NOW that the controversy has died down following August 12, which marks the start of the grouse season, it is time to deal with a few facts.

Many ornithologists, like me, were not pleased when the name was changed from red grouse to willow grouse.

The game bird has now been reduced to a sub-species, whereas before it was the only species which occurred in Britain and nowhere else. I hope readers will forgive me if I keep using the name red grouse.

There are still lots of grouse moors close to East Lancashire around the Yorkshire Dales and the Trough of Bowland. Some old shoots have long gone including those on Darwen Moor and above Witton Park.

In the past gamekeepers declared war on creatures they called 'vermin' - stoats, weasels and birds of prey such as harriers and peregrines, which were thought to prey on grouse.

Sadly some gamekeepers continue to kill rare birds of prey now protected by law. We are fortunate that bodies such as the RSPB ensure the law is upheld.

United Utilities, our water company, own huge areas of land in the North West and are working with the RSPB to protect rare birds of prey. Scientific evidence has shown birds of prey can live on the same moor as the grouse. Live and let live should be the view of all sensible naturalists.

Now, the peregrine is making a spectacular comeback in Britain, especially our area.

Not far from Clitheroe I watched an adult and three young birds twisting and turning in the air like skilful pilots doing aerobatics.

There have been sighting of peregrines near Darwen, Burnley, Wycoller and Cliviger during the last few weeks. This is a welcome sight to everyone except racing pigeon fanciers who fear (with some justification) that peregrines kill valuable birds. The predator, however, kills more street pigeons, which are slower fliers, and a number of gulls.

They catch their prey in spectacular flights called 'stooping' and can reach more than 150 miles per hour!