My Nature Diary

A cock Grouse standing alert

2010 December 16th
As we are threatened by more falls of snow, my concern rises for the welfare of the red grouse. These birds are native to our country and are found only on the heather clad moors, mainly in Northern England and Scotland.
One morning, while watching the garden birds feeding, during the last heavy snowfalls in early December (we had approximately 2 feet of lying snow) my husband took his field glasses upstairs to scan the moor from our bedroom window. He told me he had been able to spot only one pair of grouse.
The grouse are a very valuable asset and inhabitant of our moors. Then why are they shot for sport, you might ask? Well, let me explain. It is exactly because they are shot that they are being protected. The money generated from the people paying to shoot these birds pays for the maintenance of the moors and wellbeing of the grouse and in so doing ensures their future. Many of our other native birds also benefit from this work at the same time.
Grouse are such an independent and majestic bird and could show some humans a good example on how to live their lives. They are a monogamous bird and keep the same mate for life, only seeking another after losing their partner through death. They are territorial, keeping to their chosen area and don’t encroach on domains of other grouse. The cock grouse is an admirable father, protecting his brooding mate during the nesting season by warning her of any impending danger and will try and distract any approaching predator. He also helps in the same way to look after the newly hatched chicks.
The moors are their sole habitat, although sometimes you may see odd ones flying over the fields in proximity to the moors. The grouse remain on the moors all the year round, even through the harshest winter, not like several of the other ground nesting birds such as the curlew, golden plover and peewit (sometimes referred to as the green plover or lapwing) who seek the sanctuary of lowland and coastal areas during the winter. The heather provides the staple diet for the grouse and so keeping this, and the moors in general, in good condition assists in their survival.
Hopefully, only the old and infirm grouse will perish in these extreme conditions leaving only a strong and healthy population to survive and breed again in the spring.

2011  January 18th

Sorry I’ve been away so long but I have had the dreaded swine flu over Christmas and as well as sapping my energy it seemed to inhibit my creative juices as well! I also had family staying and entertaining my delightful two year old grandson didn’t leave time for writing.

At last the snow has gone and after being blocked in before many days at a time it is nice just to be able to get about again.  I know I am well on the way to full strength as I spent time in my small shrubbery yesterday doing some necessary pruning and tidying up several branches broken under the weight of the heavy lying snow.  It was good to be out in the fresh air and listen again to the grouse, were very vociferous with very unique call.  I have seen several flying on the moor close by so it’s good to know they’ve survived the harsh wintry conditions we’ve endured.

I don’t know what the ‘moudies’ were up to during our recent Arctic conditions but judging by the many molehills erupting everywhere I don’t think they were sleeping!  The soil heaps started appearing rapidly once the frost had come out of the ground.  I have a cat named Ballou who has the ingenious ability of catching them.  I have seen her, watching motionless, where a hill is actively erupting.  I have not surveyed her long enough to see her actually catch one but, like some of her other victors that she doesn’t eat, I find them deposited on one of the garden paths.

It is unusual for so many of the trees to be stripped of their berries so early in the year so although the snow has gone it is still a very hungry time for many of the birds and they appreciate all the feed being given to them.  My husband noticed a flock of golden plover the other day while walking the dogs.  This flock moved on, perhaps to moors further inland but I’m sure more will soon be arriving, some to pair up and stay on our moors here where they will settle to breed.

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2 Responses to My Nature Diary

  1. Yes, Ann, the grouse may have wintered well – in about three acres around the Bridestones last week I saw about ten. Some made alarm calls at my presence, others just stood and made a low churring sound that I’d not heard before.

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