Gift of grouse: their propaganda exposed

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 NOT81 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:

Hello everyone,

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).—bps/

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

Andrew Whitelee
Senior Ecologist
Taylor Wildlife

29 thoughts on “Gift of grouse: their propaganda exposed”

  1. I think they meant 81 birds in total rather than 81 species, and they were only there because they were unable to fly, XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX

    [Ed: comment edited as potentially defamatory]

  2. ‘Since when has broadleaved and mixed woodland, coniferous woodland, improved grassland and inland rock been “managed specifically for grouse”?!’

    Predators are killed in woodlands and other ground adjacent to grouse moors. So “management for grouse” can extend well beyond the heather moors themselves. In my experience, this has included the setting of snares for foxes that incidentally kill capercaillie and other “non-target” species.

    [Ed: fair point, thank you]

  3. Many thanks to RPUK and Taylor Wildlife.
    Here is the clincher:
    “These are birds which were observed flying over the site, but are not necessarily associated with the habitat they were initially observed flying over, and are not known to be breeding on the site. These records include raptors such as Osprey (Padion haliaetus), Peregrine (Falco peregrinus), White-tailed Eagle (Haliaetus albicilla), Merlin (Falco columbarius) and Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), as well as the red-listed wader, the Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus).” Golden Eagle are also listed only as flyovers, but not on the list I quote. I wonder why. Perhaps there is a breeding pair away from the transepts?
    I’m surprised that Merlin are not listed as breeding suspects because as far as I know they are not grouse predators, and I would have expected them to be allowed to breed, but perhaps not.
    Caveat – I’m no ornithologist.
    I think the summary that the “Gift of Grouse” issued should simply have stated that there were no breeding raptors on the estates surveyed, and that there were good number of waders but I don’t suppose that the truth interests them.

    [Ed: Invermark Estate has hosted breeding golden eagles for a number of years, with high productivity (3 chicks at 1 nest)]

    1. Thanks for the clarification, which makes clear my suspicion, and shows how well the report was written.
      In that case, thanks to Invermark Estate, for allowing this to be made public and for allowing Golden Eagles to nest. I hope that they are now sufficiently enlightened to ensure that other raptors are allowed to nest in future, or perhaps they already are, but other estates’ actions make that impossible.
      Anyone in the Angus glens ready to try diversionary feeding, yet, or does RPUK have to keep banging on until the government takes action?
      The Gift of Grouse, they are not kidding me, or anyone else interested in the truth.

      1. Eh, thank Invermark for allowing Golden Eagles to nest; I don’t think so! Will you also be thanking Ronnie Biggs for showing restraint and not robbing your local bank?

        1. I feel that the nesting of Golden Eagles on the Invermark Estate shows that there are shades of guilt on the part of estates. I am happy to thank Invermark, and the few other estates in the NE of Scotland who allow some raptors.
          That there have been no Hen Harriers since 2005 in the Angus glens suggests that xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx but I would happily welcome anyone breaking ranks with the “kill them all” syndrome, and those estates who would welcome raptors are definitely to be praised.

  4. I look forward to seeing a balanced and unambiguous explanation from The Gift of Grouse – but I’m not holding my breath! Pity this information was not available for yesterday’s Petition Committee session.

    [Ed: It is a shame the report wasn’t available for yesterday’s evidence session. The good news is, it is available for the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee when they consider the issue in the new year]

  5. Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.
    Jane Austen (1775-1817)

  6. I think i have got this.
    1. Buzzard, Kestrel and Short-eared Owl were ‘considered to be breeding’
    2. Hen Harrier, Peregrine were seen as flyovers during the surveys (both over heath).
    3. Osprey, Merlin, Red Kite, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and Ravens were only seen as ‘incidental sightings recorded outside of specific bird surveys’.
    4. Those absent from all list includes Sparrowhawk! That says it all.
    5. Those absent from the ‘considered to be breeding’ list includes Raven. That says even more.

    Presumably this level of breeding detail and the dates are within the SGRPID/SNH guidelines by professional consultants but it is way short of the mostly amateur BTO standards for the national atlases.

    1. From what I have gleaned from the Taylor Wildlife report, I would have to agree with your belief that only Buzzard and Kestrel were considered to be breeding, and that all other raptor species were recorded as flyover species. This then begs the question that if these sightings were submitted by the gamekeeping team, how can we be sure that they did not make up some of these observations, in an attempt to enhance the poor figures and portray grouse moors as important areas for raptors? Let’s face it, the industry has a long, long history of deception, and the Gift of Grouse has just added to that list of lies.

      Furthermore, as a result of such lies, we are frequently led to believe that grouse moors are the greatest examples of land management, boasting of a tremendous variety of birdlife, with breeding populations and diversity far exceeding those of RSPB nature reserves, and other areas, however if Table 1 in the Taylor Wildlife report is a true representation of breeding numbers and species, then I’m glad that my local patch is not managed by anyone from that most irresponsible and destructive industry.

      Considering that the table gives a summary of all sightings of these species, from the mix of habitats on the estate, then it is patently clear that their idea that “all wildlife benefits” is most fanciful.

      A quick look at the common passerine species will have you wincing at the pitiful maximum totals – 12 Robins, 2 Great Tits, 9 Blackbirds, 5 Coal Tits – and no Blue Tits!

      It would appear, that their belief that they are somehow bringing about a “balance” to the natural world, is utterly bereft of scientific understanding. Ecological degradation and environmental destruction would be far closer to the truth.

      1. What about the 1 Willow Warbler on the Broadleaved and Mixed Woodland habitat list for 2015?
        To me that just shows the lack of experience of the recorders.
        In a mostly mixed woodland tetrad beside moorland for the breeding atlas i recorded 22 in 2 hours on the early visit and 33 on the late.

        1. I was prepared to let that one go, perhaps as a result of a late visit. It could be down to an inexperienced surveyor, but it could easily be attributed to the fact that the shooting industry is wholly reliant o lies and deception, and that these areas are simply not as good for wildlife.

          Similarly, we’re forever being told of the great work the industry does for waders, which just happens to be a coincidental byproduct of the zero tolerance approach to all things predatory, but these figures tell a very different story.

          Golden Plovers at -28%
          Dunlin at -31%
          Curlew at -50%
          Woodcock at -50%
          Snipe at -53%
          Lapwing at -87.5%

          All of those declines in just one year! Add to that all of the local songbird extinctions in the same time frame – Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting and Rook, as well as Black Grouse. Not a very pretty picture! (As the shooting industry wanted to manipulate the figures from the report, I thought I would have a bit of fun, and show how easy it is).

          However, I know that you cannot make any clear comparisons in such a short time period, but it could easily hint that all is not well and good in these areas.

      2. One of the moorland fb groups in Yorkshire posted that they had been on a trip to one of their grouse moors and happened to see a wonderful array of raptors which included marsh harrier and hobby! They claimed they had photographed them – when I asked for the images to be displayed on their fb page they said that they weren’t ready yet. Must still be using old photgraphic film in Yorkshire then!

  7. As a keen countryman I like to list the birds that I have seen from my modest country estate. So far, amongst others, I have noted Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Merlin, Peregrine, Kestrel, Hobby, Ring Ouzel, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Redshank and Golden Plover. I’m sure that they must all be nesting but I have signally failed to track them down yet. I have suspected for some time that I must be living on a grouse moor (particularly since I have yet to see a Hen Harrier) but no I live just south of Worcester. I suppose that the lack of Stone Curlews should have alerted me to the fact that I was not in “Grouse Country” but just the inhabitant of a small rural house in middle England. Silly me. However I remain convinced , having had a flyover Gannet, that there is a hitherto undiscovered seabird colony somewhere in the Malvern Hills – if anyone finds it can they let me know please.

  8. That’s useful clarification from Taylor Wildlife, but in a sense the damage has been done, by their clients issuing a summary which will sound authoritative to many people with influence, including MSPs. To me that is one of the more important lessons to be learned from the Parliamentary grouse shooting debate. When two groups of “experts” disagree, it often leads to inaction or a fudged verdict by the adjudicators, as it’s just our opinion versus the grouse shooters’ opinions. This is an often used diversionary tactic by the dishonest people we are confronting, and unfortunately it appears to be successful more often than not. We need to expose the unreliable nature of the shooting industry’s evidence, and thanks to RPUK, progress is being made in this field.

    As an Ornithological Recorder who is often frustrated by consultants not providing records to the system, it was at least mildly refreshing that Taylor Wildlife follow IEEM guidelines and report their findings to the various official recording bodies. Too often private consultants withhold records on the basis of “client confidentiality”, which is largely a myth perpetuated as a marketing point rather than an accepted principle. Transparency is essential throughout the process, particularly where a Public Local Inquiry is involved.

  9. I was curious to see how this compares with my my BTO surveys.
    For the last atlas in one 10×10 km square of moorland with a small mixed woodland and coastline and 8 tertads surveyed which is less area than the Invermark survey especially as nearly half of the square is in the sea.
    Total was 120 species in the breeding season which it would be fair to ignore because of seabirds which i can’t be bothered to deduct.
    Confirmed breeding species was 73 with a further 19 probably breeding. I assume that would be an equivalent of 92 ‘considered to be breeding’.

    My one BBS square is all conifer plantation in various stages.
    My total is 47 in the breeding season along a 2km walk.

    So if i’m supposed to be impressed by Invermark’s 52 ‘considered to be breeding’, i’m not.

  10. What with this business and the BASC Chairman related North Yorkshire gamekeeper court case, also covered by RPUK, who needs to fork out to go to a Christmas Pantomime? All we need is a title. Any suggestions?

  11. It was quite a while ago but I had an argument on-line with one of these guys, they had a film with some lapwing on it and claimed it showed abundant waders on a grouse moor. They were very angry when I pointed out that it was in-by land and not a grouse moor.

    I know this is anecdotal, I helped the BTO upland wader survey this year on Derbyshire in-by land. The areas I was able to access consisted of land held mainly by two farmers, the vast majority of the quadrant I surveyed was run by this one guy who was ploughing it up for crops in rotation with silage. There were very few birds on his fields. There was one very small farm abutting the moor which was receiving money from the environmental stewardship scheme because of some very beautiful wet meadows he had on the land, which he fed sheep on. Here there were plentiful lapwings on the site especially where the meadows were. Talking to the farmer, who was very proud of his farm, he described how the lapwings has fared over the years, and had consistently had good numbers of chicks on his fields, except over a two year period when a pheasant shoot opened just down the road. Then buzzards turned up and started to take the lapwing chicks, until it seemed the lapwings learned how to deal with them ie mob them. Then chick survival rates went back up again. The problem is that this was the last three small fields in a very big area. When I went back in July I counted 90 or so lapwings on the site.

    1. Yes I’ve noticed this too, they show video of waders, but there’s actually no heather in sight. Most notorious example was a pro grouse moor video where the near deafening call of waders on the moor was almost certainly dubbed on.

  12. I am an active blogger on a site for my real passion, canoeing. At present we have an angling troll telling us how bad canoeing on a river is to the fish in the river. In the digression of discussion a Canadian blogger said how different the fish are in the UK and now how different the birds are, re driven grouse shooting. The Canadian had no understanding of the mass killing carried out in the name of sport. So I explained the situation for overseas benefit. I attach it below.

    Quote from a Canadian:
    Really?? Coz your birds are apparently just as different as your fish! Here, grouse seek the deepest thickest coverts they can find & getting ’em out & up in the air, even with the dog, is flippin’ near impossible. And when they do fly, the cover is so thick that more than half the time you get no shot at all. (that’s what makes ’em SO much fun!! ) So either the birds are different, or Brit shooters are really really lazy buggers…..

    My Answer to explain:
    No, I don’t see your comments anything to do with derailing but here is an insight into mass killing for fun, done by mindless people with too much money and too little brain. It is sickeningly different to the killing of the occasional bird or animal for the pot done by folk like you. Your shooting is acceptable their mass killing is not.

    The red grouse the “sport of choice for those with too much money and little brain” are raised on moorland where heather grows (red grouse eat heather). The moorland is cleared of all predators including our protected birds of prey, illegally. The production of these “wild” birds is crowded and excessive which leads to problems with parasites and illnesses. They are medicated with chemicals and drugs to keep alive the increased population.

    On 12 August (called the glorious 12th by those with too much money and little brain) and for several months after, they are blasted out of the sky by hoards of, yep you’ve guessed it! In order to do this with little effort they hide behind screens called butts while minions of poor folk waving flags and blowing whistles chase “drive” the grouse across the moor towards the guns. The shooters have gun loaders doing just that to allow as many shots to be fired as possible. Hundreds of the “precious” grouse are killed and maimed and the shooters have a “jolly good time” get back in their 4×4 vehicles and driven back to some grand house to brag about the fine sport they have had. The grouse are mostly wasted, few are eaten and a few sold but this is rare because these shooters still use lead shot. The heaps of corpses are surrounded by snares to catch unwary foxes. This is what the gentry call sport and the country decimation that goes with it is supported by our government, they even get huge “farming?” subsidies gathered from our taxes to ease the burden on the rich’s pocket?

    If this all seems far fetched, sorry but it is true. This mindless activity is clearly demonstrated here video showing all the skill of the fairground along with the stupid mentality, also look out for the army of minions driving the birds by waving flags and blowing whistles. How they avoid killing each other is disappointing. These shooters also do the same with pheasants (hand reared in pens, at about 40million per year to be shot and mostly wasted), partridges too. Costing each shooter over £1000 (1700 Canadian dollars) per day.

    I have no objection against shooting for the pot but the idle rich in the UK consider this mass slaughter “Sport”. Prehistoric man did it to live, these folk do it for what???

    Sadly, most of these people have too much power over us. The current government is full of those that love mindless killing.

    A sad, sad world.


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