"Gustav" settles into his new home above the black grouse nest site.
Knowing where the black grouse are nesting gives me the opportunity to focus my management efforts on the right area. I have sown oats in an adjacent garden and am now preparing another little patch on the hillside above the farm where I have seen the blackcock strutting around over the past few weeks. Much of that area is choked with rushes, so I am having to dig out individual clumps with a shovel. It is extremely hard work, but once the ground has been cleared and drained, it should make for quite a profitable little gamecrop.
Yesterday morning I had a phone call from a friend offering me the services of a crow. She has recently started using a Solway MultiLarsen trap and is having tremendous success with it. The fact that the trap has three compartments means that, at the moment, she has more crows than she knows what to do with, and rather than just wring their necks, she is handing out live call birds to other traps as fast as she can. I drove over and picked up a furious hessian sack which bounced and scuffled in the boot of my car all the way up to the Chayne.
By law, call birds must be adequately fed and watered and provided with a sheltered spot so that they can get out of the worst of the weather. I set up my own MultiLarsen trap near the black grouse nest site with a sachet of dog food, a plastic milk bottle full of water and a little pine perch so that the beast in the sack who rustled behind me would be humanely catered for.
With a great deal of fluttering and struggling, a fine crow came dancing out of the sack and into the trap. He took a moment to rearrange himself, then set about gobbling down the dog food. I took the quad bike off up the hill to work on the new oat patch, but remained within sight of the trap to see how things progressed.
After an hour, the black grouse appeared and started poking around the trap site. I worried that he might decide to go in and investigate, but he seemed happy to sit on the dyke nearby and sun himself. An hour later he had gone, but the trap was being assailed by a pair of territorial crows. They fussed and pecked at the call bird from outside, cawing and raging all around. The call bird (who I have now named “Gustav”) seemed blissfully unconcerned, and popped up and down off his perch as if it was all fairly normal to him.
It should now only be a matter of time before those crows snare themselves in the MultiLarsen, and given that they obviously operate the territory where the black grouse lives, the sooner it happens, the better.