Friday, 3 April 2015

CHARISMATIC 'JOCK' IS GUARDIAN OF A GROUSE GLEN ALIVE WITH WILDLIFE

Jock thanks the gamekeepers for the controlled heather burning providing bursts of new food for his coming 'little ones'. Photo by Spotlight Images.
An enigmatic red grouse who jumps at passing cars then remonstrates with passengers is fast becoming a local legend in a Perthshire glen regarded as a wildlife treasure.
The stubborn grouse, named ‘Jock’ by the gamekeeping staff has been known to fly at vehicles or obstruct their passage by walking in front of them on the single track road.
When they get out, Jock proceeds to ‘lecture’ confused drivers with variations, in speed and tone, of the red grouse’s signature ‘Go back! Go back!’ call.
Despite his aggressiveness, the proud game bird has also been seen to ‘politely’ escort visitors back to their cars and has even ‘posed’ for photos.
The remote highland Perthshire glen boasts a network of managed grouse shooting estates and sheep farms and lures wildlife photographers and TV crews from all over the UK due to its wildlife.
BBC 2 Natural World crews recently filmed hunting Short-eared owls for the new series while the numbers of breeding wading birds in the area is the highest in Tayside.
Those who have been confronted by Jock, the glen’s guardian, have developed an affinity for the feathered character.
Red grouse are known to exhibit territorial behaviour towards other grouse in their wild heather habitat but few grouse will venture so close to humans.
Wildlife photographers Barry Forbes and Ruth Samson from Fife said: “We come here because it’s great for shots of waders, eagles, all kinds of prey birds as well as geese, owls and hares. We first came across Jock in October 2014 when he flew down to greet us as we drove up the hill, landing directly in front of the car and refusing to move.
“This became the norm every time we were there. Unlike other grouse, when we got out of the car, he didn’t fly away but followed us about. He’s a bit of a character, which gives him the added X Factor. Maybe he thinks he’s a dog, not a grouse. He will walk along at your side being very vocal all the time. He’s become a bit of a star with people stopping to look at him then not getting away as he won’t let the car past!”
Irishman Niall Murphy experienced the same last week when the silver car in which he and his wife, plus friends from Edinburgh, were traveling north, came in for the Jock treatment.
“We don’t get many red grouse in Ireland at all and I’ve certainly not seen one so close. He’s certainly a bird with attitude. He didn’t seem too keen on the car and it sounds as if he knows some choice language as well,” he laughed.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Committee Member Ronnie Kippen, who works in the glen, says he has not seen such public behaviour in his 45 years as a gamekeeper.
“Jock is basically carrying on with people and vehicles like it is grouse to grouse on the moor. He will physically fly and bounce off a car or run back and forth in front of it.”
With red grouse shooting worth over £32 million a year to Scotland’s rural economy, local gamekeepers acknowledge Jock may want to keep a lower profile at the start of the season on August 12th.
“He may end up on a plate in a restaurant at some stage of his life but if it wasn’t for the predator control and habitat management by the gamekeepers here to produce his kind, we wouldn’t have the range of other birds, from eagles and kestrels to sandpipers that photographers come here for,” added Mr. Kippen.

Ends. 

The SGA wishes to thank photographers Barry and Ruth of ‘Spotlight Images’ for permission to use their excellent photos of Jock, alongside our own collection. Regular visitors to see - and photograph- the unprecedented array of birdlife on the managed grouse moors in the area, you can take a look at their excellent range of wildlife images here: www.spotlight-images.co.uk

A fan of Jock? You can Like his Facebook page, created by Ruth: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jock-the-Famous-Grouse/610430075757793


"On your way now, son, you've seen enough.": Jock 'escorts' a visitor back to his car. Photo courtesy of Spotlight Images.