Satisfying to find that the grouse have responded to several of my new grit boxes on the hill. A huge amount of work went in to digging out turves and spreading grit in November, and I will confess that I was groping in the dark for a system that would appeal to birds. As much as I was advised to concentrate my grit piles on high ground, promontories and tall tussocks, I was keen to try a number of different sites for my grit.
I’ve written on this blog before about grouse behaviour at low densities – what might work for the big grouse moors does not seem to apply on small areas of marginal moorland, and asking grouse to stand up on a raised mound to access grit is effectively an open invitation to any predator watching from nearby forestry. Grouse in marginal areas tend to be much less confiding and generally prefer to keep their heads down more than those in Angus or the Pennines – this is the survival instinct in action, and should hardly be a surprise.
I put some grit on raised stones and tussocks as per instruction, but also hid some in deep beds of moss and heather and set up still more on areas of dry heath with thick cover nearby. After four months, it seems that there is no real preference in the birds’ response. Grit has been taken from all three different locations with equal enthusiasm, although it is worth noting that they have tended to use the more exposed locations only at higher altitudes and well away from woodland. Nearer the forest edge, they seem to have preferred grit which was hidden in the deeper cover – again, hardly rocket science, but nice to have a theory confirmed and always a buzz to get a direct interaction with a wild bird.