Overall, 2013 has been a very good Grouse season, but there has been an enormous amount of variation in how different Moors, let alone different areas have performed. Some are still shooting well into October, whilst others gave up long ago.
I think we can clearly see the continuing effect of the awful wet spring and summer in 2012 in those moors that have performed worst this season. With wild birds, the stock is critical and where, particularly on the west, Grouse bred appallingly last year, it has often been a long haul back this. However, always contrary there have been some Western Moors that bounced back well this year, from very low stocks in 2012.
This Spring and Summer have perhaps been the very best we could imagine for young Grouse, albeit after a nasty dose of late snow in some places in May. Undoubtedly this did do harm, particularly to some Highland Moors, with one near Tomatin having three feet drifts of snow in the third week of May! Other than that, we had a fantastic start for the Grouse and this was reflected in big broods, particularly where there was a good but not massive stock left over from last season. Clean ground definitely helps with all animal breeding.
Scotland again overall had a good season, where there was a stock left and most importantly the keepering is being done well. The Lammermuirs in particular had a lot of Grouse, but so did many less obvious areas. Sadly with only a few exceptions Perthshire wasn’t great and nor was South West Scotland, but there were some very good days in the Highlands.
There was little sign of a West:East divide this year, with some great days being had all round. In fact it was generally so good, that it would be invidious to name names! The run of good to very good Grouse seasons seems to be continuing, but there is concern at the appearance of “Bulgey Eye” on a number of Moors. On one moor in particular in the North Pennines, this seriously affected the shooting programme. What was common almost everywhere this season, was a general lateness in the young Grouse. They seemed to be at least two weeks late in maturing, despite the ideal weather. Perhaps that was a result of the late snow which set back the breeding date?
Overall, 2013 will be seen as a very good season, with again some records broken. The Grouse seem to be going into the winter in good condition, but undoubtedly the worm burden is rising and many keepers and Moorland managers are looking carefully at their gritting policy for this year, and I suspect there will for the first time be less Medicated grit being used.