Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mis-timed Grouse

Back in the late summer, my friend Steve and I, took the 2.5 hour drive north-eastward on an afternoon out to photograph some Red Grouse. With wildlife photography timing is so important when you trying to obtain particular images and the purpose of our trip was  to try and capture some images of the grouse amongst a purple sea of flowering heather. As we took the winding road northwards I had visions of images of grouse emerging from an out of focus purple mist.

As we took the familar track up on to the upland moor, a brief  pause was required to photograph a small group of Red legged Partidge purposely moving along the top of a scree embankment.
We continued upwards and when we eventually emerged on to the heather blanketed hilltops it soon became obvious that the images that had been swirling around my head were not going to be fulfilled. Some of the heather was in partial flower but it was certainly a way off being in full bloom.
No doubt the plants had been delayed by the unseasonally cold and wet proceeding weeks. We also hoped that the family groups would have dispersed and there would be quite a bit of terratorial behaviour shown by male birds jostling to establish their territories. However, this was also not to be as before us were small family groups of birds moving through the abundant heather while a male took on sentry duty nearby.
So far our plan was not going very well and it looked our critical timing was out by a week or two too early.

On the brighter side it was good weather with clear skies and there were plenty of grouse about despite being after the official start of the shooting season on the 12th.  Given the time of year the birds, as expected, were fairly wary so we used the 'mobile Nissan hide' for most of the photography that day.

Cars are so useful for wildlife photography as many animals do not associate them with people and where the roads allow a close approach can be made without disturbance. You do need to keep an eye open for other road users but fotunately traffic was infrequent at this site. Another thing I often look for as we travelled the tracks is for places where the road dips down below surrounding ground level as it allows for an improved low camera angle.
So we spent the afternoon photographing different groups of Grouse and were looking forward to some wonderful, warm soft end of the day light to illuminate the grouse amongst the heather. The weather looked promising to produce the necessary light as the sky had cleared of some earlier cloud. Well nearly cleared except for one cloud and I am sure you can guess where that, yup right across the line of the setting sun and so the best of the light was lost. This was the last photo before the sun descend by the cloud.
Despite the slight failure in our quest it was an enjoyable session spent in good company, within a magnificcent landscape with plenty of beautiful grouse. So I can't really complain and we even came home with a few photographs.

6 comments:

Kerri said...

~ Outstanding Series ~

Nancy J said...

The photos are all stunning, and I like the last one so much, the feathers truly glimmer with that low sun. Lovely contrast with the sharp green,and the heather each side,almost as if the bird posed with this in mind. Cheers from Jean

holdingmoments said...

Just superb Rich.
Not easy birds to capture; I've tried in Wales. These are excellent.

biobabbler said...

Wow. I'm SO glad you mentioned re: driving into low areas to get to eye-level with the birds 'cause that was the burning question. "Just how tiny was your car??" =) Great shots.

So, apparently, what you call red-legged partridge, we (in the U.S.) call chukar (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chukar/id), yes? They are not native here; are they also introduced where you were? The guide says they're from southern Eurasia...

=) While your visions were not realized, I love that you got some family groups. When one normally just sees shots of leks, it's easy to forget they have family dynamics beyond the wooing.

Very enjoyable post, with SUCH lovely views of intriguing, stylish creatures.

Rich Steel said...

Thanks for the comments. The Chakar is slightly different but very similar to the Red legged partridge. These partridges are introduced to the UK and I believe originally came from France. They are attractive looking birds though

Laura Delegal - Leroy Photography said...

Excellent captures. Each one is great.

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