Despite the fact that the new hedge has now been fenced off and made stock-proof, there’s still alot of work to be done before it can provide black grouse with any advantages. Indeed, an unmarked fence in black grouse country can be an active danger to low flying birds who are liable to crash into the wires and kill themselves. Many miles of deer fence are being marked or removed altogether across the Scottish highlands to minimise the risk of capercaillie dying in this avoidable way, and a comment on this blog revealed last week that thirty red grouse had been killed by a new fence in the Borders in just a single year.
Black grouse can and do crash into fences, as illustrated on Mike Groves’ Moorland Matters website, and when you’re dealing with such a tiny population of birds like I have in the Galloway hills, it’s important to do everything possible to keep them safe. Obviously, deer fences are a greater danger to birds because of their height, but stock fences can be just as deadly to black grouse, who can fly at more than 70mph. Every bird counts, and if it takes an afternoon grinding galvanised steel plates and bending them to fit onto rylock sheep netting, then so be it.
The effect is actually quite striking. You can now see the wire from six hundred yards away, and fingers crossed that it’ll be obvious to black grouse heading towards the fence that an impassable barrier lies between the stobs.