Saturday, March 23, 2013

Famous Grouse on the 'Rocks'

Winter does not seem the want to release its icy grip on the UK and let the warmth of spring push through just yet. As I write this post there is snow lying in the garden outside. The spring migrant birds that are starting to arrive must think they took a wrong turn somewhere en route.

Last week I decided to take a day heading northwards to see if I could find some golden plover on some grouse moors.

As I travelled northwards the amount of snow lying on the ground increased and I had not yet even headed uphill to the plateau where I was hoping to find the plover. The small track up to the hill top rapidly deteriorated for driving with increasing depths of snow until I came to drift which looked sort of passable but looked like it could quite easily trap the car. I sat for a while looking at it wondering if it was worth carrying on down the track, to where I hoped to find the plover, but settled on the side of caution in the end and decided to park up and head out on foot. The thought of the car being stuck on an isolated snow covered moorland did not hold much appeal. I am glad I took this approach as the first car that passed me skidded off the track into the moorland and the second, a transit van, got stuck for a long period.
I could hear the occasional piping call of the plovers, a beautifully bleak and pure sound penetrating across the expanse of the moorland, but the chance of getting close to them on foot seemed fairly remote especially as the snow either side of the track was often up to my knees. Not easy conditions to creep up on a bird, especially a very wary plover. Time for an alternative plan and photograph some Red Grouse. These were again not going to be an easy proposition given the conditions and the fact that they are not surprisingly wary of people in this area as they are usually pointing a gun at them. By the way for those of you wondering the title of this blog post refers to a well known Scottish Whisky, that uses the Red Grouse as its trademark, served on ice.
Anyway my efforts of crawling, creeping, sliding and falling through snow and heather did produce some photos in some very bitter conditions. I have not photographed grouse on snow before so it provided some new images to add to the library. I must admit I always really enjoy photographing grouse. Not only are they superb looking birds with their finely patterned plumage and red eye combs but they always raise a smile with their gurgling calls and always appear slightly comical in their behaviour to me.

My session was cut short at lunchtime by the weather closing in fast. When on these hill tops you can always see what weather is coming and the dark grey swooping across at ground level on the far side of the valley did not look good. Sure enough 30 minutes later and it arrived and with it both the light and I departed. A relatively brief but enjoyable session and I will now have to return to try for the plover once again in a couple of weeks when hopefully the weather has improved.


Morgan said...

Wonderful pictures!
I just found your blog and shall
check it more...

Matt Latham said...

Brilliant as usual Richard

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Oh My, each and every one of these images is so magnificent, just love them all. I love these larger birds like this and then add in the element of snow...picture postcard perfect, every time!!!

Noushka said...

Great series on the a most magnificent bird.
Some of the pics are outstanding!

Rich Steel said...

Many tanks for your comments which are always appreciated


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