I note from my copy of Scottish Wildlife Trust Events and Activities July – November 2017 the following event:
Sun 30 July, 2.00pm – 4.00pm Glen Isla Sporting Estate Visit
A guided visit to a sporting estate in Glen Isla with the gamekeeper. Meet at Fergus (NO193682). Turn right off the B951 past Forter Castle.
The estate is not named on the SWT booklet but already I have seen on social media that several people have been criticising Scottish Wildlife Trust for organising such a visit.
While I regularly knock several sporting estates, especially grouse moors, and agree with the need to licence grouse moors (or indeed ban driven grouse shooting altogether) it is currently legal and I don’t agree with dismissing a guided tour of an estate out of hand without knowing of any criminal activity that has taken place there. There are many grouse moors I would hate to see given any credibility but on the other hand I have had guided tours by gamekeepers in the past where I have been seriously impressed with what I have seen and by the knowledge of the gamekeeper.
On one grouse moor in Angus I was shown nesting barn owls and nesting kestrels. I also saw many buzzards flying around and also a goshawk. On a Perthshire grouse moor that was also rearing grey partridges I saw an even wider variety of raptors that included hen harrier, golden eagle and red kite. I was also amazed at the knowledge the keeper had of tree species and wild plants, most of which I couldn’t identify. On a low-ground shoot near to where I live there are several pairs of nesting buzzards, at least two pairs of nesting ospreys and at least one pair of nesting red kites. Lastly, on the Highland Perthshire estate on which I did a year-long survey and on which I based my book A Wealth of Wildlife, I identified 90 species of birds including hen harrier, white-tailed eagle, tawny owl, nesting red kites and many nesting buzzards. Golden eagle, peregrine and merlin were also regular visitors that I saw both before and after my year’s study but during that year their visits unfortunately never coincided with mine.
In my opinion to dismiss shooting estates and gamekeepers out of hand is wrong. There are many where because of the owner, the sporting agent or the gamekeepers I wouldn’t give the time of day but there are some where, even though the habitat is managed for grouse and could be altered to be of much more value to other species, a walk with the gamekeeper can be incredibly enlightening.
Until I know the name of the estate I wouldn’t think of making a judgement.