This blog has lapsed over the past few weeks as events have begun to get away from me. I will try and catch up if time permits, but it may be that as we enter April and things really start to get going, all kinds of observations will go unpublished. As an indication of all that has passed, my notes have grown by over 30,000 words since my last public post.
In the meantime, it’s worth including these pictures from yesterday in the hills above Dunkeld. “Jock” the grouse achieved notoriety two years ago when it was found that he no fear of human beings, and he was informally adopted by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association as their mascot. I visited him in April 2015 and was surprised by how tame he seemed, but his hen was probably going down on eggs and he was beginning to tone down his displays. By contrast, when we arrived on the scene yesterday Jock was already running at full steam and almost managed to fly in through the car window. We spent ten minutes with him, and during that time we were subjected to livid torrents of abuse, invective and foul language from a distance of six or eight feet.
Jock’s fearlessness is a natural quirk which crops up occasionally in wild grouse, but it gave us some extraordinary opportunities to examine him at close quarters on a gorgeous sunlit Perthshire day. The glen below us rang to the calls of blackgame, lapwing, curlew and redshank, and the overall effect made a compelling case for grouse moor management, which is so often criticised for “monocultures” and single-mindedness. Red kites and buzzards circled overhead, a female sparrowhawk rushed away over the peat haggs, and the hills were gently scented with the smell of muirburn. Jock was in his element.