Can’t help looking to the skies as the red grouse hatch gets underway. It has been miserably cold and wet over the past seventy two hours, and the occasional periods of warm sunshine have done little to improve the situation. We are definitely seeing a slow spring in 2015, particularly in comparison to last year, and while the cow parsley is coming on in the roadside verges, the may blossom is still holding back and many of the cotton grass heads are still hard grey cones.
This should be a crucial moment for the birds on the hill, but the delayed arrival of summer is giving some cause for concern. I had an excellent, stirring evening listening to a lek on the hill as I went round some of the in-bye fields with the .22 shooting some rabbits for the pot on Tuesday night, and despite the cold misery of the spring so far, the blackcock seem unfazed by it all. Snipe buzzed and hummed overhead as I came down off the hill by ten thirty, but I woke up yesterday morning to rain smashing on the skylights and a chilly Southern breeze holding the plants in check. Fortunately the greyhen eggs are still a little way from hatching, so there is plenty of time for things to pick up before we start to see the first of 2015’s new black grouse.
It is worth noting that the song thrushes have come roaring back to life after a month of relative silence, and I wonder if the birds I am hearing are the cocks staking out their territories again for a second brood. They stand a much better chance this time now that the leaves are on the trees, particularly since nothing stands out more than a thrush’s nest in the boughs of a leafless winter sycamore. I wonder why they insist on breeding so early when their eggs and young are so vulnerable to a whole range of predators, but it must be worth trying.