Into the first week in December and we have now had 2 inches of snow and frosts down to minus 7.
Winter is well and truly here and the wee birds outside my window are feeding furiously on the peanuts, seed and beef dripping.
I wonder sometimes how many of our species would survive without the helping hand of man. Just about anything that happens in our countryside has been managed and altered in some way or another and the benefits to wildlife are enormous, in some cases.
I have been very lucky in my life to have traveled to many places in the world and nowhere else do we see such a wide breadth and richness of biodiversity that we have in these small islands.
I have now been a gamekeeper for nearly forty years and I am absolutely convinced by now that, if it was not for our habitat work and predator management, many of our species would now be extinct.
Lapwing, curlew and our red squirrel would all be nearly gone by now but there is work to be done to make the public understand this.
Last week, Kenneth, who writes our magazine, attended a Species Action Framework conference in Edinburgh, run by SNH. One of the presentations was on the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, presented by head gamekeeper, Simon Lester.
Kenneth had been down to Langholm to interview Simon and the team there so he was very interested, sitting at the back of the room, in the reaction from the audience when Simon came to the part in his presentation which dealt with legal predator control.
Many young heads in the room were shaking in the negative with murmurs of ‘a step too far’ when a picture of a crow cage appeared on the screen. Now these youngsters were intelligent but they could only express what they had been taught at school and university and nobody had ever had the chance to see conservation in the raw.
We must stop showing nature through rose tinted glasses and allow people to see with their own eyes what hard decisions need to be made to save one species from killing and eating another.
Last week we had a very encouraging meeting with SNH regarding licensing and managing species. In recent times, engagement between the SGA and SNH has improved greatly and we felt very positive when we came out of the meeting and I hope we can come up with some new ideas which can benefit the Scottish countryside.
When the poults arrived back in July we asked the game farmer for some white ones. True to his word he brought us five white six week old pheasants which were duly released along with the others.
As we entered the shooting season, we still had three white pheasants on the estate, although they had done a fair bit of wandering.
Last week was the first time we caught up with one of the white ones. Out it sailed from the first drive, flying high over the middle of the guns.
I saw the bird begin to crumple long before I heard the shot. Down it fell, thumping on the hard ground and I thought to myself, ‘well, that’s £100 in the SGA kitty’. Why?
When I gave the safety talk to the guns in the morning, they were well up to shooting a white one and it gave me a chance to give them a brief history of the SGA. So if any keepers out there wish to raise some money for the SGA, order your white poults now!