All the Spring counts have been done and the grouse are now starting to incubate the eggs for the hatching mid to late May.
The Game Conservancy have completed their Spring counts in the middle of April and found that last year’s record counts have been surpassed overall. Grouse densities, where they were very high last Spring, seem to have remained fairly static whereas other areas have increased and the counts of birds on un-keepered marginal moors have gone up which would imply there has been some migration in the harsh Winter (very dry again).
The grouse are in excellent condition and should be capable of producing reasonable sized broods where there is optimum pair density. (Very high densities of grouse tend to produce smaller brood sizes). At time of writing everyone is concerned by tinder box dry conditions – any wild fire now could be extremely damaging.
In 2010 I predicted there would be a disastrous hatching time because all events up until that point had been ideal for grouse. I was proved wrong ~ we probably had the best hatching time anyone can remember ~ ideal temperatures, enough moisture for insects, etc.
This year I am not going to make any predictions. However the last time there was a prolonged, warm, dry April like this was in 1988 and then we had one of the wettest Summers on record which ironically was a good grouse year, probably because the rain did not start until June/July; so the chances are we may have a similar wet Summer to one we had in 2008.
The timing of when the rain arrives will be key to grouse productivity, but if we do have a wet Summer then I expect those moors that were more conservative with their stocks in 2010 will be looking to shoot harder in 2011. However, as always, this is in the hands of the Owners/Keepers who strive for ever higher levels of production.