Black Grouse & Ptarmigan for Breakfast!
The beauty of living in the Highlands of Scotland is the sheer array of wildlife available to photograph within a relatively small distance to home. Take yesterday as an example, I found myself experiencing something that this year has become a bit of a rarity… a day off all to myself.
Isn’t it strange how easy it is to get up 03:20 in the morning when you’re excited by the prospect of what the day ahead holds? An hour and a half later and I’m in a pop-up hide on a hillside in Strathspey. Snuggled up in my cosy down sleeping bag I listen to the soothing sounds of the heath as dawn creeps in, the Snipe are drumming and in the distance Red Grouse are calling. I must have drifted off as I’m suddenly awoken from my slumber by the rasping hiss of a Black Grouse just a few feet away from my head, now that’s what I call a wakeup call!
This morning at the lek there are eight Blackcock. Four in the ‘main arena’ strutting their stuff, whilst in the nearby heather the others stand paying little or no attention to proceedings. It’s not really until April and the arrival of the Greyhens (female Black Grouse) that the real showing off begins.
By 07:30 the action is over and the Black Grouse have departed from the lek. I pack up the hide with intentions to check out the location of another lek I’ve been given permission to photograph at. As I drive past the Cairngorms looking fabulous in the morning sun, I make a spur of the moment decision to pay a visit to the Ptarmigan. An hour or so later I’m photographing a stunning hen Ptarmigan in near perfect light. Black Grouse and Ptarmigan for Breakfast! I’m in heaven.
As the day progresses I find more and more birds, many more than I’ve ever seen before. Now that they’re starting to pair up I find them much more approachable than on resent visits. The rest of the day passes in a whir and before I know it the sun is dipping behind the hills to signal the end of a long, tiring but immensely rewarding day.
Spring is a great time to photograph Ptarmigan. Details of my guiding/workshops for Ptarmigan can be found HERE