With less than 4 weeks to go before the start of the grouse season, we are anxiously waiting for the grouse counts, some of which will be delayed this year. It will certainly not be a bumper season, which we have come to enjoy and ‘expect’ over the last few years, as we have experienced a truly miserable spring in the North. It really has been a country bisected by contrasting weather – basking in sunshine at Wimbledon and lighting fires in the North to ward of bitterly cold nights.
The cold, late, wet spring and its effect on reducing insect life, has been well documented. On the 1st July, precipitation fell as snow across the higher ground and if that wasn’t enough, Nidderdale and Swaledale experienced a massive hail storm which smashed windows, dented cars and killed birds. Moorland roads have been washed out by the flash floods and the extent of the damage is still being assessed. Ten years ago we experienced a similar climatic event when a hail storm swept up the Eastern side of Nidderdale, effectively wiping out Swinton’s chance of shooting grouse in 2005. We anticipate that the grouse counts will show up some barren pairs, small broods, and a great range of chick ages from mature to barely out of the egg. Although this will affect the annual bags, most moors did enter the winter with very high and healthy grouse populations, so some reduction in numbers can be sustained, however it will not be a great season for many.
We anticipate that the very high ground moors will suffer the most as they were affected by a truly ‘arctic’ spring and miserable early summer. Grouse counts normally start in the last week of July, although with many late broods, Keepers will be reluctant to run dogs across their moors for fear of splitting up broods of immature birds.
It will be a year when stocks are difficult to assess, but the signs are not brilliant and there may be a moderate amount of late season grouse shooting this year. We will follow up on this report in the first week of August.