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Watching a buzzard
Watching a buzzard

A change has started to come over the grouse during the past few days, and it was interesting to compare the birds here with those further North during my tour of Perthshire and Aberdeenshire last week. The hens in Galloway are definitely down on their eggs, and when I was stalking yesterday afternoon, the only birds I found were cocks sitting very tightly in the heather.

Further North, the first clocker droppings are only just being found and there were plenty of hen birds still out and about with their cocks. There was even some actual mating going on on the higher ground, and plenty of high-profile boundary disputes which would usually be the kind of business you’d expect to have seen in Galloway a fortnight or three weeks ago.

You sometimes find the first grouse nests in Galloway before the end of the burning season on the fifteenth, but these are seldom more than simple affairs with an egg or two tucked out of sight in the heather. The burning season used to end whenever the keepers burnt over the first grouse nest – usually around about the middle of April. But the timing of nesting varies hugely according to a range of different factors, and in a rare show of good sense, the laws we have today allow burning to continue (with various conditions) beyond the fifteenth on higher ground where grouse will nest later.

There’s no doubt that these birds are all working at the same process, but it’s interesting to see how the timescale varies from North to South and high to low.

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