Blackcock

Has summer finally arrived, or is it another false dawn? Whatever, there was a good forecast, so it was another early start (3am) to count blackcock leks.

I stopped for a quick listen at the long-eared owl site from last year, but not a squeak. Three snipe were drumming though, so their breeding season is in full swing.

By first light I was in place at the fist lek, and through my telescope I could see 18 males furiously displaying to the five females feigning disinterest. As I walked further along the track to the next lek, I noticed an old milestone (6) in the heather – this must have been the main road north in times gone, and I guess the six refers to the distance to Blair Atholl or perhaps Blair Castle, stronghold of the Dukes of Atholl (the Duke still has a private army, the only one in UK). Well worth a visit.

Anyway, we digress. At the next lek 12 blackcock were doing their absolute best to impress the 7 greyhens present, though one did seem to be a bit off-message and was displaying all to himself facing away from all the others. I wondered if the girls move from lek to lek eying up the boys, a bit like going out ‘clubbing’’. A herd of 38 very scruffy red deer stags (mounting) wandered across the lek, and two seemed to pick up on the atmosphere and started sparring; they soon lost interest.

At long last the bitter north wind had dropped, and a couple of skeins of pink footed geese were heading north – next stop Iceland, or perhaps one more stop-over in the north of Scotland to feed up for the crossing. I’ve got a feeling the wind is forecast to return, so I wished them well as they went overhead – I counted 150 in one group.

So, by breakfast I’d had a good few hours bird watching. There are quite a few surveys to help out with this year, so looks like it will be a busy summer. There is the woodcock survey, a breeding wader survey in Perthshire and ‘What’s Up’, a survey of mountain birds for those of us who like to spend time in the Scottish Hills. If you fancy finding out more, take a look on the BTO website.

My full list for the morning:-

Black grouse, snipe, curlew, lapwing, oystercatcher, pink footed goose, greylag goose, pheasant, woodpigeon, tawny owl, kestrel, great spotted woodpecker, willow warbler, dunnock, robin, wren, redstart, wheatear, song thrush, blackbird, meadow pipit, tree pipit, swallow, lesser redpoll, chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin, greenfinch, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, goldcrest, carrion crow, rook, red deer, roe deer, red squirrel.

Pictures below : Glen Banvie , Milestone and Scots Pine

Glen Banvie milestone Scots pine

Martyn Jamieson (head of centre)

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