The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has declared that 2014 will be the SGA Year of the Wader, after fears that Scotland’s wading birds are declining in key areas. Figures show that ground-nesting birds such as lapwings, curlew and plover breed up to three times more successfully on grouse moors thanks to heather burning and predator control by keepers. However, there are also concerns that numbers of breeding waders are falling there so the SGA will invite all grouse moors in Scotland to report counts of wading birds and their productivity. It is hoped that the figures will provide an accurate picture of the numbers of breeding waders, as well as informing proper management for the birds.

The SGA has said that, while conservationists blame the decline of the birds on climate change and habitat loss, it believes that there are other issues behind the falling numbers. SGA chairman Alex Hogg said: “It is clear that new conservation responses are needed to help our vulnerable ground-nesting birds. Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent on costly habitat programmes through the advice of conservation bodies. However, the State of Nature Report, which showed 60 per cent of the UK’s species continuing to decline, and the latest BTO Breeding Bird Survey, prove that this approach has failed to deliver the answers for birds such as waders. Our keepers, who have worked to protect curlew, lapwings and plover on their ground for years, have been warning that this is happening.

“We now have an imbalance in our uplands that needs to be addressed by government before Scotland goes the same way as Wales. Conservation in this country has centred around the advancement of protectionist policies, site designations and central hand-outs for habitat programmes without any stipulation for predator control.”