As one of Scotland?s main rural events, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust?s (GWCT) Scottish Game Fair on the 1-3 July is a key date in the summer calendar. With opportunities to catch up with friends, eat and drink well and buy another pair of fishing waders, the fair?s main aim is to offer the public an insight into game conservation activities.
At this year?s fair it?s another kind of wader, the long-legged, feathery kind, that has brought together three organisations ? RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and the organisation of which I am the director, GWCT Scotland ? in a unique partnership to be launched at the fair. That these sometimes disparate groups have joined forces to support the Wader-Friendly Land Management Initiative is a measure of how strongly all three feel about wading birds and their place in Scotland?s countryside. The project aims to encourage land managers to put in place the necessary conservation measures to save our curlews, lapwings, oystercatchers and other declining species and to offer advice and support.
We want to help farmers choose the right stewardship options to help waders on their land. We will also advise shoot managers on what they can do as well as those landowners who are not in agri-environment schemes but who still wish to help the birds. Being aware of farming economics is important in choosing agri-environment options as the demand to produce more food from our farmland increases. The GWCT Lapwing Appeal is currently supporting research that will tell us which are the most cost-effective measures.
There is already a range of techniques that can stem the decline in wading birds and protect their remaining refuges at little cost to the land manager. The RSPB has been promoting suitable habitat creation for some time. Predator control is also a vital measure. Recent GWCT experiments to reduce fox and crow numbers in the uplands of Northumberland have led to the breeding success of curlews and lapwings increasing three-fold. Long-term monitoring by the Trust in the Avon Valley has also shown that predation accounts for all too many lapwing nests. Therefore, one of the key messages of the Wader-Friendly Land Management Initiative is that, in conjunction with sensitive habitat management, future rural support should include techniques such as predator control to benefit the UK?s wading birds.
The launch of this initiative is a challenge to individuals, conservation and research organisations, and Government. Looking to 2013, when the Common Agricultural Policy is to be reformed, subsidies will be ever more closely tied to conservation and this should help wader conservation. But it cannot be all about money from the public purse. As well as aiding those who wish to help simply out of a love of nature, one of our aims is to show the Scottish tourist industry and the shooting community that undertaking voluntary conservation management is in their own interests. An evidence-led approach will allow them to work with their neighbours on habitat creation.
We look forward to discussing these issues with Shooting Times readers at the Scottish Game Fair where education, entertainment and advice all meet. In the meantime, I?ll be off to try out some of the other type of waders at the flycasting tuition.
For further details and advice on the wader initiative, visit www.rspb.org.uk/waderfriendlyfarming. For the GWCT?s advisory services? advice, visit www.gwct.org.uk/education_advice/default.asp. For information about Wildlife Estates Scotland, visit www.scottishlandand estates.org.