Highland Diary

Blackcock Lek

  • May 22, 2016

Photographing Black Grouse on their nuptial display lek is something that requires a bit of extra effort and discomfort on the part of the photographer. The males arrive on the lek well before dawn so there is always a risk of disturbing the birds if you mistime your appearance at the hide in the early hours. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that it’s probably best to go in to the hide the night before and sleep there.  Last month under a full moon the noisy neighbours kicked off at 3.30 am a full hour and an half earlier than I would normally have expected any birds on the lek. It was still too dark for photography and with no hope of any more sleep all I could do was to sit and watch the action on the lek and the moon setting behind the hills of the Nevis range. As the morning progressed the displaying cocks acquired beads of ice on the tips on their extended wings and tails as they were dragged over the frosty turf. Excitement amongst the cocks rose to fever pitch when several Greyhens arrived in the early dawn. The dominant males each tried to corral a greyhen within his own patch of the lek where there was a chance that he might be allowed to mate. The hens departed as soon the sun rose above the horizon. The males continued jousting for another couple of hours, eventually they too lost interest and started to preen and feed for a while before flying off as a flock.