Over two days of extraordinary high pressure and a steady east wind, what better time to get some more grit out for the grouse? I knew I was on a winner as I drove the quad bike up through the open sheep fields onto the hill and saw a shoal of golden plover rise up to twinkle in the sun. At a first glance I thought I was responsible for flushing them from the ground, but then there was a savage blur of a peregrine in amongst them. The collision was almost out of sight by the time it took place, but things didn’t look good for the wader. Golden plover become a common sight a bit later in the season in these fields, sharing the grass with gangs of black-headed gulls, starlings and peewits. They are confiding little birds, and strangely easy to approach without any great caution.
Our syndicate ground has access to some medicated grit, but I must admit that while others are keen, I don’t really like using it. Grouse occupy such a high and vaunted status because they are wild birds, and while I understand the benefits of treating worms and keeping birds in their best condition, something rings rather hollow about using wormers, particularly on a small-scale, amateur level. Aside from anything, I dislike the smell of the oily coating on medicated grit, which often hangs around my overalls and gloves. Grouse should get good value from a steady stream of plain grit, and tracking their usage of the tiny stones will be an interesting project over the winter.
In the event, I put out a few trays with medicated grit so that it can be easily withdrawn when the moment comes, but the rest of the day was spent digging old-fashioned mounds and smothering them in Cornish quartz. The grouse were in great fettle, looking fit and in excellent condition. Part of the day was spent playing around with cutting heather by hand, of which more to come – but now the bath is running.