Foul-mouthed grouse on guard in Highland glen
The bolshy red grouse, named Jock by local gamekeepers, has been flying at passing vehicles and blocking their way on a single-track road near Dunkeld.
And cocky Jock doesn’t hold back when it comes to scolding trespassers, “lecturing” them with loud and insistent expressions of the red grouse’s distinctive “Go back! Go back!” call.
Despite his aggressive stance, however, the bird has also been known to “politely” escort visitors back to their cars and has even apparently posed for photographs. Red grouse are known to exhibit territorial behaviour towards other birds, particularly during the breeding season. But few venture close to humans.
Now estate workers fear Jock’s brazen actions may bring about a premature end for the bird, whose more usual threats come in the shape of foxes, crows and birds of prey – or shotgun blasts.
Grouse will usually flee from danger, but not Jock.
“He is a bit of a kamikaze, shall we say,” according to Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) spokesman Kenneth Stephen, who has been confronted by the “guardian of the glen”.
“He could work on his diplomacy, and it might be slightly better for him. The greatest problem for Jock is his own behaviour. If he keeps whacking himself off cars he will probably get injured.
“And as more cars go up there, it is likely Jock will feel he has a territorial war on his hands so it will be very much up to his own actions. He is getting a bit brave.”
Jock’s confrontational manner is likely driven by the instinct to protect his mate, who will lay eggs in coming weeks.
Gamekeeper Ronnie Kippen, who works in the glen, admitted he has never before seen such audacious actions from a grouse in a career spanning 45 years.
“Jock is basically carrying on with people and vehicles like it is grouse to grouse on the moor,” he said.
“He will physically fly and bounce off a car or run back and forth in front of it.”
Irishman Niall Murphy got the sharp end of Jock’s tongue when touring the area last week.
“He is 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,” Mr Murphy said.
The remote glen is home to a network of grouse shooting estates and sheep farms and attracts nature enthusiasts from all over the country.
Fife wildlife photographers Barry Forbes and Ruth Samson first encountered Jock last year, then many times since.
“He flew down to greet us as we drove up the hill, landing directly in front of the car and refusing to move,” said Ms Samson.
“He is a bit of a character, which gives him the added X Factor. Maybe he thinks he is a dog, not a grouse.
“He will walk along at your side, being very vocal all the time. He has 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.”
But despite his growing notoriety, Jock can expect no celebrity treatment after the “glorious 12th” of August.
“There will be no special attempts to look after him. Jock will be tended to like any other grouse but it will be up to him what happens when the season comes,” according to the SGA.
Red grouse are found only in the UK, but numbers have been declining in recent years.
Grouse shooting is worth £32 million a year to the economy.