Spring grouse counts got under way back in late March across the country and certainly in the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Pennines where our shooting is based the counts were very encouraging. We have heard similar reports from all of the Pennies.
When we reached the last couple of weeks of April everyone had their fingers crossed for good weather in May to give the young grouse chicks the best chance of hatching and surviving in this very crucial month. The last couple of years we have had some bad cold/harsh weather throughout May with hail storms killing a number of chicks especially north of the border. This year has been very different… Up until now the weather has been perfect for hatching since first week of May in England, good temperatures throughout the day and the critical night times have stayed warm without snow. Scotland suffered some snow in late April which may have frosted/chilled some nests.
We are starting to see grouse chicks all over our moors now and in encouraging numbers.
We are awaiting the impact of ticks on the chicks on the North York Moors. If the weather turns a bit cooler and wetter the tick should have limited impact and the moors should have a good year.
Most moors have left a good stock of grouse on the ground which has meant we should see a lot of broods, depending on brood sizes we are all hoping for a full programme of shooting on all our moors. Some concern about very high spring counts on wetter moors further north may prove disastrous – with reports of Coccidiosis and Bulgy Eye plus some reports of increasing worm burdens – so it may not be universally good i.e. as per last year.
Although the warmer weather is great for hatching grouse, we do need some rain even if it’s a small amount. This helps the heather grow throughout these important months and creates good conditions for insect hatches. These hatches provide the essential food for young grouse.
To summarise – spring counts across all the areas we deal with have been good and speaking with other Moor owners in Scotland and South of the Dales it seems to be the same across the board which is exciting for the sport… The weather thus far has been perfect for grouse hatching in England. Therefore, assuming it holds without a cold snap before mid-June and ticks do not affect to many birds on the North York Moors; It will be a busy season across the UK for our wild grouse, based on the early showing of chicks. We will update you at the end of July once counts are done and excitement to 12th August starts to build.
Spare a thought for the Grey Partridge and Black Grouse which sometimes suffer in their peak hatch in June after a good May!