Having looked at the prospects for red grouse, it is of significantly more value that I keep an eye on the local blackgame. I am generally a bit edgy about counting grouse in July in areas where there are blackgame , if only because broods of the latter can be surprisingly small and vulnerable on all but the stillest and warmest days even into August. The black grouse breeding cycle is that much later than red grouse, and broods often don’t hatch out until well into June.
Having bumped into a brood of six black grouse poults last night totally by mistake, my hair went white to see them scatter into the wind. I am a total pessimist and feel sure that all is lost as a result of this encounter, but I know that there is nothing seriously wrong and that the greyhen will soon gather them back together again. These little birds were strong and well-feathered at approximately five or six weeks old, and the chances are that they will come on very nicely, but it would have saved my nerves if I had encountered them in another fortnight.
Casting round friends and fellow black grouse nuts, 2014 has been another positive year for productivity. The North Pennines appear to have churned out a fair weight of birds again, and it was encouraging to hear from Lindsay Waddell at the CLA that he is very encouraged by all that he has seen. The Moorfoots have done well, and Angus is apparently turning them out without any difficulty. There is a bit of a mixed bag in the South Grampians, with reports suggesting that the broods are there but they are not very large. However, Speyside is positive and the scraps I have picked up from the North Highlands are pretty good. I hope to get down to Wales in the next couple of weeks for a look in person, but initial reports are also looking very good.
As specific black grouse counts start up later in this month and birds start to become more visible, it will be easier to get a more accurate idea of how things look. However, for the moment, thing seem very encouraging, and yet more evidence to suggest that good weather and warmth are the foundation of all wild game production. There are some broods of blackgame even on unkeepered ground near the Chayne, and this can only be as a result of a warm, dry summer.