During a beautiful sunlit afternoon walking over Langholm Moor with the head keeper yesterday afternoon (of which more to come), life seemed pretty sweet. Lone grouse cocks poked their heads out of the dry, rustling grass and it was a fair bet to assume that if there were any early chicks going about, the living would have been pretty easy for them. Fast forward to this morning on the Chayne, where the clouds sagged down like a loose flysheet inside a tent. We have had two inches of rain today, and the prospects look fairly bleak for any chicks up on the hill. I have a feeling that the grouse hens on the Chayne still have a day or two to sit, so if this unholy onslaught is just a blip then it’ll soon be forgotten. If it settles in and really starts to rain, there will be some major problems afoot.
For all that it’s possible to boost wild game stocks through habitat management and predator control, the cornerstone of a good season is always good weather. It doesn’t matter how many crows or foxes you can account for, if the chicks are chilled or drowned then it’s all for nothing. Watching my partridge chicks this afternoon beneath an improvised plastic canopy, it was quite alarming to picture them out on the hillside without a roof over their heads. We humans sometimes imagine that nothing in the natural would ever work without our help or intervention, and I suppose that while those little shapes do seem horribly vulnerable, they are much tougher than they look.