Important to note in brief that grand stirrings are taking place among the blackgame on the hill. Although nobody has yet seen the birds in situ, I found a generous scattering of blackcock shit all around the green patch where they periodically display from the end of April onwards. Much of this evidence was very fresh, and it seems to suggest that bird(s) were on site this morning. The white urea cap at the end of the pellet usually washes off in the first rain, and the evidence would seem to suggest that at least one cock was in situ a few hours ago.
Also interesting to see that the shit is made up almost entirely of cottongrass heads and pollen. I’ve written before on this blog about the huge importance of cottongrass (also known as a moss crop) as food for grouse and sheep, and I hope that these little shoots will be providing the birds with the rocket fuel they need to get the season off to a good start.
There are also relevant comparisons with my discovery of similar shit last year in mid-May when the blackgame were eating green-ribbed sedge during the flowering stage. Pollen is extremely digestible and the resulting output is stodgy, wet and formed into individual pellets. Compare this with birds feeding on rush seeds or heather later in the year and the shit is dry, compact and often crumbly within an hour or two.
This very close interest in bird shit might seem a little perverse, but it has always been a really useful way of identifying the important seasonal food plants on the hill –