The Golden Plover Award 2014
The Golden Plover Award is jointly presented by the Heather Trust and GWCT Scotland to recognise progressive, practical and sustainable moorland management in Scotland. The award is open to estates, farms, individuals and syndicates who have shown an outstanding commitment to the uplands on a wide range of issues, from grouse production and wader conservation to Carbon storage and rural employment.
Three estates were nominated for the award in 2014, and Finzean estate was announced as the winner on the 20th June. An award ceremony will take place at the GWCT's Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace on the 4th July.
Lying in central Deeside, Finzean estate encompasses farmland, moorland and forestry. It is managed as an integrated family business with a keen interest in conservation and the preservation of a viable, thriving community.
The estate comprises 4,000 hectares, with moorland representing just over a third of this area. Game and wildlife management on the estate is undertaken to support a wide range of species. Capercaillie, black grouse and red grouse are present, as are golden eagles, merlin, curlew, golden plover and lapwings.
In recent years, targeted conservation work has focused on sustaining and improving capercaillie numbers on the estate, and this has involved customised habitat management measures both in Finzean's woodland and out on the open hill. In a national context, the Scottish population of capercaillie continues to decrease, and recent figures suggest that numbers have declined by a further 35% since 2003. Proper management of the remaining capercaillie habitat is vital if we are not to lose these birds again, and Finzean's hard work in this area is a great example for others.
Red and roe deer are managed on both the open hill and in woodland, and Finzean may also be strategically important for the conservation of wildcats.
Until the 1980s, the moor produced bags of 600 brace of grouse a season, but then suffered a steep decline in fortunes. Since then, considerable effort has been put in to improve the upland habitat alongside other conservation initiatives. This has resulted in steady recovery which has been built in to the many other estate objectives.
Balancing commitments to biodiversity across farmland, woodland and upland is a very significant task. Working in collaboration with a variety of partners to achieve this aim, Finzean is a worthy winner of the Golden Plover Award.
Read more about Finzean in August's Modern Gamekeeping Magazine -
Finzean Estate, Deeside
The Gannochy Estate lies at the foot of Glen Esk, perhaps the most beautiful of the Angus Glens. The estate prides itself on being a sportsman’s paradise, offering a wide variety of sport on the moorland and natural birch wood fringes lying either side of the River North Esk.
When it was taken on by the current owners in 2004, the estate was in a state of relative disrepair and the habitat degraded by excessive deer numbers, with sheep, hares and rabbits contributing to the lack of young heather.
Substantial investment has been required to put Gannochy back on the sportsman’s map. The estate is now famed for its success with Macnabs, featuring regularly in The Field magazine.
In the early years, with the grouse stock at an all time low and almost non existent on the north side, grouse were walked up over dogs and only cock birds were taken. Ticks were rife and much time was spent on ‘tick mopping’ the ground with a flock of Blackface sheep. Gradually the grouse and blackgame population has increased.
Gannochy now sets an excellent example for other estates, offering a wide variety of largely wild sport in modest bags through some of the loveliest surroundings in Scotland.
Set in the heart of Sutherland, Loch Choire extends to 13,152 hectares, stretching from the headwaters of the River Helmsdale on its eastern boundary to Ben Klibreck at the western end of the Estate.
As such, there is a variety of open moorland and montane landscape, with the former covering some 80% of the area. From a game and wildlife perspective, deer stalking, walked-up grouse shooting, and fishing for both salmon and trout take place across Loch Choire, offering the chance of a MacNab.
Given the array of species present on the Estate, conservation management through selective muirburn, habitat maintenance and predator control is all carefully exercised. The estate has also embarked on a very substantial programme of native tree planting and regeneration.
Loch Choire, Sutherland
In 2014, the Golden Plover Award is being supported by the Wildlife Estates Scotland initiative and Savills Land and Property Advisers.