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