Conservation at Work

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8th September 2022


The Moorland Association is highlighting game keepers’ year-round conservation efforts for a wide variety of moorland species.

Now the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has created a new video showing how experts from the British Trust for Ornithology, Foxglove Covert Local Nature Reserve in North Yorkshire and gamekeepers work together to monitor merlin on managed grouse moors, by attaching a ring to the chick’s leg in order to record valuable data about the size and number of birds and nest location.

If the same bird is found again it provides further useful information about territory and survival rates.

The merlin is the smallest falcon resident in the UK and has an approximate population of just over a thousand pairs. They nest on the ground on the moors.

Although rare, merlin thrive on grouse moors and choose to breed here in summer, because the conditions are right for ground-nesting birds, and predators are controlled, which increases the number of birds that survive to adulthood.

Their main food sources – mainly meadow pipits – also thrive on these moors, as keepers maintain the habitat and control predator numbers for all ground nesting birds.

As an iconic upland bird, it’s important to gamekeepers that these birds of prey choose to make the moors their home, alongside other iconic birds like the curlew, lapwing, hen harrier and the red grouse.

Darren Chadwick of the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group states that some keepers estimate merlin numbers of up to 200 pairs across the Yorkshire Dales and parts of the North York Moors. This is where the BTO data and chick ringing work is vital, in providing new data about this much-loved bird, in terms of their population, their behaviour and territorial range.

This is just one of many conservation success stories thanks to the work of gamekeepers on managed grouse moors.

The full video is available here:

To follow the work of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, visit their social media accounts:



Twitter:  @NationalGamekee


Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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