2014 Grouse Prospects
I repeat the comments I made in April here –
Fortunately it has been cool enough to prevent “worm” thriving through this years wet winter months of December, January and end February !
Large stocks almost universal across all moors, probably due to late maturing birds (later hatched) not flying in key first few weeks of the season last year.
The threat is new disease (Bulgy Eye) which is building up on the originally infected moors. It is probably shoots will request bio security measures for those who travel from moor to moor. New, isolated cases are appearing but if there is a good hatching time there could be a much increased incidence of disease ~ let’s hope not.
The warm, early Spring is encouraging grouse to nest earlier. I hope not a prelude to a wet, cold May. We will have some adverse weather between now and 1st June I am sure !
The Game Conservancy report the highest ever Spring counts on their historic count blocks.
Since my April bulletin the grouse have now finished hatching. As predicted some chicks were seen in the first week of May and the birds are definitely earlier than after 2013 late Spring.
We have had some cool, persistent, wet days with low cloud and rain over extended periods. However it has not been snow or howling north easterly winds and there are reports of a few dead chicks being found, particularly after the third weekend in May which was pretty miserable.
On the North York Moors there has been a report of tick due to the warm weather. Whilst not catastrophic, ticks have reduced brood sizes on some moors. I do however think there are still good numbers.
Large broods have been reported on most moors so I do not think some chick mortality will be significant, therefore I am predicting a bumper season – BUT – we had one of the most benign Autumns last year which seemed to go on forever with the arrival of an early Spring this year I think it is reasonable to assume the autumnal weather will arrive earlier this year and I foresee windy, wet conditions in the early part of the season which will make it difficult for managers to harvest sufficient grouse numbers. It also makes the grouse more difficult to drive later in the season.
The other metaphorical cloud is the spread of Bulgy Eye and how managers are going to cope with this.
Adrian Thornton-Berry June 2014