Black on the Right Track

Not a great photo, but clear enough to see that his tail is on its way back.

Having exposed my favourite black grouse a fortnight ago during the shameful scruffiness of his moult, it’s worth mentioning that he is quickly returning to his smart and overbearing self. Driving off the hill this morning, I spotted the old familiar figure sitting on a dyke. Even from two hundred yards away, it was clear that his tail is on its way back to its former glory, and gone are the disordered brown feathers on his head and neck. In a few weeks he’ll be as glossy and as shiny blue as ever, then if last year is anything to go by, he’ll head away from his summer residence to join up with other birds on the neighbour’s land.

Even though I have been following this one bird on this blog for the last two years, I still get a thrill to see him. There’s just something about black grouse that gets under your skin, and I would defy anyone to live side by side with one of these birds and not fall in love with them. It’s pitiful to think how few remain in Dumfries and Galloway, an area which, before the First World War, held one of the highest densities of black grouse in Europe. This cock bird and his few colleagues are a constant inspiration to me and my moorland management plans, and despite the fact that so many people are keen to pour scorn on my project, I’m more determined than ever to conserve, promote and admire blackgame…

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