Having seen a blackcock picking off the last haws of the season on Friday (above), it’s probably going to start getting pretty tight for the birds over the next few months. None of my black grouse have been in the inbye fields for over a month, and they now prefer to spend their entire time up on the moor where the heather should give them good feeding for the forseeable.
I’ve been hearing of blackcock and greyhens feeding from pheasant hoppers over the winter, so I’ll have to keep an eye out to see if my birds are prepared to take artificial feed. Having seen first year cock birds in Teesdale feeding alongside pheasants under a spiral feeder nozzle, it’s probably likely that young birds pick up this trick by watching the pheasants, but in areas where pheasants aren’t put down and there have never been feed hoppers, it’s unlikely that a mature black grouse would home in on one unless things got really desperate.
It’s too soon to say whether or not this winter will be anything like the last two years, but if my birds can learn to feed from hoppers, they’ll certainly benefit from it in the long run.