Last year, I rose one bird and this year I have seen a handful. What can be done to protect and conserve these birds?

A: Northern Ireland’s Environment and Heritage Service published a draft action plan in June 2007, outlining the measures it plans to take to help the province’s small and fragmented population of red grouse, where the total population is thought to be between 200 to 220 pairs.

According to the action plan, one of the main reasons for the dramatic fall in grouse numbers has been damage from grazing, along with a decline in the number of gamekeepers and poor moorland management.

Grouse thrive best where there is a mosaic of heather of different ages. They like short, young heather for feeding and old heather for nesting and shelter. Couple this with predator control and your local grouse will increase.