A promising time on the Uplands

Late Spring and early summer has been a busy time on the uplands of Upper Weardale. This time-lapse video shows the remarkable energy of the early morning Black Grouse on the Lek.

By now of course many of the young birds hatched in May and early June are almost ready to leave the nest.

Late spring brought cold heavy rains that may have impacted on the number of Red Grouse chicks. With the grass that bit longer and weighted with the rain, some young grouse may have perished by being trapped in cold conditions.  That was a disappointment, following the DEFRA late withdrawal of  ‘General Licences’ left little means of controlling corvids that were all to ready to take the opportunity of taking eggs from ground nests. The replacement alternatives to the General Licence arrived to late to prevent serious damage to numbers.

Even so, this year’s red grouse population is improved relative to last year; a great relief to everyone following the 2018 decimation of numbers caused by last year’s appalling weather cycle, and the not inconsiderable challenges faced so far in 2019.  

Late in June there was plenty to see on a morning spent out and about on the Uplands. Besides birdlife, the varied managed landscape has a great diversity of wildlife. A hare or two made a brief appearance – too quick to capture on camera – and loads of rabbits. At a distance, a deer is one of a few rambling on the lower sides of the hills, and impacting on new tree planting; nudging off the protective sleeves and damaging the saplings which had been planted to grow as edge cover along the moorland for birds.

We are looking forward to the final results from this year’s bird monitoring by the Durham Wildlife Trust Young Volunteers. This will be the third year of this survey. Too soon to spot long-term trends, but still a fascinating view on the way in which the health and diversity of the birdlife on the Living Uplands relates to the changing weather and managed landscape year on year.