This remarkable come-back, reported by the the Black Grouse Recovery Project, is down to farmers, gamekeepers, grouse moor managers and conservation organisations.

Counts are taken on the birds’ traditional spring mating or lek sites each dawn to determine the number of males. The results show an 18% increase since last year when the population was 1,029 males. The largest rise in England is on the southern fringe of the Yorkshire Dales where numbers have trebled from 58 males in 1998 to 170 this spring.

Numbers have also increased since last year by 17% in the North Pennines. However, despite this, black grouse in north Northumberland are still under threat having declined from 61 males in 1998 to 50 in 2006.

The Game Conservancy Trust and RSPB are jubilant about these new figures, which exceed the government’s biodiversity action plan target of 1,000 males by 2010.

Phil Warren, from the Black Grouse Recovery Project, said: “Black grouse are responding extremely well in areas where habitat improvements, in combination with predator control, are being undertaken by moorland gamekeepers.”

“However, to prevent further declines and range contraction in north Northumberland it is vitally important to secure increased funding for further work, including support and advice for landowners.”

For free advice on managing land for the benefit of black grouse, contact Phil Warren, on 01833 622208.