Given that such a tiny population of unreliably visible black grouse is still present on the moors of Galloway, I travelled again to Teesdale on Monday to see some more of the birds which continue to hold out well in the north Pennines.
When I visited Teesdale in July, the majority of birds were moulting.
Unlike red grouse, who appear to moult continuously throughout the year, black grouse change their feathers all at once.
Like many species of duck, they enter an ?eclipse? period in the height of mid-summer, which means they assume a totally different appearance and are unable to fly for a few days.
As a result, they stay close to dense cover, and while I saw several greyhens during my first visit, I didn?t see as many birds as I had hoped.
What a difference to visit them in mid October!
The small hamlet of Langdon Beck must be one of the best places in the country to see large numbers of black grouse, and within seconds of pulling up the car, I was looking at more than a dozen birds feeding in a field by the roadside.
The birds at Teesdale are doing so well thanks to support from the GWCT and the local farming community.
In addition to several other areas of support work, many fences and power lines are marked with plastic and metal tags to prevent black grouse from fatally colliding with them, and much has been done to minimise this risk.
It seems that the large birds fly so quickly that they have some difficulty avoiding invisible obstacles like wires and sheep netting, and dozens of miles of stock and deer fencing have been removed over the past few years thanks to research by black grouse groups.
Considering fences and hidden obstacles may not be the ultimate key to protecting black grouse, but for a bird with so many small factors contributing to its downfall, attention to details like these are always going to be helpful.
The views expressed on Patrick Laurie’s blog are the author’s and not the views of Shooting Gazette, ShootingUK, IPC Media or its employees. www.gallowayfarm.wordpress.com