This spring on the moor we have two exciting projects to report.
First, a professional photographer visited to capture the Black Grouse at the peak of the lekking period, when the grey hen grouse come to pick the best of the Black Grouse males from the early morning displays of plumage and display.
A selection of those photos are now in our gallery. While the photographer was disappointed with the cold light on the morning, we are just amazed at the vibrant colours displayed on the grouse.
His wonderful experience of his morning taking pictures of the Black Grouse is explained in a blog piece linked here.
We have also started a longer-term monitoring project to ‘count’ the birds on the moor. Along with the Durham Wildlife Trust and a team of its Young Rangers, and guidance from a friend at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), over two weekends (one in May and one in June) teams will be counting the birds at a number of locations on the moor.
This is important to understand the health of the moor and the impact of conservation measures undertaken year on year.
As well as the Black Grouse there is also a good population of curlew on the moor, a bird that has in recent years joined the Black Grouse on the endangered list of British Birds.
Annual monitoring is an excellent way to better understand bird populations and to make, or adjust, intervention on the moor to assist and assure healthy bird populations.
Initial survey and subsequent monitoring has allowed us to encourage an increased population of Black Grouse, which has risen from just five in 1999 to around 100 today – though with nature's ups and downs along the way.
All this activity takes place under strict supervision and with organised planned permissions. Hard work and investment with the support of Natural England has delivered an outstanding return on this moor and will continue as an exemplary example of moor life management.
This is a special time of year on the moors, when even greater care needs to be taken by visitors as ground nesting birds are preparing their nests and ready to raise their young.