Saturday, 22 October 2016

Post 442 - Dawdling down dales mulling over great grouse debate

Autumn colours in Teesdale woods
Hi everyone, today's post 442, and quite a timely topical visit today. Before I get into that though just a quick note to say apologies for not posting much in the last couple of weeks. It's been a busy period for us. Work for Mum and Dad has been busy and it's their 20th Wedding Anniversary this year so we've been celebrating that a bit too :)

Wonderful and wild or sheepwrecked?
I seem to have had a lot of school related activities to take care of too. One of these was a visit to RSPB Saltholme - I was so glad that the school took people on a nature based trip and it was great to go with some school friends and share a bit of my passion. I didn't see much to excite my regular readers but it was good to see more of my school friends getting a bit closer to nature. I hope there are more trips to come!

Landscape architects at work
Anyhow, back to today. We decided that we wanted to go back to a place we enjoyed in the summer today, and I hoped I might add another bird to my life list in the process. It turned out to be a very topical visit though. Today we took a drive up to Upper Teesdale. Our first stop was at a place we visited in the summer and the highlight then was seeing a group of Crossbills coming down to a stream to drink. No luck today but the woods were full of trees of all colours (well no blue or purple ones :-) and it was a lovely autumnal walk along a beck with lots of waterfalls.

After that we carried on to a place called Cow Beck Reservoir for a bit more of a walk. As you'll see from the photos it is a lovely place, really wild, and is what @georgemonbiot would call sheep wrecked. Not many trees here! It's better in the valleys but not on the high ground. Why is that? Well it's kept that way by grazing and we saw more than a few sheep.

Red Grouse food - young heather among the moss
The reason it is like this is down to the little bird in this photo! Even though this area is part of a National Nature Reserve sadly driven grouse shooting happens here too. There were lots of Red Grouse around. We watched them eating, calling and flying around and they didn't seem too bothered by us which was nice and I got one or two nice photos of them. I'd never managed to see their fluffy legs before as most of the time I've only seen them poking their heads out of heather. Their calls are lovely too.

Red Grouse - see the fluffy legs
Now the bird I came to find was the Black Grouse. I caught a glimpse of one on the horizon on the ridge of a hill but too far off to photograph or appreciate properly. I didn't see any more on my walk but on the way home we kept a look out in the fields and that paid off. I saw a field with about a dozen of them in! Wonderful! I stopped and got a few pictures and watched them for a while. They were much more still and quiet than their Red relatives! I will have to come back and do a species write up on these birds! Sadly these are also shot in the area I visited!

Black Grouse - a lifer for me!
Well why is all of this is topical, you probably know, but just in case you don't, Driven Grouse Shooting is going to have a parliamentary debate on the 31st October. The whole reason the landscape in much of Yorkshire and Upper Teesdale is like it is and isn't much more varied is because it is managed for Grouse to be shot. Things that eat grouse aren't very welcome and I have to say I didn't see a single bird of prey all the time I was around the area.

Driven shooting means people scare the birds towards a line of people who shoot them. I don't think that's at all nice, nor do around 123,000 other people who signed Mark Avery's petition (here's Marks blog). It's because of that there is a debate. If you have some time this weekend it would be good if you could write a letter to your MP and tell them that you don't like it much either.

Upper Teesdale NNR
I've written twice to my MP but he hasn't answered my main question yet. He campaigns about our local hospital. Some services have had to go to other hospitals further away - such as children's A&E! - because of money or lack of it. So I asked if he thought it was fair that grouse moors get money from the government so that a few rich people can have a hobby shooting Grouse when a hospital that provides help to lots of people struggles. As he's not answered that properly yet I'm going to ask again.

There's lots of advice on Marks blog if you want to write to your MP too.

Hope you enjoyed, and look out for a blog on Grouse soon!



  1. First time I've encountered your blog ... and I'll be back for more! Excellent question thinking outside the box regarding DGS, taxation and where our money goes. At least you've had some communication from your MP - mine has never bothered to answer 3 emails, several tweets and a letter, but, like you, I shan't give up ...... we've come a long way since the very first petition .... it's so good that more people are being made aware. Keep up the good work .... and congratulations on the black grouse!

    1. Thanks JW, always pleased that people enjoy my blog. My MP was at the evidence session with Mark Avery, not sure he'll be representing my views in the debate....

  2. I love nature so much, I live in mountain in Israel and we have animals like dogs, ship, horses, and more I always want to know more about nature it's like... My dream★

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  5. Hi opened today a new blog I know that there is only one page but I will update I promise I'll add my blog will be really interesting especially because of the nature of this thing I'm most interested in, I lived in the full nature and animal life in the study of the environment and animals in this part life, some really big thank you!

    1. Good luck with it Lahan, I hope you have fun writing it :-)