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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 August, 2003, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Heatwave boosts rare bird numbers
Red grouse
Warm weather has helped Red Grouse numbers rise
Soaring temperatures have boosted numbers of the rare red grouse across the north of England.

Numbers are up by an average of 25% on 2002, according to new figures.

Durham and Northumberland are doing especially well, according to the Moorland Association.

Numbers are also up in Cumbria and the North Yorkshire Dales.

Simon Bostock, chairman of the Moorland Association, commenting on shooting prospects, said: "As grouse are a completely wild bird, moor owners carry out careful counts prior to the start of the season to make sure that they have a shootable surplus of birds - leaving enough healthy young stock for following years.

"Strong populations are very good news for moor owners and the local economy that relies on income from shooting customers.

"It is good keepering, along with the fine weather, that has produced a good year for most moors and, crucially, also helped the breeding success of some of our most threatened species."

Mr Bostock said north Durham and Northumberland are looking to have a much better season than last year, which was badly affected by adverse spring weather.

Localised rainstorms in mid May damaged brood sizes, where a season similar to 2002 is expected.

In West Cumbria, where there have been several bad years, signs of improvement are encouraging, not least due to heather regeneration following the foot and mouth outbreak.

Many other birds that rely on the moors to breed are also doing well this year including golden plover, lapwing, curlew, snipe, merlin, nightjar, dunlin, wheatear and redshank.

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