Simon Lester's gamekeeping diary

December 2011

SEEING an adder on the moor on 1 December was quite a surprise. The creature did not seem to be alarmed at my presence and was quite fat, as if he or she was digesting a meal in the unseasonable December sun.

Winter adder

The adder was wise, as just days later, the temperature plummeted and we had several inches of snow.

A dusting of snow always means that it’s time for the keepers to get out and about and check for tracks of predators, mainly foxes, stoats and weasels. Foxes start to pair up and mate in December, so there is usually an increase in fox activity. Checking earths at this time of year is extremely important, as foxes tend to go to ground in snowy conditions.

Then came the wind and rain that battered Scotland. The combination of heavy rain and meltwater on already saturated ground resulted in the rivers running higher than I have seen them before. The raging waters washing away several rail traps and bridges that we have constructed to link one piece of moorland to another to help us to get around more effectively, so we have been busy replacing them.

I don’t often expect to see a fish in an alder tree, but after looking twice, that is exactly what it was, which just shows how high the river was after all that rain. This kelt (a spent salmon) had been caught dead or alive and left high and dry in the branches of the tree.

Lester fish in tree

The 10 December saw the end of another grouse shooting season. Despite all the keepering effort this year, we have not shot any grouse which is disappointing for all concerned in the Project, but especially for the keepers.

I hope that 2012 sees both the grouse and hen harriers fare better on the moor. One thing we don’t want is another 1701.2mm (67 inches) of rain, in particular, 179.3mm in May alone.


Simon Lester - Lorne Gill