Attendees and apologies
- Claudia Rowse, SNH; (Chair)
- Morag Milne, SNH (secretariat)
- Rae McKenzie, SNH
- Jess Shaw, SNH
- Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland
- Penny Middelton, NFUS
- Martine Kennedy, NFUS
- Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland
- Steve Campbell, SASA
- Patrick Krause, SCF
- Karen Ramoo, SLE
- Brian Minshull, BGAG
- Nils Bunnefeld, Stirling University
- Alan Younie, RPID
- Alan Watson, Orkney LGMG
- Bill Dundas, RPID
- David Muir, Uist LGMG
- Robert Epps, Islay LGMG
- Peter Isacsson, Tiree LGMG
- Sally Reynolds, Lewis and Harris LGMG
- Alastair Martin, Solway LGMG
- Duncan MacAlister, Kintyre LGMG
- Neil McCartney, Shetland LGMG
- Wendy Hunter, Strathbeg LGMG
- Hugh Dignon, SG
- Chris Wernham, BTO
- Richard Hearn, WWT
- Donald McCreath, Strathbeg LGMG
Items and actions
Welcome and introductions
Claudia welcomed everyone to the meeting and acted as chair in Hugh Dignon’s absence.
Update on international AEWA process and progress – paper 1
Rae introduced paper 1 noting the positive working relationship that we have established with Iceland, Norway and Ireland.
The meeting noted the Barnacle goose population model will be completed by June 2021 and that terms of reference will be developed for the model for goose impacts.
National Goose Management Schemes – future plans
Claudia noted that NatureScot will extend the six goose schemes supporting management for Annex 1 species to March 2023, maintaining the budget at current levels. This provides security to Local Goose Management Groups and contributes to the Cabinet Secretary’s stability and consistency agenda. Written confirmation will follow this meeting.
During the two years to March 2023 NatureScot will review the current schemes to simplify them and to align them with Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) schemes where possible. NatureScot will consult with Local Goose Management Groups (LGMGs) as it works through the process of developing future schemes.
The extension of existing goose schemes was welcomed.
Brian Minshull noted that future schemes will be prioritised to support species of highest conservation concern and, by extension, bean geese could be included in future schemes. He will ask the Bean Goose Action Group to consider and to make a case.
NatureScot was asked if bag limits for barnacle geese could be increased across Scotland to Islay levels. Rae explained that the bag limit on Islay relates to a 10-year strategy. In the longer term, the flyway process will inform bags for barnacle geese and ensure parity across the range.
The meeting noted that the current State Aid cover does not extend to March 2023. NatureScot will apply for an extension to the existing cover as soon as the post-Brexit arrangements and application forms are available. In the meantime we can assume the same rules will apply; incompatibility checks will remain a requirement and payment rates will remain at current per hectare levels.
Action Point (AP): NatureScot will ask Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) for an update on its research into barnacle geese to answer a question about whether management activity on Islay is displacing barnacle geese to other places.
Greylag geese – paper 2
Morag introduced proposals for monitoring arrangements for greylag geese and NatureScot will use these to inform their future management.
LGMGs provided an update on their activities:
On Orkney The August 2020 count was cancelled due to covid-19. It's felt that resident greylag numbers have been fairly stable at about 22,000 over the last few years whilst Icelandic greylag numbers have declined from about 42,000 to 34,000 birds.
Volunteer shooting from June to mid-October is being more closely targeted to where greylag are concentrated. A trial to compare the effectiveness of rifles and shotguns was conducted over a 10-day period during the summer.
A survey to identify potential sites for corralling was undertaken in July.
Farmers are filming short clips to illustrate goose impacts for NatureScot who plan to put together a vlog or short film to show how LGMGs are managing greylag impacts.
AP: all LGMGs are invited to submit film (from their phones) to illustrate goose damage. Morag will send some technical guidance after the meeting and will be in touch to request further clips over the winter.
On Uist the spring count showed a decrease on numbers from February last year down from 5314 to 4711. But weather conditions on the day meant there was likelihood of an under count. The LGMG plans to undertake the September count as usual, which last year recorded nearly 9000 birds.
The 2020 spring cull was restricted by covid 19 and available funding; 656 greylag were shot.
A lot of land is vulnerable to goose damage because it is entered into Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) contracts that require a late harvest.
Although the spring cull had limited funding, in North Uist in particular, the lack of funding resulted in geese causing damage to crops. Controllers report they would have done more if funding had continued.
Storas Uibhist has tried a new approach this year to support the control of greylag geese – and with some success. Storas’ land is owned by the community on South Uist and Benbecula. Storas has given £500 to each township for goose control if the sum is matched by the town. The money has been spent on fencing and scaring geese. In addition, where evidence of shooting is produced a payment of £5/goose is made to the shooter at the end of the season. Further details are appended in a report supplied by Storas’ head keeper.
Some individual crofters are also employing scarers - but this is the exception.
The addition of greylag to General Licence 02/2020 has been helpful. The General Licence has enabled greylags to be culled all year round with permission of the landowner. This includes destroying them on the nest – but this needs further development and a coordinated approach across the islands.
The General Licence has also enabled goose meat to be processed for sale across Scotland and Storas Uibhist hopes to develop this market.
On Lewis and Harris the spring count has been slightly lower than previous years at 4,430 greylag. The LGMG plan to assess productivity in the autumn and to count and cull next spring.
The spring cull was suspended due to covid 19. There have been few complaints this year – possibly because of covid-19.
In discussion the meeting raised concerns about the sustainability of the self-help approach without continues NatureScot funding and with volunteer fatigue. The potential for using Apps to enable LGMGs to share information was also noted and Nils offered to illustrate some Apps at the next meeting.
Minutes from 23 January 2020 meeting and matters arising – Paper 3
The minutes were approved. It was noted that NatureScot has an outstanding task to review the Terms of Reference for the Goose Scientific Advisory Group (GSAG).
Possible topics for future meetings
Possible topics for future meetings include a presentation about Apps for LGMGs to help with co-ordination and to share data, and a presentation about the barnacle goose model. We could also ask Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for an update on collar/mark/recapture work on Orkney.
Any other competent business (AOCB)
The meeting noted NatureScot is phasing out its use of lead shot; its purchase has never been funded through the adaptive greylag pilots and it is no longer used under contract to control barnacle goose damage on Islay. British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) supports the change to non-lead and biodegradable materials and the move to more sustainable shooting; this was welcomed by RSPB and WWT.
Date of next meeting (DONM)
NatureScot will canvass for dates December 2020.
Morag Milne 24 September 2020
Summary of actions
AP1: NatureScot will ask WWT for an update on its research into barnacle geese.
AP2: All LGMG’s are invited to submit a recording to illustrate goose damage.
Appendix 1 Storas Uibhist initiative for controlling greylag geese on Uist
A report for the NGF from Lorna MacLeod, head keeper on 24 August 2020
To: David Muir <firstname.lastname@example.org>
So as to update the group, the following approach has been adopted by Storas Uibhist this year with a view it is very much a working plan, subject to feedback and additional funding this may change.
As the community company we have a 2 tier approach:
Support the local crofting community with crop protection/scaring
Gaining support of shooters capable of shooting decent numbers with view to reducing population.
As with every project or scheme finance is everything and Storas Uibhist do not have a infinite pot of cash for this. Based on research and feedback on what worked in the past or what could be done better it was decided that Storas Uibhist would offer a grant of up to £500 per township towards the purchase of scaring equipment, fencing or paying individuals to do regular crop checks, the only condition to be met was that this should be match funded either in cash or ‘in kind’. Further more a bounty of £5 per evidenced bird would be paid out at the end of the cropping period to those who have taken the time to register their interest and area of ground they are available to shoot on. In addition to this Storas had also offered £3000 towards the 2020 annual spring cull to support any possible funding shortfalls as overheads are higher at that time of year in supporting a bounty payment of £8 per evidenced shot bird, we hope to continue this annually.
It is our aim to create a good working partnership with townships as it is very clear we stand a better chance of being successful in stabilising numbers to a manageable amount if all interested parties play their role in either protection or shooting. Our preference is that a township group communication is started such a Whatsapp chat for example so that crofters, scarers and shooters can coordinate accordingly, so far only 2 townships stand out as very good examples of how it can work well so that is very positive so far.
Taking all of the above into consideration its success will be down to commitment, feedback and sustainable financing however we are confident we are being proactive enough and on the right track to making a difference. Partnership working will be key, namely on the financing of the programme so if additional funding pots became available or townships match fund the bounty payments for example this would be a great outcome and would hopefully buy in more commitment. I have found a small market this year for the goose breasts which I hope to expand, this is a positive outcome from having the greylags on the general licence as it would seem we have saturated the local island market.
One last notable point is that this year we had hoped that a much more coordinated approach to egg oiling/pricking would be adopted with volunteers from each township joining the Gamekeepers throughout the spring but due to lockdown this was not able to happen. There was considerable interest from individuals in the townships most effected by geese to support in covering the areas of nesting ground so I intend to encourage this again when the time comes.
If you would like to discuss any of the above then please do get in touch.
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