BASC’s ‘expertise’ not very convincing

You know, if you’re going to profess to love a bird of prey, it helps your credibility if you’re first able to identify it. Otherwise it just looks like you’re pretending.

Who’s going to break the news to BASC?

It also helps, if you’re going to pretend to be interested in the conservation of a bird of prey, that you recognise the threat to that species includes the intensification of grouse moor management techniques, as evidenced by the 30 years’ worth of data analysed in these recent peer-reviewed scientific publications (here, here) as opposed to the non-scientific drivel about the lack of General Licences spouted by your gamekeeper mates (here), some of whom are believed to be currently under investigation for the alleged persecution of birds of prey on their grouse moors (see here).

It also helps if you understand that ‘the majority of nesting merlins in the UK’ are not reliant on ‘being looked after’ (ahem) by gamekeepers in Yorkshire & Derbyshire – merlins do particularly well in other areas and especially on the peatlands of the Western Isles, where, shock horror, there’s no intensively managed driven grouse moors and no intensive predator control. Imagine that!

Nice try, BASC, but you’re going to have to do much better than this if you want to be taken seriously.

Ps. Free tip – this isn’t a merlin.

UPDATE 4 September 2020: Does BASC know its arse from its elbow? (here)

44 thoughts on “BASC’s ‘expertise’ not very convincing”

  1. Just more propaganda and drivel from people who have one agenda: to kill as many predators and competitors, real and imagined, as possible, so their sick business of killing grouse, pheasant and partridge can continue in ever increasing bag sizes.

    Why are there so few lapwing, curlew, golden plover, etc in the uplands? Because the habitat is managed for red grouse only and not for the other upland birds they claim to be conserving. It is not rocket science – and it certainly isn’t ecology and conservation.

    1. Hi Simon,

      Could not agree more. We know the story and the science behind it – so how do they have the gall to continue spouting such greenwash? If they spin much harder they’ll get dizzy, fall and have a very bad headache for a very, very long time … we hopes!

    2. Simon, yours is the propaganda here. They might manage the moors for grouse, but the lapwings, curlews , plovers etc all benefit.
      It too late now, but I would be more than happy to walk RSPBs Abernathy estate and Millden, one of the dodgiest estates in my opinion, next May and we can count the number of these nesting birds we see. Only catch is we have to shout the results from the roof tops on every relevant propaganda page from both sides for a month.
      Now if you want to pick another reserve feel free.



      1. Unfortunately most people who know little about raptors don’t go to real conservation sites. They go to the Mail or the Times or Telegraph into which the shooter killers feed their regular press pieces, or they watch Countryfile which gloss over the truly ghastly activities on the grouse moors.

        Other organisations like the National Parks people or Natural England which might be expected to tell the truth also fail to inform the general public about the horrors committed in the NPs and the real ecological problems there created by the intensive grouse shooters. Same with the massive importing of pheasants and partridges.

      2. So yours is not propaganda? Abernethy is not managed for grouse but it does have Capercaillie which I doubt any of your moors have! it also has black grouse which you shooters like blasting from the sky as well as crested tit, crossbill and Scottish crossbill Britain’s only endemic species and a great range of passerines which cannot find the abundance of food and cover they need on grouse moors . As well as goshawk, osprey and a whole range of breeding (not passing through and shot or trapped) raptors that your mob persecute very largely getting away with their crimes. Nevertheless Abernethy has all those birds and a lot more variety also in mammals and flora than any of your reserves because it is not a monoculture like intensive grouse moors but has varied habitats. That’s why people visit it to see nature rather than to kill nature as shooters do. If you want to compare RSPB and grouse moors count the dunlin golden plover and curlew at Dove stone RSPB. they are all increasing because of wetting and they don’t shoot raptors or burn those moors. As you know curlew, which you boast about, are declining everywhere else. one of the few places in England with reliable nesting of hen harriers by the way is the United utilities estate in Bowland which has keepers. However the difference between this moor and others is that efficient monitoring by the RSPB protects Hen Harriers.

        1. Dave, your confusing me for a shooter. I m talking Scotland because that where I live. I was also volunteering the worst local estate. I didn’t bring up the species, so why are you quickly changing? So far no one seems happy to pick up the challenge. But as I’m at the foot of an Angus Glen, I’d be happy for you to change the challenge to raptors within 2 miles of my house and your chosen spot. Let’s count numbers and varieties. Ruth would be welcome as well.

          [Ed: Alan, thanks for the invitation but given the company you keep, at least on social media, I think I’ll give a trip out with you a swerve, ta]

        2. Well said Dave and if you look on the private estates in bowland you will find short heather policy where many pairs of merlins have lost long standing territories. Intensive grouse shooting moors are not good for any wildlife including grouse as at the end of the day these are shot too. It’s all about killing and it must be stopped

        3. Very well said! It’s funny how the estates keep telling us grouse moors protect our only endemic bird (a race of grouse), and forget we have a full species passerine too – and it certainly doesn’t like grouse moors. When even a few trees are present then merlin have the option of nesting in them, the lack of any on grouse moors mean ground nesting ones have an artificially high risk from predation – they shouldn’t have to be nesting there in the first place.

        4. Almost forgot – ‘controlling’ predators for adjacent grouse moors can be deadly for capercaillie too. On page 28 of this newsletter is a report on how much caper love sticking their heads into snares. One of the authors was a retired gamekeeper who wanted to raise the alarm after what he’d seen, but clearly felt he couldn’t do so while still in post….wonder why? Apologies if you’ve seen this before, but very powerful information if you haven’t –

      3. Numbers on their own aren’t a measure of anything if taken out of the picture of the whole ecosytem.
        Zoos have numbers. Driven grouse moors are nothing more than Whipsnade.
        There is also such a thing as nature and beauty.
        There are very few grouse in Norway. It is natural or huge sways of it are.

      4. I totally disagree with your comments re curlews etc. Maybe in days gone by when the moors were not so intensively managed they benefitted a little, but please read of our experiences over 30 years In the Lammermuirs, in the two papers that are cited at the beginning of this rpuk article. Thanks for the plug Ruth!

  2. I wonder what criteria Gareth Dockerty had to satisfy when he applied for the position of “Upland Officer”. Also, did he have to supply his own spinning bow tie, or was this provided, along with the Land Rover with doors that fall off?

  3. There’s “no intensive predator control” in the Western Isles. True, but, to be fair, there is also a natural lack of predators. AFAIK hedgehogs, foxes, weasels & stoats are absent from most islands if not all of them.
    I seem to recall an extermination cull of introduced hedgehogs on one island in the 1980s

    Just a thought.

    1. There are plenty of predators on the Western Isles, especially corvids (which would be killed under the GL) and there are also high densities of both eagle spp. According to the gamekeepers quoted by BASC, merlins should not be doing well in the Hebrides.

      1. and Stoat, escaped Ferrets, introduced Pine Martens, feral Cats (lots), Otters and gulls – so no predators to speak of really.

        1. …and I would not stick my neck out and say that there is no ‘intensive’ predator control in the Outer Hebrides. I am not convinced – and I live there!

  4. My ignorance will make me a laughing stock on this site, but I’ve only seen Merlin once on Skye, and that was in flight and fleeting. Is the photo BASC’s Gareth Dockerty shows a juvenile Saker Falcon?

      1. Hi Carl. Ridiculous really – in my youth (mid 1970) I actually used to know a local falconer and used to paint his birds, he kept goshawk, peregrine, lanner and saker falcons, red-tailed hawks, all sorts. Thanks!

  5. Doesn’t surprise me; I saw recently on social media that BASC’s hammy northern spokesman identified a juvenile Great-spotted woodpecker being ringed as a lesser-spot and was trying to claim it as proof that shoots were havens for rare species.

  6. They don’t need anything beyond rudimentary ID skills when they just [Ed: rest of comment deleted as libellous]

  7. Natural predation isn’t the problem facing Merlin numbers in uplands these days. It is the detrimental affect of climate change on the food of Meadow Pipits causing that species to decline with a consequential adverse knock-on effect on Merlin numbers. I personally have no doubt the declines in wader numbers can be laid at the same door!

    1. I wonder if some of it is not climate change, Wilf, although that is certainly implicated, but simple intensification subtly changing the vegetation mix/structure. There seems to be evidence from elsewhere that intensification has a detrimental effect on most species other than Red Grouse, which in the end should also react adversely to climate change.

  8. Laughable bollocks if you know your stuff, to start with the bird used to illustrate a piece about Merlin is a Lanner, not even a British bird and certainly not a Merlin. Merlins have declined and are probably still declining in our uplands. Declines have certainly been experienced in the Peak District and North York Moors. In the latter there is evidence to suggest this decline is accompanied by birds moving ” up the hill” possibly a response to climate change. In the Yorkshire Dales NP and Nidderdale AONB the evidence of decline is not as good but pairs have almost been lost from the East Nidderdale moors. In the moorland area shared between the NP and AONB in one valley birds have declined from 6-7 pairs in the mid 1990s to one occasionally two pairs by the 2010s, although brood sizes were good with most broods fledging 4-5 young. In the early nineties the Castle Bolton/Grinton/ Harkerside/Whitaside ridge between Wensleydale and Swaledale held an estimated 7-9 pairs. One wonders how many are there now as the So called Orchel study have failed to publish any results.

  9. Oh and of course the use and analysis of the BTO atlas data by Penny Anderson Associates for Moorland Attrition has been completely refuted by the BTO.

  10. Is this another “smoke and mirrors” story by the shooting industry to try and respond to the recent bad media coverage of raptor persecution during the “lockdown period”- which was clearly pointing a finger at illegal activities on grouse moors?

    What the BASC seem to fail to realise is that if they really want the public to believe that they have a genuine interest in raptor conservation- then they have to publicly expose the estates where bad practice is taking place, work with the police to bring offenders to justice, and then have a lifetime ban from BASC membership on any estate and its employees where raptor persecution is suspected of having taken place.

    Unless the BASC truly works to drive out the wildlife criminals from the shooting industry, then no amount of “smoke and mirrors stories” will convince the public that conservation in the true sense of the word, is one of their core functions.

    Is it just good fortune that some ground nesting birds (Curlews / Lapwings to name two species) benefit from the spin-off of some of the management practices?- but what is telling is that ,shouldn’t these same practices also be beneficial for all ground nesting raptors? – not just Merlins? – the lack of increasing numbers of other raptors which are seen as a threat to grouse numbers, just takes the credibility out of the story.

    Nice try, but it would appear that the evidence doesn’t really support what is trying to be claimed!!

    …..And no amount of “cuddly photos of birds” in the press releases, can undo the fact that the majority of BASC members go out with guns to kill !! The clue is in the name! -British Association for Shooting and Conservation!! rather than British Association for Conservation!! So, I don’t believe the emphasise is on the conservation- other than conservation of game birds to be shot!!

    1. John, as far as I can see eagle sea eagle, perigrine and kite numbers are increasing. Think how much more eagles would have increased it 60 hadn’t been taken to Ireland to die. Only species I see in decline near me is Buzzards.

      1. Many of the eagles that died in Ireland would have died of natural first year mortality in Scotland too – or were you thinking that involvement in a conservation project should bestow immortality on the individual animals concerned? Since a lot of the birds were the second chicks in the nests AND were on or near grouse shooting areas where birds of prey ‘disappear’ the reintroduction scheme actually gave a chance to birds that were doomed by sibling rivalry and gun and trap. Think of how there would be no need for augmenting the paltry golden eagle population in the south of Scotland if they weren’t being illegally killed, and in fact would eventually spread to northern England. Think too of how many reintroduction schemes have succeeded in dramatically boosting BoP populations from Californian condors in the USA to sea eagles in Scotland. Bad mouthing the golden eagle reintroduction to Ireland is just another use of a false narrative concocted by those with a problem with honesty. On page 49 of this report – written by people who know what they’re talking about – you’ll see the SGA is criticised for prompting misleading media coverage, that’s remarkable in an official report which shows you how out of order the SGA were.

  11. What confuses the issue at the bottom of the Angus Glens is the healthy number of red kites as it is close to a release site a d the associated behaviour of this species make them easily visible.
    Given the ID skills of Gareth Dockerty and the easy suggestibility of some of the shooting enthusiasts the sight of these birds can be quite easily taken out of context to promote the idea of a healthier avian ecology than actually exists. (Many local farmers couldn’t tell a budgie from a yellowhammer.)
    I’m sure the shooting/estate owning lobby know fine well that both red kites and buzzards pose a much lower risk to the viability of their driven grouse shoots for the simple reason that they do not quarter in the vicinity of where shoots are taking place, thus discouraging the red grouse to “rise to the guns.” (Aye, it sounds medieval) There is also the fact that their main diet consists of worms, other invertebrates, carrion and small mammals. Red kites find larger prey difficult to target due to the weakness in their grasp which means they have difficulty killing them.
    Though I fully appreciate the presence of red kites in this area it pains me to see them used as witness to the healthy numbers of all raptors, which is not a logical consequence of the claims being made and the choice of the shooting estates to leave kites and buzzards alone has more to do with PR than any serious intent to cease targeting the ones they do believe, or claim to believe, interfere with the viability of their shoot.

    1. Kites would give me a bit of an advantage in counting George, though their main feeding grounds are gannochy, millden and fasque, but also plenty buzzards, ( though a lot less than a couple of years ago) gosshawks, osprey this week. Kestrel, countless tawny, and plenty barn owls. Regular perigrines as well. Even had a golden eagle, sea eagle and Merlin in the last year. But to be fair, I’ve only ever seen one hen harrier near my house.

  12. We can forgive BASC for using an image of the wrong species. Its quite apt, lots of keepers do the same. i.e. when they bend down to pick up the bird they have just shot and realise it wasn’t a cock sparrowhawk after all.

    1. As in the old Victorian saying “whats hit is history, whats missed is mystery”..two episodes fron the near past come to mind – investigating the shooting of an osprey on a Borders Estate where we were told the underkeeper mistook it for a Goshawk; being taken in great secrecy by a perthshire keeper to see a rare bird on his patch – turned out to be a common sandpiper!..After a few of those, you lose faith in “the wisdom of the country dweller”.

      1. I’ve worked on a biggish farm and the two people on it who had most wildlife knowledge by a very considerable margin were myself and another ‘townie’ – it wasn’t difficult. I never heard any of the regulars mull over the loss of the corn bunting or the best way to create ponds, but whether ASDA or Tesco were best for late night shopping, how rubbish EastEnders was last night and that Mike’s car had been seen parked outside Big Gill’s house when hubby was away at work. The same as everyone else they just happened to work in fields.

        1. Plenty cornbuntings round me Les and it wasn’t down to townies. Completely down to the local farmer. RSPB did claim some credit for counting of them

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