AS THE Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust prepares to start the autumn brood count, it is an anxious to see how the changeable weather conditions in Scotland this summer have affected the breeding success of grey partridges.

Partridge Count Scheme coordinator Neville Kingdon said that his team were preparing themselves for the fact that this may not be a good year for grey partridge broods.

"In general terms, the summer’s insect numbers in crops are determined by the weather in April and May," he explained. "A cold, wet spring leads to fewer insects such as caterpillars, beetles and bugs. These fat, juicy, protein-rich insects are the staple food of grey partridge chicks and in the fortnight after hatching, their survival depends on insect availability around ground level.

"In addition, prolonged wet weather in late June, which is the time of peak hatching, brings concerns that if newly hatched chicks get cold and damp they can quickly perish. With changeable weather, the importance of good brood-rearing cover cannot be overstated. It must be insect-rich because chicks need to feed on up to 2000 insects each per day to grow. Good brood covers mean a plentiful supply of chick-food being readily available and ensure the effects of bad weather on chick survival is minimised."

The PCS in Scotland is keen to provide site-specific feedback to help land managers make targeted improvements that will help partridge numbers on their land, added Mr Kingdon: "We know farmers and gamekeepers take pride in having wild grey partridges around and it’s an easy bird for them to see and record. Now we need as many farmers and gamekeepers as possible to find out how wild greys have fared on their ground, because I don’t think many would actually want to be able to say they lost their wild greys."

The PCS is a free and voluntary scheme that is open to any farmers, landowners and gamekeepers, who are invited to take part by counting their partridges and submitting the counts to its national database. For more information on how to join the scheme go to: