Lancashire TelegraphEast Lancs grouse moorland giving boost to rare bird of prey (From Lancashire Telegraph)

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East Lancs grouse moorland giving boost to rare bird of prey

Lancashire Telegraph: Britiain’s smallest bird of prey the merlin is thriving in E Lancs Britiain’s smallest bird of prey the merlin is thriving in E Lancs

EAST Lancashire’s grouse moors are helping to keep the threat to Britain’s smallest birds of prey at bay.

Merlins are flying in to nest on heather moorland managed by gamekeepers for wild red grouse like those in the Trough of Bowland.

A new study for the Moorland Association (MA) has found dramatic gains in merlin populations on such land.

There are only around 900 to 1,500 breeding pairs of merlin in the UK but experts say the tiny birds of prey are recovering from a population crash in the 20th Century.

This latest study assessed the distribution of breeding merlin in England and found 78 per cent of records were on protected and conserved iconic heather landscapes kept for red grouse.

More importantly, according to MA chairman Robert Benson, it suggests numbers of breeding records have doubled on grouse moors in the last 20 years.

He said: “While the threatened species has done exceptionally well on land looked after by keepers, the beautiful birds are struggling in other upland areas, where breeding records have fallen by more than half in the same period.”

The data suggests that on the moorland where there are gamekeepers, there are four times more merlin.

The gains on grouse moors have helped maintain the protected bird’s population, rather than see it join the list of endangered species.

The results have been welcomed by MA members who manage more than 850,000 acres of heather-filled land.

Mr Benson said he was very pleased that proper management of the moors had such a positive effect on merlin.

He explained: “Plenty of heather to nest in, a ready food supply and the control of merlin’s natural predators are the winning combination of grouse moor management.

“These lovely birds of prey with square-cut tails and pointed wings are doing well on our members’ land, but numbers are becoming perilously low elsewhere.

“That the work of gamekeepers has been recognised by this valuable study is praise indeed for their efforts, particularly as the nesting season is under way.”

Comments (3)

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4:42pm Mon 24 Mar 14

Anthony Cooper says...

If Merlins are being allowed to do well on moors managed for Red Grouse, it is only because they are not large enough to pose any threat to the grouse. I notice that Mr Benson did not see fit to include any reference to larger raptors in his press release. Was it not on a Yorkshire grouse moor that a young Hen Harrier raised in Bowland was found shot dead?
If Merlins are being allowed to do well on moors managed for Red Grouse, it is only because they are not large enough to pose any threat to the grouse. I notice that Mr Benson did not see fit to include any reference to larger raptors in his press release. Was it not on a Yorkshire grouse moor that a young Hen Harrier raised in Bowland was found shot dead? Anthony Cooper
  • Score: 5

5:02pm Mon 24 Mar 14

burner says...

" We look after birds here. Now shift while I bag another brace !! " BANG BANG
" We look after birds here. Now shift while I bag another brace !! " BANG BANG burner
  • Score: 0

7:13pm Mon 24 Mar 14

woolywords says...

I've never understood why people make such a fuss about the shooting of grouse. Perhaps it's because they don't know that these birds are hatched, reared then turned loose, to grow on the land. Then, on the 12th of August, each year, they are shot for sporting purposes.
Rivers are stocked with fish, for exactly the same reason. Yet there persists this animus towards shooting. Or is it simply because it's a pastime that is perceive to be for the landed gentry only? Because you would be amazed how many corporate held shoots there are, up and down the land. Often, people will pay good money for a days shooting, without owning more than their own house and car.
When you consider that, not all the birds are shot in any season, they have a better chance at life than they would if they were say, a turkey or chicken.

Back in the day, being a beater on a shoot was a good day out. With 'gunfire' tea - cup of tea with a shot of rum in it -, big bowl of stew for lunch and a few quid for the day, made it great fun for me and my mates. You should try it, as beaters are always welcomed.
I've never understood why people make such a fuss about the shooting of grouse. Perhaps it's because they don't know that these birds are hatched, reared then turned loose, to grow on the land. Then, on the 12th of August, each year, they are shot for sporting purposes. Rivers are stocked with fish, for exactly the same reason. Yet there persists this animus towards shooting. Or is it simply because it's a pastime that is perceive to be for the landed gentry only? Because you would be amazed how many corporate held shoots there are, up and down the land. Often, people will pay good money for a days shooting, without owning more than their own house and car. When you consider that, not all the birds are shot in any season, they have a better chance at life than they would if they were say, a turkey or chicken. Back in the day, being a beater on a shoot was a good day out. With 'gunfire' tea - cup of tea with a shot of rum in it -, big bowl of stew for lunch and a few quid for the day, made it great fun for me and my mates. You should try it, as beaters are always welcomed. woolywords
  • Score: 0

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