Grouse moor management implicated as ‘Pennine finch’ suffers massive population decline

An article published in yesterday’s Guardian implicates grouse moor management as being partly responsible for a massive population decline in Twite, a small bird also known as the ‘Pennine Finch’.

Researchers are concerned that this species is on the brink of extinction in England due to a combination of factors including less wild seed in upland meadows, climate change and the loss of tall heather in uplands, resulting in Twite nesting in bracken where they appear to be more easily preyed on by stoats and weasels.

According to research undertaken by PhD student Jamie Dunning, in the Twite’s core area of the south Pennines large areas of grouse moor are unsuitable for the birds because the moors are burnt and the heather is not allowed to grow tall enough for Twite to nest in it.

It’s a fascinating article about a poorly-known species that scientists and conservationists at the RSPB and Natural England are trying to rescue. The article is available in full here.

21 thoughts on “Grouse moor management implicated as ‘Pennine finch’ suffers massive population decline”

  1. So, it’s not just the tall heather they are lacking but also several other factors. I used to be a huge fan of this site but I’m starting to doubt all info on here. An argument can be won if the facts are correct and yes the article does mention tall heather but it also mentions seed for food and wintering ground and quarrying. How come you didn’t mention that but just the tall heather in your post ? Some people say you hit at grouse shooting with comments spun to target it. I’m afraid in this case they are correct and some of your loyal followers who believed in what you said in the past are starting to sway towards this being correct. I’m not a fan of driven grouse shooting, I never have been but fair is fair and I think you should think about your agenda. It’s clearly not about saving wildlife it’s about the three of you getting what you want by twisting the truth, picking small comments and making them out in a totally different light than they actually are. I’ll be looking closely and pointing this out in the future where as, once over I never even questioned anything you published.

    1. Thanks, Paul.

      My advice would be to question everything you read, no matter who’s published it.

      I’d also recommend you are careful to read what is written, in case you miss the main points and make yourself look foolish by posting comments that are very clearly inaccurate.

      I’ll help you out here – have a look at the first and second sentences in the blog. In the first sentence you’re looking for the word ‘partly’. In the second sentence you’re looking for the words, ‘due to a combination of factors including less wild seed in upland meadows, climate change and the loss of tall heather in uplands…..’

    2. Not only does the post cite the article directly, it also provides a link, and makes no attempt to “twist” anything. In addition (contrary to what you allege), it does mention the seed issue.

    3. I was commenting on the headline, not everybody reads the full article and therefore are led to believe something that clearly isn’t true, therefore it is misleading!

      1. Where, exactly, does the headline claim that grouse moor “management” is the sole driver of this decline? The statement of the headline is supported by the text within the article. Therefore it clearly is true, and not misleading at all.

      2. It’s not misleading at all; the headline is fleshed out in the article. You’ve chosen to get offended at something which hasn’t even happened, for obvious reasons. Why are you even pretending to be a ‘huge fan’ of this website, when it’s absolutely clear to anyone with a functioning brain that you have an axe to grind? If you’re going to concern troll, at least try and make it less obvious!

    4. “I’m afraid in this case they are correct and some of your loyal followers who believed in what you said in the past are starting to sway towards this being correct”

      It’s funny that you pretended to be a ‘fan’ of this website in your first sentence, then just completely gave the game away by making this utterly ridiculous statement, which you have absolutely no way of verifying. Do you have a direct line to everyone who uses this website, Paul, or are you just telling more porkies to protect the dying driven grouse shooting industry? I think everyone can see what the answer is.

      1. Total and utter rubbish, I’m in no way or form connected to driven grouse shooting ! I now know what they claim is true tho.
        Why can’t somebody have an opinion without being bombarded that they are to do with grouse ? Or shooting?
        A lot of the followers on here are just plain and simple self opinionated who disregard anybody who may not agree with them and to top it off are accusing of a person who they know absolutely nothing about. I was a huge fan of this site but not a fan of the same sad names that comment here, I have signed petitions and made donations to support what I agree with on here but from now on that’s going to stop!

        1. How strange that the very mild experience of having one’s claims challenged should be enough to make one withdraw support for causes previously seen as worthwhile!

          Couldn’t have cared that much then.

        2. “I was a huge fan of this site but not a fan of the same sad names that comment here, I have signed petitions and made donations to support what I agree with on here but from now on that’s going to stop!”

          This is such a pathetic act. So we’re supposed to believe that because you got some pushback from your initial inflammatory remarks, that you’ve now completely ditched your principles and will no longer support raptor persecution awareness campaigns? Honestly, this is just embarrassing. You’ve been found out so now you’re desperately trying to play the victim, even though you make wild generalisations about the users here with absolutely nothing to back it up. If you’d even bothered to read the article, instead of instantly being defensive (I wonder why?), you’d realise what you’re claiming is completely false; RPUK never once claimed that driven grouse shooting was the sole reason for twite’s decline, but there is evidence that it’s a contributing factor due to management regimes. You’ve invested far more energy in missing the point of the article than you have engaging anyone here in good faith.

  2. I read this and my first thought was that the “guardians of the countryside” will probably use this to push to kill more stoats, rather than address the root cause if the decline.

    This is what they mean by managing the land, denude/destroy habitat, a prey species declines due to being forced into unsuitable habitat exposing it to increased predation, feed the predators every year by releasing semi domestic large birds, get paid to kill the predators. That is the job description of a gamekeeper.

  3. I read the article and as soon as I got to the piece about the heather not being suitable for Twite, even without it being spelt out, what the real problem is. Every time I see a piece from the game shooting industry about conservation and habitat for threatened upland breeding species, like Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover, I get so angry about it.

    Their conservation measures are for one species and one species alone: Red Grouse. If any other species benefit it is purely coincidence because the habitat required by Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover etc is not the same as that required by Red Grouse. The slaughter of all predatory species helps keep those species afloat in what are marginal habitats for them.

    1. Almost always when they’re using a picture of a wader on a ‘grouse moor’ to punt the idea they’re good for curlew, lapwing or golden plover funnily enough there seems to be little if any heather. Usually it’s grass and sheep in the background, maybe even a drystane dyke. Mmmmm… wouldn’t actually be where permanent sheep grazing is rather than where muir burn dominates that’s the preferred breeding grounds for waders would it? They also love to keep spinning that 90% plus of the populations of the endangered black grouse are found on the margins of grouse moors. That doesn’t indicate to me that grouse moors are good for them, instead it means grouse moor ‘management’ has wrecked their core habitat and now they’re relegated to the pitiful remnants of it on the edges. How many local populations of black grouse have actually been exterminated via grouse moors? If predator control is indeed the one thing now standing between the loss of an unnaturally low population and local extinction that wouldn’t be surprising, but would indicate the core issue is driven grouse shooting hammering the population in the first place.

      1. The complexity of the motives and methods of ‘black grouse recovery’ is just beyond me in the north england. Lots of time, money and research is invested, many genuine people are involved, as are others only in it for propaganda value. Grants are obtained and modest planting is done in one or two areas – not on the best bits of (red) grouse beats of course, far from it in fact. The answer is of course simpler, just keep the foxes down as per routine and just let ALL of the gills (cleughs) throughout ALL of the estate re-wild and / or plant a few varied species of trees to give it a head-start. But they will never do that because (a) you would be giving up prime red grouse ground and reducing bags, (b) you would be creating vermin holding habitat right in the middle of your precious moor…and reducing bags / increasing ‘work’.

        1. I once looked at a report from a black grouse recovery group in the Scottish Borders that had members from various sectors, but gamekeepers seemed unusually prominent. Well surprise, surprise the report mentioned there were eye witness accounts of black grouse being predated by raptors and of course the whole issue of the effect of birds of prey on black grouse needed to be looked at! They never, ever miss any opportunity to try and undermine protections for raptors, to point at them for so much else struggling. Predictable and pathetic. If they really were concerned with helping black grouse, as you say, they could so very easily lay off the intensive management a bit, let some scrub come back so black grouse aren’t confined to the margins anymore. Of course they never do.

  4. The more I read and learn about the decline in nature, the more depressed I get.
    It would seem that if humans are not destroying nature due to some sick pleasure gained from killing wildlife for fun, they are trashing the countryside in pursuit of making as much money as they can from poor land management, unsustainable farming practices, land development or whatever else attracts the greatest financial gain.
    This is happening on a global scale, and isn’t something peculiar to Britain.

    Having recently watched some of Brian Cox’s programs on the BBC Iplayer regarding the universe, and listened to some very interesting programs about this planet on BBC Sounds; it is very clear, that the planet we live on is most probably the only one in the known universe that has “intelligent and developed” life living on it, and that thanks to human activity we are destroying the planet, and pushing many non-human species towards extinction. The Twite now apparently another victim to this onslaught.

    What grips me is that all the other non-human species have as much right to live on this planet as we do. They were part of the same evolutionary process that made us. Whilst we might be happy to trash our own existence, what right do we have to condemn all these other species to extinction? Species that have played no part in the human activity which has destroyed the natural environment, accelerated climate change, and is pushing towards another mass extinction event.

    I really do hope young people listen very carefully to Barack Obama’s speech yesterday at COP26, and not just “stay angry”, but become extremely angry, and then vent that anger at those responsible!! That anger may achieve far more than all our deliberations, which to date have not stopped raptor persecution or made any real dent in how vested interests exploit and degrade the countryside and natural environment!

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