Country mouse on partridges

It is  a sight that I may never see again, and certainly one I will never forget. After a day’s pigeon shooting in Norfolk, where I’d been firmly put in my place by my eldest son Harry, the head keeper took us on a tour of the estate to look at the wild grey partridges. I knew something was up from the twinkle in his eye, and, as we drove into the first stubble field, there they were, two dark heads poking out of the golden carpet.

As we drove closer, two became 15. The doting parents calmly guiding their huge brood away from the Land Rover. 2009 may not have been a good year for many, but for English partridges, it has been a miracle. The dry weather in June has allowed the parents to raise huge broods; we must have seen more than 1,000 partridges in half an hour.

This beautiful bird is on the red list of endangered species, as its numbers have plummeted since the 1960s. Grey partridge only survive in any numbers where habitat and predator control exists, and that means on a shooting estate. Here, in this little corner of Norfolk, after decades of work, this wonderful corpulent little bird has made an astonishing recovery. There is hope.