Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 12:48 UK

Black grouse initiative takes off

Black Grouse
Black grouse have been declining in the UK for many decades

One of Scotland's rarest birds, the black grouse, has won further support for its survival through a new alliance of Deeside estates.

The National Trust for Scotland's (NTS) Mar Lodge estate, together with the Balmoral and Glen Tanar estates, aims to monitor the populations.

It is hoped this, along with adopting changes in estate management practices, will offer the best chance of recovery.

It is also hoped further adjoining estates will take part.

It is an exercise in getting all the estates committed to counting all their black grouse
Dr Shaila Rao
National Trust for Scotland

Dr Shaila Rao, the NTS ecologist at Mar Lodge, said: "The data from the monitoring will be collated to assess black grouse numbers on a regional level.

"This will then allow us to compare trends between other regions.

"Currently there are Speyside and Tayside Black Grouse Study Groups, so the addition of one on Deeside will give important additional research information - it is an exercise in getting all the estates committed to counting all their black grouse."

Black grouse are declining in the UK and have been doing so - albeit with some temporary increases - since the early 1900s.

Scotland has taken much of the brunt of this decline, especially in the Borders.

'Generations to come'

At one point, black grouse could be found in just about every county in the UK, but the species can now only be found in four counties in England, North Wales and Scotland.

They are now one of the UK's most threatened birds.

At a recent meeting, convened to harness the support of participating estate mangers for the Deeside group, Desmond Dugan from the RSPB and a founder member of the Speyside Black Grouse Study Group, said: "These magnificent birds personify our Highland landscape.

"Their evocative crooning and bubbling has been so familiar to generations of keepers, stalkers and land managers.

"Only collective efforts and wise management of our upland margins by land managers will ensure that black grouse spring displays will be enjoyed by generations to come."

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