One of Scotland’s most iconic birds has enjoyed a successful year, with the population thriving in its Highland Perthshire heartland.
The region has become a stronghold for the black grouse, where numbers have increased in the face of a steep decline elsewhere.
Conservation efforts, tree planting, varied habitats, responsible farming and the support of landowners have all been linked to the burgeoning population figures.
The Perthshire Black Grouse Study Group has been monitoring the black grouse population in Highland Perthshire since 1990.
Thirty dedicated volunteers check all suitable habitat and count numbers of black grouse over an area of 70,000 hectares, from Kinloch Rannoch to Kirkmichael and from Aberfeldy up to Blair Atholl.
Despite a national decline in numbers of black grouse, the volunteers have seen numbers increasing in Highland Perthshire since 2002.
In 2016, 545 males were recorded at 77 leks (where males display themselves for females), compared to 676 males in 2015, which was the second highest count since 1993.
A slight fall in numbers is not unusual and is often due to wet weather in previous years that reduces how many chicks survive to become adults.
The largest lek recorded within the study area in 2016 was at Dun Coillich and held 42 males.
Claire Smith, RSPB Scotland Senior Conservation Officer and a member of the study group said: “It’s great that estates and land managers have put a range of measures in place to benefit black grouse which are doing so well in Perthshire.
“We are very fortunate to have such amazing long-term information thanks to the hard work by volunteers within the study group, five of which have been involved since it started in 1990.”
This spring, RSPB Scotland, the John Muir Trust and Dun Coillich Project will be running lek viewing events near Schiehallion on March 29 and April 2 and 23.
They will offer people the chance to see these magnificent birds and enjoy the extravagant displays and competitive sparring that takes place amidst bubbling calls that carry across the hill.
The events involve a short walk to the viewing area and cost £4 per adult, with a hot drink provided at the end.
Places are limited and should be booked in advance by calling 01738 630783 or emailing email@example.com.