Coronavirus lockdown “could be a boon for nesting birds” – GWCT in The Telegraph

With many of us confined to our homes, much has been made of wildlife ‘returning’ to urban areas – mountain goats roaming the streets of  Llandudno for example – but what of the British countryside they usually call home? Approached by The Telegraph for his thoughts, Mike Swan, our trusty head of education, gave this thoughts, stating:

"I think with lockdown and with people not being able to drive off and park somewhere and then go all over the place, the countryside is actually quieter than it normally would be at this time of year. One of the great bonuses of that is the ground nesting birds will be able to get on with it without any disturbances.”  

Hopefully the lack of canine (and human) disturbance will be a good news story for skylarks, curlews, grey partridges, and corn buntings. This is not, as some make out, some kind of rewilding utopia, but actually a chance for those who know the countryside best and are continuing to work safely and within restrictions, such as farmers and gamekeepers, to maximise their contribution to conservation.  Only time will tell what these unusual circumstances mean for the countryside and its wildlife, but our years of monitoring data such as the Partridge Count Scheme will show where changes happen and how significant they might be.

Mike Swan

Head of Education, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

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Re: Lockdown

at 6:07 on 06/04/2020 by Mike Swan

Dear Paul, Like you, I hate to think of the fate of the curlew, lapwings, grey partridges and many others if basic keepering stops. So, lets keep on with the vital habitat management, such as growing wild bird seed plots, the hungry gap feeding, and the essential predation control, where we can without risk of spreading the virus. A single season of neglect will be all it takes for populations of some vulnerable species to fall off the edge, and even those that make it could well take several years to build back up. Keepers could be the saviours of much of our wildlife in this difficult time, but their good works will probably go unsung as usual.


at 16:29 on 02/04/2020 by Paul Tooley

Mike ( i am just assuming you check on this blog now and again ), i always look forward to reading your weekly " Shooting Times" column, with sensible comments on predation control, lead shot, foraging etc. With all due respect to the keepering profession, which I have been a part of for over thirty years, i am afraid it is not, at this current time ,essential for the day to day functioning of this country. I hate to think of vulnerable populations of Waders, Grey Partridge etc, suffering, but equally important conservation work by other organisations has had to be put on hold, unlike, it seems, irresponsible heather burning on a number of moors. I sincerely hope that when the dust has settled,unlike 2001 /2, significant numbers of protected birds of prey have not disapeared, due to monitors being unable to access land where many unscrupulous keepers, and managers, operated. This would do further, untold damage, to the already heavily tarnished shooting industry. The lack of public access, to certain areas is, sadly, a double-edged sword.

People walking in countryside

at 9:29 on 02/04/2020 by stuart howe

We have an increase of people walking off footpaths and this cannot help ground nesting birds. It would be good if the public where advised to keep to footpaths.

Response to Mike Swan re disturbance during c. 19

at 8:03 on 02/04/2020 by Josh Burton

Hi. I, as a gamekeeper in Perthshire, sadly have found the opposite of M. Swans' above letter to be the current situation here, more and more people, mainly with dogs, have begun to walk all over the hill, where before they were for the most part staying on tracks. Their reasoning is that they want to stay away from others, but they are absolutely ignorant to the fact that all our many ground nesting birds need peace and quiet now, all stating that they didn't realise the birds were here! They are not self isolating, and they are continually touching gatesways that keepers and farmers must use, as we know that c19 can live for up to 3 days on a door knob, this is somewhat concerning. Kindest regards. Josh Burton

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