Partridge numbers hit by disastrous summer but Norfolk shoots fight back

Grey partridge enthusiasts have seen bird numbers on shoots across Norfolk plummet after the wettest summer for a century.

Jake Fiennes, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, said that hatching season had been the worst in living memory.

'We've seen stock numbers crash by as much as 60pc because of the poor hatching season. And there's also been loss of adults too,' he added.

'It has been the most appalling year. I've spoken to 'keepers some third generation and into their 80s who can't recall a year like it. Pheasants normally start hatching in the second week of May. From mid-May to the third week of July, it was just horrendous.

'When I was walking on the conservation headlands, I was coming across partridges still sitting on eggs in the middle of July. Normally, they should be about four weeks old.'

Mr Fiennes said that the challenge after two successful grey partridge years was trying to maintain enthusiasm in such a disastrous year. 'The challenge is to bounce back and show that good land management can produce sustainable populations of grey partridge along with high-yielding and productive agriculture.

'When the partridges are doing well, so does everything else. The adage states: Look after the partridge and the pheasants look after themselves.'

Most Read

Solicitors Mills & Reeve, which have sponsored the Norfolk Grey Partridge Award for the last seven years, will be looking to recognise the effort of shoots despite the difficulties next year. 'We know that shoots have made great efforts over the years to reverse the decline in the grey partridge,' said partner, Justin Ripman, who is a judge of the annual award.

'We will try to recognise the best efforts despite what has happened and we know that people are still doing their very best and we want to encourage them,' he added.