Conservation at Work

Blog & News


12th June 2024

Landowners in the North York Moors are hosting a series of Moorland Safaris to celebrate the thriving birdlife on grouse moors in the region and raise awareness of actions that can help some of our rarest species.

Bransdale, Snilesworth, Spaunton and Danby Moors, all of which are managed for Red Grouse, provide the right habitat for iconic ground nesting birds such as Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Merlin, Britain’s smallest bird of prey.

The North York Moors area is designated a Special Protection Area (SPA), because of its important populations of Merlin and Golden Plover.

The tours are led by gamekeepers and the visitors are taken in four-wheel drive vehicles to remote areas of the moors.

The keepers have a detailed knowledge of the whereabouts of the birds and other wildlife and demonstrate why these species are thriving on the beautiful heather moors of the uplands.

Robert Sword, the Regional Officer for the Moorland Association covering the North York Moors, said: “Ground-nesting birds such as the Curlew and Merlin are among the UK’s most pressing conservation priorities and the grouse moors are fundamental in providing a safe habitat where they can nest and fledge their chicks successfully.”

Other topics covered are displays of legal trapping of predator species such as foxes and stoats, a crucial element of moorland management to protect vulnerable ground-nesting birds.

The keepers also explain why controlled burning or cutting of vegetation is so important to provide shorter patches of heather that make ideal nesting sites for moorland birds, as well as the new growth that provides food for grouse, other birds and livestock.

Members of  North Yorkshire Council and North York Moors National Park have  attended the safaris as well as members of the public.

Keepers in the North York Moors work with the BTO-licensed Merlin Ringing Group to record data on Merlin nests and population trends. They are also conducting their own five year survey of waders and ground nesting birds.

Robert Sword  continued: “One notable feature of the safaris is the knowledge and devotion by the keepers to the bird species which they protect. Visitors are often unaware of all the conservation work that takes place year-round so it is wonderful to be able to bring people here in the Spring to see for themselves.”

Peer-reviewed scientific research found that curlew breeding success was four times higher on grouse moors than on other landholdings. Similar results were reported for other wading birds.



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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