One of the main reasons for coming up to the Cairngorms this time of year was to see the spectacle that is a Black Grouse Lek. Black Grouse have a Spring courting ritual which involves dawn displays of the males in clearings in the heather moorland, known as a Lek. . Such areas can be used for decades and the ground can be worn down from their competitive displays which involve posturing, calling and fighting to establish mates. The females, known as grey hens will come to the Lek and ‘choose’ their male based on its dominance.
I had never seen a Black Grouse, so I was very excited about being able to witness such a spectacle and there are few places better than within the spectacular Cairngorms. In order to see such a Lek, you need to be in a hide, as the birds are elusive and easy spooked. We were visiting Mark Hamblin’s Lek Hide (through Andy.) The hides are superbly situated overlooking this well-used Lek, with a stunning mountainous backdrop and can be booked during the Lek season.
You have to be in the hide well before dawn, before the males arrive, so we had to get up at 1.30am to give us time to drive to the site and walk up to the hides under the cover of darkness. We were treated to signs of the Aurora and a beautiful moon as we crept up to the hides and settled ourselves down inside.
The haunting call of Snipe punctuated the air and it was a rather surreal experience, looking through the gauzed netting onto a darkened landscape, awaiting the tell-tale fluttering of wings