Wales is known for having countless iconic species, one of which being the Black Grouse. It’s a species I’ve only ever encountered once, along with it’s cousin the Red, so when I was invited to join Harry King and his dad, it was an offer I couldn’t turn down to visit one of the premier lekking sites in Britain.
After getting collected from the station we arrived at our spot (first on the scene), just shy of 21:00 the Friday evening, where we settled in for the night…which for Harry was fine as he nodded off after an hour so. Leaving just Dave and I up until 4am when the Grouse came into action with 17 males callings away with their rich, gentle bubbling call, contrasted by the harsh guttural hiss that can be be heard up to 4km away.
The grouse were roughly 15-20m away from the side of the road and through the Viking Binoculars, provided pin-sharp, clear views even in the low lighting. I manage to attempt a tape recording of the ‘dawn chorus‘ that morning which you can hear by clicking on the link.
After two hours the sun finally came up from behind the car and lit up the lekk as well as the entire moorland, which holds the highest density of Black Grouse in Europe. As well as the Black Grouse other birdlife included Common Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Common Shelduck, Common Crossbill, Red Grouse and what I wasn’t expecting was a dapper male Common Reed Bunting making a brief appearance just as we left the lekk at 8am.
Once we’d had our fill of the blacks we went in search of the reds and anything else which was around on the moorland. Following the road down south Harry and I were on fire picking the countless Red Grouse which were lined up in the heather along the roadside, that were tame to say the least. Most surprising of all was at one point Harry and I were creeping through the heather in pursuit of an adult male Red Grouse, only to discover that less than a meter ahead a female was crouched down in the heather! By the time we noticed it and it noticed us, we shout what we can before they flew further down into a valley and out of sight.
Afterwards we continued down the road when we came to a standstill having noticed a pair of Birder’s with their scopes on something, which just happened to be our first Common Cuckoo of the season! In addition to this an adult male Pied Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Common Crossbill and Whinchat were knocking about.
As time was up I was dropped back off at the station where we said our farewells before going on our separate paths. Harry and Dave would be heading straight back to Swindon, whilst I’d be a making a final stop off at ‘BMW’ before heading back to base. There I added to my year list both Wood Warbler and Common Redstart before ending the day on a pair of Garganey.
Kind regards, E.
Once again many thanks to Harry and his dad David for bringing me along with them, if you wish to check out Harry’s photography then search for his Flicker account or follow him on Twitter.