Tuesday, 12 June 2007

New high for rare Black Grouse in England

Recent spring counts of Black Grouse in England reveal that the population in 2007 has increased to an estimated 1,200 males, a 55 per cent rise since 1998 when the population was just 772 males. This remarkable comeback is a huge achievement for those involved in the Black Grouse Recovery Project, including many farmers, gamekeepers, grouse moor managers and conservation organisations.

The scheme co-ordinates the annual survey of Black Grouse, which involves visiting their traditional spring mating or lek sites each morning at dawn to count the number of males present. The results indicate an 18 per cent increase in the number of males attending these leks since last year, when the population was 1,029 males.

The Game Conservancy Trust and the RSPB, as lead partners responsible for Black Grouse recovery as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, are jubilant about these new figures, which exceeds the Government's Biodiversity Action Plan target of 1,000 males by 2010.

The largest population increase of the species in England is on the southern fringe of the range within the Yorkshire Dales, where numbers have trebled from 58 males in 1998 to 170 males in 2007. Numbers have also increased since last year by 17 per cent in the North Pennines AONB, which is the Black Grouse stronghold in England.

However, despite these increases in the North Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales, Black Grouse in north Northumberland are still severely threatened, having declined from 61 males in 1998 to 50 males in 2006.

Phil Warren from the Black Grouse Recovery Project commented: “Black Grouse are responding extremely well in areas where habitat improvements in combination with predator control are being undertaken by moorland gamekeepers. However, to prevent further declines and range contraction in north Northumberland it is vitally important to secure increased funding for further work, including support and advice for landowners. These stunning birds are an amazing spectacle and it's a rare treat to see one. With the continued success of the project the future for the species in England will be more secure.”

Image: Laurie Campbell (courtesy of Game Conservancy Trust)