Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spring Grouse

I want to wind the clock back now to the spring when I spent some time trying to photograph Black Grouse. At the start of each year and try to formulate some plans for some photography projects. This usually includes trying to get some photographs of a new species or two. For 2015 I decided I would try and photograph some Black Grouse, although not through the easy route of paying for a pre-set up hide.
Black Grouse, or 'Black cock' and 'Grey hens' as they are known in Scotland, are very enigmatic and beautiful moorlands birds. Each spring the birds gather at traditional display grounds known as leks at first light each day. On the leks the birds battle for dominance and to impress the females for mating. A Black Grouse lek is truly one of natures spectacles as the  males pumped up with hormones almost seem to vibrate as they square up to each other with fanned white and black lyre shaped tail feathers. Much of the action is display and posturing, such as frequent jumping up and down on the spot or strutting around with the head held low. However, quite frequently this will turn into a full on feet first battle.

The noise from the lek is also atmospheric, especially when combined with first light, with the low bubbling calls interspersed with hissing from the birds which sounds a bit like a tyre being deflated. Quite often there will be a moment of quiet and then some trigger suddenly bursts all the birds into life and a unison of sound rise up out of the lek.

Photographing Black Grouse does present a range of photography challenges. Firstly they will stand the sight of people which means typically you have to get up at some unearthly hour, particularly in mid-spring to arrive in the dark so they don't see you approach. It is fairly punishing getting up in the middle of the night and you really feel it later in the day. These birds are not big fans of staying on the lek long once the sun has risen and will usually all depart together soon after sunrise. I have noticed they do hang around longer on overcast days. Given their colouration of black, bright white and blue they do present some exposure challenges especially when in sun where they seem to quickly become  very contrast subject. My preferred conditions are actually bright overcast skies and it is under these conditions their rich dark colour combination really sings out.

I decided mainly to go for capturing some portrait photographs of the birds as the site does not lend itself particularly for battling shots. Action photos are a challenge given the birds preferences for low light conditions at dawn.
However, I did manage to get a few photos of the birds in flight.

Overall I was pleased how the few sessions went and have posted a small selection of images.

Having spent some time with the birds I now have a better understanding of the their behaviour and hope this puts me in a good position when I hopefully spend some more time on their 'battle grounds' next spring.


Jackwin said...

Your images are just superb.

Lasse said...

Very beautiful in every respect!

holdingmoments said...

Superb images as always.


Related Posts with Thumbnails