Surveys of traditional lek sites across blackgrouse strongholds in Scotland have revealed a dramatic rise in numbers of the rare bird.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), which worked on the study with groups including RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), says that the results show that woodland initiatives and conservation efforts, boosted by a good breeding season in 2010, may be beginning to pay off.

GWCT Scotland director Dr Adam Smith said: ?Well-focused advice, along with the support of farmers, gamekeepers and foresters, has surely helped the blackgrouse exploit to the full a couple of years of good weather in some of the more northerly parts of Scotland, with many parts of the Cairngorms showing strong populations.?

The new figures show that even the severely threatened populations in the South have bred well in the past 12 months. In Dumfries and Galloway, surveyors counted 194 males at 71 lek sites in 2011, a 31 per cent increase on 2010.

Figures collated by the Speyside Black Grouse Study Group, which includes 19 private sporting estates, were also positive, revealing the highest annual total of displaying blackgrouse since surveying began in 2001.

The rest of this article appears in the 14th March issue of Shooting Times.

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