Saturday, 15 May 2010
Black Grouse.....The Lek
This week myself and Paul Foster had the good fortune to be invited to accompany wildlife artist Jonathan Latimer to an early morning black grouse lek in the wilds of County Durham. It was an early start and we had driven up to meet Jonathan on site. We met up around three in the morning and were greeted by sub zero temperatures and a wonderful star filled sky. We gathered our equipment and made our way to the area where the birds lek to erect a hide for photography, Jonathan's hide was already in position. We were in position and ready for action just as the sky was showing signs of getting lighter, it was now around four in the morning and was still well below freezing.
It wasn't long before the most amazing sounds surrounded us... the black grouse had arrived and were tuning up for action. The noises they make have been described as bubbling and wheezing like espresso machines and to hear them at very close quarters in the darkness was a wonderful experience. Gradually more daylight lit up the scene and we could now see the shapes that were producing the sounds. It was still too dark for photography and we just sat for an hour or so enthralled by the unfolding drama before us.
By around six we were able to take some images and for the next couple of hours or so we were treated to some amazing sights as the ten male black grouse present that morning at the lek strutted their stuff. It was still below freezing as the sun came up and the grouse departed on a couple of occasions but always returned to their favourite part of the damp and rushy hillside. It was at times a little cramped in the hide but time soon passed and around eight o'clock after the birds had finally departed we decided to come out of hiding and make the trek back to the waiting cars.
What an amazing experience it had been to witness at close quarters one of Natures great spectacles and one I can hopefully experience again sometime in the future. I would like to thank Jonathan for making it possible for us to join him and to Paul for providing the transport and the hide from which we enjoyed those wonderful sights and sounds. It was a memorable trip and one that will long remain in the memory..... Thanks to you both.
I have posted a few images from the trip and hope they convey to my readers some of the magic moments we enjoyed on that very frosty morning in the Northern Pennines. I may post more images at a later date but in the meantime hope you enjoy this account of a memorable day out.