Ian Danby, head of biodiversity projects at BASC, explains how the Green Shots Mapping programme provides evidence to underline our conservation credentials and offers some tips for getting the most from it.
By the time you read this, over a thousand people will have mapped their area of shooting land onto Green Shoots Mapping. This is an excellent result, so if you’re one of those BASC members who have contributed then I offer my heartfelt thanks, because you have helped promote shooting to those interested in conservation. As we all know, the conservation benefit of shooting is one of our best ways to defend and build support for our sport.
So, what have we learnt from it all? Well, the top five species most commonly found on shooting land are wintering woodcock, at 60 per cent of sites, closely followed by wintering mallard and brown hare which are both found on 59 per cent of sites. Shoots with breeding mallard come in at 56 per cent, and roe deer are present on 55 per cent of shoots.
The top five are always fun, but some other species catch my eye. Farmland birds are one of the government’s indicator species. Skylark and tree sparrow are found on more than 40 per cent of land used for shooting, and yellowhammer and breeding grey partridge are found on more than 30 per cent. This is crucial information as these birds are showing a decline in the long term and our figures suggest that shooting land is acting as a reservoir for these important species.
Other results are also excellent. About 30 per cent of areas have breeding woodcock, which is exactly in line with the results of the GWCT and BTO woodcock survey. We even have sites showing sightings of the really rare turtle dove and similar species, which we can follow up by discussing potential conservation projects with those shoots. The kudos for shooting when working to protect threatened species is considerable.
So you can see that providing evidence to show that shooting land is rich in wildlife is relevant and important to conservation policy and government. BASC uses this evidence to protect and promote the sport, so please use the site and give us even more clout. However, you can do even more than that. BASC is building partnerships with conservation organisations to undertake conservation projects where the interests of shooting overlap with their interests.
For this, you do not have to be a BASC member to take part. Just get in touch with your local BASC regional or country office and get involved. These projects add another powerful layer to our evidence to show that shooting is an active force for conservation that makes a real difference. You can see more details on our website, but I’ll give a couple of examples of projects we’re running below.
If you live in the south east and west then we have projects running on coordinated mink control. The conservation impetus is to protect the water vole, but controlling mink benefits quarry species too. Mink can make a nasty mess of poults in a pen, and they also are efficient at removing breeding mallard from rivers and ponds. For more details contact the south west office on 01823 480903 or the south east office on 01306 631378.
If you are in northern England then we are working with the Red Squirrel Northern England project, which aims to show that recovery of red squirrel numbers is closely aligned to grey squirrel removal. The greys carry a disease called squirrel pox, which is fatal to reds. BASC is encouraging anyone who shoots to help simply by recording the grey squirrels they kill and any red squirrel sightings. If you can help contact the northern office on 01434 632297.
Shooting in north Wales? Then get in touch with Audrey Watson to see what opportunities are there for you – anything from habitat creation next to watercourses, to mink and grey squirrel control, and more besides. Contact her on 07531 141497. If you’re shooting in Northern Ireland, then you have hare and red squirrel projects to get involved with. Call the NI team on 028 92605050.
For the rest of this article I’d like to focus on some tips and tricks to help you get the best out of Green Shoots Mapping from your own perspective. After doing the easy bit of providing wildlife records, most people move onto making their custom maps. Indeed, for many users it is the maps which are a serious incentive to use the system. And why not? They are easy to make, store and share.
One useful thing to map is where the guns line out. It is simple – just a combination of lines and points. I would recommend drawing the line first to show the arc. Click to drop an anchor point where you want each gun to stand. Then you add pins (points) to show the facing position of each gun.
You can number the pins by using the labelling box, which puts the label to the right of the pin. If that doesn’t work in all cases then create another pin and select the arrow type and label with the number. You can move that around to where it suits you. I have used this technique on pegs five and six in the example.
Another thing people might struggle to make is arrowhead lines. You might want one of these to show the direction beaters should walk through a cover, or perhaps the direction the birds are likely to flush. The way to do this is to draw the shaft of the arrow and then make two additional lines for the arrowhead. It may seem like extra work but does mean you get the arrowhead at the scale you need – a default arrowhead would be scaled to how long the shaft line is! My tip is to zoom in to the map to make the arrowhead meet the shaft line neatly, and you can then zoom back to admire your handiwork.
BASC is proactive and committed to providing a guaranteed future for shooting sports and the well-being of the countryside. Achieving this depends on the work done by shooting folk to create a healthy environment, rich in wildlife and, just as importantly, telling others about it. BASC is providing the tools to do that in Green Shoots Mapping and our conservation projects. It’s up to normal shooters to engage with it.