The grouse shooting season began on Tuesday with gamekeepers reporting excellent prospects for both grouse and fragile bird species.
As shooting parties will take to the heather moors of the Lammermuirs letting agents are predicting a boost to rural communities in excess of £32 million.
However, while the health of the iconic quarry will be uppermost in shooters’ minds, gamekeepers are reporting excellent prospects for threatened Curlew and Lapwing, statistics which are bucking national and UK trends.
Heather management and predator control by gamekeepers to produce a harvestable surplus of grouse for sport has been proven to provide benefits for ground-nesting wading species which have suffered alarming declines of 56 per cent in 17 years.
The Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Strategy, published last week, reported that four out of five wading bird species were showing ‘significant declines’.
However, maps and counts from grouse keepers across Scotland are showing cause for optimism for conservation-listed birds.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) Chairman, Borders-based Alex Hogg said: “The prospects for the grouse season look good. The mix of weather has been right for the birds, which have feathered up well, there’s been enough water and there has been a good insect hatch.
“It should secure a good season for sporting visitors which, in turn, helps the small rural communities; the tourism businesses, shops and retailers that require the cash injection as we head into the less seasonal months.
“The most pleasing things for us, though, is the fate of our fragile species.
“Through our 2014 SGA Year of the Wader project, we now have wader counts in from grouse moors in the Borders and the birds are faring well thanks to the work of the keepers who are putting the hard work in to help these threatened birds, which have no protection otherwise from the larger predators which dwarf them increasingly in number.
“Viable grouse shooting means that estates can afford to pay keepers to do this vital conservation work without any need for public money.
“If you removed this model, the bill would have to come from the public purse and vast swathes of Scotland’s heather moorland, more endangered than the rainforest, would be increasingly under threat from afforestation.”