Garry MacLennan, head keeper on the Invermark Estate, speaks out about a little known group achieving big things in the glens: the Angus Glens Moorland Group
Gamekeepers are very good at not speaking about the positive things that we do because we are incredibly busy people. Head keepers for one are really busy most of the year with predator control, heather burning and getting ready for the seasons. However, there was a recognition that we had to fi nd the time to do more in raising awareness. The Angus Glens Moorland Group is a collection of estates that have come together to educate people and make people aware of what we do, in terms of conservation and community work. We felt there was such good work going on, not just in terms of conservation work but community work and supporting local businesses in the glens, and most of this was never heard or understood bthe public. The communities are incredibly important here in the glens; the sporting estates are part of them and they are very much part of the estates. It’s all linked. The kids who live on the estates go to the local schools; small businesses rely on the estates.
There are a lot of new young keepers and progressive owners in the area now and we realised we needed to take more responsibility for demonstrating the value of what happens in the glens. Most of the grouse moors in Angus are involved in the group, and we’ve worked hard to raise money for charity, most recently through abseiling for Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance. We had a few incidents in the glen where the helicopter emergency serviceswere needed, and it was about giving a little bit back to the community. Obviously raptors have been a hot topic in the press of late, but what the public do not often hear about are the successful populations of birds of prey living alongside grouse moors. Two red kites were discovered on Glen Esk moorland last month and an eaglet was found on the Invermark Estate, the regular home of two breeding pairs of eagles. We’ve got fantastic habitat for the eagles on the Invermark Estate and we like to model ourselves on doing the right thing when it comes to management. We actively manage the estate’s deer forest and grouse moor for sporting interests. By controlling the numbers of certain species, that helps In doing so, we have always had eagles.
Looking after the heather helps provide a habitat that benefi ts lots of the species that are dependent on it. We’ve got a huge population of mountain hares, and we do take a sporting cull from their numbers occasionally, but it’s never any more than that. Last year, we actually had three eaglets from the one nest, which is very rare – an abundance of white hares probably helped. There are always merlin and peregrine nests, too. We try to work with all conservation organisations, and I think the whole system depends on trust. All the organisations do good work and it’s important to get everyone working together. For example, we had the eagles ringed on the estate earlier this year. The raptor workers gave us a call and I actually drove them out in the Land Rover and helped carry their equipment to the nest. It’s so important to work together – arms have to reach out from both parties. I know most estates are quite willing to help; it’s just about building the bridges of trust. The national press coverage is very onesided, so estates like to keep their heads below the parapet. The thing is, this is what we do. We’re not looking for a pat on the back for our efforts, we’re just trying to make people aware, maybe educate them and help them understand what we are doing. There are a lot of people who perhaps don’t understand the countryside as much as those who live and work there do. They need to understand that it’s all linked, from the estates to the schools to the local businesses to the wildlife. It’s all about working together, and letting people see things from our side.