Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Grouse & Grebes...

The last week or so has still been fairly cold, with more snow and cold winds it's hard to see Spring really taking off any time soon although there is Spring activity out there that was in evidence today.

For the last couple weeks birding as been quiet due to end of the year coursework and not having a car for almost a month but I had had something arranged for the 10th of April which I didn't mention just incase things didn't work out, so what was it?

Well it was an early start this morning 4:45am because 3 of us were meeting up with Gareth Ventress an Environment Ranger for Forestry Commission Scotland 's North Highland Forest District who had kindly agreed to take us out to lekking sight for Black Grouse. The day before Gareth informed me that the weather forecast wasn't looking good but we would give it a try anyway and I am very glad we did! We all hopped into the FCS vehicle and made our way West through Garve and onto the site's location which I will not reveal for obvious reasons!

It was just getting light as we parked up and it was turning out to be a perfect morning weather wise, frosty, clear and sunny. The site is actually located on private land which was just a short walk through FCS land before it and we made our way to a small ridge to settle down and scan the favoured area. This lekking site is a traditional site and has been used for many years with numbers in double figures and with the weather we were all hopeful of seeing some Black Grouse.

We weren't disappointed! It was my girlfriend that found them first or rather heard them calling and it didn't take us long to locate them on the opposite side of the valley about 200m away. They were visible with binoculars but thankfully Gareth had brought a couple of pretty good scopes that gave us excellent views. When the sun came up from behind us the scene was lit up even more and we counted 11 males lekking and it was just fantastic to watch but we couldn't spot any greyhens. There wasn't as much action as could be but there was a few scuffles and the birds actually got spooked twice by something beyone the ridge but it didn't take long for them to return and whilst we waited for them we enjoy several Meadow Pipits carrying out their parachuting song flights. We were quite far away so photos were difficult but I did manage to get some on my phone through the scope, you can see what it is at least! Video HERE

Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix)  - 11 males at the lek.

Before we knew it we had been standing there for nearly 2 hours watching the grouse and talking about all things forestry.  Gareth gave us a lift back to Tescos in Dingwall and we thanked him before he headed back to work. As the weather was so nice we decided to do a slightly early WeBS count as we will be out of the country at the weekend.

At Loch Achilty there wasn't much on the water as usual, just 4 Mallard but the loch was extremely still and the view is always nice. Bit more exciting at Kinellan Scrape as 4 Slavonian Grebes were back on territory and paired up making a lot of noise and displaying. There was also a nice flock of Redwings in the adjacent field, can't remember seeing them that late in the year before but just a sign of the recent weather.

Other than that the usual suspects of Mute Swan, Coot, Teal, Wigeon and Mallard were all present. Nothing much of note at Loch Kinellan but there was however a group from the Aigas Field Centre all out with their big expensive lenses who were being led by a certain Mr. Laurie Campbell.

All in all a superb morning at the lek and great to see the Slavonian Grebes back again. I will now go in search for Spring, starting off with a drive to Northumberland where I am spending a couple days and then on to Poland and I will be back in two weeks with it, be patient!

Year List Additions:
94. Black Grouse (Lifer)
95. Slavonian Grebe

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