To witness the lek of the black grouse is one of the most amazing wildlife experiences you can have in the UK. I have been to a couple of leks in the past and always came away feeling that I have seen something quite unique.
This time however proved to be the a little different. Usually I am in a portable hide sitting on a tripod stool and quite comfortable watching the lek. Last Saturday I was without a hide and just laid on the frost covered ground with a camo netting over me to hide me. Deep down I thought that this approach would not work as I would spook the birds by my presence. However I was wrong, but made the whole experience more real, I felt I wasn’t just a spectator in my little hide but was in there with the birds! They were coming in within 3 feet from me to the side and behind me, while some where just in front of me. This low position made for better low angle images as you can see.
I had the camera on my tripod that can lowered so that the camera is positioned a few inched from the ground. My only regret was I had left my 1.4 converter on the 300mm and wish I just shot with the 300mm.
I had agreed to meet a friend Mark Bend at 4:15am while still dark. He then took me to the site at about 4:45. We had to watch we didn’t run over the mountain hares on the road as we drove nearer to the site. I had never seen so many hares before! When we got to the site we just lay down on some plastic mats and waited. Within about 5 minutes a bird came in followed by a few others. There were 4 or 5 male birds and later 2 female birds showed. It was still dark and we just had to wait until the light improved. When it did appear it gave way to some lovely light that showed the colours of these spectacular birds.
We lay there in the grasses for about 3 hours; my feet were like two blocks of ice! When I looked at my lens cover it was covered in frost, and later looking at the images I could see frost on the backs of the birds, showing how cold it must of been!