boy climbing tree

New Natural History GCSE to help young understand natural world

Cambridge Assessment has confirmed that its UK exam board OCR is developing a new GCSE in Natural History, following a consultation open to all parties. The idea was proposed by conservationist Mary Colwell, who wants “to make nature part of British society again”. She was concerned that young people were…

Grouse moor

The man-made idyll of grouse moors

Coming from the soft south, 
I didn’t see a live grouse until I was 19. That was in the summer of 1974, when I took off to the Cairngorms for a couple of weeks to go youth hostelling with a friend. There were new sights around every corner, with dotterel,…

domestic cats killers of songbirds

Just how many songbirds do domestic cats kill every year?

At Flea Barn, I have developed a now cherished routine. First, I check the grey partridges nesting in their pens and then the traps. After that, I take a stroll around the margins, trying to do my best impression of a keeper, peering at tracks and studying feathers I find…

setting up a mink raft

Volunteers needed to monitor mink rafts in Scotland

A major Scottish project to remove American mink is looking for volunteers to help run mink rafts. Ben Seaman, with the Cromarty Firth Fishery Trust, said: “We monitor for mink presence using a network of mink rafts which are looked after by volunteers….we have gaps in the network we’d like…

pheasant shooting

Why biodegradable shot cups are the way ahead for shooting

As we move inexorably towards a brave new world of shooting without lead or single-use plastic, I wonder how we will look back. I shall keep my powder dry on the lead issue. I have written before about my own positive experience of using steel for game shooting in my…

capercaillie

Is the capercaillie slipping out of our grasp forever?

Something is stirring in the depths of the ancient pine forest. As spring creeps north, creatures are emerging from the trees to strut and prowl. Capercaillie are substantial birds; the males can stand as tall as a traffic cone and it’s hard to imagine how they could ever be overlooked.…

grey partridges

Conservation in the age of coronavirus

I write this at a time of uncertainty and trepidation for all. COVID-19 has utterly changed our lives in a few short weeks. What the ramifications will 
be, both financial and physical, in 
the medium to long-term are topics 
of much concern and speculation. Those of us who live and…

biodiversity from shooting

Shooters need to try harder to improve biodiversity credentials

Shooting is good for conservation, right? Yes it is, and if I were not convinced of that, I would not still be part of the GWCT advisory service. Helping shoots to deliver better conservation and biodiversity from shooting is what drives me after almost 40 years in this business. But…

stags

Staggering ignorance

Deer management, 
an activity undertaken quietly and in solitude, enjoyed — or perhaps more accurately endured — a brief moment of national attention here in Ireland. An incident in Kerry raised questions regarding the management of red deer in the county. In late October a red stag was observed by…

Lapwing

How civil servants affect our protected bird numbers

Despite what some may think it gives me little pleasure to once more take our civil servants to task for their decisions. However, as long as they continue to make glaring errors that is what will happen. You may recall in a previous piece I noted that anyone who manages…

Suffolk shoot on an autumn day

Raise a glass to the Brewery

The rustle, crack and crackle of beaters’ flags cut sharply through the crystal air. Frost, the first one of the year, clung to the heads of teasels, dusting them with light. The Guns were lined out to my right, on a wide grass headland. Then, from the block of biscuit-coloured…

grey partridges

A hopeful future for wild partridges

Grey partridges are an addictive and infuriatingly mercurial benchmark of conservation success — 
or failure. The moment you take an active role in their welfare and the enhancement of their habitat, you have fallen down a rabbit hole. The brief moments of joy when you see a healthy brood in…

Snipe shooting

Want to increase snipe numbers? These habitat improvements make a significant difference

Craigenputtock House has been sitting in the rural splendour of upland Dumfriesshire since the 11th century. Once the home of Thomas Carlyle, one of Scotland’s most influential authors, it has borne witness to much change. Over the years, the landscape has been transformed by afforestation, and continual drainage and tillage,…

red squirrel box

Protecting the red squirrel

I’m Jerry Moss and I have been a red squirrel ranger for 14 years. My responsibilities involve conserving and protecting the UK’s only native squirrel, especially from the threat of the alien grey. I am also a trustee of the Penrith & District Red Squirrel Group (P&DRSG), a charity committed…

Numbers point to a record year for Big Farmland Bird Count

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), which organises the Big Farmland Bird Count, said the results were dropping in every five minutes. Jim Egan of the GWCT said: “We look like having a record year in terms of the number of counts returned. I can say that, so far, 127…

Snipe

How to create an ideal habitat for snipe to thrive

Growing up in Surrey, snipe were rarely on my horizon. The heaths are mostly too dry for them and the arable farmlands were the wrong habitat. Clandon Park, where I learned the beater’s trade, rarely held one either. Even the Medway saltings, where my father initiated me as a wildfowler,…

ravens

Death threat to Scottish National Heritage chief after raven cull decision

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) chairman Dr Mike Cantlay has received a death threat after Springwatch presenter Chris Packham criticised a decision to license a raven cull in Perthshire. SNH granted 
a research licence to Strathbaarn Community Collaboration for Waders, which wants to protect declining wading birds such as curlew and…