I am writing this report slightly later than usual because we have experienced the vagaries of a fully temperate summer.
I think I will start with ‘April’ – this time last year I commented ‘we will have some adverse weather between now and the 1st June I am sure’ well it just didn’t happen – so look out for this year – if I was doing as well with the price of the stock market as I have with this year’s weather then you would no longer be reading this update!
I am afraid it did arrive at the very worst time. The torrential rain storm spreading up from the south east on the night of 1st June, there must have been nearly two inches of rain fall in very high winds and this resulted in a significant amount of chick mortality on various well know moors.
Why I have not really written about this previously is because the May period was so cold and windy there wasn’t the usual balmy evening to go out and glance the broods of grouse and get a feel for what was happening on the ground. Generally keepers were struggling to interpret what was happening because of this bizarre late cool period after the rather nice April.
However apart from the deluge taking out quite a large number of chicks we have had insufficient rain to freshen up the heather, which definitely suffered with the cold weather.
What’s more relevant is that the cold nights and prolonged dry cold weather probably allowed coccidiosis to get a hold in some of the adult grouse (to many birds going to the same drinking water) and resulted in very low insect productivity hence probably very little food for chicks.
On the higher Pennine moors that weekend of the deluge was preceded by significant snowfall which has devastated a number of moors Raby, Whitfield and Knarsdale being among the casualties on the first two there is going to be no driven grouse shooting at all this year.
Another reason for delaying this is because of windy conditions quite a few moors have not counted as early as usual. Inevitably with so many grouse being lost through starvation, whether in early May a number of grouse have re-laid and there are quite a lot of late broods (often there are a few late broods but I think that probably there are more reported this year than others). Generally the majority of moors that were expecting another bumper year are way down.
However there are one or two exceptions where the grouse seem to have survived in good numbers and the grouse have produced almost uniformly again but these generally tend to be on the lower more eastern side of the Pennines.
The North York Moors where the heather is in reasonable condition seem to have done ok provided the heather beetle doesn’t make a late appearance I think most of the North York Moors will produce reasonable numbers of grouse and there is talk of one or two exceptional counts on the larger North York Moors.
All in all it’s the first time in ten years a number of new people to grouse shooting have experienced the unhappy call from their agents saying that their shooting is off and the estates having to write out some fairly large cheques for refunds. This will all have a fairly significant knock on to the local economy and not least the beaters etc.
I think there are a number of us in the grouse world that nature has intervened to stop the flow of unwitting waves of grouse and hopefully who is lucky enough to be in a grouse butt this year will realise how fortune they are to enjoy the best driven wild bird shooting in the world.
If you are not already signed up to be an associate member of the Moorland Association I would strongly recommend you do so particularly if you are not going shooting this year it allows you access to the Moorland Association website and newsletter which will give you some grouse chat to liven your otherwise empty evenings.
Due to the lack of birds and estate cancellations it will be difficult if not impossible to replace you’re shooting if you do happen to have your shooting cancelled.
Adrian Thornton-Berry August 2015