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Red Grouse

Hidden Heath

Todays forecast of 15+ degrees seemed a perfect excuse to go looking for my local Adder population on the blorenge. I’m still yet to see an Adder (Alive), and feel like 2019 will be my year as I’m more determined. Yomping thru the heather, checking all the rocks and sneaking up quietly to dry-stone-walls clearly wasn’t enough to spot one. My plan went straight out the window though when I flushed my first Red Grouse, 1 of 6 that day. It was then that I realised I had lost my expensive pair of sunglasses!! Nooooooo!! The day was getting worse! Trying to retrace your steps when you’ve been following a few grouse around in deep heather and bracken was an impossible task, but I tried twice today, yomping back thru the heather like it was going out of fashion. Got some nice blisters from the wellies that were by then, filled with heather seeds. So I don’t have any decent pics to share with you from today beautiful sunshine. Other than this distant Male Red Grouse, who’s to blame for the loss of my Sunglasses. If you look him in the eye you can see he’s actually laughing at me. #blamethegrouse #revengeisnear

Work, Weather and Health

People seemed to like my blog post about the Red Grouse & the BBNP last week so I thought I'd show you the final stages of the heather restoration progress. The picture below shows the next stage of filtration, in the basket you'll see the brash that we don't want and in front of the wood is the finer seed that will then need to be fully dried before being bagged and stored for future restoration. 

Today however we were building a bridge over a fanatic waterfall in.... any guesses where?... I only had my phone but tried my best to get a slow shutter photo without a tripod.  

I'll post up some more picture of the bridge once its finished tomorrow. We did run into a few problems, including a broken drill so we'll have to re-visit in the morning. 

Something to look forward to, I'll be starting a new winter feeding station like last year, but in a different location. I have a few birds in mind that I'd like to photograph but to be honest, I'll be happy enough to just get a Blue Tit in the lens. 

Red Grouse Conservation @ BBNP

I know, it's been a while since I've blogged...and what have I brought you after all this time? Pictures of poo.

Apologies for that. As you probably guessed I've been extremely busy. I haven't picked up the camera in weeks! As sad as that is, these last two months have been pretty amazing. I'm loving my new Job and thought I would share with you the areas which I enjoy the most. The BBNP take conservation quite seriously, with a great ecology team ever pushing the standards. Red Grouse are one species that are of particular concern as they are a good indicator species for the health and well-being of our heathland. The BBNP participate in annual Grouse Counts to monitor the species but they also do everything they can do improve the Grouse' chances of breeding. Below you'll see pictures of Grouse Poo.. quite easy to identify once you've got your eye in.


We also like to supplement the grouse with piles of grit to help them digest their food. Grit can be found naturally on the mountain but by purposefully placing the grit in areas that are more secluded, the Grouse don't have to venture out into the open areas to find it which gives them a better survival rating. 


Heather restoration is also very important and a massive Job to maintain thanks to climate change. The mountains are getting warmer and Heather being an upland species, actually prefers the colder altitudes (which is why you usually only see these species of plant on the top). Heather is also victim to encroaching species like Bracken that is actually moving up the mountain due to warmer temperatures. There are other factors of course like heather beetle that actually damages the heather. 

So how do we tackle these issues? Well the BBNP take two approaches; 

  • Bracken Bashing is a simplistic, but effective way of killing the bracken, giving the heather a better chance of growing and reclaiming the outer edges.  
  • Heather Seed Harvesting is another way of ensuring the future of the heather and can be either stored ready for future restoration, or it can be dried and sown the next year in the areas that need it the most. 

Below is a picture of the first bag of seed we gathered this week. This bag will be filtered through a finer mesh back at the depot to filter out the leaves/twigs from the seeds. Eventually we'll end up with just the pale round seeds ready for sowing in the future. 


I've really enjoyed this activity. Red Grouse are really incredible upland species and a Joy to have on the hill. If you haven't seen one, get up at the crack of dawn to your local heathland and you may just get lucky. They are most active in the morning I have found and can be heard and seen, moving into the open areas of young heather to feed. 

Below is a beautiful picture of a Red Grouse, taken locally by superb photographer and friend Mike Warburton. Click the picture for a link directly to his Flickr page. 

Red Theme

Red Grouse, Red Fox Moth Caterpillars, Red Kites and Red Foxes made up an un-intended theme for the day today in work. We set off, a group of around 10 to re-visit a site on the edge of the national park on the boarder of Hereford, to carry on with this autumns grouse count. We had to call the last survey off due to bad weather after getting on the hill and being greeted with a strike of thunder on the ridge opposite. Todays weather however was much better! and we did end up seeing a decent amount of grouse. I did bring the camera with me, just incase one flew my way but all I got was the back end of a few just before they dipped back down for cover. 

Red Grouse Theme of the day

Today had such potential to be my favourite day so far working at the beacons, on an Annual Grouse count, high up in the hills surrounded by miles of flowering heather. Sounds amazing right? Well, theme of the day was set by the picture below that pretty much described our day before it even started. 

As we climbed up to the highest peak of Cwmyoy, the fog got thicker and before we knew it, visibility was pretty poor. 18 of us turned up for the count, joined by three highly trained spotter Dogs that would aid us tremendously, providing there were any grouse. By now I'm sure you've worked out the outcome but apart from a few grouse droppings, we pretty much only found Fox Moth Caterpillars and two Heather Bumble Bee's. 

Not for lack of trying though! The word 'yomping' comes to mind and I certainly have the blisters to show for it! I'll refrain from posting pictures.. not a pretty picture.

I've edited this photo of a Ram in such a way that it minimises the Fog so this doesn't give you a true indication of how foggy it was. A clearer day will probably result in more grouse but even still, I don't think the numbers are doing so well up there. 

Heather Monitoring @ Coity Mountain

Heather Monitoring @ Coity Mountain

Had such a great time on a beautiful day up the Coity Mountain conducting an annual survey on the status of our Heathland. Though our Red Grouse survey won't be conducted till later in the year, the Heathland status up there seems fairly typical in that, while the majority of the mature heather seems in great condition and covering a large area, most of the outskirts have already been taken over by spreading bracken and on the steeper hills there is hardly any heather present at all. Bracken rolling has already taken place on some of the problematic area's but pockets of bracken inside the heathland itself still pose a threat. We actually saw 4 Red Grouse on this trip that bursted out of the heather in their typical fashion but this wasn't the main focus on the trip. Nice to see some Wheatear still onsite and also Kestrels were abundant. 

Here are a few images from my Heather Monitoring day out with Gwent Wildlife Trust