It’s April and that seems to mean a regular trip up to Loch Tay to see if we can help survey Black Grouse leks. Two years ago we had done rather well, despite X marking the wrong spot, and found a whole new grouse lek all by ourselves, so this year we were confident we’d be in for a treat, especially as we now knew where the party was to be held.
Four am came and we stumbled blearily out of bed, drove up to near the appointed spot, walked the rest of the way and scrambled up to a handy grassy knoll overlooking the lek and waited in the cold for the fun to begin. And waited. And waited. The day dawned, sort of, adjusted for the cloud being well below the mountain tops and sweeping almost level with us up the loch. Just as it became light we heard a bubbling sort of noise … just where the lek was meant to have been two years ago. Back down the hill we went, around the deer fence, back up the hill, through several boggy bits, listening out for the sound of grouse, and nothing. Waited. Nothing. Waited some more, the north wind now whipping round and occasionally through us. A faint bubbling over another hill. More scrambling. More waiting. More silence, broken occasionally by the sound of a lone male grouse who also hadn’t got the memo about the new lek site and was wondering where everyone else was. At 6:15 he flew off, having given up. At 6:30, toes frozen, we gave up to and went back to my aunt and uncle’s house to thaw ourselves out.
It was only after breakfast that we thought to check the footage from my uncle’s nifty infrared video camera trap of what had been going on in the feeder while we’d been out freezing our bits off on the hillside. And there on the feeder – the feeder which, I might add, you can see rather easily from inside a nice warm house without having to yomp through any peat bogs with a map where X doesn’t mark the spot – was a pine marten sitting stuffing itself with peanuts (there is a video here and here but flickr seems to have mangled it in some way)
Oh and all the other grouse leks that were surveyed? Absolutely hopping with grouse. We’ll just have to come back next year.