A certain amount of encouraging eyebrows were raised when the GWCT revealed that a brood of eleven black grouse poults had been reared to more than eight weeks in the North Pennines. Eleven poults is certainly the most I have ever heard of from one greyhen – infact, the biggest clutch I’ve ever seen was only nine eggs. The good summer has obviously paid dividends, but I was certainly unprepared to hear that a brood of thirteen poults has been seen by a keeper in the Moorfoots, almost within sight of Edinburgh.
The estate in question has a reputation for good black grouse numbers, but thirteen is unprecedented. This must be one of the biggest broods of black grouse in Britain this year, and the very thought of a greyhen laying thirteen eggs is stunning, let alone rearing all the chicks into September. It goes to show just what a difference the weather makes to wild game, particularly in contrast to the summer of 2012. Life as a black grouse enthusiast is usually rather bleak, but such stunning reversals give some tangible hopes to a cause that often seems lost in the South of Scotland.
Just as point of interest, I took this picture (below) of a young blackcock as it flew off after being disturbed this afternoon. Although the bird is rather blurred, the camera has serendipitously captured the left wing with with crystal clarity, revealing that black grouse can be aged by their primary feathers just like red grouse. The third primary is considerably shorter than the others, indicating that this is a bird of the year. If it wasn’t for the conspicuous brown juvenile feathers on what is so obviously a young blackcock, information like this would be quite useful.
Perhaps this discovery will have some future application for ageing a greyhen, but even if not, I still think it’s interesting.