Riddled with errors


You must read this blog by the National Gamekeepers Organisation (I keep wanting to put an apostrophe in there but I mustn’t because it’s their name and they can call themselves whatever they want). In fact the NGO call themselves the ‘largest group of professional conservationists in the UK’ which is a bit of a stretch particularly once you read their blog.

Let’s start with the nest that keeps on giving – eggs


Let’s start with this image of a Rook taking an egg from a nest. It’s certainly a Rook. It’s certainly an egg. The same video footage and still photographs of this location are repeated and scattered through the blog and in the last video this is described as a Rook taking a Lapwing egg whereas earlier it’s described as a Rook taking wild birds’ eggs. It’s not a Lapwing egg. On none of the footage or stills do the eggs look like Lapwing or wader eggs. It’s a Pheasant egg (95% sure of that, what do you think?). How odd that the largest group of professional conservationists in the UK don’t recognise a Pheasant’s egg when they see one (or several). If anyone were going to recognise a Pheasant egg then surely gamekeepers would, particularly because they may well have a few lying around back home where they might well be breeding up some Pheasant poults for the shooting season. What a strange error.

Is it a nest? Difficult to tell really. It would be a not-impossible but somewhat remarkable site for a Lapwing or other wader nest – right next to that wall and fence where nest predators could perch. And it would be a pretty remarkable place for a Pheasant nest, completely out in the open like that but Pheasants aren’t the brightest of birds. So I think this is a Rook, it is an egg, but it isn’t a Lapwing egg, it is a Pheasant egg, and it hasn’t come from a nest it has come from a fake nest. That is where my money would go. How unlucky that some passing gamekeeper (I guess) set up a camera here and was so cruelly tricked into posting this. They must be professionally embarrassed as hell for falling for someone’s ruse.

But there is more.

This apparently fake nest is visited by more than one Rook and also by at least one Jackdaw. Because the images are time-dated we can follow the chronology of this nest, by the wall, in front of that characteristic double spike of Juncus, near the fence post that leans to the right and with that nice view of in-bye in the background. This is what happens:

24 May 05:26 A Rook with an egg (a Pheasant’s egg) in its beak.

26 May 04:07 a Rook at the nest

26 May 04:34 A Jackdaw at the nest (which contains 3 eggs)

27 May 12:37 A Rook with an egg – a Pheasant’s egg (image above)

30 May 06:58 A Rook removes an egg

30 May 07:51 A Rook removes an egg

30 May 07:52 A Rook moves an egg around

30 May 07:53 A Rook is at the ‘nest’

This is indeed the nest that keeps on giving. A bunch of Jackdaws and Rooks having first visited the nest on 24 May are still taking eggs away from it on 30 May. We see 3 eggs being taken away from this ‘nest’ and there are another two images of Rooks with eggs in their beaks so this is quite a nest. It’s almost as though someone is putting more eggs in the ‘nest’ every time they turn up with their camera? Remarkable and incredible.

You might want to go and watch the footage of the Herring gull (aka seagull) catching bats coming out of a roof – that is worth watching.

But if you want more on eggs, stay reading here.

The egg that is labelled as a Lapwing egg might be a Lapwing egg but I’m not sure it is. It has been suggested to me it’s more likely to a Redshank egg.

There is a video of a very tame Jackdaw eating Pheasant eggs from what might be a Pheasant nest or might be a big pile of Pheasant eggs put in a pile of nettles (and there is no background shown so it might be in a gamekeeper’s back garden for all we know. But, those wild bird eggs are Pheasant eggs.

Let’s move on to the montage of 5 eggs, one of which is labelled Golden Plover. The four unlabelled eggs are actually three eggs (at most) as the top left image and the large bottom left image are of the same egg which is a gull egg. It is either a Herring Gull (and do look at the Herring Gull catching bats video) or a Lesser Black-backed Gull egg. This NGO blog wants to cull these gulls so presumably it’s good news for them that the egg has been got at by a predator, although this egg was addled anyway – that’s why it’s so yucky inside. So the predation was irrelevant. The other two small images at the top (centre and right) look like gull eggs and look as though they have been predated by a mammal and not a bird as they are clean inside and mammals can clean out eggs because they have tongues but birds can’t because they don’t have anything similar. This blog is about general licences and so mammal predation is irrelevant as they are not covered by the general licences. And so to the egg labelled as a Golden Plover egg – it’s not a Golden Plover egg. Although I don’t see them very often these days in my youth I was pretty familiar with Golden Plover eggs and this ain’t one. It looks to me, and I’ve done a bit of Googling, like a Red Grouse egg. It looks so much like a Red Grouse egg that I think it is a Red Grouse egg. How odd that a bunch of gamekeepers don’t recognise a Red Grouse egg when they see one. It’s amazing.

Before we all go off and re-watch the video of the Herring Gull catching bats again, let’s recap. This blog is about how awful the lack of licensing is for wild birds and it purports to show Rooks and Jackdaws having an impact on wild birds including Lapwing, and by inference Golden Plover. But the evidence is mostly of Pheasant eggs being taken from perhaps a real nest but also a remarkable nest which keeps on giving, the Golden Plover egg is a Red Grouse egg and many of the other eggs used are either from species (large gulls) that the NGO wants to kill lots of or from mammalian predation which is not covered by the general licence.

The ‘largest group of professional conservationists in the UK’ seem to have slipped up badly. But then they aren’t alone as their errors are being used or retweeted by the Campaign for the Protection of Moorland Communities, my old friend Gethin Jones and some other well-known shooters.


27 Replies to “Riddled with errors”

  1. My god. These people have no integrity at all and you wonder why people get upset about them being left in charge of selective killing of our wildlife.

    1. A large part of all this nonsense is clearly faked and most of the claims are just laughable. No wonder the shooters can’t be trusted not to kill birds of prey and mountain hares and other wild animals.. As is said there is little or no integrity left these days. Unfortunately a lot of people believe what they want to believe.
      I would agree the egg in the rook’s bill looks very like a pheasant egg. A lapwing’s egg is predominately green not brown.

  2. I wonder if they have permission for using that footage of Herring Gull taking bats? If not then I believe it is in contravention of copyright law to appropriate the whole of a third part source and represent it. For info, I had spotted that video when first loaded and an article was published:

    Collin, P. (2011) “Herring Gull catching and eating lives bats”, Scot. Birds 31:4, 318-319

  3. Thanks for the plug Mark but I’ve never retweeted an NGO blog. The occasional press release possibly, but never a blog post, and certainly not that blog post. Unless you know better, of course.
    Best wishes

    1. Stephen – well I thought I had seen your retweet only this morning of the blog which has appeared in many places. But if not then you are welcome to the plug and I’m sorry. You didn’t delete it did you? That would be understandable. Shall I remove your name from my blog? I think I will right away. What do you think of the blog while you’re here? Pheasant eggs?

  4. Hi Mark. In some ways this (link below) is wildly off topic (‘Fatbaws’) but it’s also wildly funny and fabulous from one of my favourite Scottish actors. It instantly made me think about SoS and c4pmc and all these other ‘made-up conservation’ organisations and how they play on our ignorance and prejudice about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ birds, predators etc. and our ‘right’ to exploit or kill and control and choose what/ who can live where. I can’t think quite how to use it to help combat any of that but it really made me think and I thought it might spark some useful ideas or at least some good laughs for others too. Peter Mullan and #peanutsarepish: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08fyfwh

  5. I know you can’t say it outright, Mark, but I will. Barefaced liars, the lot of ’em. The funny thing is that they think we’re all as pig-shit thick as they are!

  6. Well spotted and ‘dissected’ Mark. And that nasty person(s) who’s tricked those poor gamekeepers could have facilitated the set up by putting out carrion, kitchen scraps to encourage corvids into that area even before the fake nests were set up. I am reminded of the videos some of the moorland forums in Scotland used to show how fantastic grouse moors were for mountain hares, that the culls were emptying the hills were a lie. Invariably there would be film of a lot of highly agitated hares in a very tight area, not settled, but zigging backwards and forwards never actually away to safety. Their agitation was easily explained by the proximity of who was taking the film – in fact if anyone else had taken it I’m sure they would have been accused of being irresponsible, could them being contained have been explained by lines of beaters who had actually driven them into a tight area and kept them there while they were filmed? The camera was never panned round enough to show whether this was the case, but I’m bloody sure it was. I wonder what happened to the hares once the camera was turned off and the piss poor propaganda obtained – ‘killing two hares with one stone’?

  7. There appears to be a “love our game keeper” campaign underway:

    I assume this refers to the UU Estate but the comment “This is one of many peregrine nests on managed moorland in the Forest of Bowland” needs some explaining – I would be surprised if it is more than one! If it is in addition to UU then I still find it difficult get “many” from two……

    To be fair to the UU Game Keeper(s) they appear to do a reasonable job with raptors when compared with other grouse moor keepers on other estates in Bowland who will not want to publish the numbers of Peregrine, SEO and HH nests on their estates.

    And no mention of Hen Harrier, the symbol of the Forest of Bowland AONB?

  8. Thank you Mark. And, no, I didn’t delete a tweet.
    As for eggs, I’ll certainly bow to your greater knowledge. Mine tends to lose it after fried, scrambled, pickled or poached.

  9. I agree, some Rooks and Jackdaws will take the odd Pheasant egg they find on the moor edge. But generally they will only do it the once, as the eggs usually have “special additives” in them.

  10. I find it odd that someone would try to publish falsified evidence in such a blatantly amateurish way, it does their cause no good and any subsequence evidence is then regarded as tainted. Perhaps they think we are all stupid? Or are they one short of a six-pack?
    The egg is pheasant, no it’s not a lapwing nest either, too much detritus around, man-made and very crudely done. Lapwings will nest in odd situations and could easily nest by a wall in the right circumstances. It’s not a pheasant nest either, no self-respecting hen is going to be stupid enough to lay there, and nests are incredibly difficult to find in deep cover.
    The other eggs look like oystercatcher; the ‘lapwing’ is not a redshank either. The golden plover looks very likely a grouse, but flash photography has been used, the same with the merlin.
    The herring gull with the bats, well that’s nature, we might not like it but the gull will have chicks to feed, we have our own bat terminators on this farm – a pair of hobby, should I get rid of them because I want bats?
    They are correct with the statement on capping of the rubbish dumps has made the gulls revert back to hunting more instead of scavenging, but, this has had a dramatic affect on the population, nature has rebalanced the herring gull population, some would say, decline, I disagree it’s an adjustment to prevailing circumstances. Lesser’s are migratory breeding gulls which we are lucky enough to have in this country, neither the herring or lesser deserve to be blasted out the sky on this evidence.
    The lamb footage is distressing and a financial hit for the farmer, but again that’s nature, a lot of the lamb deaths are caused by the inexperienced ewe either crushing or failing to feed the lamb, the ravens and crows at first light come in for the after-birth and finish the lambs off.
    The songbird kills look too clean, and my guess the culprit would be Tiddles.

    1. That’s a cracking blog! That any organisation calling itself professional could publish that amateurish, inaccurate guff and expect to be taken seriously is mystifying.

      But clearly it’s aimed at those who have no knowledge and find the idea that in the food chain there are those do eat other animals or birds offends their candy floss view of the world. Though these same people do not find the prey creatures consumption of reptiles, insects and other invertebrates shocking but that’s human judgement for you.

      It’s clear that Conservation management in this case equals killing birds or animals that they judge as being bad and they will make up anything to justify this blood lust.

      You have done a good job highlighting this and hopefully it will be spread widely to demonstrate how utterly clueless about nature and conservation the organisation that represents gamekeepers is!

  11. Five egg montage looks to me to be first and bottom left pics Oystercatcher egg followed by two Curlew eggs and of course the Red Grouse egg.

  12. Mark, I’ve been reading your blog since it began, though I rarely comment. I also read blogs and social media of gamekeepers and game keeping organisations. I spend some time on grouse moors, but only intermittently. I find that between visits I start to doubt myself and start to believe the gamekeepers, just a little. I start to believe that grouse moors are stacked with waders, that nature reserves are dead and that control of generalist predators is a solution. Each visit out to a grouse moor snaps me back to the reality, particularly if followed or preceded by a visit to a nature reserve. I remember that grouse moors are the places of death and nature reserves thrive, in relative terms. I do also see that in bye land near grouse moors is often very rich, especially with waders. But of course, in bye land isn’t grouse moor.

    The reason for making this comment is because I feel that without these reality checks, over time I would believe the keepers were right and I would believe you were wrong. The keepers successfully gaslight me. This blog of yours, this direct attack on gamekeeper lies has come as a welcome reminder of reality and highlights that we should be careful not to start to believe in the lies, just because they are so often repeated and said with such confidence.

    I would be interested if others experience this, or if I am particularly easily led (I don’t think that I am…).

    Thanks Mark for this reminder, this blog is without doubt on my top ten Mark Avery blogs and I will bookmark it for future reference in case I feel myself slipping to the dark side…

    1. Palustre, I know the feeling. In general terms, I have had a troubled journey from the “dark side” to a position where I now support an end to DGS. It has taken me well over 30 years. It is purely because they will not moderate themselves at all with regard to raptor killing, and are ruining the last remaining wild(ish) areas in England with excessive burning, road-making (to me it is simply development akin to building retail parks on lowland meadows) and have turned the uplands into a no-go slaughterhouse purely for money and fun. I also want a total ban on snaring, but other than that I could actually live with some “moderate” moorland management for some limited Grouse shooting.
      I do believe (from spending lots of time on this type of land) that there are more Curlews and Peewits on in-bye ground beside Grouse moors (you must remember that the estate will own all of that land as well, and it is just as intensively keepered – to keep a buffer of predators away from the heather). But to me this is the only objective benefit to the natural world of DGS. So to me the only question one must ask is this : does 33-50% more waders make up for all the other stuff that they do? And the answer to me is easily “no”, the comparison is not even in the same galaxy!

    2. Palustre, I concur with you, as someone who was brought up in the countryside, I have been in around Farmers and Gamekeepers for over 50 years. Many of both professions have an excellent knowledge and understanding of wildlife and a number do do excellent conservation work. But in the case of gamekeepers the old prejudices and “traditions” run deep they they still inhabit a world that existed 50 years ago, though with increased pressure from their employers to run the shoot at a profit.

      Gamekeepers can be very persuasive to both those with knowledge and the uninitiated as to why what they do is “conservation” they just fail to mention that its single species conservation, aimed at producing a surplus that can then be shot! If their work was so essential to the continued survival of Lapwing, Curlew etc. one wonders why they continue to decline even on or adjacent to a Grouse Moor.

  13. I really love this bit….

    “Also hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on repairing damage caused by pollution from the industrial revolution, that work is now being undone by the the large deposit of guano, the result of which input huge amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous compounds that do not suit the usual flora of the uplands. ”

    Remarkable statement, where is the evidence?

    1. Makes me me wonder where or if gulls actually nested before the industrial revolution? I am beginning to suspect that gulls evolved in direct response to the invention of the steam engine and the spinning jenny.

  14. I’ve just come to this having been busy all of yesterday, including being out catching a trout for tonight’s tea. What utter shit from the NGO can they not do better than this, perhaps not due to all the lead in their diets and prejudice in their hearts. The “nest” attended by the Rooks and Jackdaws certainly contains Pheasant eggs, not of conservation concern and as others have said looks to be a manmade nest in front of a trail camera. In my experience Jackdaws and Rooks will take eggs but only from the most obvious situations such as this undoubted set up. The other eggs look like Oystercatcher, Curlew/black headed Gull, ?, Herring/ LBBG and Red Grouse.
    Having visited and watched Merlins since the mid eighties I’ve in all that timeI’ve once come across a nest predated at the egg stage as is claimed,( and that was by a Fox) Merlins are very aggressive in defence against most avain predators. I can remember seeing a hen harrier take a half grown chick from a Merlin nest ( their nests were fairly close together). She was given so much stick by the adult Merlins she didn’t do it again and all the rest of the brood fledged. However rare it is you can expect the NGO/MA and the rest of the cabal to use it forever ( Despite a few of them killing Merlins) a bit like when they find a Peregrine site and it never rears again.
    Lambs dying like that is horrible but if the lambs had been viable the ewe would have defended them, most Crow / Raven victims are already dead or dying.
    The SPA is designated in part for the gull colony , Herring Gull is Red listed and a few used to nest in the colony and Lesser Black-backed Gull is amber listed. This colony has in the past been appallingly persecuted by the Abbeystead Estate because of the grouse shooting no other reason.
    Nature is red in tooth and claw some of it is not very nice to see if you are squeamish but it is natural. Game estates would like to be rid of anything that might naturally predate their charges, the game birds and those other birds they use for PR purposes. It is all amateurish shit but, and it is a big but, will the politicians and folk of influence believe it? May be and that is a great worry.

    1. Paul, regards the GBB and LBB Gull colonies in the Abbeystead area. In the 90’s, didn’t they used to poison them under licence? Little bread pellets soaked in alpha-chlorolose (I think) dispensed from a container down a plastic tube and left next to their nests? I could be wrong.

      1. You could be wrong but you are not, yes they did that. In those days the colony did have a few GBBG in it as well as Herring Gulls but not anymore. They have also shot thousands of gulls there , outside a core area that was supposed to be sacrosanct but we know birds were killed inside that area too.

  15. I noticed the fact that the Rook and the Jackdaw were getting eggs over a number of days from the same nest and posted that fact on there facebook site and of course I got no reply.

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