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Thread: Black grouse reintroduction

  1. #1

    Black grouse reintroduction

    Hi everyone.
    5 years ago a 200 acre part of the Estate I work on was bought by my father-in-law and then planted with a native woodland mix as part of a crofting scheme. Recently I've been wondering if it would be a suitable habitat for black grouse?
    There used to be black grouse up here after ww2 when Rumpster Forest was planted but apparently dwindled as the forest reached maturity.
    My madcap scheme was to try to obtain eggs then hatch them under silky hens on site. Thing i'm unsure about are;
    Is it legal to trade in Blackgrouse eggs as they're so scarce?
    Would the deerfencing round the site make the idea a non starter due to bird strike fatalities?
    How would the blacks mix with red grouse as there's a good population of them around?
    Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated.


  2. #2
    So, I believe two of your neighbours used to rear them for release. John on the A9 who's now cleared off and Eddy down at brora.
    How successful the releases were I don't know.
    The important thing to remember is the food source for them, not the trees! In Derbyshire there used to be a great place for B grouse, with no tree, only heather etc.
    When there was a fire that destroyed the various berry bushes the grouse died out!.
    I believe that you would need a licence from SNH to collect wild eggs etc.
    Hope this is of some help.

  3. #3
    The heather on site is in good nick as a lot of it was burnt before the trees were planted so there's lots of young growth, also its not planted wall to wall. There's lots of natural flushes left alone. There's also a few blaeberry bushes around.

    I've had some good roe stalks in there as well. There's a shared access onto a neighbours chicken farm and they sometimes forget to shut the gates so that's the only place the roe can get in or out.

  4. #4
    One good person to contact may be Dave Baines at GWCT who has worked on translocation of Black Grouse for quite a few years now.
    Some helpful links on the sidebar of the page as well.

    From memory, the critical issue for establishment is to ensure you've got a good cohort of black cocks who will form one or more leks. This will hold the other males as well as the greyhens. The lek sites tend to be open, short grass. It's sort of a critical mass issue - too few birds and they all bugger off. This means bringing in adults which will require permits etc, but in conjunction with one of the conservation bodies, may be possible (and you might get some help towards it). They can do well on a range of habitats - scrub, moor edge. Historically they were even on rough agricultural land in the lowlands. Fantastic birds. Probably my favourite UK bird.

    Where in Caithness are you? My wife has family round Thurso.

  5. #5
    Thank you both for the info. Sounds like it's going to be a bit trickier than I first thought! I'll look at the GWCT link later tonight.

    Tamar- I'm on the S.E. of the county working on Latheronwheel Estate It's just shy of 10,000 acres from the coast till nearly the peat scheme on the Causiemire.
    Bonny part of the world albeit a bit boggy!

  6. #6
    Is there any black grouse leftin surrounding area?

    Probably more succesful if u could link up with nieghbouring land owners and hopefully will be a few with some remaining black game left, and try to encourage those to thrive and spread out.

    I know a small estate down in N Eng that has seen there leks explode in last 10 yrs since they've started grouse shooting/keepering althou in a very well keepered area. That estate is now involved with exporting adult birds to other areas.
    Know a couple of the nieghbouring farmers sometimes have a black cock shoot every now and again to thin them out as so many down there.

    A lot of the planting tens to be fruit bearing trees for them, but know 1 scottish moor where they do pretty well and its a lot of white grass and very little heather and few trees. hink i'm right in saying u can put feeders out and they will feed from them and in real old days would come and eat sown oats on crofts etc.

    I think the main thing will be vermin control, not as fussy eaters/reliant on heather as red,and u can get reflector things to hang on ur fence or some people attach chestnut pailing fences to them to make them moe solid, or slide garden canes down squares.
    Despite most of UK studies blaming fences for the decline in my opinion thats a cop out as there too scared to admit predators can have a massive impact,most european studies have more realistic conclusions (ie mixture of habitat and predators) compared to UK's (habitat and fences with no mention of predators)

    Be well worth speaking to someone at the GCWT (even Hugo Straker or Adam smith)or the other peron might be Patrick Laurie he wrote a book on them recently and i think he is chairman? of moorland assc? or Heather trust? (think the latter) but both orgs might be useful

  7. #7
    [QUOTE=countrryboy;1078106]Is there any black grouse leftin surrounding area?

    To my knowledge there hasn't been B grouse in the county since the 60's but 2 years ago one of the shooting guests who was here for the glorious 12th swears blind he saw a black cock when out for a Sunday walk about a mile away from my proposed site.
    Unsure if he was yanking my chain because I spent a good while looking for it without success. Wild grouse chase?
    Vermin control wouldn't be a big problem as it's currently well trapped for the red grouse.

    I had a brief blether with Patrick Laurie last year about heather beetle and we did touch on the subject of B grouse. He says he's been trying to introduce them to his farm in Galloway for a few years now with limited success. I always meant to grill him about it more but never got round to it.

    I agree that many studies by 'conservation' groups would rather lay the blame for the decline in many different bird species on fences, change in farming practices, global warming etc etc but they rarely mention predation, or the fact that waders have far better breeding success on keepered, well managed land.

  8. #8
    Nice country (till you hit the wind farm!). I agree that predator control is important, as is habitat management, but just to reiterate - for black grouse, it seems like there are additional behavioural complications that need consideration. Like grey partridge, you can't just adopt a pheasant keeping approach, releasing them and hoping they get on with it. It's a bit of bird psychology. I really hope you have a chance to put some down and that they do well. It'd be great to be wandering round Loch More and hear their calls! Let me know how you get on.

  9. #9
    Hi there,
    A very good friend of mine owns an estate in the Borders. The Black Grouse do reasonably well there. And this is on un-keepered ground !
    Fox control is undertaken, but that's it .They are left to their own devices. Another local estate tried re introduction, big cost involved and management strategy etc,but sadly it has not worked. This would lead me to believe that habitat is Very important. I know you are far away from the borders and your situation is unlike the one I mention but should you wish to take a look at the place and see just why they are doing ok I am sure I could fix it for you.(PM me as the population location is not well known and we don't want every Tom and Dick disturbing them ) They are mostly moor edge but can also be found higher up when we walk it for the Red Grouse. The numbers are up and down at the Lek mainly due to their pre occupation and this leaves them open to Goshawk attacks !

  10. #10

    I've been involved in many a native woodland planting scheme over the years and many have eventually attracted Black grouse. The most prolific was Forast Farm at Croick although it took five years for the birds to arrive then numbers icreased rapidly. They lived in the plantation but leked on the heavily grazed pasture on the other side of the fence.
    Poorish/sour sites take longer but if the conditions are right the birds should thrive.

    They like young tree buds and bog cotton as far as I could tell but there must be more to it than that!

    With luck they will find your patch, particularly if there are other new (native) woodlands in the area that can provde a stepping stone for migrations.

    Good luck

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