MP Kevin Hollinrake visits Bransdale Estate to look at the benefits of Managed Moorland

Charlie Woof beat keeper from the Bransdale Estate in the North York Moors hosted Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton on a tour of the estate this week.

Kevin Hollinrake is the Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), The Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP, who is in the midst of a conservation crisis directly affecting the moorland birds that Charlie looks after.

A 90-minute drive around the edges of the 14,000acre estate showcased the habitat management and ensuing wildlife that has benefited from the controlled heather burning procedures and legal predator controls that are currently in place.  The sections of controlled cool burns that have been carried out by the gamekeepers provide a mosaic look to the moorland with varying lengths of heather spread across the moor.  Kevin questioned the timescales as to roughly when each area had last been burned,  and he was surprised to learn that the latest burns which would have been completed in the last 6 months were already showing visible signs of new growth.

23 different bird species were spotted across the estate, despite heavy rain showers, with many of these birds being on the red list.  The UK conservation status of birds is split into 3 categories of conservation importance, Red, Amber and Green, with Red being the highest conservation priority.  The estate is working closely with volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to ring as many chicks as they can as this will help monitor and generate information showing the diversity of wildlife on the North York Moors.  The BTO creates information logs on the survival, productivity and movement of birds and by ringing chicks the variety of wildlife on the moors will be proved by hard evidence.

Following the moor tour, Mr Hollinrake sat down with Luke Wilkinson (estates and sporting manager), Murray Wilson (head gamekeeper) and Charlie Woof (beat keeper) all from the Bransdale Estate and Tina Brough (co-ordinator for the North York Moors Moorland Organisation (NYMMO)).

The hot topic of discussion was the abrupt revocation of general licences which allow pest birds to be controlled and is a vital conservation activity in the breeding season. Mr Hollinrake said: “There would hopefully be an announcement from Defra by Friday this week”.

Tina Brough of NYMMO, said: “Mr Hollinrake understood and appreciated the need for heather burning which helps to create a suitably diverse habitat for wildlife, as well as predator control which allow gamekeepers to try and maintain a balanced population of all wildlife.  The importance of farmers and the use of their sheep on the moors was also discussed, as the sheep play a vital part in moorland management.

Two areas highlighting the stark reality of what the future would hold if moorland was left unmanaged were also shown to Mr Hollinrake on his visit.  The first on Bransdale Estate and one on the neighbouring Farndale Estate; Natural England has classed both of these areas as “no burn areas” and on visiting both of these sites with Mr Hollinrake there were no sightings or sounds of any wildlife, the heather was long and dense with bracken starting to shoot up and not even a sheep was visible in either of the areas. It is not what any of us want and the risk of severe wildfire is just an accident waiting to happen in those areas.


  Charlie and Kevin walk out to the Bransdale Moor


    Adult Curlew and chick spotted

   Looking at the “no burn” areas


  Grouse and chicks


Trying some “Taste of Game” crisps



Top Tips for Avoiding TICKS

Reports for 2019 so far indicate that we are seeing exceedingly high numbers of ticks and with the threat of contracting Lyme Disease a possibility we thought we’d give you a quick bit of help.


The photos shown above are examples of:- the number of ticks removed from one Roe Buck, a tick remover, the size difference once the tick has fed and the 3 stages of tick from lava, nymph to adult and these have all been removed from the same animal.

Top tips for avoiding ticks:

When out and about on the moors try to:

* Avoid walking through long grass and areas of thick foliage, keep to paths and tracks in heavily infested areas.
* Leave no exposed skin on your legs, feet, ankles or arms, wear long sleeves, tuck your trousers in your socks or wear gaiters and choose a fabric which is thickly woven.
* Spray insect repellent on clothing and socks.
* Wear light-coloured clothing so you can see the dark ticks and remove them, inspect your clothes often to remove any ticks.
* Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks when you get home, especially your hairline, navel, groin, arm pits, between toes, behind the ears and knees.

DON’T PANIC if you find an embedded tick, it’s most likely that it’s not infected, and if you remove it within 24 hours it is unlikely to have passed on the bacteria.

If you are worried in anyway then consult your GP and mention your concerns about Lyme Disease.

Most tick bites happen in late spring, early summer and autumn, as this is when most people take part in outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking and camping.  Ticks can be found in any areas where there is deep or overgrown vegetation and where there is access to animals and wildlife for them to feed on.  Ticks don’t fly or jump but they climb onto your skin or clothes if you brush against something that they’re on, they then bite into the skin and start to feed on your blood.

Moorland estates try to reduce the risk of ticks by having a good flock of sheep on the moors as the sheep act as “tick mops”.  The sheep are dipped in a pesticide that attracts ticks and kills them off in huge numbers, and this has been welcomed as an effective and harmless method in the fight against ticks.

For more details on ticks and Lyme Disease please visit the Lyme Disease Action Organisation at the link below, they have a massively informative website with all areas covered.


The Annual – Speed Kills Post


We would like to stress the importance of curbing high speeds on moor roads as we look to try and protect the lives of as much wildlife and animals as we can.  In the wake of the General Licence fiasco we have added worries in keeping birds and chicks safe and we call on everyone to try and reduce the risk posed by vehicles speeding on the moor roads.
The pictures show a hen grouse, lamb, curlew chicks, lapwing and golden plover chick all which met their end on the open roads.  The high number of deaths relating to wild birds, sheep and lambs that have been run over and killed in alarmingly high, with an equally worrying statistic being that an astonishingly high 80% of wader birds within 100yds of a public road lose their life.



You’ve just got to know where to look

A volunteer from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) accompanied one of our game keepers onto the moors and ringed 83 chicks, consisting of 16 Curlew, 18 Golden Plover and 49 Lapwing, this was all completed in just one morning.

Bird ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds and helps us to understand why populations are changing.  We are looking to build a database containing the information on successful breeding of birds that are associated with managed moorland.  The diversity of wildlife on the North York Moors is vast and estates are looking to record and monitor as many birds as they can.



A Barbecue on the North York Moors, Is it worth the risk?

2019 to date has seen continued long spells of unseasonably dry warm weather and minimal rain.  The first 2 photos have been sent in today demonstrate just how dry the ground currently is and why we all need to take extra care.



The Met Office’s Fire Severity Index (FSI) is an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start and NOT of the risk of wildfires occurring.  The current FSI for the North York Moors is High to Very High.

This however is not enough of a deterrent for some individuals and neither is the fact that devastating wildfires are still being publicised in the media as they are happening across the country.  Some people just don’t listen, picture 2 shows the items removed from the moor by a gamekeeper today and picture 3 shows the remains and damage to the moors, luckily this event didn’t lead to a wildfire but is it worth the risk.

Please be extra vigilant, we are now not within the agreed burning window, if you see smoke then ring 999 immediately as this will be a wildfire and if you see any individuals acting irresponsibly please alert the police.




The necessity of man made ponds on the moors

The North York Moors have a vast number of man made ponds and many of these have been in place for a long time.  These ponds provide vital water supplies for animals and wildlife especially during the dry summer months.

The common frogs are making good use of the ponds and looking at pictures 2, 3 and 4 there is a large amount of tadpoles visible.  On average from the tadpole being hatched to it looking like a miniature version of an adult frog with all limbs developed it will take just 12-16 weeks.




The below image taken from the pond area shows some grouse brood muck (commonly known as sitting foil).  Sitting foil is the large faeces created by the hen grouse, as she only leaves her nest once or twice a day when she is sitting on eggs the normal faeces is condensed into one large amount (the sitting foil). The hen grouse will normally deposit the faeces away from her nest so as not to draw the attention of predators to where she is nesting.

Spot The Nest

The following photos give an idea of how well the grouse nests are concealed in the heather, the first 2 photos show the hen grouse sat on the eggs and the next 2 show the nest and eggs.  Can you spot the hen hidden in the 1st and 2nd photos?


The cock grouse sat on the wall is staying close proximity to his nesting hen in the heather, he’s not got a bad view has he?


Here we have another well camouflaged nest.

Come on DEFRA, sort this out

Today’s discussions between MP’s and Natural England about decisions taken which resulted in the revocation of the General Licences shows no signs of moving forward.

There is still no decision as to when the revoked General Licences will be reissued or replaced, this is absolutely no good and the longer this debacle carries on there is heightened risks to wildlife, livestock, crops and overall the countryside as we know it.

Come on DEFRA we need you to sort this.

The first photo shows some of the latest predated egg images that I have been sent in today. The eggs have been very clearly etched out by a corvids beak, and on later photos you’ll be able to see the corvids suspect/culprit.

How many more chicks have to be lost?


Curlew Chicks – A more than average 5

The curlew is the largest European wading bird, it is instantly recognisable by it’s long, downcurved bill, brown upperparts, long legs and evocative call, and is a popular sight and sound of the North York Moors.

There are 8 curlew species in the world and the one most commonly seen in the UK is the largest, the Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata).  In 2015 the Eurasian Curlew was added to the Red List as a bird of high conservation concern, this is due to the fact that since 1970 over 60% of the UK population of breeding curlew had been lost.

Since the decline of the curlew population within the UK they now tend to breed on a range of habitats but are primarily birds of managed rough grasslands, moorlands and bogs.  The bulk of the breeding population (around 60 per cent) occurs in Scotland, with the majority of the remaining birds residing in northern England.

Thanks to George Gunn Photography for sending in the adult curlew in flight photo and the local gamekeepers for sending in the chicks photos.  The final image shows 5 well camouflaged chicks, this is a large brood as 3 to 4 is a more common figure.



Lapwing Chick Ringing on North York Moors Estates

These lapwing chicks are just a small section of what have been ringed this weekend by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) on one of our North York Moors estates.

Bird ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing.

The Lapwing is the most widespread of the breeding waders and a species associated with a wide range of open country habitats.  These familiar birds mark the changing of the seasons, the arrival of migrating flocks signal the onset of cold winter weather and the tumbling display flight and “Peewit” call note the arrival of spring.  It is a red listed species meaning it is of the highest conservation priority.

Ringing data make a major contribution to the study of population changes and to the understanding of species declines.  Bird populations are determined by the number of fledglings raised and the survival of both juveniles and adults.  Whilst ringers collect data on survival, volunteers for the Nest Record Scheme collect information on productivity.  The results can be analysed in combination with population trend data, such as that collected through the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey, to determine at which stage of a bird’s life cycle there might be a problem.  This enables scientists and conservationists to target appropriate mitigation measures.