There’s a fine line between determination and optimism.

Or should that be a fine line between purposeful determination and irrational optimism?

I was beginning to feel as if I was had crossed it in my search for black grouse on my farm over the last week.

Facing the prospect of failure, I redoubled my efforts.

No stone was left unturned as I walked the boundaries every morning in the hour between darkness and sunrise, clinging to the belief that I would discover lekking birds at every turn and angrily ignoring all evidence of potential defeat.

As a final attempt to cover the last few acres of the farm, I took to the moor in my battered 1994 Vauxhall Astra.

Inevitably, I got stuck within 300 yards, span the wheels and stalled.

In the ensuing moment of quiet, a loud purring sound came swilling through the long rushes.

A strange and repetitive sneeze crackled ahead and then I saw him.

A single black grouse was turning slow, practiced circles in a small area of closely cropped grass, twitching his head back to hiss and sneeze every few seconds.

To say that I was relieved is a monumental understatement.

The sheer excitement had me shaking like a leaf. After 20 minutes, he grew tired of the display and burst into flight, rocketing like a supercharged cock pheasant and catching the rising sun on his striped wings.

It was obvious why our grandparents once looked at black grouse as fantastic sporting birds, and I later walked under where he had flown, tracing his flightline with an imaginary shotgun.

He had moved so quickly that even the reasonable optimist in me doubted if I could have hit him.

It will be many years before I have enough black grouse to shoot, so I suppose I’ll have enough time for a few sessions at the shooting school between now and then.

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