It only feels like yesterday that we were out on a Moor in November shooting grouse and within the blink of an eye, we are back to the breeding season already!
We have had an encouraging year in 2022 with very few days cancelled and extra days being shot all the way through the season. I think everyone was conscious of a leaving a decent breeding stock, given this was the first real opportunity to do so for most of the moors in the North since 2016.
We are pleased to say that most of our managed grouse Moors and other Moors we let grouse shooting on importantly left a stock. The heather condition was another big talking point going into the summer last year and as we move towards summer this year. We have seen a huge transformation of heather quality over the past year or two, given the dire state it was in from 2018 -2021. We hadn’t seen a proper “August Bloom” for over 5 years, so it was very special when we finally got to see it again last year and we hope to see the Moors in full bloom again come August 2023. We needed some decent cold weather going into the Winter months for both the heather and grouse. The heather seems to have retained its quality and is set to be in good condition going into the summer months, we hope there are no droughts during the daytime and no droughts at night-time either!
Cotton grass appeared on the higher Moors and lots of it, which will have helped the Hen grouse with their commitments over the next month or so and our winter worm counts were also consistently low in most areas, which was encouraging.
Spring Counts seem good from whom we have touched base with, but we all know it only takes a bad spell of weather in the wrong week to decimate a large number of grouse and wader chicks in one go.
We have been asked a lot about Avian Influenza (AI) and how it has affected the upland areas in the North of England. We can honestly say up to now that wader numbers were excellent last year, with great hatch rates and limited effect from AI, we haven’t heard any reports of it affecting grouse in any way either, even on some of the East Coast moors which were close to the larger Gull colony’s that were clearly affected by AI last year.
So as always, we will cross our fingers that the weather gods are good to us and hope for a productive hatching period, with plenty of insects, and damp moors to help our grouse and wader chicks thrive and encourage heather quality