Gamekeepers stop wildfire from reaching rare bird nests

The blaze broke out in forestry near Bannockburn around mid-afternoon on Friday.

Gamekeepers stop wildfire from reaching rare bird nests TCSMG

Moorland gamekeepers, farmers and volunteers assisted fire crews to halt a potentially devastating wildfire in Stirlingshire, helping to save nesting habitats of globally-threatened wading birds.

The blaze broke out in forestry near Bannockburn around mid-afternoon on Friday and locals were quick to react; minimising pressure on attending emergency crews.

Having ignited initially in woodland, the flames spread out onto open hill and could have burned out nesting territories for wading birds.

Six gamekeepers from Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group were on the scene quickly with leaf blowers, which they normally use to manage controlled legal muirburn.

They also mobilised a tractor with mow, cutting around the fire to contain it as local farmers and volunteers swelled the ranks attending the flames.

The fire service arrived quickly with fire beaters, extinguishing the flames before it could hit woodland near a reservoir stronghold where birds are readying to nest.

In total, an area of around three acres was left blackened but the fire could have been much worse had the flames not been tackled quickly.

With tinder dry conditions caused by weeks without rain, there have been a number of large wildfires across the country in recent weeks.

A blaze was still raging in the Galloway hills on Saturday after igniting 48 hours earlier, and more than 30 fire fighters were required to tackle a massive fire in the Kilpatrick Hills in West Dumbartonshire this week, placing enormous strain on frontline services during lockdown.

Gamekeepers also helped extinguish a croft fire in Sutherland a fortnight ago, which started close to the location of a 2019 wildfire which burned for six days.

Alice Bugden, coordinator of Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group, said: “The conditions have been really dry. 

“When one of our gamekeepers from a local estate saw the flames, he quickly called around others and they were on the scene pretty quickly, along with farmers and other volunteers.

“Obviously, because of their skills in managing controlled muirburn, the local keepers have a lot of fire knowledge and equipment to help. 

“They have all pretty much signed up to assist, whenever called upon.

“When the fire crews arrived, the blaze was brought under control and a good job, too. 

“Breeding waders are under so much predation pressure and it would have been tragic if their territories were burnt out.”