William Powell Country

Scottish Grouse Counts


Article written by 09 August 2012

We have now completed our Scottish grouse counts and also talked to other moors in Scotland.

As in most years but perhaps even more marked this season, there is enormous variation in the counts.  The best are remarkably good given the appalling weather that everyone has experienced since the beginning of May (with almost only one week’s exception of good weather in the third week of May), and this is undoubtedly a testament to how good a mother the hen grouse is.  The variation in chick survival which is the crucial factor when estimating how many grouse there are to shoot in the coming season, is probably due to factors such as altitude, aspect (which way a particular side of the moor faces), length of heather (and hence cover), preponderance of heather over grass in the mix (grouse on white ground i.e. where there is relative little heather seem to have done worse).

Almost certainly (and we found this from three grouse that we sent for pathology tests), there was insufficient insects early on in the young chick’s life, so that many of them died literally because of starvation.  What may also have occurred is that some of the young chicks got just enough insects to survive, but they did not get enough to really start them off very well and as with all young born animals, if they then suffered setbacks which this year would be the extreme rain and very low temperatures, not having a good enough start, accounted for further mortalities.  This probably best accounts for why grouse broods have gradually diminished since they were hatched, in some places this occurring almost up to last week, when in theory they should be well passed the danger stage.  We were counting broods in early July which were much larger numerically, than when we did our complete drive counts at the end of that month.

The Lammermuirs do seem to have fared the best inScotland, with some very good counts coming from there.  Despite this, even the Lammermuirs is mixed, with some moors looking very good, some pretty good and the odd one or parts of moors still poor.  Mayshield, Byercleugh and Burncastle are all sounding good.

Despite the fact that the rain was this year much lower on the west of Scotland than on the east (with Fort William which is usually the wettest place in the country having a very dry summer and the Western Isle also), the grouse do not look as though they have done terribly well in that part of the world and that probably includes the south-west Scottish moors that remain serious driving moors.  Leadhills may be the exception.

Perthshire is still poor to very poor, but there are some highlights in Inverness-shire, particular up the A9 and around Tomatin.  Whilst Coinafearn cancelled very early in the spring, some adjoining moors to that still seem positive and with good counts including Corriegarth.  In the Cairngorms, the picture is variable with Inchrory predicting very good results and some of our own counts only down around 16% on average from a good high last year, which given the types of moors that they are, their altitude and particularly the weather we have experienced, this looks remarkably good and will provide some useful shooting.

The same seems to be the picture in Deeside and Donside – very variable but with some good counts coming out in some places and much poorer ones in others.  Explaining the differential is beyond us!

Angus generally seems to be poor and probably very poor, with counts down 50% to 70% admittedly off a very high 2011.  We feel that there will not be much shooting there this year.

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