African bird breeding in abundance on Scottish grouse moor, apparently

Whenever the grouse moor owners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) says anything about grouse moors, it’s best to take it with a skipful of salt.

Their reputation for talking nonsense (I’m being kind) is legendary (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here etc).

I really don’t know how they got this so badly wrong but it made me laugh, especially when the grouse shooting industry spends so much of its time claiming to be experts on waders:

[From SLE’s quarterly rag, Spring 2021]

The GWCT employee who did the survey may well have recorded ‘an abundance of lapwings’ on Ballogie Estate in Aberdeenshire but I’m pretty certain she didn’t record any spur-winged lapwing/plovers as illustrated in this article.

It’s a distinctive bird, difficult to misidentify or confuse with any other species, and it breeds in Africa and parts of the Middle East/southern Med. I’m not sure it’s ever been sighted in Scotland, let alone bred ‘in abundance’ on a Scottish grouse moor…

SLE’s ornithological expertise is about as convincing as BASC’s (here and here), You Forgot the Birds (here), National Farmers Union Scotland (here) and the Angus Glens Moorland Group (here).

26 thoughts on “African bird breeding in abundance on Scottish grouse moor, apparently”

  1. A few months ago they showed a Lanner Falcon when claiming that Merlin were doing well on the moors. There is a developing theme her, or perhaps it is the impact of global warming😉.

  2. Ignorance is bliss, except not in this case! The use of “waders” to justify grouse shooting is pure PR, and in this case, PR stands for Pure Rubbish! I doubt that many of the grouse shooting fraternity would recognise a British Lapwing.

  3. Its a rather raucous cousin to our greener plover ; it likes a bit of heat and is happy to walk under the feet of buffaloes and elephants! I suspect it would nt be seen dead on a cold, dour Scottish moor ! Sorry……….wrong continent.

    1. “I suspect it would nt be seen dead on a cold, dour Scottish moor ! “—————–I suspect it would be along with everything else.

  4. I think this picture may be the result of someone in an editorial team selecting a picture from a library collection and not supplied by the writer of the article.
    I have personal experience of such a thing happening to me last year when pictures I supplied were not used and someone selected something completely different which ruined the story. Particularly your peers who must have thought I had lost the plot.

  5. And I believe I spotted a pink flamingo on my estate in Moray the other day. Or maybe it was an eagle? It’s so difficult sometimes to tell these birdy things apart!

  6. I sometimes wonder if they do this kind of thing deliberately as a wind-up. I mean, it seems difficult to get this one so spectacularly wrong?

  7. To be fair, the magazine is produced by a third party contract publishers that operate to very tight deadlines under pressure … with no specialist bird knowledge. That said, proofs are signed off by the SLE

  8. GWCT: paid to produce results that support the game shooting industry. In no way can they be considered independent, unless their results can be peer-reviewed by independent workers and independent surveyors come up with the same outcomes it should be viewed sceptically by any neutral observer.

    I am sure the BTO could find enough independent surveyors to check the veracity of the claims if the shooters want them verified. However, given that they always prefer anecdote to fact, I doubt they would welcome BTO observers on site (especially since they have a new CEO with a background at the RSPB).

  9. So SLE claim the presence of a “plover” on a grouse moor that is not even on the British list, didn’t somebody check before this went out! Very Slipshod. Overall I agree with Simon on independent survey/ workers.

  10. In my experience, Lapwings nest on open exposed ground typically with short grass. They seem to do this in order to be able to spot the approach of predators. The last place one would find them nesting, is in a game crop!? You might wish to add this to the list of their mistakes and misinformation?
    “Game crops” are just that – crops into which pheasants and red legged partridge are encouraged – by feeding and corraling – prior to being driven into flight for the benefit of the awaiting shooters.

  11. This was a genuine error by our magazine editor. No excuse – it’s the wrong image. Mistakes happen & we are happy to hold up our hands when they do. This error should have been picked up in our magazine proof reading process.

    Our use of the wrong image should not detract from the content of the article. Any error was entirely SLE’s and we are very sorry that this has led to criticism of the estate and those involved in the survey.

    1. Sarah-Jane,

      Thank you for your comment. I think that’s the first ever comment made openly on this blog by an SLE employee.

      Of course the illustration was a mistake and of course it was SLE’s error for not picking it up – nobody is saying otherwise.

      The additional commentary by blog readers about the estate and the surveyor has not been critical of them for the incorrect illustration. The commentary has been a discussion about whether a GWCT employee can be viewed as independent and whether the term ‘wildlife ranger’ is a greenwashed version of a gamekeeper. All legitimate questions as far as I can see.

      While you’re here and apparently interested in communicating, perhaps you could answer some of the questions that have been posed over the years that so far, SLE has refused to respond to. E.g.

      Was the Longformacus Estate an SLE member when those atrocious wildlife crimes were being carried out there over a number of years?

      If so, was the Longformacus Estate expelled by SLE after the gamekeeper’s conviction? If yes, why wasn’t that publicised? Surely it would send a message to the industry that ‘zero tolerance’ actually does mean zero tolerance? If no, why not?

      Is Leadhills Estate, with a history of at least 70 confirmed wildlife crime incidents reported and currently serving a three-year general licence restriction for ongoing reported incidents, still a member of SLE? If yes, why hasn’t it been expelled? If no, when was it expelled and why?

      Is Earl Hopetoun of Leadhills Estate still Chair of SLE’s Scottish Moorland Group?

      There are probably about 50 other questions I could ask but I don’t want to overwhelm you so let’s see if you can answer these easy ones to begin with.

  12. I think its understandable that there has been a lack of willingness to communicate directly – given the language your site has used to refer to colleagues and SLE and its outputs, such as referring to our magazine as a rag or giving offensive nicknames to our staff. I am sure you will agree that its not that conducive to reasonable debate and communication.

    I am happy to continue communication, perhaps we could do that through a call or even a meeting when the lifting of restrictions allow.

    In answer to your questions:

    Following internal changes over the last few years SLE doesnt now have a distinct Scottish Moorland Group – we have a member group focusing on moorland issues which is a sub group of our National Policy Group in the same way that we have member groups on forestry, housing etc . This group is chaired by our SLE Vice Chairman Dee Ward. Tim Baynes is our Director of Moorland and supports this member group. The Regional Moorland Groups which exist across Scotland are not part of the SLE structure.

    Yes Leadhills Estate is currently a member of SLE.

    Yes, Longformacus is a member. As per our statements at the time membership was suspended during the police investigation into the atrocious crimes but was reinstated when the police took no action against the estate owner.

    1. And do you share the views of your “Director of Moorland”, that gamekeepers should be legally permitted to kill protected species?

    2. Thanks for your second reply, Sarah-Jane.

      You made me laugh, especially when you inferred that SLE would be open to reasonable debate, after at least one of your employees (and I suspect actually, several of them) has, for years, made false allegations about this blog and has tried his very very best in all sorts of meetings with officials to discredit what is written here.

      I am sorry that you feel insulted by my reference to the SLE magazine as being a ‘rag’, but given the shameless propaganda and often less-than-stellar journalism over the years, I think it’s a well-earned term.

      I’m interested in your statement that the regional moorland groups are not part of the SLE structure, when the job description of one of your employees, as published on the SLE website, states that he coordinates a network of seven regional moorland groups!!

      Thank you also for finally answering some of the questions that SLE has dodged for years. I can now see why. I will be blogging about SLE’s acceptance of Leadhills Estate and Longformacus Estate. I wish I could say I was shocked but I’m really not.

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