Monday, 9 February 2015

Magical Grouse

The whole reason for heading over to North Wales was to see the lekking black grouse. I have seen them several times in Scotland and northern England but never in the breeding season.

We left our hotel before dawn and climbed up into the local hills. The fog on the drive up wasn't great but thankfully the roads were clear of snow.  Thanks to Alan D we found the right spot to park and straight away could hear the strange bubbling and hissing calls before it had even got light. A magical sound :-)
Thankfully the birds were close to the road as the viewing conditions were rubbish, windy with low cloud.
As it got lighter, more and more males could be seen strutting their stuff on their favoured little patch of ground with their tail feathers spread and white undertail coverts fluffed up. Several times, intruding males caused a full on scrap. Most of the birds were males with 13 of the 15 being males.

We thought we would drive across the moorland road to see if there was any clearer weather but sadly it was just as bad. We did bump into another lek with at least 18 lekking males.

By the time we got back to the original site, all the birds had moved off. Can't grumble with 33 black grouse in a couple of hours!

The rest of the morning was spend on the Dee and the Wirral.

1st stop was Burton Mere Wetlands where on arrival in the visitor centre a ringtail hen harrier was hunting over the marsh. The main target was a roosting long eared owl that gave great views to about 10m! Several whooper swans and a stack of pinkies were nice.

Final stop of the trip was 'wonderfully scenic' seafront boating lake in New Brighton to twitch the 1st winter laughing gull. Typically it was present when we arrived but after a few minutes it was picked up circling around the local shops. Eventually it dropped right down in front of us and gave fantastic close views. A British tick for me :-)
Just when we thought the trip was over, 2 purple sandpipers flew into the jetty to roost with the redshank.

A great way to end a great trip. Special thanks to Ruth and Alan for their help in finding some quality birds.

Pic 1, 2 - murky black grouse leks
Pic 3, 4, 5 - Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB reserve
Pic 6, 7 roosting long eared owl
Pic 8 - New Brighton boating lark
Pic 9, 10, 11 - 1st winter laighing gull
Pic 12 - one of two roosting purple sandpipers

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