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.
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.
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.