Blessed with a wealth of wildlife and expansive estates, Aberdeenshire has seen enormous success in the Golden Plover Awards.
In 2013 the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), together with the Heather Trust, presented the inaugural Golden Plover Award at the Scottish Game Fair, which takes place every year in the grounds of Scone Palace.
The first winner of the award, presented for moorland management, was Aberdeenshire’s Edinglassie estate.
A mixed sporting estate near Huntly, Edinglassie was chosen for its consistent performance in maximising the condition of an area of moorland for agricultural and sporting purposes as well as conservation and other measures such as improvement of ecosystem services and continuing awareness of best practice and innovation.
Deeside’s own Finzean estate kept the Golden Plover in the county when it outshone competition from Loch Choire Estate and Gannochy to become the 2014 winner.
Game and wildlife management is undertaken on Finzean Estate to support a wide range of species, including the iconic capercaillie.
Until the 1980s, the moor at Finzean produced bags of 600 brace of grouse a season, but then suffered a steep decline in fortunes. Since then, considerable effort has been put in to improve the upland habitat alongside other conservation initiatives, resulting in steady recovery.
Red and roe deer are managed on both the open hill and in woodland, and Finzean may also be strategically important for the conservation of wildcats.
Finzean is managed as an integrated family business with a keen interest in conservation and the preservation of a viable, thriving community.
The estate comprises 4000 hectares, with moorland representing just over a third of this area.
Moorlands support specialist flora and fauna as well as delivering a range of public goods and services such as drinking water, carbon storage, recreation and job creation. They are no longer “wilderness,” having been subject to centuries of human influence either direct or indirect. Management of these upland areas as grouse moors can contribute to a net benefit to biodiversity.
Moorland management is an industry in itself. With an award scheme established to recognise achievements in almost every other industry, the Heather Trust and GWCT felt it was the next natural step to indroduce a similar accolade for moorland management.
Nominations are now open for the third annual Golden Plover Award.
Applications for the 2015 award are welcomed from any owner or manager of land in any part of Scotland who can demonstrate a real commitment to sustainable moorland or upland management. Applications from the more remote parts of Scotland are encouraged , as are applications from individuals.
The Golden Plover is not just an award for estates.
The theme for the award is peatland management and restoration; applicants will be expected to demonstrate how they are managing their peatland to improve its condition.
Application forms are available to download from the GWCT and Heather Trust websites.
The deadline for applications for 2015 is Friday, February 27.
Once the finalists have been shortlists, the winner will be chosen and the award presented at the Scottish Game Fair in Perthshire on July 3.
For more informationon the award and to nominate an estate or individual visit www.heathertrust.co.uk/ or http://www.gwct.org.uk/scotland/golden-plover-award/.