THE red grouse shooting season opens today on the so-called “Glorious Twelfth” with a mixed bag or reports from grouse moors in the North of England – but the southern Yorkshire Dales is likely to fare better than other areas.
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) annual survey suggests that the lowers Dales and the Peak District will have good seasons, the northern Dales and the northern Pennines are likely to have suffered one of the “periodic crashes” which sometimes hit the fragile grouse population. Grouse shooting is a major income earner in North Yorkshire, bringing in vital cash to areas where, otherwise, farming would barely break even. Some small estates reply on the money from well-to-do shooters to stave off bankruptcy.
Pubs and hotels do well and the demand for beaters and other shooting supporters provide important part-time income in areas where jobs are scarce. Detailed forecasts from the GWTC in the Daelnet area include:
Trough of Bowland
An average density of 143 birds per km2 was counted in 2009; this is very similar to 2008 when 150 birds per km2were counted. Poor brood size was again the problem with only a mean brood size of 4.2 chicks per brood recorded this year, coupled with low densities; the wet mild weather through July has possibly amplified the sheep tick and louping ill problems in the region. Very limited shooting in the area with the estates in the north of the region having the most grouse.
The Southern Dales didn’t have the record breaking season last year as did their neighbours further north, however many of the moors had an above average season. The grouse numbers have held up very well for the 2009 season with grouse densities very similar to 2008. The 2009 grouse densities averaged 265 birds per km2, this compares to an average of 290 birds per km2 in 2008. Productivity has been very good with brood sizes up on 2008 on some moors. With these sorts of grouse densities an average or above average season is expected in 2009, with one or two moors having an excellent year.
North York Moors
The 2008 season on the majority of moors on the North York Moors was very disappointing, 2009 has seen an increase in the overall densities of grouse on the areas we have counted to date. The average grouse population has risen from 180 birds per km2 in 2008 to an average of 265 birds per km2 in 2009. However these densities are not wide spread across the region with some areas suffering from the impact of sheep tick and louping ill which has dramatically reduced brood sizes and shooting prospects. Shooting will take place. However, the prospects are quite mixed with some estates only having a very limited number of days to allow populations to recover.