Six weeks ago, I set up some grit stations for the grouse. Working on the basis of where I last saw the birds, I turned over six peat turfs within ten acres of moorland and covered the exposed black soil with flint grit. When I went up to check them this morning, only one has been touched. A few pecks have been taken from the yellow heaps, and some tiny shards of stone have been scattered around the neighbouring tussocks. From what I can gather, grouse find grit in the soil as they forage around their territories, but providing them with artificial dumps of the stuff is always sure to be warmly received.
With only one out of six stations being used, it seems that I should have done some more research into where the birds are foraging before trying to leave supplies for them. When the NOBs conducted a grouse count last weekend, the majority of grouse were lying up in the same rough area; a damp bank of moss overlooking the neighbouring property. It never occurred to me to set up grit stations on that corner of the farm, but that’s surely where they would most appreciate it. The ground there is wet and mossy, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is one of the most popular areas on the farm. Neat stacks of droppings lie crushed against the ground, and the occasional stripy feather marks where a bird has been preening.
There is no hurry to get the grit out onto the hillside at this time of year, but the sooner the birds get used to taking it from my stations, the more likely they will be to take the medicated “anti-worm” stuff when they need it next autumn. The more I speak to keepers and grouse specialists, the more convinced I am that protecting the birds from parasites like the strongyle worm will make a noticeable difference to numbers.