Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Black Grouse Lek

The black grouse lek is one of the most remarkable courtship displays that you can see in this country: more reminiscent of a tropical bird dance than that of an English grouse.
I spent a week last month waking before dawn so that I could photograph this incredible event on the Yorkshire Dales. On most days the weather was against me and from my hide on top of the windswept moors I was unable to get photographs good enough to paint from.
But thankfully on the last day the sun came up and I got some shots to be proud of.

The black grouse males circle with their tail feathers fanned and then every so often leap up into the air calling out. Meanwhile the females saunter nonchalantly through the middle of the commotion, causing the males to whirr about even more excitedly.

Occasionally the cocks also spar.

These two sparring cocks were evenly matched and fought for quite some time: feathers were flying.

When not lekking, their posture reminded me of Bantams.

Click here to read my latest column in The Yorkshire Post on how I went about photographing the lekking grouse.

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