Black Grouse Project

game birds


Share in my studies of black grouse, Tetrao tetrix - methods of observsation at a black grouse lek. Dug into the snow I set up an observation hide at an impressive grouse lek - view the resulting sketches and paintings. (Secret Location - Central Highlands of Scotland.)

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black grouse or blackcock, Tetrao tetrix
The male black grouse or blackcock is most striking with iridescent plumage, white undertail coverts, a lyre-shaped tail and red eye wattles.

    The brown females on closer scrutiny reveal a beautifully intricate barred and mottled plumage.

In late winter and spring they congregate at traditional locations called leks, where they compete for the females. The blackcock arrive from miles around to display communally and fight to establish possession of the most valuable territory.
    A photo of black grouse, Tetrao tetrix habitat in central Scotland
The birds can start displaying quite early in the year although the females don't take much interest until later in the season.
A photo of my black grouse, Tetrao tetrix hide
After speaking to local people about the birds' behavior patterns it became apparent that cock birds were coming to the display site very early and were not usually seen later in the day. On my first afternoon a friend and I waded through the drifts to confirm the exact location of the lek. We were able to track the occasional grouse footprints to the display area where the snow was trampled by much lekking activity.
In such open country I would not be able to get much of a view without a hide, besides which the shelter of some canvas would be much appreciated! Having selected a position, which would give me a good view down a frozen flood. I set up the hide, camouflaged it with some white cloth to represent patches of thawing snow and prepared for the next morning.
I was in the hide before dawn, but the wind was too strong and I spent four hours holding the front of the hide so that it didn't buckle. The hide did however effectively conceal me from the grouse that duly arrived and carried on with their displaying.

  A painting of three lekking black grouse
  Frosty Morning, Black Game, Tetrao tetrix
Oils, 12 x 16 inches
  A sketch of displaying black grouse, Tetrao tetrix

Lekking Blackcock, Tetrao tetrix

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  A painting of a snow covered black grouse lek
  Black Grouse Lek
Oils, 24 x 36 inches
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Black grouse project page:   1 2 3

Martin Ridley, 29 Toberargan Road, Pitlochry
Perthshire PH16 5HG

Telephone: International +44 7925 549 002
UK  07925 549 002

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