As part of my wider area work around Scotland, I had a day away from the Kinross village pond to help with the annual census of the Glen Tanar Black Grouse. It was an early start so I ventured up to Aberdeenshire the night before and had a comfortable night in the back of the van.
Sunrise in Glen Tanar
The rangers and estate workers were all allocated areas to count. Driving through the ancient forest before dawn was quite exciting!
After dropping everyone off, I headed to the end of the Glen onto my count section.
Black grouse are best surveyed when they are lekking. A lek is where male birds assemble to engage in competitive displays to attract females.
As soon as I got out of the van I was surrounded by the whirring and bubbling calls of the lekking grouse. It was not quite light but after 10 minutes or so I could locate at least 4 males strutting their stuff around me and another flew in to join the group.
The rangers had pointed me in the direction up the Glen that it was likely to find more. I hiked up the hill. I heard no Black Grouse but lots of Red grouse and a few Ring Ouzels.
I was beginning to think I was in the wrong place but I got to the top of another small hill and the familiar sound started up again. Once again I was surrounded by Grouse. I also had a couple of females fly past.
I could hear a Merlin calling nearby and then was lucky enough to get great views of a male in the telescope. Scanning the breaks in the heather on the neighbouring estate there were even more grouse.
There were a total of 9 in this lek
Aggressive posture with wings out showing the white undertails
Behind the van is yet another lek of about 15 birds
Looking down the glen
A Red Grouse posed well
Other wildlife spotted included this Dark Tussock moth caterpillar. See where it’s been eating the heather.
Black Grouse are easily disturbed at the Lek, for guidance for safe watching please observe the this set out by the RSPB – here
After heading back from the Glen I had a quick visit to Muir of Dinnet NNR. I had the fortune to work up here in the visitor centre last year. Here I was lucky to spot a Red Squirrel near the visitor centre and an Otter on Loch Kinnord.
I was also really lucky to have an Osprey catch a fish right in front of me. I saw the Common Gulls lift and the Redshank start alarming and suddenly a loud slap as the bird dropped in. It flew away with what appeared to be a small pike.
I missed out on those famous Adders though. I could not find one this time.
For more information about the Muir of Dinnet reserve keep an eye on their blog – https://muirofdinnetnnr.wordpress.com/