Blackening Grouse

No doubting this bird's sex - with pheasant poult for comparison.

No doubting this bird’s sex – with pheasant poult for comparison.

During a few hours in Weardale and Teesdale on Thursday afternoon, I saw more black grouse than I have ever seen in my life. In one five acre field, there were forty two birds, and as I watched, they were joined by another brood of six. Brood after brood of promising young poults moved quietly through the rushes, and it was interesting to compare how the blackcock are progressing with their adult colours. Some of the young birds were still mottled and dirty, while others were well on the way to smart maturity. Here and there, lone adult blackcock skulked ignominiously amongst the pheasants, trying to blend in and conceal the indignity of missing tail feathers.

Having complained about the nation’s focus on black grouse in the North Pennines last week, I certainly can’t deny that it is useful to have a real focal point for the species. I take huge inspiration from Teesdale and Weardale, and while I jealously fume that black grouse money is seldom spent elsewhere, what a spectacle it is to see hillsides literally infested with blackgame

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