Managed Moorlands Wildlife Deserts?


In the second week of June I spent a week on and around The Strathy Estate (unmanaged), RSPB Forsinard and The Auchentoul Estate (managed primarily for stalking).

The weather was excellent and below is the list of vertebrate species I either saw or heard over that time period. As impressive as the list may be, what was most notable was the sheer lack of abundance of any species with the exception of skylarks and meadow pipits and not a single peregrine crossed my path.

The claims from the likes of Wild Justice and the RSPB that managed moorlands are wildlife deserts is simply untrue. On one occasion I walked for over five hours with my two dogs off their leads and apart from meadow pipits and skylarks the only creatures they disturbed were a single mountain hare and a ptarmigan. In my experience had I been on a managed grouse moor two loose dogs would have caused mayhem to a plethora of ground nesting birds and leverets at this time of year.

What did I take from my time in Sutherland ?

A sense of awe and wonder at this vast open landscape and an overwhelming sense of despair that the aforementioned “conservation bodies “ and others are so set against the grouse industry that they are perfectly willing to sacrifice the last remaining strongholds of some of our most iconic moorland species in order to end this sector of fieldsports. Not only that, they also appear happy to bring about a second highland clearance of the communities who rely on the grouse for their very survival.

What a sad state of affairs, these people should be ashamed to call themselves conservationists but as my friend and guide for the week said “there’s no votes up here”:

  • Greater black backed gull
  • Hen Harrier (2)
  • Grey seal
  • Herring Gull
  • Kestrel Red deer
  • Black headed gull
  • Osprey, with chicks
  • Auchentoul
  • Roe deer
  • Lesser black backed gull
  • Buzzard
  • Rabbit
  • Common Tern
  • Red grouse
  • Mountain Hare  
  • Fulmar
  • Ptarmigan
  • Pippistrelies bat
  • Cormorant
  • Jackdaw
  • Adder
  • Eider Duck
  • Magpie
  • Common lizard
  • Mallard
  • Carrion crow
  • Ringed plover
  • Hoodie crow
  • Lapwing
  • Meadow pipit
  • Curlew
  • Willow warbler
  • Oyster catcher
  • Skylark
  • Common sandpiper
  • Cuckoo
  • Blackbird
  • Linnet
  • Mistle thrush
  • Goldfinch
  • Song thrush
  • Crossbill
  • Starling
  • Robin
  • Blue tit
  • Goldfinch
  • Long tailed tit
  • House martin
  • House sparrow
  • Sand martin
  • Wood pigeon
  • Swift
  • Collard dove
  • Swallow
  • Chiffchaff
  • Greylag
  • Rock dove
  • Corncrake

Mark Bird is a Countryman and Naturalist.