I have been having a crisis of nationality.

As much as I love Scotland, now that I’ve headed into England to the fantastically well managed moors of Teesdale and Weardale, I feel like I don’t really want to go home again.

It makes me a pretty poor Scotsman, but in my defence, I have seen more birds in the past 24 hours than I’ve seen in a month on my farm.

Stopping at a roadside pub north of Barnard Castle for a pint of strangely warm, soap-sud real ale, I watched families of stonechats and wheatears hopping all over the garden furniture beside me.

Grouse scolded from the hillside above while lapwings and curlews whirled over the walls and fluttered in the moss.

I was over the moon, but this was England and the Scotsman in me was determined not to show it.

I had travelled south to meet Dr. Phil Warren, the GWCT’s black grouse project manager in the North Pennines.

In an office overlooking stunning Teesdale, I picked his brains on the subject of red and black grouse management both in Northern England, and Scotland and found more than enough to digest on the homeward journey.

It was extremely encouraging to hear that the GCWT ultimately aim to restore black grouse as a viable gamebird, rather than just for the sake of bio-diversity.

In my opinion, black grouse will only guarantee themselves a bright future when they start to be able to pay for themselves like their red cousins.

As I drove up through Weardale, I spotted a blackcock and a greyhen marching through the bog cotton and then it occurred to me.

The Pennines aren’t inherently better than my moor in Galloway; they are just far better managed. I need to raise my game.

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.

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