More birds on Angus Glens housing estate than on grouse moor!

We’ve been witnessing an increase in propaganda from the grouse shooting industry’s Gift of Grouse campaign in recent months, as they ramp up the pressure to try and ward off any kind of regulation that the Scottish Government’s grouse moor review panel might recommend.

We know this fear of regulation is driving this campaign because the Gift of Grouse admits as such, on these cards that were distributed at the Scottish Game Fair in June/July.

The text on the card under the ‘Economic & Employment’ section has already been ripped to shreds by some amusing commentary on Twitter from the Forest Policy Group (@forest_policy), who pointed out that the 11k jobs refers to ALL game shooting, grouse shooting itself supports far less; that grouse moor occupies a broadly similar area to forest in Scotland and yet Forestry supports over 25k jobs from that area; and that wildlife watching contributes more economically than ‘country sports tourism’. The Forest Policy Group suggested that the question shouldn’t be ‘Does grouse shooting deliver economic benefit?’ but rather ‘How does that benefit compare with alternative land use?’. The answer is badly.

The text on the card under the heading ‘Environment and Conservation’ has recently been shredded by Mark Avery (here) and it’s also worth re-reading a blog we wrote a while ago (here) about the Gift of Grouse campaign’s misleading interpretation of the data recorded in the Taylor Wildlife Report, 2016.

Also in July we saw the Gift of Grouse making an absurd claim that ‘Grouse moors are nature reserves’ (see here for the press release).

This claim seemed to be based on a report by a German scientist (Dr Daniel Hoffman) who has been conducting ‘surveys’ on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens for three years (although the first year of survey was conducted over only four days in late April 2015 in appalling weather conditions – we blogged about it at the time – see here and scroll down to the bottom).

We are very interested in Dr Hoffmann’s work and found a report he’d written describing the ‘surveys’ undertaken in 2015. Download it here: Hoffmann-report

It’s very difficult to follow because English clearly isn’t Dr Hoffmann’s first language (that’s not a criticism, just an observation), which makes us very suspicious about the following commentary piece in The Times in June 2018 that was attributed to Dr Hoffmann, whose English skills seem to have suddenly improved.

Anyway, we digress. Let’s get back to Dr Hoffmann’s research.

A summary of some of his work has been posted on the Glenogil Estate website here. Take a look at this graph – it’s fascinating! It shows more bird species were recorded on a Glenogil ‘housing estate’ than on the grouse moor!

Obviously, there isn’t a ‘housing estate’ on Glenogil Estate and Dr Hoffmann’s terminology has just been lost in translation. If you read his 2015 report, his definition of ‘housing estate’ is revealed on page 38:

Most of the song birds were observed in shrubs next houses” [sic].

Ah, so it’s not the grouse moor at Glenogil that’s ‘a nature reserve’, it’s the bushes around the gamekeeper’s houses!

If you look at the six habitat types identified by Dr Hoffmann (and no, we don’t know how he differentiates between ‘field’ and ‘meadow’ and nor do we know what ‘realted’ means), the grouse moor habitat only scores 4th in terms of avian diversity, behind housing estate (1st), meadow (2nd), and waters (3rd).

Dr Hoffmann’s 2015 report contains some pretty surprising claims, such as

In fact of the political discussion about a ban on driven grouse shooting, our data should provide an indication if a ban will have positive or negative effect on the grouse population, birds in general and other species that have relevance to wildlife conservation“.

Really? And how will these ‘surveys’ (that don’t appear to have been done using recognised survey methods, although again this is difficult to understand from the report) provide such an indication? Has Dr Hoffmann set up a control area where grouse shooting is stopped, to compare with an area where grouse shooting continues? If he has, it’s not mentioned in this report. It sounds like the sort of “completely inadequate” study devised by GWCT for the Strathbraan raven cull! Dr Hoffmann appears to work for the Game Conservancy Deutschland – perhaps that organisation is twinned with the GWCT.

The report also contains some other interesting detail, such as the number of gamekeepers employed on Glenogil Estate to undertake predator control (twelve of them – that’s a lot of predators being killed); “an exceptionally high population of grouse” (presumably as a result of intensive predator control); and the revelation that “about 2000 traps” are deployed to kill predators. That’s a lot of traps. There’s a photo of one of the traps and it doesn’t look like the entrance/exit holes have been sufficiently restricted to minimise the chance of non-target species being caught and killed:

The report also reveals that there “is a total of more than 2000” medicated grit trays – that’s a lot of medicated grit, presumably needed to maintain “an exceptionally high population of grouse“. We wonder if the disease Cryptosporidiosis, known to be spread by the use of communal grit trays in high density grouse populations, is a problem at Glenogil, given the apparent intensive grouse moor management going on there?

The report continues:

Another measure to increase the health of grouse is trapping them with nets. Almost 90% of the adult birds were caught in late autumn to dispense each with a fluid vermicide. Before releasing the grouse were ringed“.

Wow! 90% of adult grouse caught to be direct dosed with an anti-worming drug? And we know from previous blogs on this issue that SNH permits direct dosing with veterinary drugs during the shooting season, which means that the drug (Levamisole hydrochloride – used in human chemotherapy treatment) has every chance of entering the human food chain when those shot red grouse are sold (and we know the Veterinary Medicines Directorate does not undertake adequate surveillance or monitoring).

Sounds like a strange way to manage a ‘nature reserve’, doesn’t it?

UPDATE 7pm: Thanks to one of our blog readers (Peter Rees) who says the literal translation of the Deutscher Jagdverband is ‘German Hunting Association’. That explains a great deal. See comments section for more info.

31 thoughts on “More birds on Angus Glens housing estate than on grouse moor!”

  1. I have heard that due to the dry weather there will be no grouse shooting this year on at least one shooting estate in Scotland. As far as the eye could see I saw not a single bird of any species during a visit to this estate.

  2. You posts just keep getting better and better. Just a pity that the Scottish media does not read your blog. They do? Perhaps then they just ignore it, all the easier to promote grouse moors with their associated criminality. It’s it proven, they say? I wonder why that is?

    1. Oh wow!

      “A rapid and significant increase in the number of rare species due to responsible stewardship”.

      Really? Nothing to do with the fact that the German scientists visited at a more appropriate time of year in the 2nd and 3rd annual ‘surveys’, then?

  3. Futile claim of increased species due to the Game industries murdering and cruel blood thirsty ways.
    Where’s the diversity?
    Personally I like seeing Hawks,Ravens,Stoats,Foxes and Weasels all of which are driven to possible extinction on these Grouse Farms (AKA Moors)

    1. “Before releasing the grouse were ringed“. Presumably the term “bird botherer” only applies to people ringing every other species now. You really can’t make this shit up.

  4. Possibly Dr. Hoffman caught a dose of Burnettism while trudging the local hostelries. It would go a long way to explaining the extraordinary claims he made made on little else but imagination, linguistic gymnastics and a rather fuzzy idea of what constitutes boundaries in determining different types of landscape.

  5. One feature strikes me as odd, and I’ve been pondering this for a while. Why is there no alternative evidence (or very little) on the avifauna of grouse moors undertaken by groups like the Raptor Study Groups, SOC, BTO or RSPB? Or am I missing something? In Scotland at least there is no prohibition on access to open private land for the purpose of scientific research, so that is not a limiting factor. In Clyde, voluntary RSG/SOC members have collaborated in monitoring breeding hen harriers, on a Special Protection Area which has mixed public/private ownership, since 1988. We record all bird species (also foxes and field voles) in the SPA, focusing principally on raptors, and including surveys of randomly selected transects to estimate populations of breeding meadow pipits, for example. We record all territories of waders, wheatears, stonechats and other scarcer species. In that time we have had only one problem with one landowner who has tried to prevent access to his land. He has not taken legal action, and we continue to exercise our statutory right to keep on monitoring. The SPA is also a Regional Park, so public access is welcomed by the Park Authority. The days of certain gamekeepers threatening extreme violence are long gone.

    All I can say (publicly) is that the results of surveys supported or commissioned by game shooting bodies, including the one highlighted above, seem to me to be suspect. I’ve yet to examine them in detail, but the summaries released publicly never seem to reveal any description of methodology used, only meaningless figures of “species recorded in the estate,” which includes various habitats in addition to the grouse moors themselves. We are presented with a somewhat misleading chart which shows 34 species “recorded” on grouse moor habitat. This appears to say nothing about whether all these species depend on the habitat, or are even using it at all. For example, how many were simply flying overhead, or migrants stopping off for a day or two, or marginal species in areas of habitat transition? I should read the links before commenting any further. I wouldn’t deny that heather moors are a special habitat with some rare birds and an unique biodiversity, but intensively managed grouse moors are heavily depleted of the range of animals and plants which should be present, on what should really be treasured and conserved as internationally important blanket bog/dwarf shrub heath habitats.

    1. Agree with what you say Iain however as a woman on her own trying to work in these glens it is extremely intimidating and even frightening, you are watched the whole time. Even walking on tracks there are fire-crackers going off at frequent intervals, keepers watching from a distance and following you around.

    1. Surely that cannot be true. Have you not heard about the BGA? To quote RPUK, the industry’s new self-regulatory body is the British Game Alliance (BGA), ‘the official marketing board for the UK game industry’, which, according to the Countryside Alliance, “aims to run a ‘British Game’ assurance scheme to ensure our game meets the highest standards“.

      1. The way the UK meets the highest standards is to never check the birds!

        Apparently when the game dealers were selling the tonnes of unwanted birds to Europe, those pesky EU food agencies had the audacity to check what was being supplied. They then stopped buying the toxic birds…so the game dealers stopped buying the toxic birds from the estates and the estates had to then start sending the unwanted toxic waste off to be dumped.

  6. OK so the DJV may like to translate its name as Game Conservancy Deutschland but it literally translates as the German Hunting Association. Dr Hoffmann is described on their site as a wildlife biologist and hare expert. A strange choice as a wildlife surveyor of a grouse moor given the life expectancy of hares on moors in Scotland. This is a case of the hunting enthusiasts in one country marking the homework of those in another. My German is rudimentary but I’ll probably dig a bit deeper into this in due course.

      1. It’s a poorly designed site and as I said my German is rudimentary but the Game Conservancy Deutschland is separate partner organisation of the DJV (German Hunting Association) – but at the moment its website is down and not working. Using the wayback machine reveals it was founded in 1990 on the model of the GWCT. As to Dr Hoffman he is definitely of the hunting persuasion. He’s a board member of the DJV and a former official of the Association of Hunters of Saarland.

          1. As for GWCT, I subscribe to their website and submit occasional comments politely challenging certain aspects of their science, but my most recent two comments have been deleted (or as they might say, not published). They must be the only ‘scientific’ body which accepts purely anecdotal ‘evidence’ from a biased sector of society. How can SNH be so easily duped by them as ‘scientific advisers’ to the Strathbraan wader group? I think most of us know the answer(s) to that question, largely down to the investigative skills of RPUK.

  7. I am firmly of the opinion that grouse moors are farming enterprises, not conservation zones. In order to be economically viable predatory species, corvids, foxes, etc. and those which compete with grouse for food, such as hares, need to be eradicated. This is more akin to an arable field treated with insecticide and fungicide, than a nature reserve, where predators are seen as part of the ecosystem and only controlled in extreme circumstances. Why do these land owners receive such favourable treatment from our politicians and enforcement agencies? Why are “stink pits” allowed. Any farmer leaving dead stock to rot in a field would be fined. It is time that these medieval practices are ended.

    1. The National Gamekeepers Organisation thinks the use of the carcasses if wild animals and game in stink pits are illegal. In its Spring 2014 edition of Keeping the Balance, Matthew Knight of Knight Solicitors, advises that “The Waste Framework Directive and its UK application also need to be borne in mind. The Environment Agency has made it clear that although it accepts that the Animal By-Products Order does not apply to the carcasses of healthy (at the point of death) wild animals or parts of such carcasses, they are looking for an opportunity to prove that the more general waste management rules (under the Environmental Protection Act 1990) do apply to everything including carcasses or body parts of healthy wild animals. This has yet to be tested in the courts, but the Environment Agency’s threat needs to be borne in mind by anyone who has a glut of dead foxes or dead pheasants and is thinking of using them to make a midden. If you want to avoid a court case (even if you win it in the end) it may be best to buy one of the American chemical lures that are readily available online at a reasonable cost rather than using residual deer, fox or pheasant carcasses”.

      Under S33(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is an offence to deposit industrial or commercial waste (such as the carcasses if wild animals or excess game birds) or knowingly cause or knowingly permit such waste to be deposited in or on any land unless an environmental permit authorising the deposit is in force and the deposit is in accordance with the licence. S33(1)(c) also prohibits the treatment, keeping or disposal of industrial or commercial waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. The deliberate discarding and abandonment of the bodies of healthy wild animals above ground without a license authorising such a procedure potentially fulfills the terms of the offence of fly-tipping (S33(1)(a) Environmental Protection Act 1990.). In addition, the permanent dumping of the bodies of healthy wild animals and the regular topping up of the piles of bodies in a way that allows potentially harmful liquids and air borne bacteria from putrifying carcasses to escape into the surrounding environment breaches the terms of S33(1)(c) EPA.

      Furthermore, S34(1) EPA imposes the duty on individuals who produce, carry, keep or dispose of commercial or industrial waste or who have control of such waste to take reasonable measures (a) to prevent any contravention by any other person of section 33 (above) and (b) to prevent the escape of the waste from his control or that of any other person. The abandonment of putrifying carcasses generally in the open environment but occasionally in pits with no containment of the bodies or the potentially harmful fluids or air-borne bacteria is not a safe and secure way to prevent the dispersal of the waste. The use of healthy wild animals in stink pits breaches S34(1)(a) and (b).

  8. There are only a total of 43 species of raptor in the whole of “Europe and The Middle East” (D Forsman, 1999, Christopher Helm press). Of these only 14 could possibly be found in Scotland. Also, I would very much like to see the list of 103 different bird species which are “thriving” on the Glenogil Estate.

    Dr Colin Key

      1. Thanks for that link, I missed it first time around.

        As a scientist (not a biologist) and retired university academic I am experienced in scrutinizing scientific ‘Reports’ and peer-reviewing research papers. The 2016 observations and longer 2015 report written by Dr Daniel Hoffmann and his chums are complete piffel and would be laughed out of court by any serious scientific body. I do not have the time to go through and take them apart brick by brick but if they had been submitted as a dissertation by one of my final year students they would have failed (on substance, methodology, scientific rigour and mode of expression) – this man’s “work” is an absolute joke. The final paragraph of the 2015 report (bottom of page 38) sums it all up: “Baron Ferdinand von Baumbach kindly gave my chums and I a free holiday every year for three years in return for which I have concluded that raptors are doing very well on this estate and need to be culled in order to prevent them breeding out of control and ruining the biodiversity (i.e. destroying large numbers of grouse).

        1. Even allowing for English presumably being a second language to Dr Hoffmann, I have read his final paragraph over and over, and find it difficult to interpret as anything other than admitting to being bribed by his generous “kind” friend! And how can any credible scientist presume that native raptors need to be culled, “to prevent them breeding out of control and ruining [ ! ] the biodiversity”?

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