NYMMO – The 1st Year!

WOW What a first year!!

From our humble facebook beginnings at the start of the year, we’ve now upped the “ANTI” and have our very own website and also a twitter page where already we have a good number of followers.  We’ve been out and about, met some great people, spoke to many people who didn’t really know what to think of game-keepers and hopefully we have given a little positive insight into what we are, what we do and most importantly why we do it!

NYMMO has been very lucky to have graced the papers on several occasions, The Northern Echo, Yorkshire Post, Ryedale Gazette, Farm & Country and even The London Evening Standard to name a few, we have also had some really good write ups in the shooting magazines, Fieldsports, and most recently ishoot.  The articles have been a combination of interviews, topical issues and also some heated discussions regarding the “Grouse Debate” but all of this has got to be seen as a positive, what’s the saying any publicity is good publicity if people are talking about you.

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Natural England work directly with estates on the monitoring of endangered birds a good example of this is the Merlin (a red status bird – highest conservation priority), and people who visit nests do so under a strict licence (given by Natural England) this is to try and keep disturbance to an absolute minimum.  Several of our estates had great success stories with many broods being located and ringed, the pictures below are of ones found on Bransdale and Rosedale.

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NYMMO adopted the Yorkshire Air Ambulance as its chosen charity for the year, and we are very pleased and proud to say that we have raised a massive £9,158.17 that will be presented to the charity in January.

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The NYMMO charity clay shoot in June was the start of the money raising and it was actually the first real event that NYMMO had staged, there was a great turn-out with over 23 teams and 27 individuals and with the help of a raffle that had an abundance of quality items a really good amount of money was raised.  

On the back of the clay shoot it was decided that NYMMO would also run an online auction, once again we had some excellent support not just from the estates who kindly donated shoot days but also a vast selection of items donated generously from a wide range of people who have connections to estates or who benefit in someway from shooting.  

NYMMO would just like to say a massive thank you to all of the following people and organisations, who without the help given could not have reached the dizzy heights that they did with the clay shoot and auction.

Clay Shoot Thank You’s!!

Sara Read – N.G.O. – (Expert Organiser)

George Thompson, Paul Wilson and Jimmy Brough (Spaunton, Bransdale, Rosedale & Westerdale Estate) and all their under-keepers (sterling job done organising, trapping and scoring)

George Winn-Darley (for the venue)

L&A Dent Game Dealers (Cheque for top lady)

Northallerton Guns (Shotgun for winning Under 25)

Rosedale & Westerdale (Rough Shoot Day for Team Winners)

George, Jill and Abi Thompson (for running the bar and the raffle)

Thank you as well to everybody who donated the raffle prizes which were an abundance of quality, varied items.

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Auction Thank You’s!!

Shooting Estates generously gave a variety of Grouse, Pheasant, Duck etc. shoot days, Fishing Days, Roe Buck and Billy Goat stalking and all of these were kindly donated by Rosedale & Westerdale, Spaunton, Thimbleby, Bransdale, Ravenswick, Ingleby & Baysdale, Snilesworth, Danby, Farndale, Drumlanrig Castle, Westerdale Syndicate, Thornton-le-Dale, Settrington, Skelton Castle and Urra.

There was also a mix of meals, a framed print, a grouse carving, a tweed hat, a walking stick to name but a few and these were kindly donated by the following companies or individuals Blacksmiths Arms at Lastingham, John Hutchinson, Mark Nicholson, Charlie Woof, Rupert Drury, Wykeham Lakes, Colin Barker, Isaac Walton Tweeds, Nigel Brooks, George & Jill Thompson, Cleveland Tontine, Lord StonesAlastair Cook, Jason Lowes and Treeworx.

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From their day to day duties on the fell, our keepers have openly embraced the new challenges that have been put in front of them, meeting and chatting to people and helping out with charity events.  Their most daunting moment however probably came in July when they branched out into performing, in front of a huge audience, a demonstration of “A Year in the Life of a Grouse Moor” at the Great Yorkshire Show.  Charlie & Murray from Bransdale, Ben & Will from Rosedale & Westerdale and Jimmy & Rob from Snilesworth were working with the Countryside Alliance, NGO, Hull Cartridge, John Cavana and Richard Walton to develop, produce and execute a fantastic display.  Kevin Hollinrake (our local MP for Thirsk & Malton) came in for a chat with our game keeper Jimmy Shuttlewood which was nice to see and he took a keen interest in NYMMO and the game keeping life.

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The keepers aren’t the only ones who have contributed massively to NYMMO this year, we’ve also had great support from all the beaters, flankers, pickers and loaders on shoot days, as well as BASC, NGO, Countryside Alliance, George Gunn Photography, Sporting & Country Images, Shooting Photography, Angela Waites Photography, Kane Mitchell and all the sporting magazines that have given us much needed publicity.

The National Parks have also welcomed NYMMO as a group and we were invited to join the Park Fest at Danby and the Moorfest at the Sutton Bank Park Centre.  At these events NYMMO worked alongside Brian Sweeney representing the Danby Moor Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which is funded by Natural England and managed by local upland farmers and the Dawnay Estate staff.  The scheme is hoping to improve the quality of the moorland landscape, increase biodiversity, and offset the impacts of climate change.  The project involves the sensitive management of moorland to provide a diverse mosaic of habitats that benefit wildlife, sheep and Red Grouse.

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NYMMO are already looking forward to, and planning for 2017, don’t forget our first event of the year is the Charity Sky Dive on the 26th March at SkyDive St. George where 14 of our very own Game Keepers are doing tandem jumps raising money for Cancer Research and NYMMO, anyone looking to sponsor them can contact us directly for more details.

The end of the first year of NYMMO being the voice of the gamekeepers in the North Yorkshire Moors and what a good reception we have been getting, the above is an article primarily made up of “Thank You’s” but once again we couldn’t have done it alone and we apologise if you haven’t been named above but we really haven’t forgotten about you.

Finally we’ll end the year by saying a big “HAPPY NEW YEAR” from all at NYMMO.

 

The Glorious 12th through to December

A shoot day and the culmination of a full years work, looking back on our Grouse season, I can once again say it has been a real success, we have been very lucky to have had some great weather and the bird numbers again have been consistent so we have managed to have a good number of shoot days.  The work we undertake as gamekeepers throughout the year is geared towards making the shoot season a success and this doesn’t stop for a day and our jobs just vary greatly depending on the time of year.

The start of a shoot day morning, the behind the scenes work is undertaken first, the weather check, what’s the wind direction and a check around each line of butts that will be in use on the day.  The beating trucks are out, started and filled with fuel, the game cart, the butt sticks, all the preparation done then off to meet the beaters, flankers and pickers, the paperwork next on the list, all employees listed in the book and then we can finally get up on the moors.  A good team of beaters, well driven drives, good shooting from the guns and all the birds picked make the game dealers visit at the end of the day worthwhile.

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The grouse season has now come to a close and most estates will have been finished for several weeks.

One of the main focus points now is making sure that the correct grit is put out onto the moor, the use of medicated grit or natural grit and this is determined by the worm counts that are obtained.  The presence of the trichostrongylus tenuis (also known as Strongyle Worm), has been acknowledged for more that 100 years and is a parasitic thread-worm which lives in the gut of the red grouse.  The most crucial factor in the control of the strongyle worm is knowing what the worm burdens are in the birds, this is so parasite control can be targeted at the appropriate times.  Parasitic worms should be counted from samples of 20 adult grouse randomly selected at the start and the end of the shooting season.

As a guide we know 2,500 worms per adult grouse can impact on productivity and ultimately survival, levels greater than 1,000 worms per adult grouse in the tests taken at the end of the season which triggers the need to use medicated grit.  Medicated grit is only available by licence and a vets prescription is required to purchase it.  Grit is required by grouse to aid the digestion of heather shoots which make up 80% of their diet, the grit is required more in winter as the heather becomes more “woody”. Grouse consume approx. 35g of grit per month and the grit goes round in their gizzard and breaks down the heather.

Over the last few weeks I have started putting medicated grit out, a process that’s been quite intermittent due to the inconsistent weather with jolting fog covering Westerdale on a regular basis.  I have been reducing the distance between the grit stations from the original 100 metres to 75 metres and additionally putting new grit trays out, trying to do everything I can to reduce the spread of disease within the grouse.  It is quite visible that whilst out on the moors now a good number of the grouse seem to be getting paired up especially in the places which have been left quiet for a longer period of time.

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Several estates have already had the chance to get some early heather burning fires in, which is extremely beneficial when the soil is still very wet and this ensures that there is no chance of burning into the peat, these are known as cool burn fires.  The burning season runs from the 1st October to the 15th April and is required for the regrowth and healthiness of the heather, our burning cycle used is in accordance with our agreement with Natural England, and both myself and my colleagues have all attended an NGO ran burning course.

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Getting round my traps again is next on the agenda and I’m currently using rabbit in them for bait as now the weather is getting colder the rabbit will last longer.  Every stoat or weasel caught now is very beneficial as it means fewer litters to catch in spring when the ground nesting birds are hatching chicks.  We use a variety of traps on the estate and each trap has their own target species, Fenn traps aim to catch predators such as stoats, weasels, rats and squirrels, with Larsen and multi-catcher traps trying to catch Magpies, Carion Crows, Rooks, Jackdaws and Jays.  All these animals and birds are damaging to the ground nesting bird for very different reasons, stoats, weasels, rats and squirrels prey on the birds, whereas the magpies, crows and rooks suck the eggs so both can affect the breeding possibilities by different methods.

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Information kindly supplied by Ben Mountain, Under Keeper at Rosedale and Westerdale estate.

Grouse Debate by MP’s

The afternoon of the 6th September 2016 saw the parliamentary Petitions Committee consider a petition calling for driven grouse shooting to be banned.  The petition was lodged by Mark Avery and was electronically signed by over 100,000 people which is the threshold required for a petition to be considered for debate, in the majority of cases it always leads to an actual debate being scheduled.

Before scheduling the debate, the Petitions Committee decided that the MP’s should have the chance to “hear evidence” from both parties on grouse shooting to help inform them for the debate.  The Petitions Committee also asked for written evidence be submitted by any individual or group that had an interest or expertise in grouse moor management and this was required by the 5th October, they received 486 submissions (including 1 from NYMMO).

NYMMO followers were also brilliant in their support, as they did their bit, by completing support letters which were then sent in to their local MP’s, copies of a couple of the replies are shown below.  The MP replies are really pleasing, supportive and also very detailed in their understanding of all the good work that we do.

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Following on from the written submissions, the 18th October was set as the date of the evidence giving by the parties, the MP’s heard evidence from Mark Avery (the creator of the e-petition) alongside a representative from the RSPB, with Amanda Anderson from the Moorland Association and Liam Stokes from the Countryside Alliance fighting the corner for grouse moors.  The grouse shooting community were represented brilliantly by Amanda and Liam, their articulate, professional, well-informed evidence based argument was perfectly presented and had invaluable supporting data, unlike their counterparts.  It came as no surprise during the debate that not a single MP spoke out in favour of a ban (however some did support wildlife law enforcement, the use of voluntary partnerships and moorland best practice codes, etc)

On the back of the petition being lodged a further petition was started this time by the supporters and was aptly named “Protect Grouse Moors and Grouse Shooting”, because of the support received and the relevance this was taken into account during the debate itself.

The views of the Minister’s closed the debate and Dr Therese Coffey said “We all agree that conserving the upland moorlands is in everyone’s best interests. We will help to ensure that a constructive dialogue continues so that grouse shooting is protected and these valuable moorlands thrive.”

The governments position is that they have no intention of banning driven grouse shooting, they have no plans to introduce licensing (as there is considerable regulation already in place) and they will bring justice to those who break the law.

However, this is not the end, it is merely a foot in the right direction, we need to continue to protect grouse shooting and raise awareness of the good that is done on the estates and the benefits that are generated to the local economy and community.