Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Black grouse

We went camping on the mountain again this weekend. I had a pretty uncomfortable night due to putting the tent on too much of a slope (not that there was much choice) and I kept slipping downwards and wrinkling up like custard skin when you tilt the saucepan. Then a rock emerged from below me to compound the problem plus I have a terrible cough so I didn’t get much sleep. Not that I minded really as there was an almost full moon somewhere so I just lay there gazing out at the scudding clouds waiting to drop off. Of course about half past four just as I did really fall asleep, a bloody great roe deer snuck up on the tents and spent 5 minutes of its time barking just like last time.

When I emerged tigger like from the tent at half-past five into a misty quiet world an odd sound came drifting down from the mountain It was just like the noise a clockwork train makes when you lift it off the tracks followed by what I imagine might be a quailish, partridgey sort of bubbling noise. Most odd, so I set off to look for the source thinking it was a partridge (which we had seen the day before) or something similar. I started up towards it even though the ventriloqual calls really did sound like they were coming from something on the ground only a few yards from the tent but the sound kept moving (as, I imagined, did the bird). I climbed carefully higher and higher ready for whatever it was to flush from the ground (highland grouse-beater blood in me you see). After climbing slowly for a good half and hour a red deer stag (yes really) with antlers (really, really) belted out from behind a rock and bounded not exactly gracefully diagonally down the mountain. Looking to see if there were others on the rock above I saw something black silhouetted against the sky which at first I thought was in fact another deer or chamois until I looked closer and saw that it was a male black grouse displaying on a rock and the source of the calls heard at the tent a good 600 meters below. It was bloody huge!! Probably why the deer shot off in such a hurry; scared witless. In fact I first thought it was a capercaille but I have since checked some sound recordings and the sounds are definitely grouse. It spent a good couple of hours strutting up and down on the rock, splaying its wings and bowing. Believe me I have had some wonderful wildlife moments in my time but this was amazing, all alone, just after the dawn, high up on the side of an empty mountain with that wonderful wonderful smell of damp mountain grass wafting about and sitting on a comfortable slab of rock watching and listening to this impressive bird display.

I didn’t go close not wishing to disturb it and I was more interested in listening and watching than filming but a managed to get some amateurish shaky footage of it but so far I have for some unknown reason not been able to upload the video either here or on you tube. I’ll keep trying.

Just for fun I put up a photo. The miniscule black dot at the top is him. Gives and idea of how big it was mind if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

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