Any news on the grey partridge front? We haven’y heard anything for a while on them. Are you going to continue with your hatch and release policy this year?
I’m not working with grey partridges at the moment for the simple reason that I just don’t have time. I absolutely loved the rear and release programme I tried out in 2012 and 2013, but it was staggeringly time consuming. During the actual release phase, I was spending five or six hours a day on the poults, and could have spent far more if I had had nothing else on. It was a huge pleasure to sit up somewhere quiet and watch the young birds feeding through the grass with their bantam mother, and the work repaid itself many times over in terms of sheer delight. One particularly fond memory was finding a covey of seven which had been fostered to an adult pair dust-bathing in the track on the back hill one sunny evening. They moved and sounded like wild birds, and I almost convinced myself that the project had worked.
In fact, I even had some cause to believe that the project might have worked if I had kept going, with two pairs of partridges still holding strong after two years on the hill. It was great to hear them calling in the half-dark amongst the red grouse, and I was always amazed at the huge distances they used. I lost track of these last birds a few months ago, but feel sure that they could have held on if they had received another wave or two of new recruits from my project. That said, predation rates were pretty dire and I lost an awful lot of birds for every one that lived.
Rearing small numbers of grey partridges under broodie hens should be mandatory for anyone interested in shooting – it ticks every box in terms of conservation, habitat management and game bird husbandry and it provides hours of pleasure for anyone with a naturalist’s eye for sporting shooting. Unfortunately, it is so labour intensive that I simply cannot justify breeding and rearing young birds as I was, and the project had to fold.
Although even as I write this, I have looked around at the details of some old contacts to see if there are eggs going to rear a clutch this summer. I have the broodies and the time to spend on one or two birds, so perhaps it is worth watching this space. If anyone reads this and knows where I might find a dozen eggs, let me know…