Project: Black Grouse Part I

Have you ever seen a Black Grouse before? Except on a bottle of Scotland's finest whiskey these birds are quite rare and photographing them has been dream for me for the last few years. Ever since I found out there were Black Grouse in an area of the Galloway Hills, I just had to photograph them but I would soon learn that this would be no easy task. These birds are very elusive, they can disappear into the landscape and you wouldn't even know they were there. I've tried photographing a small group of them for a few years now but have failed miserably, so I told myself for 2013 I would master the site so I can walk away with some amazing shots.

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Black Grouse
Black Grouse

I arrived at the site at 6.30 am on Tuesday the 5th of March, I wasn't planning on going this day but decided I could do a bit of Reconnaissance of the area to make sure my hide is the right spot, where the birds are most active and learn a little more about my subject. While walking up to the area two Black Grouse cocks flew down the hill, I didn't worry about this as they always return to the same spot after awhile so all I needed to do now was to setup up my Stealth Gear Dome Hide and get myself comfortable for a long wait.

The Hide
The Hide

After an hour of waiting I saw two flying towards me from the left, they swooped around the hide and landed to my left around 120 yards away. Which wasn't what I was hoping for. After 10 minutes keeping perfectly still I could hear the distant sound of a cock bird making a distinct Lekking call but it sounded a lot closer than the bird to my left so I looked through my lens and I could see a head bobbing up and down just 60 yards from me!

Hearing a Black Grouse making its legendary Lekking call sent shivers down my spine, having a wild bird completely relaxed with your presence is truly amazing and it makes all that hard work pay off!

Black Grouse
Black Grouse

As you can see in the above image that this Black Grouse cock was displaying some aggressive behaviour to another cock (which you cannot see), seeing this concreted that I had chosen well with my location but with all the grass it made very difficult to get a clean shot so I know for next time I'll have to move my hide around a little bit. I spent around 5 hours in the hide in total, after seeing the Black Grouse for around 20 minutes they moved off as they usually curl up in the grass for most of the day that's why getting there as early as possible is crucial.

In The Hide
In The Hide

After waiting 3 hours I decided that they were not coming back so I went for a walk around to see if I could any signs to reassure myself that I picked the right location. I first went to the area where I had seen the cock Lekking and found a large amount of droppings on a mound, examining the droppings I could tell that this mound is being regularly used because some showed signs of being there for weeks and some droppings were very fresh from the last few days. There was also Sitka tree nearby and closer inspection found a huge amount of droppings on my side of the tree so I'm hoping they use this regularly as a perch so that's definitely a shot I'm going to try and get!

I'm going to be working on this project for the next few months, documenting the lives of these elusive Grouse during their busiest time of the year: The Lek. So make sure to keep checking my Blog, Twitter and Facebook for updates as you'll all be kept up to date with my progress.

Black Grouse Droppings
Black Grouse Droppings
Black Grouse Droppings
Black Grouse Droppings