals and other species across 80 sq km of upland habitats which are specifically managed for grouse“.
“…..with an overall total of 81 bird species recorded as either breeding on the site or using the area as a valuable feeding resource“.
The clear intention from these statements was for people to believe that these three driven grouse moors support a wide range of avian biodiversity.
Indeed, on the back of these apparent survey results, the Gift of Grouse even held a prestigious Parliamentary reception at Holyrood, hosted by Graeme Dey MSP on 23 November 2015, with wide media coverage, to “celebrate diversity through grouse moor management“. Here’s a photo of them at that parliamentary reception, including Alex Hogg (SGA), Graeme Dey MSP and a load of gamekeeepers including some from the Angus Glens and some from the Lammermuirs.
The Gift of Grouse have been pumping out this so-called success for a year now, and only the other day they referred to these survey results in another press release (here) when they claimed that ‘raptors are thriving on Scottish grouse moors’ – a press release that was dismissed by RSPB Scotland as “a pile of risible, make-believe tosh” (see here).
Well guess what? It turns out that the Gift of Grouse had good reason not to release the actual survey report from Invermark Estate because if they had, their misinterpretation (we’re being kind) of the data would have been exposed.
Unfortunately for the Gift of Grouse, a new summary report, written by the ecological consultants (Taylor Wildlife) has now been published and it makes for very interesting reading indeed.
Download it here: invermark-wildlife-audit-2015-and-2016
According to the Taylor Wildlife report, there were NOT “81 bird species recorded as either breeding on the site or using the area as a valuable feeding resource” in 2015 as the Gift of Grouse had claimed. There were actually only “52 species considered to be breeding on site, 19 additional species noted during surveys as flying over and 10 species documented as incidental sightings“. How on earth can birds recorded as “flying over” a site be listed as “either breeding on the site or using the area as a valuable feeding resource“?!
Furthermore, the survey was not conducted “across 80 sq km of upland habitats which are specifically managed for grouse” as the Gift of Grouse had claimed. According to the Taylor Wildlife report, the habitats surveyed included “blanket bog, bracken, broadleaved and mixed woodland, coniferous woodland, dwarf shrub heath, improved grassland, inland rock and montane heath“. Since when has broadleaved and mixed woodland, coniferous woodland, improved grassland and inland rock been “managed specifically for grouse“?!
That RSPB Scotland quote, “a pile of risible, make-believe tosh” springs to mind.
It looks very much like the Gift of Grouse have misled everyone, including Graeme Dey MSP, doesn’t it? You can make up your own minds whether this misinterpretation of the Invermark survey results was a deliberate and cynical ploy to portray driven grouse shooting in a favourable environmental light, or whether it was just an honest inability to grasp the simple interpretation of bird survey data.
As an aside, it’s also interesting to note that these surveys were conducted as a requirement of the estate claiming Basic Payments. Funny that. Didn’t the grouse shooting industry claim that no public subsidies were used to support driven grouse shooting?
We should make it clear here that we are not having a go at Taylor Wildlife. On the contrary, we thank them for publishing this summary report. This morning, Andrew Whitelee, one of the ecological consultants involved in the survey, wrote a comment on one of our earlier blogs. We’re reproducing it here:
I work for Taylor Wildlife, who have been subject to a lot of speculation on this website recently. As with any other ecological consultancy, client confidentiality would normally prevent us from discussing specific surveys and data. However, in this instance the client (Invermark) have made the data public which means I can take this opportunity to clarify a few points. The Taylor Wildlife summary report can be found on this link.
Over the past two field seasons (2015 and 2016) Taylor Wildlife staff have been surveying on the Invermark Estate as part of the Basic Payment Scheme Farm Environment Surveys. This Government scheme requires us to undertake bird surveys using a modified version of the Brown and Shepherd methodology. This methodology is usually used for recording upland waders but for the purposes of the scheme we are required to record all species we encounter on surveys. We are not required to disturb the nests of Schedule 1 birds and our surveyors work completely within the law. The SGRPID/SNH guidelines we (and any other consultancy undertaking surveys) are bound by for the scheme are on the link below (page down to Annex A).
As I am sure you will all appreciate, we have no control over how our data is interpreted by others once it is published, so I would ask you to take a look and make up your own mind. At the end of each survey season we are required to submit our data and report to SNH/SGRPID for review. We also give our data to the relevant organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, The Mammal Society or Birdtrack (via the bulk upload option).
There seems to be a misconception that Taylor Wildlife provided the majority of the data used in the Gift of Grouse statement. However, we only collected data on Invermark so that is the only part I can pass comment on. Two years of Invermark data starts to give us a baseline, more data collected in the coming years may help us to identify trends and hopefully provide useful data for informed land management decisions in the future. In my opinion the more data collected in upland environments the better.
If anyone wants to contact me to discuss the above, then please feel free to do so, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org