The hardest winter for more than 30 years has meant populations of blackgrouse in northern England have dropped to their lowest recorded level, according to the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

Numbers of the endangered birds in England had recovered from 773 males in 1998 to a peak of 1,200 males in 2007, but two successive poor breeding years in 2007 and 2008 reduced numbers to 730 males in spring 2009. That figure has subsequently dropped to just 400 males following the past severe winter.

This is a major setback in the birds’ recovery, particularly as three years ago blackgrouse numbers exceeded their 2010 Biodiversity Action Plan target of 1,000 males. The GWCT’s Dr Phil Warren, who has recently been counting blackgrouse at their lekking sites to see how badly they were affected by the freezing conditions, said: “We’ve been running the North Pennines Black Grouse Recovery Project for the past 15 years and we had stemmed the decline and increased numbers to a peak of 1,200 in 2007. However, the past two wet summers have badly affected the breeding success and this has been compounded by appalling conditions this winter.”

The rest of this article appears in 5th May issue of Shooting Times.

What is YOUR opinion?

Join other ST readers in our forums to discuss your views.

Like this article? Mark this page on a social bookmarking website…

What are social bookmarking sites?