I did a quick loop around the hill this afternoon, counting grouse and checking on their progress before breeding begins. It seems that what we lack in numbers, we’re making up in pristine quality. I only found a handful of pairs, but the birds were glitteringly perfect and strong. They’ve a good deal of progress to make up after last year’s failures, but it was grand to hear them cackling beneath a growing spread of skylarks and pipits. Our neighbours were out and burning, and the smell of heather smoke washed across the open ground until the hill was giddy with spring.