Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Numbers Game

The astute amongst you will have noticed the apparent mathematical problems that appeared to be aired by the BBC and Alex Hogg Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association during Countryfile on Sunday. Tom Heap (the presenter) stating that AH was about to release 700 poults and AH just minutes later claiming he loses 1000 Pheasant poults per year to Buzzard predation. Enough people noticed and started asking the question that SGA have today issued a statement clarifying why the numbers didn't add up. see here.

All above board then and just one of those things that occasionally happens with TV..... until I started thinking about the new numbers, 3800 poults, 1000 lost to Buzzards that's a whopping 26%! More than one in four pheasant poults predated by Buzzards. These must be uber-efficient hunters these pesky Buzzards.

That hunting efficiency is even more impressive when you realise poults generally stay in pens between three and six weeks before dispersing (source). So being generous and allowing the full six weeks these Scottish Buzzards are taking a whopping 150 Pheasant poults per week on the Chairman's Estate. I'm beginning to wonder how these birds manage to take off given the amount of Pheasant it is being claimed they consume.

Now it may well be that we will see a further statement from SGA clarifying that these losses are across the whole year and not just whilst the Pheasant poults are in pens. Again maybe the victim of needing to provide a quick answer to a difficult question in front of the cameras you might think. If that is the case I have some questions for Alex Hogg and SGA, I'd like to post those questions on their Facebook page but as I highlighted several days ago I appear to have been blocked from commenting there for some reason.

1. How does Alex Hogg arrive at his estimate of the number of Pheasant losses to Buzzards? What evidence is this based on? With this almost constant predation has he managed to film or record a single poult being taken by a Buzzard?

2.  If this '1000' are not all been taken as poults from pens where does this leave his 'livestock' argument aired on the show? If I understand the legal definitions correctly Pheasants are not livestock once released and if SGA want to argue they continue to be livestock then I think that opens a whole can of worms.

The bottom line here is that if the Chairman of the SGA had evidence to prove his plucked from the air numbers it would have been made public long before now in fact he/they would have been waving it in front of any and every DEFRA Minister that they could find. He has no evidence as his made up losses are just that, made up. He and many others that populate the higher echelons of the game industry are so locked into the 200 year old mythology that they need to manage the hooky beaks that being faced with daily views of Buzzards wandering their estates has them grasping for excuses to have away with them, after all that's what their fathers and grandfathers did and they did all right. A great example of that old saying 'you can't teach an old Hogg new tricks'.


On another note it was interesting to note the siting of the release pen, a fairly dense coniferous woodland with almost zero shrub cover, in fact ground cover seemed to be limited to some ferns and bracken. Hardly following best practice "As ground-dwelling birds, they require shelter and protection from predators. This is provided by patches of thick cover from ground level to head height and a few larger shrubs or low trees for roosting at night. Evergreens such as holly, yew and conifers make good roost trees and are often planted for this reason. However, low shrubs comprise the key component of the habitat" (source) and perhaps not compatible with the 'we've tried everything' excuses trotted out whilst the dangling CD was flashed across the screen.


Ian Thomson said...

Exceedingly perceptive comments, Alan, again exposing the ridiculous claims of those who want legalised raptor persecution.

Pete Woodruff said...

Alan has summed this up in just a few words on two counts....'ridiculous claims of those who want to legalise raptor persecution', and your 'exceedingly perceptive comments' Alan.

Pete Woodruff said...

Previous comment should start to read Ian, not Alan....apologies.