Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Lek's Do It Again

Sorry about the terrible pun but I felt I had to publish a few more images from the fabulous black grouse lek which I was fortunate to witness earlier this month. I had traveled to the Northern Pennines in County Durham with Paul Foster at the invitation of Jonathan Latimer a local wildlife artist and illustrator . Jonathan's work can be viewed at
It was indeed a fantastic experience to view a lek at close quarters just as dawn was breaking on a very frosty morning. The grouse performed well for the camera and I was able to come away well satisfied with the images I had obtained. It had been well worth the long journey, sub zero temperatures, and four hours in a cramped hide to witness this memorable spectacle.  I have posted a few more images above and hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did in taking them...... Thanks again chaps.

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.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Close Encounter.....Dotterel

I have been fortunate in previous years to see dotterel as they stop off on their long journey to their breeding grounds in Scotland. They certainly get my vote as one of the most beautiful of British birds. If conditions are favourable at the end of April into early May a few dotterel usually stop over on Pendle Hill in Lancashire. This regular location is well watched at this time of the year and many birdwatchers make the climb to the summit of Lancashire's highest hill to see  this very special bird. So it was this week,the week of the General Election,that I went with two colleagues to Pendle Hill to hopefully see the two dotterel that had arrived the day before our visit.
The morning had been damp and drizzly hardly ideal for climbing Pendle Hill but being the eternal optimist I had persuaded Mike and Robin that we should make the effort as the dotterel were still there and the weather might improve. Improve it did and on the way there the clouds were lifting and we could see the summit of Pendle which was very encouraging. As we left Pendleside Farm to head up the hill my good friend Paul Foster was just making his way down and I could see from the broad grin on his face that he had at last managed  to see the dotterel. Paul had made two trips up the hill that morning the first one was wet and not suitable for photography but with the clearing weather he had gone back up to get his well earned images.
We continued upwards in the knowledge that the birds were still there and also that there were some other birdwatchers on the summit. Half an hour or so later we were on the summit and we made our way across to the birders already there. The weather was kind to us during our stay and we all enjoyed stunning views of the two dotterel. One of the birds was a female in her splendid breeding colours and I understand the other bird is also a female but she has not yet got her full breeding plumage but is still a stunning bird to see. I lost track of time as I got some wonderful close up shots of the dotterel as they moved around the stony summit of Pendle in their quest for food. At times both birds came within about twenty yards or so of the camera and did at times  pose nicely for me to record this memorable event.
Eventually we decided to leave the birds in peace as we made our way back down the hill. We arrived back safely at the car having experienced a close encounter with this enigmatic and very special bird of the mountain tops. I understand as I write this two days later the birds are still there and will be waiting for favourable weather conditions before they make the long journey to the breeding grounds. I wish them well on their journey and certainly look forward to another close encounter with what I think is one of Britain's most beautiful birds. Hope my readers enjoy the images I have posted of this memorable visit to the summit of Pendle Hill.