The not-so-talented Viscount Ridley, writing in the Spectator, reproduced the tall tale of breeding wader numbers that was also used by Ian Botham in his stumbling discussion with Chris Packham on the Today programme.
We also know that the BTO quickly distanced itself from any approval of these quite fantastic claimed numbers of breeding waders.
Some earnest seekers after truth have contacted Matt Ridley asking where he got the figures he quoted, and whether they could see the source material. They have been told ‘Thank you for your email. It was a privately commissioned survey and I saw it on condition that I do not disclose where. The surveyors were BTO-registered bird census people.’.
So it is a secret survey that no-one can see – except Ian Botham can talk about it on the Today programme and Matt Ridley can write about it in the Spectator.
This blog believes that the ‘data’ were collected by a bunch of ringers (not BTO-registered bird census people – and Viscount Ridley has a DPhil from Oxford in animal behaviour so he certainly knows the difference) and are not the result of any standardised repeatable survey. This blog also believes that it knows from which estate the ‘data’ come. It would be very surprising if these data were collected on heather moorland on the site in question – many of the waders will have been ringed on the low ground. To date no surveyors, ringers or scientists have stepped forward to speak up for these highly unlikely population estimates and I would be surprised if any do – but we’ll see.
There is no doubt that the breeding success and numbers of some ground-nesting birds are higher on land managed for driven grouse shooting. That is not news.
Matt Ridley does not seem the least bit keen to justify what he wrote. This is what he wrote:
‘On another North Pennine moor, a survey of breeding birds was carried out this spring. The results have gobsmacked conservationists. On this one grouse moor, there were at least 400 pairs of curlews breeding. This is about as many as in the whole of Wales. There were 800 pairs of lapwings, 100 pairs of golden plovers, 50 pairs of oyster-catchers, 40 pairs of redshanks, 200 pairs of snipe, 50 pairs of woodcocks, 60 pairs of common sandpipers.‘.